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Topic: Authors promoting--how do you feel about it?

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Subject: Authors promoting--how do you feel about it?
Date Posted: 9/5/2012 2:47 PM ET
Member Since: 6/20/2011
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As an author of medieval mysteries, it often feel that I am paddling in circles when it comes to promotion; working hard to get ahead but in reality hardly moving at all. Though I am published by a big New York publisher (St. Martin's) I still have the majority of promotional duties on my shoulders. For the last two years, I've found that Facebook seems to offer a great deal in interaction between author and reader and a good way to build word of mouth about my books. But an author can only do so much. Lately I've been asking readers to go to online book sources and "Like" my books, my author pages, and to write reviews, as this seems to boost the books in the algorithms on sites like Amazon and GoodReads and puts one's books in front of more eyes. The more eyes, the more sales, then more reviews, and so on. I hate like heck to do that, as it seems like pushing the reader to do more than they should have to do. But authors are desperate to get ahead, to boost sales, to stay published. (I wrote about "sock puppetry" on my blog just the other day: http://www.getting-medieval.com/my_weblog/2012/09/sock-puppetry-not-just-fun-and-games-anymore.html) 

How do you, as a reader, feel about these added "responsibilities"? There is more interaction now between author and reader than ever before. What do you think of this new paradygm in author/reader symbiosis? And where do you find out about new authors? From blogs? Forums like this one? And how much is too much?

Date Posted: 9/5/2012 7:33 PM ET
Member Since: 7/15/2008
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Jeri, I'm still thinking up an answer. Life and kitteh's health issues have been getting in the way...

Date Posted: 9/5/2012 7:52 PM ET
Member Since: 5/19/2007
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Hi Jeri...what an interesting topic!  

Author/reader interaction:  It's a brave new world, isn't it?  We are now in a position to interact with favorite authors more than ever before, thanks to social media/Internet use.  I think, honestly, some readers are still adjusting to this notion.  You will have readers that love your work, but are not motivated to actively show it (such as "liking" books or writing reviews).  But you will also have those dedicated readers that go above and beyond for their favorite author.  I don't think you can really push your readers into doing anything they're not willing to do.  

Finding new authors:  I'm a librarian in a public library, so I find new authors from professional review magazines (such as Booklist or Publisher's Weekly) and since I buy most of my books from Baker & Taylor, I religiously read their monthly catalogs.  I am here to testify that word of mouth is alive and well at any public library!  And while I do reader's advisory every day, and introduce new authors to my patrons, it works both ways.  I have had patrons suggest authors to me, and I will purchase those titles based on reader feedback.  

But since I live and breathe books every day as part of my job, I may not be the best example of a "typical reader" as far as finding new authors.  So...this is how your librarian fans do it.  wink

Date Posted: 9/5/2012 8:12 PM ET
Member Since: 8/10/2005
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I don't read blogs anymore, either author blogs, or book site blogs/reviewer blogs with author interviews, etc. The main reason is that I have had a couple of series I enjoyed sort of "spoiled" for me because after reading the author's blog, FB postings etc. I discovered I did not like the author personally. At all...they just rubbed me the wrong way. I thought I could keep my feelings about those authors separate from their books but I found when I went back to read the next book in the series that I couldn't--the enjoyment had gone out of it for me. So I now try not to be curious about authors and just enjoy their books. If they're jerks, I don't want to know about it. LOL

Also, spending lots of time blog-rolling from one site to the next takes a lot of time...time that I could use to be readng actual books. (This is also why I'm not so active on the forums as I used to be.) Time is a more precious commodity than money to me, so I'd rather just spend it reading books instead of blogs.

