Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Creating and Selling

I got a lot done today but only a little of it was actual writing. When I sat down to do some revisions my mind began to mimic a glacier. Sometimes it happens. On those days you push through it and I did finally make some progress. Some days that’s all you can hope for.

I also spent some time trying to think of marketing ideas. Lately, the sales of all my books have been stagnant, and no copies of Cold in the Light were sold last year through any venue. I’m not sure if any used copies were sold; the royalty statements don’t indicate those since publishers and authors get no money from such sales.

Sometimes I’ve had good luck with personal appearances. Other times not. I sold almost 20 copies of Write With Fire at a library talk I gave. But at Babel Con this year I sold only one copy of anything. I thought at first that it was because Babel Con was small this year, but I know a fantasy writer who said she sold almost 30 copies of her novel. Of course, she is 1) very attractive, 2) very outgoing, and 3) is either comfortable with pushing her own work or at least gives the appearance of being so. I’ve never been very comfortable selling things to people. I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re getting their arm twisted. I don’t like having mine twisted.

I’ve probably had the best luck at selling my work online, through this blog primarily. But there’s only so many copies you can sell to your friends. I like to think I’m a creative person, but being creative in ways that generate book sales does not seem to be my forte.

Maybe the summer will give me the time to think and dream up some ideas. It’s so much easier to create than to sell what you create. I think the reason is simple. I need only myself to create. I can control my own emotions. Most of the time. I can discipline my own work habits. Most of the time. But to cross that gap between one’s self and another is a vast gulf that is not easily spanned.


ivan said...

Pretty honest, Charles.

I have been flogging my own novels for years. Sales rise and fall, but mostly fall.
The last uptick was from one Sienna, from Australia, who wanted to act as my agent there, but nevertheles paid for twenty copies of my Light Over Newmarket to send around.
Beautiful Sienna. That's some agent to have!
But she reports back, no nibbles on Light Over Newmarket.
I recall mutttering, "Dammit, try Katmandu."...Actually Sienna a real rescuer type, might actually go that far.
Maybe what you need is a "recuer" in the business.

I just got a huge boost from a former publisher in Montreal who now wants to be a writer.
Part of the deal is he will write his novel and The Walking Man and I will edit.
Holy cow. Someting is surely up.

And the old publisher will then...?

Oh God, as they say in Academe, publish or perish...Maybe for both Mark the Walking Man and me.

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the nutty professor says, "Things are going to get
better now. "You can just tell these things."
I think I am spinning my wheels, but I think not Mark.
He has surely had success of late with his Detroit prose and poetry; I think he has sold 127 copies to date and people are asking for more. And he's gone into a second printing. I am halfway convinced that Mark will find an even bigger publisher than my own miniscule Island Grove Press, which, for some reason--more likely Mark's writing than my Jeep logo-- seems to be leading to success.

One big Toronto agent--Was it Phyllys Grosskurth?--said to me, "Sorry, we don't take first novels."
Well, how in $%%% is a person going to get started?
"It is my fourth novel," I'd insisted.
"Good," You probably know your way around by now. Go for it!"

Shit. I think Mark and I just did.
Certainly in going for it.
We are going for it. Charles is going for it.
He knows his way around in the Sci-Fi and Swords and Sorcery circles.
Dammit, we're all going for it.

And break a leg! No, not your poor wife, in whom this flip theatre term might raise a bad memory.

But break a leg, Charles.

Steve Malley said...

May I suggest Kindle/e-book editions? JA Konrath has lots of nice things to say about them.

Just a thought... :)

David Cranmer said...

You actually gave me a marketing idea with the latest Talera book and that was the sticker inside. I'm planning on plastering the name BEAT to a PULP around town.

the walking man said...

If you want my opinion Charles, you have to get your name recognized outside of your genre. You have "Write With Fire" and now you have to find a way to Blast CHARLES GRAMLICH all over hell and gone.

