As shocking as this statement might be, I came to authorship by accident. Much as I discovered I had to start moisturizing my skin at 50, circumstance demanded I write. This is not to suggest I have the arrogance to consider my efforts of the same caliber of Elif Shafak, Molly Peacock or Paul Anderson. No, I am definitely not aspiring to be a novelist or biographer. Nor am I the next Seth Godin or James Altucher, though their understanding of the paradigm shift quickly invalidating the traditional publishing industry is invaluable. No, my writing is can be found in the NPR equivalent of Michael Feldman’s ‘Whad’YaKnow?’ category of ‘Things You Should Have Learned in School (Had You Been Paying Attention)’ – substitute Life for School and it’d be just about right. I wasn’t trying to be funny or ride on the hem of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s robes, but from the reviews posted on Amazon to date my readers seem to find my writing both wise and comedic.
So, what am I doing at Wise, Ink? In response to three out of five ain’t bad and in defense of not doing number three in advance – despite the obvious folly of such.
If I had sat down and started writing with any kind of consideration toward ‘commercial viability’ or a well thought out strategic marketing plan “all that I need, or live like a dog with its head stuck out the car window” would be a vastly different book – if at all. Passion is the reason why writers write. It’s why we re-work sentences to obsession, wake in the middle of the night dreaming thoughts which demand capture, haul around ancient term papers and poetry from school and, sometimes, procrastinate. But our passion for the written word is why most of you reading this either became an author or are plotting to sell the family silver to support yourself long enough to write the next great book.
Psssst. It’s not enough.
What I can write here with absolute certainty is while having an audience is no guarantee of success (initial or subsequent – Elizabeth Gilbert’s post EAT PRAY LOVE effort bombed) YOU NEED ONE! “Why?” s/he asks. In public relations it’s called ‘third party validation’. You need reviews of your book to drive sales, earn media, and get invited to guest blog! Your ability to cull those reviews down to less than 140 characters to Tweet along with the URL of your book helps with the marketing “heavy lifting” still, it’s no guarantee. Nothing is. Not even hard work.
Two months after my book went live on Amazon and Lulu, (iTunes and Barnes & Noble) I have a couple of handfuls of reviews on Amazon – each precious to me. They are the unvarnished views of real people who took time out of their day to post their visceral reflections after reading my words. Some caused my jaw to drop, others made me laugh, a few made me cry happy tears. What each does is opens up to that the random-discovered-your-book person what they can expect in reading your book and perhaps spurring their decision to buy. The new MIT Press ‘I Have What She’s Having’… documents our selection behavior – brilliantly. And though I hate to tell you this your sales blurb alone is NOT going to get you, as a first time author, purchased – but those reviews certainly will help. There’s nothing you can do to ensure reviews, even when it’s your Aunt Millie or your best friend. The people you most expect will support you won’t and you will be gobsmacked by the validation you will receive from complete strangers. And then, almost miraculously, because you’ve written with passion and conviction one of those reviewers will apply themselves to telling everyone they know about your book and as a result you’ll find that eight weeks after your book went on sale you are suddenly invited to do a live TV interview. Of course that isn’t the happy ending… it’s the beginning of the Little Blue Engine’s assent in Watty Piper’s The Little Engine That Could. The refrain “I think I can, I think I can” is a great mantra and even better wisdom.
So much for not doing #3 in the first place!
Teresa Fritschi is an award-winning marketing communications professional and the founder and managing director of Edinburgh, Scotland based Fair Trade bespoke e-commerce initiative Thistle & Broom, Ltd. www.thistleandbroom.com. all that I need, or live like a dog with its head stuck out the car window is Ms. Fritschi’s first book. She splits her time between Rochester, NY and Edinburgh.