I have several of my favorite authors on FB, some on their 'author' page and some their personal pages and some both. I admit to intensely disliking the "hard sell" that some authors put on so must confess to having a lot of them "hidden" from my news feed because of the rampant BSP (blatant self-promotion.) To me, it's overkill and "preaching to the choir." I mean--I "liked" your page because I'm a fan...I do not need you to try to sell me on your books, I already am sold! If you are not coming to my city for a book signing, I do not need announcements telling me where you are on every one of the other 53 stops. I do not need a link to your blog every time a new post goes up--even if I were a blog reader, I would have it bookmarked and check it regularly of my own volition. Sometimes, as several authors are friends or co-bloggers at a particular blogsite, often I would get the same announcements and messages repeated 2, 3, 4 times a day from the different group members. It clogs up my news feed. It makes me grumpy. So I click "hide" and then just check the authors' FB pages occasionally to look for announcements about forthcoming books and the like, but I don't like nor want the other stuff in the quantities that it's regurgitated.

If I really love an author's work, that author will not have to ask me to write a good review, to like their FB page or give them five-star ratings...especially if the author is just getting established, or is someone I feel is under-read and under-rated and deserves more attention. I will tell everyone I know in all my book groups, write those reviews--even though I rarely read or use reviews myself--and generally make a big noise about their books. However, I get decidedly uncomfortable if an author asks me to do those things. I've had authors read some of my reviews of other books and ask me to review their books and at first I was flattered...I agreed, and sometimes it was okay, but sometimes had to figure out a diplomatic way to write a review that didn't come out and actually say what I felt, which was, "I'm sorry, this was awful. I did read it but now have no hair on the right side of my head because I've pulled it out. I'm not even a teacher, but I felt myself reaching for the red Sharpie about every other page. When I was done I 'accidentally' dropped the book in the toilet so I could toss it in the trash without feeling guilty." I now respectfully decline such requests.

I get most of my own recommendations here on the PBS forums and similar forums on other bookish websites, and from longtime friends and reading buddies whom I know share my reading taste. A whole passel of reviews on Amazon or Goodreads from people I don't know from Adam are not really that helpful to me, so I mostly just don't read them. I especially don't like the Klausner-esque reviews with nothing but vague gushing praise. I generally just don't believe them. But if a couple of my reading soulmates tell me "read this!" I generally will take their advice and am not often led astray. 

I can understand your plight...selling anything is difficult...I learned this the hard way when I had a small business making and selling handmade soap. My soap was fabulous. I knew that. My customers knew that--they kept coming back for more and I did sell a fair bit just by word of mouth. But trying to make enough to buy supplies in bulk and actually turn a decent profit---well, no. Talking up my product, fabulous as it was, just wasn't my thing. I always felt so...I don't know...slimy...like a used car salesman. I would have been horrified to ask a customer to try to act as salesman for me with their friends--although I was always pleased of course when they did this on their own. I just am not a salesman. And so...I'm now a soapmaker who makes soap occasionally as a hobby. I probably needed a slimy business partner. LOL

I don't know if any of that answered your question, and I am most definitely not your typical book reader/buyer/worm, so just take my words with a grain or two of salt. I'm sure someone else will chime in with their two pence any old time now.

Cheryl

Date Posted: 9/6/2012 8:52 AM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2008
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Hi, Jeri--I like the idea of authors being more accessible to their readership than in years past.  There are very few authors whose next volumes I await eagerly and it's those authors whose FB pages/websites I am usually most motivated to check and possibly interact on.

 

It seems to me that being an author is really a sales job. But for the elite few whose first work establishes them as such a blockbuster--ie, such a moneymaker for a publisher that the publisher will undertake ALL of the promotional effort and cost-that the rest of you, whose work is likely as good or even better than the blockbuster writers (eg, the unfathomable Twilight machine) have to do the promoting and buzzcreating yourselves---and that's really no different than anyone trying to become established in his/her field. So, I suspect the promotional funding available to lesser known authors has dwindled down to a trickle in recent years, given what's happened in the publishing industry, and you are feeling that reality.