It is what agents are supposed to do and it is maybe time to try that route again because of your previous panels and other CV lines. which are numerous and well cataloged.

I really think your hold is because when it comes to what they look at in education you're not a literature major and the snots in literature think anyone with less than an MFA in literature has no understanding. They don't believe that anyone but a literature graduate student would sit with Tolstoy or Solzhenitsyn just for a good read.

Lisa said...

Charles I google your book Write With Fire and I found the entire book on the internet. I feel that erases the need to buy it.

My ideas are not so professional because I am not in the industry but may I suggest creating a page here at blogspot that list all your books and their descriptions and how to get them. People google what they are looking for and that is one way to direct potential buyers to your books and if they are interested, they could buy it.

Personal appearances I think is one good way, small local groups may be good, like at libraries, book clubs, culture clubs or any club that welcomes talks on writings or short-story telling.

Angie said...

Charles -- I’ve never been very comfortable selling things to people. I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re getting their arm twisted. I don’t like having mine twisted.

Yeah, this. :/ I've never been much with sales either, and in person is harder than on the net for me as well. I'm good with saying, "Hey, my story's available here!" with a link, and posting reviews and such, but actually flogging them regularly is tough. I don't like having promo blasted at me constantly, so I'm not comfortable doing it. I'm sure the people who have no such scruples sell a lot more than we do. [rueful smile]

Are there e-book versions of your books available? That expands your audience, and more of the folks who are online are into e-books than in the general population. Also, I know the e-book vendors do promo stuff periodically, and a new promo event is something one can legitimately publicize. At least to me it feels like a new event to be announced, rather than yet another, "Umm, hey, anyone want to buy my book?" It feels different, to me anyway. [cough]

Walking Man -- it's not your agent's job to market your book. Once it's placed with a publisher, marketing to the vendors and readers is up to you and your publisher, and your publicist if you have one. If your agent is willing to do some marketing work, that's an awesome bonus, but it's not actually part of their duties.


laughingwolf said...

'cold' remains my fave of all your books read, charles

but yeah, sales/marketing is not my strong suit, either

Laurie Powers said...

I agree pretty much with everyone else here. I don't like twisting people's arms, just like I don't like being inundated with ads, nor do I like people who constantly try to find ways to sell their book. I found the best way for me to get publicity was to send out press releases and I got some newspaper articles out of that. But you need an angle to get any attention.

I definitely think e-books is the way to go when it comes to selling your books; mainly because it instantly becomes so much more available to people all over the world who don't have to rely on the shipment of a book to read it.

BernardL said...

It's a bummer when you get a book into print through the long frustrating and tedious process only to find you must then become a carnival barker to market it.

Heather said...

another writer whose blog I read is George Angus ( and he sells via kindle and ebooks. It might be worth taking a look at how he markets himself....I don't know how successful he is with it but I bet if you dropped him a line he'd point you to some resources. Then there's twitter and facebook and all those social networking sites. Readers who buy books online often partake in social media.

You already have a rockin just need to get the word out about it :) By the way, I tried to buy the Talera series and can't find it anywhere! If you have copies let me know and we can do a deal!

Oh, and I've hosted 'blog tours' for other authors before. Have you considered doing a tour? It's basically just a series of guest posts or interviews on a bunch of content related blogs. Takes a bit of organization but should be relatively easy to pull off. Best of luck Charles, and if there's anything I can do just say the word!

Erik Donald France said...

Good luck with the marketing, man! The onlt thing I can add for now is this: to what Heather suggests, perhaps aim to combine a reading or workshop at a public or other library or bookstore every time you go anywhere more than fifty miles away from home base. And maybe in the city, as well?

Charles Gramlich said...

Ivan, yes, you've been in the trenches, been there gutting it out and seeing the rewards, or lack thereof. Sometimes it wears on you. But life in general does that.

