Nope. Not what you might think.
I’m not here today to discuss the familiar “Three Rs” of education: reading, writing, and arithmetic. In fact, just the idea of including the concept of math into one of my articles is giving me hives. No, today’s blog post dives into the very heart of an author’s pool of success: the post-sales life of their work.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I were to skim across the obvious prerequisite to our topic. Don’t let anyone fool you. A writer wants to sell books. We all do. Oh sure, there are those who claim, “I’m only doing it because I enjoy it!”
Sorry. Not buying it.
If this claim were true, the writer wouldn’t take the time, energy, and expense required to publish their work. Whether traditional or indie, writers want to see their work in print. And they want you to buy their books. They spend days, weeks, months, years crafting that budding masterpiece, assured they’ve successfully put a new spin on one of the seven basic plots and have created the next breakaway best seller. They’ve self-edited, line edited, copy edited, proofed, and utilized beta readers until, in some cases, they never want to see their manuscript again. Then, they sweat, drink, and self-medicate over the perfect blurb, the final cover, and the smartest publishing avenue they can find. And if they’re the traditional-only type, you can bet they spent additional days, weeks, months, or years finding an agent and subsequent publisher.
It’s a hard road. No one does that solely for the thrill of spinning a yarn. If they tell you this, they’re lying. And if they’re not lying, they’re nuts. No one needs that kind of aggravation.
Don’t get me wrong. Most of us write because we love what we do, we’re probably good at it, and we would like to make a decent living—perhaps leave a legacy for our kids and grandkids. Feel fulfilled. All of that. But yeah, we still want the money.
So at the end of the creation nightmare, each writer hopes to step into the dream. Sales, critical acclaim, popularity…royalties! We all want the same thing, and we all secretly dislike other writers in our circles who fare better than we do. It is what it is. So we market, shill, and beg for readers. We analyze trends, copy best practices from our contemporaries, giveaway our hard work hoping to build a following and a reputation. And somehow, someway, no matter how long it takes, we make a few sales. Yippee!
Welcome to today’s topic.
It’s nice to view sales reports and see our books have moved. E-books, paperbacks, hardcovers, audiobooks. It’s fantastic! But for an author, that is really only the beginning. And that’s where YOU, dear readers, come into play.
First off, you’re welcome. We’re glad you enjoyed the read. We wish we could meet and discuss with each one of you what made you laugh, scream, thrill, fall in love, or cry. We’d love to hear what you thought of our heroes and how you delighted when the villain was finally brought to justice. What surprised you? What made you cringe? Did it break your heart? Did you discover that one, elusive typo we, our editors, and our proofreaders missed? In most cases, unfortunately, we’ll never know. That is, unless you follow the author’s Three Rs.
Read, Review, Recommend. Let’s break them down, shall we?
You’re a third of the way there the moment you read the two worst words in the whole story: the end. You’ve finished the book. It’s fresh in your mind. There’s a sense of the whole plot settling on you in a beginning-to-end summary like a coach reviewing his team’s highlights reel. The good plays. The bad ones. The missed opportunities. The thrill of victory. It’s all there…and you should share it.
Like it or hate it, people would love to know what you think. A review is a reader’s power. Power to encourage, to correct, to critique—hopefully, to cheer for the story and for its author. I recently reviewed Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar on Goodreads. In fact, I thought I did a pretty good job. I didn’t even include any spoilers! But when I went through the reviews of others, I was dumbstruck. Many of those reviewers, merely lovers of prose, wrote better than most authors I’ve read! They took a simple, “how did you like it” post and made it a work of art. Now, I’m not saying every reviewer has to go that far. In fact, please don’t—you’ll show us up. But we can all say something, can’t we? Use your voice! Why not? You’ve spent the money and got your ticket. Might as well let people know if it was worth the price of admission, right?
This is the heart of the Three Rs. Word of mouth. Oh, how it humbles an author to hear a reader recommended their book to a friend, colleague, family member, or—when we’ve hit the motherlode—a book club. To know someone found something so compelling they feel the need to pass it on. That’s what we love most. Sure, the subsequent sales and royalties thrill us, but it’s the idea that something we spent so much time envisioning, creating, revising, and marketing could move the heart of the reader to the point they must encourage others to read it, too. This is when the cycle is complete.
What books would you recommend to others? Did you recently finish a book and have something you could share with other readers? It’s never too late. And from all of us to all who do? Thank you.