 

As far as your actual questions, well, I think your readers are pretty smart. If an author is joining groups and putting herself out there solely to promote, they will figure that out. It's like anyone--a lawyer, an insurance guy, the local mechanic--joining community groups IRL without really being committed to the group's 'thing'--it won't ring true. But the very best promotion is to be out on boards and forums where you have a genuine interest and where you participate and the promotional piece is secondary--I think readers perceive that and appreciate it, and actually like to have a published author among them.

hro
Date Posted: 9/6/2012 12:48 PM ET
Member Since: 8/28/2011
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I'll be honest and tell you that book promotion, for the most part, means nothing to me (and I say that not to discourage you, but because I suspect I'm not the only one in that camp). I don't care about a book's popularity or sales figures; I never participate in author chats and I ignore author q&a's on blogs; I rarely "like" authors on facebook or LibraryThing or Goodreads. I just don't do hype, at all. 

The two primary things that matter to me when hunting for new books are the book blurb and the cover art. (I don't mind if the cover art doesn't appeal to me, but if it looks POD/self-published I most likely won't even consider it. Stupid, maybe, but true.) I pay little attention to book ratings but  I'll usually read a few reviews of a book that interests me just to check if there are more than a few mentions of things that irk me and guarantee that the book and I won't get along (grammar problems, lots of s*x, predicitable plot, stilted dialogue, etc.) 

How do I find books? I follow a few blogs. I have some friends on GR and LT who have very similar tastes in books.  I check for new releases on Indiebound and ARC giveaways. I check the websites of publishers I know print books I like. I follow certain awards like the Orange, Booker, and Giller. And sometimes I just "window shop" at my favorite online retailers and see if anything catches my eye. 

I guess this doesn't really help you, Jeri, but hopefully it provides insight into the brains of "some readers." 



Last Edited on: 9/6/12 12:54 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 9/6/2012 4:32 PM ET
Member Since: 7/15/2008
Posts: 4,035
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Cheryl really did a nice job of summing up my feelings as well (thanks for doing the hard work cheeky). I really, really don't like to see the constant drive by promos that I see on FB, plus all the horn tooting at each new review along with the pity parties over a critical one. I know it's difficult balance between promoting and over kill, but trust the readers to find you by word of mouth. I'm always on the hunt for new books to read, but to me that are new to me books and not brand new just out every blogger in the blogisphere is gushing over it. I'm happier chatting books here and two other reading sites (Goodreads and Historical Fiction Online) and taking recs from them.

IMHO the best thing an author can do is join sites like Goodreads and come there as a reader, interacting with other readers. Join in the discussion groups as a reader, which means talking about books you've read. I won't name names, but there's one author who just jumps in on threads with something vague like *I so want to read that book* just to get your face out there. Readers can spot the difference, and they will support authors who support readers (hope that makes sense).

My favorite examples of authors striking a good balance between author and reader are Elizabeth Chadwick, Sharon Penman and Susan Higginbotham. They'll never hestitate to jump in and try to answer questions about their historical period. They aren't spamming FB, they're up there posting tidbits about their research and historical period.

Date Posted: 9/6/2012 5:02 PM ET
Member Since: 6/20/2011
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Wow, guys. Thoughtful, insiteful, well written pieces there. And yes, I agree that you folks are a different animal from the masses of "reader" out there. I find that many of my readers are of your ilk. Dare I say the "old-fashioned type" of which I am one, the kind who goes to bookstores and library stacks and browses for hours on end.

Sadly, there aren't enough of you these days and promotion of some kind or another is the order of the day. It would be swell to be like the E. Chadwick's and Penman's out there who were well-established authors before the advent of the internet, so they don't HAVE to do the kind of harried promotion like some snake oil salesman. The sad truth is that those algorithms on online sites DO boost sales for books that have many reviews and "Likes" and any author who writes for a big enough publisher that might offer them enough to (barely) live on, is very conscious of how strict that publisher is about how many books are sold. If sales rank below a certain number, then authors are cut adrift to find a lesser publisher and diminished income.

I don't mention this to elicit sympathy, just as general information as to why you might feel harrassed by perfectly good authors. Self-publishing is not a solution to the problem either, as prolific as it appears. It's just another branch off the literary tree. Despite the publicity that some self-published authors have garnered (and you can count them on one hand) it is far from a going concern for most of us. (And don't they all turn around and sign with a big publisher the moment a contract is offered? There's a reason for that.) 