Steve Malley, I think eventually Wildside will go that way. But they've been resistant it seems. I should talk to the folks who published Cold in the Light, though. Good idea

David Cranmer, just don't get arrested. :)

Mark, Write With Fire has certainly been my biggest seller, and it's because it crosses genres. Of course NF sells better generally than fiction does. Name recognition is key, for sure. Lana suggested I approach local high schools about giving a talk and I will probaly do that. Always more work that can be done, for sure. The next thriller I write I'll try for an agent.

Ocean Girl, the entire book? That's not supposed to be the case. Are you sure? Was this at Amazon? I know they let you look inside at a few pages. I have done quite a few public appearances but they are rather tiring at times. By the way, could you tell me where you found it online?

Angie, I think the ebook versions would be great, especially of the Talera novels. The first is available via fictionwise but so far not the others. And none are available for the Kindle editions. So far the book production group, Wildside, hasn't pursued it. And yes, after I go to a con and see one person selling selling selling and people buying from them I think to myself, I need to do that. But I just don't think I have it in me.

laughingwolf, I do believe Cold is my most marketable novel. It has wider appeal than the Talera stuff. I really thought it might take off but so far not.

Laurie Powers, I've done some newspaper and even a magazine interview. I haven't done a wide scale press release although I've done some smaller stuff. Definitely hard.

Bernardl, succinctly put and accurate, my friend.

Heather, thanks for the kind words. I joined Facebook to see if that would help. So far it hasn't really. It's become another time consuming thing with relatively little return. I haven't done the blog tour but I've done quite a few guest blogs and blog interviews. At this point, the Talera books are primarily available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble online. They are not in many physical stores unless I've personally gone in and talked to the store owners. I do have copies of all my books, though, so if you are interested drop me a line at kainja at hotmail dot com I'll check check out George Angus's blog. Thanks for the tip.

Charles Gramlich said...

Erik, I've sort of exhausted the local libraries but I'm going to try to expand my horizons on that. Lana suggested local high schools and I'm going to do that. I volunteered to talk once at my son's school and nothing ever came of that.

pattinase (abbott) said...

From what I hear, very few people are having much good luck with this. Sad days.

Richard Prosch said...

I recall a comic con where I sat at a table all day, trying to sell my small press cartoony comic book. Didn't sell a one. But the guy next to me, an artist for a porn book, did gangbusters selling what were, essentially, traces from men's mags. Talk about disheartening. I'm there for you, bro.

Cullen Gallagher said...

The whole marketing/industry thing is a mystery to me. I've been writing movie reviews for years for different publications around NYC, but they rarely pay, and I can't seem to get "promoted" to a paying position, which is why I've been cutting back as of late, trying to focus and think of new strategies for the future.

Lana Gramlich said...

I think I have "Self-promotion for the Creative Person" here if you want to have a look at it.

Charles Gramlich said...

pattinase, yes, a huge shake up going on. More writers than ever, more books being published than ever, but a smaller slice of the pie for any individual writer. And the slice was already kind of small.

Richard Prosch, man, that would be so tough, sitting next to that guy and just feeling the frustration building and building inside of you. It's a frustrating business. No doubt about it.

Cullen Gallagher, I've found that when you do write for free that there are plenty of folks willing to use your material. but they don't seem to then feel obligated to help you get some money when it becomes possible.

Lana, maybe summer would be a good time to read that.

ArtSparker said...

I'm well out of my depth in this discussion, but I know the difiiculty of being an introvert and not being good at marketing.

jodi said...

Charles, When I worked as a hairdresser, I found that the 'selling' was the hardest part of the job. Lucky for me, I just do my little thing for the fun of it. And to meet cool writers like you.

AvDB said...

I have to echo Steve about J.A. Konrath. He's a pioneer in the industry. He's taken his blog, "A Newbie's Guide to Publishing" and turned it into an ebook. For under two bucks, it is a worthwhile purchase. The man has examined all aspects of the Kindle vs traditional publishing debate and has some pretty interesting things to say.

Cloudia said...

I've never been comfortable selling either.

