Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Monday, April 5, 2010

It Takes a Village to Sell a Book

Writing the book may be a solitary activity, but selling it is a different story. Let's quickly move past the agent, editor, marketing team, publisher, distributor, bookstore-- all those involved in selling a book in its various stages of production-- and cut straight to the author. Yes, you. Even if you haven't finished your manuscript yet. Even if you haven't found an agent, editor, marketing team, publisher. YOU are the most important element in selling your book.

I see writers like Talli Roland and Susan Fields (who btw are holding 100 follower contests on their blogs today-- yay I just earned extra points!) who personify exactly what I'm talking about. They're building that village who will help them sell their books. In fact, Talli is doing it so well, that she'll hit 100 followers within a month of starting her blog! And Susan hits 100 in less than six months from when she started hers. These gals know what they're doing! Along the way to that happy day when Talli and Susan hold that book in their eager arms, the village will be rejoicing with them:

"You got an agent? Cool! Hooray for you. You deserve it, you've worked so hard!"

"Omigosh, you're getting published! I am so excited for you. I'll be the first one to buy your book when it comes out!"

"Can't wait to read it! Will it be available in the UK?"

"I live in Germany. Can you send me a copy? It's easier to buy direct from you."

You get the idea. There's your village-- supporting you, following your journey, waiting eagerly for the book's release.

Don't wait until you have a contract before starting your writing blog. Don't wait until you have a book cover. (I waited until I had two books published and in stores before I started blogging-- dumb me--I had no village waiting eagerly for my book's release, just a few friends & family, most of whom I gave copies to anyway. No sales there lol!)

Don't think you need a woo hoo la di da "professionally- designed writer website." That stuff is all so passe, unless you're a celebrity author. In that case, you need it to get some space from your zillions of fans. For those of us toiling in relative obscurity, it's all about social media--blogging and all that other stuff you guys do so well as you interact with your village. Who cares about a dull, static professionally-designed website? That is so five years ago. Bor-ing! Do like Talli and Susan and get into the fray with a blog that is fun, that is you, that shares your writing journey with all your new and wonderful friends who are doing the same thing over on their blogs.

You've heard the words, "building a platform" (very important, btw), and "attracting followers" (so exciting to see that number grow!), but basically it all boils down to one thing-- You are creating your own village and as it grows and grows, they will encourage, share, cry and rejoice with you along the way. And ultimately they'll not only buy your book, they'll help sell it. (For an example, check out Krista Jensen's blog, where she interviewed David J. West whose debut novel is soon to be released.) Your village will interview you, post reviews on Goodreads, tell everyone they know, and generally do more good for your sales than the bookstore owner who's struggling to stay in business and focusing largely on whatever is the bestseller of the day.

This is how it works people. We are building something here, populating the blog world with all of our fun and original little cities, full of fun and interesting inhabitants. We call them followers, but in reality they're our village. They help us, we help them, and we all need each other.


  1. A massive thank you for the shout-out and for your support, Karen! So much appreciated. The publishing world can seem a very scary place and it's so nice to interact and share in a positive environment.

  2. I was amazed to discover how supportive this online world of writers really is. I find comfort in knowing there are all these people out there doing what I'm doing and fighting the same wars. It's also magical to think I'm in touch with people across the globe.

  3. You are absolutely right. I have a great team of blog friends who have been following my rollercoaster ride since I was signed up for a 3 book deal within a few months of submitting my first MS to my publisher. My first book has already been reprinted twice, my second will be published in June, I'm writing the third and my publisher has already made a bid for a fourth. When my success has felt overwhelming, my blog friends are always there to encourage me! They are an invaluable part of my journey as a published author. It is also great fun to receive comments from around the world. A blogger recently sent me a photo of my UK published book on sale at a bookstore in Bangkok!

  4. so true - followers are truly important. How Talli managed to get 100 followers in a month is completely beyond me, however:) she must be doing something right!

  5. Hi

    Big yay to all you fab bloggers building and sustaining and loving your villages! :-)

    and Yay Talli and Susan Fields!!!! *clapping*.

    Take care

  6. Old Kitty, thanks for cheering! You always make me smile :)

    Alexandra, Hi! Nice to meet you! Yes, can you believe Talli's accomplishment? I don't think I've ever seen it done. They should make a movie on her like Julie/Julia.

    Leigh, I checked out your blog and am now suffering from a severe case of writer envy. Your story is what we all dream about happening when we submit that first manuscript. Thanks for ruining my day. No, really, just kidding, what I meant to say was, thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment :)

    Elspeth, I'm with you! I love the global aspect of it. I wish I could afford to travel the world and meet all my cool friends outside the US and take each one of them out to dinner. That would be so fun!

    Talli, You're welcome! Love your blog!

  7. I'm so amazed at how quickly people are able to build their followers! It's way impressive. I'm glad I started when I did. It would have been awesome to start my blog before I got a contract, but I just didn't realize how important it was. I thought blogging was just for friends and family stuff.

  8. Excellent post!

    This is by the far the greatest little village I've ever lived in.

    Although, don't know how I feel about the thought of us all being Village People....