Anyway, interesting discussion. I've posted similar queries elsewhere but by far these were the most detailed I've seen.

Date Posted: 9/6/2012 5:36 PM ET
Member Since: 5/31/2009
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Good topic!  I have read two of your books Jeri.  Have a little trouble getting into them and I don't really know why.  If someone can help me understand why I would appreciate it.  Once I do get about 75 pages in I enjoy them.  

Vickie:  I don't like to do blog rolls either and only do for one special friend on gr occasionally.

Many authors on gr ask me to be their friend.  I do not consent unless, they too, are readers.  And, I have to feel good about the author.

I have thought and thought about doing a blog of my own but have just about decided that if I did I would review books, life, gardening, hunting and country life as I live in a rural area on the banks of a beautiful lake even if the level is dropping due to the drought. Free books make one feel that one needs to give a good review so my book sources reflect that.

 



Last Edited on: 9/6/12 5:39 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 9/6/2012 6:17 PM ET
Member Since: 7/15/2008
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Many authors on gr ask me to be their friend. I do not consent unless, they too, are readers. 

FYI, you can put in a challenge question to friend requests in your GR profile settings. I have something like are you an author trying to make a bajillion friends, and the person sending the invite has to say no. Cuts down on a lot of crap. Authors who want to chat books, fine. Authors who want to just promote, no thank you.

 

Date Posted: 9/6/2012 7:51 PM ET
Member Since: 7/15/2008
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I'm back with more thoughts. As to Elizabeth Chadwick being an established author, yes and no. She did have a US publisher (St. Martin's Press I think?), but was dropped by them in the early-mid 2000s (not sure of the year). I discovered her in 2006, I think from Amazon recs, but again not sure. Loved the first one I bought and snapped them all up, new or then used. She still had a UK publisher, but I don't recall her being readily known in the US (St. Martins caters to libraries). Still, through word of mouth from readers, her popularity has grown and demand for her books is high enough that the used prices are somewhat jaw dropping at times, although cheaper in the UK, there's still the shipping costs. She now has a US publisher and even higher readership, but IMHO word of mouth among readers has helped lead the way.

Same for Susan Higginbotham. Her first novel, The Traitor's Wife, was originally self published. Susan does a good job with her online presence, participating as a reader but also as an author. While she now has a publisher (Sourcebooks), she's developed a faithful following much in part due to her participation in online book discussions. My opinions only.

I guess my point still goes back to participating in online forums. Goodreads has several active groups focused on historical fiction, and authors are always welcome as long as they join in the discussion. Many groups have a spot for authors to toot their horns when they wish to. Readers do notice and they will support those who support readers. Even more so now with all these reviewer/BBA kerfuffles going on.

Date Posted: 9/6/2012 11:35 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
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How do I feel about author promotions?  Well ... for the most part, I’m oblivious to them. 

My tastes in books, music, movies, TV shows, etc., so seldom runs with the majority that I pretty much ignore all the main outlets for such promotions, particulary "social media".  Frankly, a book being a “best-seller” is more likely to be a negative indicator than a positive.  Thousands of reviews?  It’ll be YEARS before I read the book.  I figure that if it’s actually good, it’ll stand the test of time and still be good in five, ten years … or more.  It was eight or nine years before I read “The Other Boleyn Girl”, for example.  If I’m considering several books for purchase, and one is by an author I already “know” from prior experience, prior experience will trump the “new-to-me” author virtually every time.  I’m more likely to tag the “new to me” author as “maybe later”.  (Since buying my Nook, that means downloading a sample for future consideration.)  And I’ll probably get feedback from other readers who have similar interests and tastes before deciding to try buy a new author.

That’s how I came to try your first book, Jeri.  You came to PBS for an interview, others here liked your books, so I decided to try one.  For me, it helped tremendously that they were all e-books, so the back list was quickly and easily accessible. 

Date Posted: 9/7/2012 11:32 AM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2009
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I just spent a half hour writing a post and I hit refresh instead of spell check!  ARRGGHH!

