Six+ years ago, in January, 2008, my first novel came out.
There was no twitter.
Facebook may have been around, I'm not sure, but most people I knew weren't on it yet.
MySpace was going strong, and I did have a page there and tried to connect with people. I know Lisa McMann was incredibly successful in connecting with teens there and getting them excited about her WAKE trilogy when it came out.
Book blogging was really starting to be a thing. I did connect with some book bloggers, but I'm 99% sure my first YA novel didn't have an official "tour" or anything.
Blogging was popular at the time. I had a blog over at livejournal (which still exists because so many comments from my friend Lisa, who passed away three years ago, are there, and I love them. I can't delete them. I just can't. It's like a part of her still exists there. Though I should probably delete it because holy crap, talk about over-sharing.) ANYWAY, a bunch of us who were writers followed each other and had a lot of fun within our tight-knit community. Most of us started our blogs before we were published. So our posts were about personal things or about our writing struggles or about the bumpy road to publication. I loved it. There was no promotion. Just bad news or good news and all the stuff in between. Until things changed. Until everyone started getting book deals.
Here are some things I remember regarding the YA market leading up to my first YA novel coming out.
* I clearly remember the buzz around TWILIGHT before and after it hit the shelves in 2005.
* I remember the buzz around Melissa Marr's WICKED LOVELY series, which sold in 2006, I believe (it came out in 2008).
* I remember reading LOOKING FOR ALASKA while on vacation at Sunriver in 2005. I loved it and I was so excited when it won the Printz in January, 2006. It didn't have a lot of buzz. I only knew about it because his editor was Julie Strauss-Gabel, and she was an editor I admired and kind of kept my eye on.
* I remember it was around the release of the second book of TWILIGHT that bookstores started making a space just for YA novels and moved them out of the children's section. Wow.
* I remember not having a clue as to what to do to promote my book (this is still mostly true, by the way). I joined the class of 2K8. I got a web site going. I kept blogging. And that was about it.
When I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME came out, I remember checking Amazon at one point and I was *shocked* the Amazon ranking was below 10,000. I could not believe it. Even though we don't really know what the numbers actually mean
in terms of how many copies sold, I think most people know what's good, great, fantastic, bestseller territory, etc. Anything below 10,000 is good, especially for a debut author.
I'm not sure any of my other books, except for maybe one of my middle-grade novels, dropped down that low.
My editor came back from vacation toward the end of January, and when we talked on the phone, he said, "All I've heard since I've been back is how well I HEART YOU is selling."
I did very little promotion of the book. I didn't have any big name blurb. It got a couple of okay reviews, but nothing spectacular. But here are a couple of things that I believe helped it to sell:
1) The title and the concept combined with the amazing cover. You never know for sure what's going
|image credit: morguefile.com|
to work and it all just worked.
2) It was the kind of book people read and talked about. What is
that kind of book, exactly? No one really knows. If we did, we'd all be writing it. I've said it before and I'll say it again - word of mouth is the BEST kind of marketing there is. If you love an author, talking about his/her books is the number one thing you can do to support that author. And for all of the people who have talked about my books over the years - thank you!!
Okay, one more thing helped it to sell.
3) Luck. Right place, right time, simple as that. I think sometimes we underestimate this element.
So, what other things help to sell books? Support from the publisher and bookstores, of course. Lead titles are at a huge advantage because of the push they get from the publisher. Nothing can beat that, really.
I've been thinking about all of this in regards to twitter and how it really varies as to how much authors tweet about their books. Some tweet very little. Others tweet all the time.
A year or two ago I asked on twitter if people got excited about a book release when an author was excited about a book release. A lot of people said yes. It made them excited when the author was excited. There were a few of us who kind of went - uh oh. Because for many of us, a book release is mostly anxiety producing, and it's hard to be excited when we sort of just want to crawl inside a hole. I've decided when there is something to be excited about, I need to not hold back. Be excited and let others see that, because people DO like to see genuine happiness/excitement.
But can there be too much, is the question I've been pondering? I tend to think yes.
Personally, I think the 80/20 rule is a good one to follow. That is - only about 20% of tweets or posts on facebook or instagram or wherever should be book/promotion-related. More than that, and you run the risk of being annoying. You also may look desperate. Those two things do not sell books.
The biggest change from the year 2008 to the year 2014 is not where people talk about books or how we connect with each other or any of that. No, the biggest change is how many more YA novels simply exist now. A LOT!!! It is much harder to get noticed in today's market. Of course, we also have a gazillion more books to choose from to read, which is pretty sweet, right?