I decided to love my accomplishment, and allow it to have a life where it finds people... maybe I'm just lazy or intimidated...People sell stuff on the sidewalks here (a gray area)
though locals above a certain age are permitted to pedal local products (lei, art. Books?).
Sometimes I feel that my book deserves more of me...but I try to pursue good feelings, not act of guilty or bad ones that carry a tainted energy into the doing...

I may go out with a canvas bag of books and try to sell a few...

Aloha from Spring in Waikiki!

Comfort Spiral

nephite blood spartan heart said...

I hear ya-I don't want to market either but it seems to be a nesessacity of the age we live in.

Gonna have to get Cold in the Light soon as financially possible-I'm very intrigued.

Charles Gramlich said...

ArtSparker, yes, we introverts have that in common for sure.

jodi, although it depends on audience very much, at SF cons, where many of the attendees are youngish males, lovely ladies seem to have a bit of an advantage! :)

Avery DeBow, I've seen his stuff on facebook and am his friend there. I haven't followed his blog as closely but I need to do so.

Cloudia, I have found myself sitting quietly and saying nothing about my book even when I sense I could possible sell something. It's almost like some kind of brain lock at times. It's easier online.

David J. West, I think yoiu might like Cold. It's pretty brutal but there's definitely a heroic fantasy feel to some of it, even though in genre it is a thriller.

Shauna Roberts said...

Although it's always hard to link specific promo to specific sales, I think I've had much more success online than in person.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson's book THE FRUGAL BOOK PROMOTER: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't is packed with promotion ideas, many of which are cheap and don't involve face-to-face interaction.

Being an introvert has been a huge disadvantage in promoting myself, particularly in person. But one way I've gotten around that somewhat is to create an extroverted persona that I "put on" when needed. "I'm not an extrovert, but I play one in real life at talks and book signings."

G. B. Miller said...

Question: are you still selling it through you via the snail mail? Because I certainly would like to pick up a copy that way as opposed to using a c/c.

Michelle's Spell said...

Hey Charles,

I feel you on this one as my students used to say. I couldn't sell water to those who are dehydrated. I love creating, but selling is a nightmare. Three months doing telemarketing just about did me in!

Travis Cody said...

Good luck thinking up some new ways to get the word out about your work.

Charles Gramlich said...

Shauna Roberts, I have that extraverted persona too and use it when I am supposed to be "on." For some reason this year I've found it harder to do. It may have to do with my mom. I'll have to check that book out.

G, I do have copies of all my books at the house so if you're interested in a copy I can hook you up, and cheaper than buying it online. You can always email me at kainja at hotmail dot com

Michelle, I've never had a salesperson job and I think I'd be absolutely terrified to even try it.

Travis Cody, thanks, man. Some things are kicking around in my head.

Greg said...

hard to believe no one bought Cold in the Light last year. have you thought of giving any copies to reviewers? maybe that would help get the word out and re-spark some interest. i'm sure magazines, like Star*Line, Niteblade, Tales of the Talisman, and others would be happy to review it.

Bernita said...

I feel the same about the arm-twisting.
Charles, any time you want to take over my blog for a day, we can arrange it, if you think it might be of any benefit.
Perhaps the idea of a blog for books is a good one, maybe several blogs - one each for your different genres - seems to me a blog titled "Horror", might generate a lot of hits for that particular book - I know just reading the excerpt gave me the willies but horror lovers would lap it up.

Danette Haworth said...

I definitely agree with you. I think today's technology has so much to do with the marketing expectations on authors than in decades past. We need to have a web presence so people can find us.

The world got smaller a long time ago because air travel made it possible to go long distances in a short time. How far away is Detroit? Two hours.

The Internet has made the world even smaller because we can talk to online friends across the world, Skype, etc., and with this capacity comes the demand to use it.

In person events are different, of course, but they do take preparation and resilience (based on turnout/sales). And wardrobe. That last one is the element that causes me to stumble. I hate shopping.

Charles Gramlich said...