I will try to recapture my thoughts and I will come back, I actually had something to say.crying

Date Posted: 9/7/2012 11:54 AM ET
Member Since: 7/15/2008
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Jerelyn, isn't that just the worst thing ever? I had a review once exactly how I wanted it, and when I hit save draft on Wordpress it was all gone. I never got it back quite the same way angry

Date Posted: 9/7/2012 12:30 PM ET
Member Since: 7/22/2009
Posts: 2,617
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Oh, Jerelyn -- how frustrating.

I'm planning to add my 2 cents worth as well -- but so far it doesn't amount to more than half a penny.

Date Posted: 9/7/2012 12:53 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 1,588
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Oh, I hate that!  It's gotten to where if I'm writing something more than just an off-the-cuff paragraph or two, I'll compose it entirely in Word first, then cut and past to the message board. 

Date Posted: 9/7/2012 4:11 PM ET
Member Since: 7/22/2009
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My two pence...

Well, until I read your eye-opening blog on A Reader's Responsibilities, my knee-jerk response would have been that I don't like authors' self-promotion. Actually, I still don't like it -- but I have a much better understanding now of why many authors feel forced to promote their books.

Obviously, an author has to be very careful -- too much pushing readers to buy their books, to "like" their books, and to post reviews of their books results not just in reader fatigue but in annoyance or even resentment. I think it is very helpful to explain to readers the motivation behind the push -- but after doing so in a FB post and/or blog piece, then the author needs to back off and trust his or her readers. I am much more inclined to take on additional "reader responsibilities" not because I have been pushed or made to feel guilty, but because I have learned through authors' blogs and FB posts to like, appreciate, and respect the author as a person.

That being said, I think some people are more inclined than others to champion an author or take on additional reader responsibilities. For example, I am quick to tell people in person about authors/books I like and would recommend -- but I find it much more difficult to write reviews or post on FB -- partially because I tend to be a rather private person (yeah, I know people in this forum are rolling their eyes) and have mixed feelings about FB and partially because writing reviews for me is a struggle. I am in awe of book bloggers and reviewers who write intelligent, interesting, and readable blurbs -- and I so appreciate that they do so. I consistently check Amazon user reviews -- though I remind myself to be wary of sock puppetry -- and I do read a few readers' blogs. But while I am an avid reader, I just am less inclined to write reviews -- the responsibility, to me, is daunting.

In terms of where I find new authors and/or books to read, this forum is a huge source for me. I also rely heavily on word of mouth; I browse through the librarians' recommendations at the library; I read book reviews in the paper; I comb through Amazon's discussion forums; I skim book blogs. Though at this point, with over 700 books in my TBR stacks and another 100+ on my "available at library" list, I'm not really looking for more books to read. (In fact, if I bring home any more books, I may be looking for a new husband.) Unfortunately, it's authors like you, who keep writing books that I want to read, that cause a problem -- but please don't stop. I'm addicted to Crispin.

Date Posted: 9/7/2012 5:19 PM ET
Member Since: 5/31/2009
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Misfit:  I'm aware of the friend questions on gr but I like to research each person requesting to be my friend.  And, if it doesn't work out I unfriend them.  I always check out the reviews of certain friends on pbs and gr like you.  Others I just skim because I know our book preferences are quite different..

Date Posted: 9/7/2012 7:40 PM ET
Member Since: 7/15/2008
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REK, I feel the same. I just kept getting invites from authors that didn't even write in the genres I read. Had one I kept ignoring the invite and he kept on inviting me. Had to block him. I actually like having friends who read other genres besides HF. Keeps the feeds lively, and the discussions as well.

Date Posted: 9/8/2012 10:06 AM ET
Member Since: 2/25/2007
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It's really hard---finding new books AND promoting your own books. (I have friends who are published with major houeses, so I know a little of what they go through).

I wish I had an aswer for you. I'm another voracious reader, but I won't read just anything. I will search the library stacks, but there are still plenty of times when I don't find anything. Finding a new good book is really really hard!

