Playing the Numbers Game

When you write a book, publish it and send it out into the world to seek its fame and fortune, numbers become a huge part of your life.  Of course, I’m speaking from an indie author’s point of view, but I can’t think it’s that different for those who follow the traditional route.

You stop by Amazon almost daily, just to see where your book falls among the tens of thousands of others.  You check to see if you’ve broken into the top ten or the top one hundred.  And if you’re doing a free promo day, watch out:  then the fur really flies.  You have a real chance of cracking the top lists. . and we won’t even go into the download numbers.

Numbers are great.  When they’re in my favor, I’m more than happy to talk them up!  But they’re also capricious and unpredictable, and in the end, they don’t mean that much.

I was thrilled that Fearless was the number one contemporary fantasy for four days during its recent promotion. I was giddy when it stayed in the top 100 even after the promo ended. But if I based my entire satisfaction in my writing life on the lists and numbers, I’d be pretty despondent most of the time.

On the other hand, this weekend I received three wonderful, excited emails from three different young girls who had read both Fearless and Breathless.  They loved the books.  They loved the characters.  They can’t wait for the release of the third book.  They want to know what happens next.  And their enthusiasm reminded me that I write for them, not for numbers.

I’ll be ecstatic if my books do well in the numbers game, when I see them climb the lists.  But I’d rather have a single email from a girl telling me how much this story meant to her than I would a solid month on the bestsellers list.

Numbers are a game, but those emails are what it’s really all about.


Review and Win!

We’re experimenting with a new kind of giveaway this week:  if you leave a review on either Fearless or Breathless, on Amazon, Goodreads or Barnes and Noble and leave a comment here with your name and the link to your review, you will be entered in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card! You earn one entry for every review you leave, so if you review both books in both formats at Amazon, Goodreads and BN, you could earn up to eight entries! Make sure that you also mark your entry on the Rafflecopter form below so that you’re in the drawing.

Of course I love great reviews, but I’m more interested in your honesty here. . .a mediocre review has the same chance to win as a really terrific one.

If this giveaway is successful, we’ll re-run again occasionally, as a special thank you to my wonderful readers!
Here are the links to the review sites:

The Meyer Effect

The other day I saw an interview with 50 Shades of Grey author E. L. James where she said that she was inspired to write her book by the success of Twilight author Stephenie Meyer.  As I understand it, the book actually had its beginning on a Twilight fan site.

I had to laugh.  Not at James, who is clearly parlaying this inspiration into incredible success; no, I was laughing ruefully at the latest and (probably) most famous example of what I call the Meyer Effect.

Visit any group of writers, and I can almost guarantee that you’ll meet at least one who will admit that Stephenie Meyer and the phenomenon that was the Twilight series gave her the impetus to write her own book. I myself am a member and admin of a writing support group that was once, in our early years, called the TwiWriters; we all met on the huge Twilight fan site Twilight Moms.  While many of us have drifted away from that fan site, a small strong core of us are still writing.

What is the Meyer effect and how does it work?  It is the situation wherein someone (almost always a woman) has read the interviews with the Twilight author wherein she describes how she came to write the books.  Meyer talks about a vivid dream and having to fit in writing down the dream between swim lessons and other mom activities.  That dream became a pivotal and well-known scene in the first book.

I believe that the way Meyer entered into authorhood–the juxtaposition of a story that would become a world-wide hysteria with the very ordinary elements of suburban mom–somehow made the idea of writing more accessible to millions of people.  The most commonly heard words are, “I decided if Stephenie Meyer could do it, so could I.”

We all of us hung on her stories of typing late into the night and at poolside during swim lessons. . .dropping the huge manuscript into a mailbox (that to this day gives her butterflies when she sees it!). . .getting miraculously discovered in the dreaded slush pile by an editorial assistant (who has since become a literary agent).  Again, it echoes in our minds:  If it happened this way for Stephenie Meyer, it could happen for me.

Had Twilight happened ten years ago, or ten years from now, I don’t think the Meyer effect would be as widespread. The combination of her story with the rise of independent publication has come together to create a perfect literary storm. For instance, JK Rowling’s stories of writing the Harry Potter books on a train didn’t launch a motherlode of new writers. I never heard anyone say, “If JK Rowling can do it, so can I.”

The ramifications of the Meyer Effect will be felt for a long time, as many of the authors whom she inspired are just now hitting the bookshelves.  Will it ultimately be a negative or a positive result?  Stay tuned.

Managing Media

All writers, indie or not, have to harness the power of social media these days. It’s a necessary tool for promotion of your book and your brand.

At the same time, this kind of PR work can consume your life.  Ask any author who has at least one book out and is working on another about the struggle to balance promotion and writing.  It’s not easy.

So the wonderful powers that be on the internet have come up with programs that allow us to manage social media, to schedule tweets and to track what elements are working for us. I can sit down on a Sunday night and schedule tweets for an entire week (I usually don’t; a day ahead is the best I’ve been able to do!).  I can write posts for my site here and have them appear exactly when I want them.

Of course, there are some people who believe that this kind of scheduling is wrong.  One author recently claimed that the true impact of social media lies in its immediacy, that by ‘manipulating’ it in this way, we are somehow cheating.

I disagree.  I am a writer, yes.  However, I am also a wife, a mom who homeschools, a caretaker of 20 month old. . .even with an iPhone, I can hardly be tied to the internet twelve hours a day. At the same time, in the current climate, being absent from social media even for a day can drastically impact standing and sales.

Scheduling social media makes my life possible. I try to keep even my scheduled tweets and posts fresh and timely.

I don’t call that manipulating; I call it managing.