I'm so glad to be back to my regular posts. I've missed all of my blogging friends.
The four weeks since my novel launched have been intense and chock full of valuable lessons.
Like most new endeavors, being a debut novelist is very humbling. A month after my launch date, I now realize all the things I didn't know when I started the process.
Here's a crucial one: for most debut novelists, it's going to take at least two months to even scratch the surface of the market.
There are exceptions, such as my agency mate Jody Hedlund, whose debut novel The Preacher's Bride hit the CBA bestseller list a month after its publication.
But Jody is a noteworthy exception, not the rule.
A more typical example is another agency mate, Karen Witemeyer. I have been pleased to see Karen's novels gaining more and more attention the longer she is in the marketplace. She just published her third novel. Her target readership is discovering her likable characters and humorous touch. But this didn't happen overnight for Karen. Her reputation seems to be growing stronger with each new novel, as word-of-mouth recommendations bring her new readers.
That elusive word-of mouth recommendation lies behind any writer's chances of finding a readership. Personally, I've seen hundreds of ads for books. Few make an impression. I've read many, many book reviews, and most slide back into oblivion without leaving a mark.
The books I always try out are the ones recommended by a circle of about four or five friends who share my taste. I will shell out cold cash for these books, in the hope of finding that rare treasure--a really good read.
Word-of-mouth is the most reliable seller of books. This means two things for writers:
1) If we want our books to sell and keep selling, they'd better be darn good books. This is harder than it sounds, once deadlines and other professional pressures kick in.
2) Even if we do achieve that high standard, it's gonna take time, as the George Harrison song says, a whole lotta precious time. Word of-mouth is not quick. Let's say 150 readers take a chance on my book when it first comes out, either because they know me or because they get the book for free as a review copy. My novel is 400 pages long. Two weeks may pass before most readers finish the novel and get ready to either buy it for their friends or recommend it so strongly that their friends go buy it. Then another two weeks pass while the second wave of readers finishes the book. You probably get the idea. It's a long, slow process to launch a debut novel from an unknown author.
Does any of this surprise you? What's the last book you liked enough to recommend strongly to your friends?