Greg Schwartz, I got Cold reviewed a few times when it first came out, but that was a fair number of years ago. Maybe I should try getting a new review. Good idea.

Bernita, That's an idea. Maybe I need to set up something like that. I could do something like an updated webpage. Man that is likely to be some work but maybe this summer I can have some time.

Danette Haworth, I don't do wardrobe well. You could ask any of my students about that. Personal appearances are also pretty tiring for me. And, of course, it all takes away from the true joy, which is the writing.

Heff said...

Dude. The economy sucks. Even for book sales. We'll get through this, TOGETHER, LOL.

Heather said...

In regards to facebook and twitter - you can link them all together so your blog posts create an auto post on your fan page or twitter stream. Saves a lot of time! It's just another avenue for people to be 'reminded' of you.

And yes, I will drop you a line about was Amazon I tried, and they were out :(

ivan said...

A Bernita-Gramlich online project sound pretty exciting to me.

I did that with one of H.E. Eigler's short story on my blog, and the kudos are still coming in on that story...From all over the world...Heh. But then lots of spam too.
Go for it.

Spy Scribbler said...

Awww. I'm not much of a marketer. At all. I know it's not the the "correct" attitude, but I figure my pubs have to do something for their 50%. I wrote the book.

I was catching up on blog-reading and read your last two posts. What's funny is that both Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and Write with Fire are coming to me from Amazon. If I get them. (Amazon doesn't let you insist on a certain delivery company, so I gave them the address for FedEx and UPS, but the USPS doesn't deliver here, not packages. And they sent it USPS, so it has to bounce around to the next post office, as this one doesn't accept packages, and that post office doesn't deliver packages, so it'll eventually send me a little postcard saying I have to pick it up. Doesn't that all just blow your mind? Does mine.)

Charles Gramlich said...

Heff, you wouldn't think the necessities like books would take such a hit, man! But at least liquor sales are still strong.

Heather, wow, Amazon was out. Maybe that's a good sign actually. I don't have twitter but do have facebook and I haven't yet figured out how to automatically update my stuff with my blog post. Will figure that out.

ivan, yes, more connectivity is a good start. Got some time in the summer so I can do that.

Natasha Fondren, that's a real pain having to run back and forth to try to get packages. I've done it before and it's no fun. But thanks for ordering a copy of WWF. Much appreciated.

eric1313 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eric1313 said...

At least I can always count on solid writing advice whenever I drop by here.

I've been busy once more writing Sci Fi for the guys at the game company. Am glad to have received paychecks and credit for my work, it's a huge step.

Still hanging around and reading. Sometime I might post something of what I have been writing, would love to get an expert opinion of what I'm up to.

I might start a new blog for that, as I like to keep Love Graffiti within it's theme. Been thinking a lot about a new blog for some time... I kinda have myself painted into a corner over there and haven't had that much to say. Inspiration comes all the time, but channeling it elsewhere, that's how it's going. So in the future i might have a blog for sci fi stories and critiques of... I'm sure I'll let you know when and where.

Good to see you and Lana are doing well.

take care

PS as for finding the entirety of you book on the web, set blasters on deep fry. Good luck sir. If i read it it's because I'll have paid for it.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Take the practical approach: Listen to Lana.

Charles Gramlich said...

eric1313, I couldn't find the whole book on google, just excerpts at a couple of places as part of a tease. That's OK. I don't know if it's been good or bad but I've just made my blog an all purpose one. I definitely these days don't have time to keep up with creating two blogs. But you do have a point about how a blog on a specific subject might be good. It would certainly let readers know what they're gonna find when they go there.

JR, Now THERE is some wisdom.

cs harris said...

Put me in the I Hate to Self-Promote Club, too.

Actually, I even get embarrassed on behalf of the appallingly pushy self-promoters one meets in this business. Some people have no shame--which can be an asset, unfortunately. But I still wouldn't want to be them.

Charles Gramlich said...

Candy, I know. I always feel a little tacky after being close to one of those folks.