Because I work on computers and do a lot of work-related reserarch, I'm not one to spend much time browsing through blogs, etc. ISO books. And I think the FB thing is silly, another big time suck, like so many of those promotions, including author blogs, tweets etc. Having an author be "accessible" to me does not mean a whit; just because I like your books does not mean I want to engage in "conversation."

. I try to keep up with reviews, amazon (if you liked this you might like that), the "new books" sections at the library....I wish there was a good filter designed for my taste!



Last Edited on: 9/8/12 10:10 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 9/8/2012 11:01 AM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
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Hi Jeri,

I can honestly say I've never been tempted to pick up a book based on an author's self promotion on the forums I read (Amazon, goodreads, etc.).  I just kind of skip over them thinking, well, there's an agenda here.  If I come across a title that sounds interesting, I do check reader reviews, however, I've grown to be somewhat skeptical of these as well.  The feature on Amazon that allows one to search inside the book is very helpful to me in deciding whether or not to explore further.  I've been introduced to many "new-to-me" authors when they offer an e-book free or at a low price.  Some have become favorite authors of mine and I go on to purchase everything they've written.  I don't follow authors on FB but will visit favorite author websites to see what's coming next. I am a pretty genre-specific reader (HF and history) and about 90% of what I read comes from recommendations I find here on the PBS discussion forums.  You are a prime example-I've just heard about your books here and have ordered the first in the series.  I also want to say that I admire authors very much (where would the world be without them!) and appreciate the difficulties you face in trying to build your readership.  

Date Posted: 9/10/2012 8:31 PM ET
Member Since: 7/7/2007
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Well, Jeri, since you asked ....  

I hate blatant author begging along the lines of "please go to X website and give me 5 stars", etc. (not that you'd be that blatent, just an example).  I've gotten messages on booksites to that effect and I personally find that obnoxious, and it makes me less like to read/buy/review items by authors that do that.  It strikes me as unprofessional and somewhat desperate, and it smacks of someone trying to "game the system".

I think what would serve you (and other authors) better in the long run is to have a well-reasoned explanation/statement, something along the lines of "how you can help your favorite authors keep writing great books", talking about some of these issues, and what matters most -- is it rating stars on Amazon? Reviews on GoodReads? Letters to your publisher?  Google hits? Sort of like the way you explained sock puppetry. Talk about the important actions readers can take and how they can have an impact on authors -- i.e. does the author with the best reviews get the best contracts? If you have not enough reviews, does your publisher fire you?  I have no idea -- but it would be both helpful and interesting to know, and knowledge is power.  Empowered readers would be more likely to act, and hopefully respond to that sort of an educated appeal, rather than a flat-out request for ratings.  And then I'd post that informative article in a number of places -- your blog and website, of course, as well as in other places where folks read about you -- newsletters, genre sites, wherever.

This is just my opinion, tho.



Last Edited on: 9/10/12 8:32 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/10/2012 11:11 PM ET
Member Since: 6/20/2011
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If you don't get enough sales then your publisher effectively "fires" you, as Elizabeth Chadwick was "fired" from her publisher. They don't offer more contracts and then you and your agent scrambles to find a publisher who is willing to take up the series, knowing about those lower sales. And as I explained, more reviews lead to more visibility and hence  to more sales.

On another note, someone posted about "gr" --took me a moment to realize it stood for GoodReads and I thought it was funny. Grrrr. 

Again, great articulate posts.

 

Date Posted: 9/12/2012 10:00 AM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
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 I've been introduced to many "new-to-me" authors when they offer an e-book free or at a low price. Some have become favorite authors of mine and I go on to purchase everything they've written.

I want to say "same here".  I'm always hesitant to clunk down good money for an author I haven't read before.  I always feel like buying one I didn't like was a waste that precluded me from others I might have liked.  So an introductory offer, so to speak, for an e-book is by far the most effective way to get me to buy the first book by a "new to me" author.  I may nab that cheapie and not read it for months.  Maybe even a year, if the author's name isn't popping up on "what I'm reading" threads here or at HistoricalFictionOnline.  But once I read it, if I like it, I'll read all the author's books.  Over time.