    Who's dressing up as who? ;o)

  9. Here's to the village!! Well said Karen!

  10. You're so right Karen!!

    Muttie is in the business of Communications (PR) and guess what she's gonna say at her next interview (all the PR guys these days want to talk about 'social marketing'). It's not Facebook or Twitter that does's blogging!! Where else can you get a committed, world-wide community?

    Milt (ps, I hope this means more kitty treats for me...) x

  11. Definitely agree with you Karen - Talli and Susan are both great bloggers and really interesting to read.

    Plus meeting other writers through your blog is a really good way to learn more about the process, and it's just fun!

  12. Ellen, I sometimes wonder, how can something this fun be any good for me lol?

    Milt, you should definitely get more kitty treats for bring that to her attention. Really those PR people need to know where it's really at!

    Crystal, thanks and yes, cheers to the village!

    E. Elle, well I don't know about the Village People, but I'll dress up as Miss Marple. Oh wait, no, scratch that, I'm Xena.

    Tamara, blogging can be for whatever you want it to be I guess! But my friends and family don't come over here to my blog. They live in a different village :)

  13. Thank you so much for the shout-out, Karen! We have such an awesome blogging community with supportive, caring, and fun people! Platform building and great friends - what more could you want?

  14. Yes!! You're so right. I don't see the need for fancy schmantz-pants websites. We're all a community here and we read each others' words regardless. It's a great place to be!

  15. I started blogging straight after I had my first short story accepted right at the end of last year... now the blog and interacting with other bloggers is so much fun that it can even distract me from getting on with fiction! Not sure that was exaaaactly how it was meant to work... :P

    Seriously though, I *do* feel as if I'm part of a village full of people who will pop round to see who I am and vice versa! :)

  16. Terrific blog post!

    My agent pestered me for months about the importance of blogging and getting into Twitter, but it wasn't until I really researched those things that I started to grasp how HUGE social media can be for an author. Now I'm a devoted blogger who starts to get twitchy if I go more than a few hours without tweeting. And after watching my blog cross the 100-follower mark in two months, I can definitely say it's working!

    Thanks again for this great post!


  17. Filled with shame - I didn't start blogging until after the book deal.
    However, in the last ten days, my followers doubled from 30 to 60, so hopefully I'm on the right track.

  18. Teamwork. Always a good thing. But sometimes difficult for those of us who work and play with made up people. Maybe that's why it's easier for us to work together in cyberspace.

  19. I love the blogging community. You're right about how "platform" works, but the best part is the journey for those who aren't agented and published. We reach out when we fall and get picked right back up. And then the accomplishments of our fellow writers mean even more to us.

  20. This is the absolute best post I've read today. Because it's so true. Thank you for voicing it. :)

  21. Great post and great way of thinking about this thing that we do. :)

  22. Thanks for the shout-out, Karen! For me AND David! What a true post. Blogging has opened a whole new world to me and I know so many others who are just discovering this writing business. A BIG thanks to those who share the road to being a published author, and who are glad to be part of spreading the word!
    Now, if I can only up my followers so my little posts and interviews can have more of an impact! I will have to stalk Talli!

  23. You're absolutely write. Building your village and having the support of others going through the same thing is totally beneficial.

  24. I can't wait to check out every other blogger you listed! Yes, it does take a village. I feel I have so many amazing loops of writers and this one is on my "golden list."

  25. YES, we ARE a village and I am a part of it. This makes me feel very good and excited. Now if I can just get one of the villagers to come clean my hut.

    Super great post. Thought provoking and full of info.


  26. I love this post. I wasn't a believer at first, but I am now that I'm getting a hang of blogging. You do start to make real friends in the blogosphere & each individual blog does seem to have its own community - complete with its own culture in the comments.

  27. Great post Karen. I am thrilled with the blogging village. It has given me much needed confidence. The support is a real tonic. I am delighted to be part of your village and thrilled you are a part of mine. Thank you.

    Finished your book by the way you published writer you! A very good read. Realistic and attention holding. Finished it in a week!

  28. Ann, glad you enjoyed it and thanks for letting me know :)

  29. I gained my 140th Important One, yesterday. I took the advice of a writer, a year ago. Set up a blog purely for writerly stuff...her words. I did and my platform has a train full of passengers and building steam every day.

    I love my blogging visits and visitors, to me it is part of my writing career. It is my notice board, my communication line from Cyprus to the world beyond the island borders.

    You are so right Karen, my villagers are there, behind me all the way and I am part of theirs. I have learned so much from each and every person I visit.

    I have books on my shelf that I will treasure forever...why? Because I 'know' the author, they are a friend of mine and I want to support them as they do me.

  30. Awww, isn't our little community the best?!

    Great post!

  31. The 'village' idea is a great one. I like the idea of building my own village. My kids would be very surprised to hear this - whenever I tried to help them build houses with Lego or other bricks, they always ended up saying, 'Mummy, did you mean it to look like there'd been a tornado?'

  32. I am overwhelmed by appreciation to all who commented on this village post, even though I didn't manage to get back to respond to each individually. Clearly, we are not alone in our feelings of community among the writer/bloggers. Rock on villagers!