Why would a writer assume that just because their words are printed in a book people will read them?

My colleague asked me that on Saturday. He said he is surprised by how deluded some authors can be. They seem to think that because their book has been published by x,y, or z, they have reached the climax of their writerly journey. The baby is born, on shelves, so therefore people will buy it. The truth is different. Much as people complain about 342’s everyone loves a bargain, so when a shop offers that if you buy a couple of these you can have a free book it works very well. How many new unknown authors get into those promotions though?

Reviews help massively, customers often come in clutching torn out bits of newspapers and magazines, or ask for something they have heard mentioned on the radio. But what if you can’t get a review?

In-store signings can be ghastly to watch if the author doesn’t have an established fan-base. The author sits at a table, books piled hopefully around them, smiling at customers, and often doesn’t sell a single copy.

It’s so difficult, a series of hoops that a writer has to keep jumping through. It’s not enough to write dazzling prose and hand it over to a publisher to publish and publicise. The author is expected to sell it. The journey has been long, the words struggled over, edited, rewritten. The manuscript submitted in hope. Joy at publication must be enormous, but then what next, how is a writer to get their work noticed?

On Saturday an “unknown” (meaning not one of the big names) children’s author came to the shop. He arranged a table on the ground floor with copies of his 2 books on and a hand made sign explaining who he was. David Alric is an older man, well dressed, polite, quiet. He is the author of two books The Promised One, and Valley of the Ancients. I can’t explain what he did, but he sold over 70 copies of his book. He approached people, gently, talked a bit about the book, and over they came to the counter, smiling, and bought a copy. Nobody was harassed by him, everyone was delighted. He had no bells, whistles, gimmicks, just his stories. He explained to me that once he told people the stories, they were interested. There is an article in The Telegraph’s archives about him.

This originally self published man reckons to sell between 70 – 100 copies of his books each Saturday. He says it takes 4 1/2 minutes to make one sale, so there is a limit to how many he can in one day.

Fascinating, I think. And I wish him continued success.

6 thoughts on “Why would a writer assume that just because their words are printed in a book people will read them?”

  1. So true. I love your story of this wonderful writer who does what needs to be done and sells so many books. That is truly inspiring to someone who has her book in hand and is figuring out what comes next. Reviews, yes, but also the legwork, the face to face interaction. So inspiring.

  2. Well to be honest it is partly because I now know you and Vanessa, know the quality of your work, am delighted that you have been published (want that for myself too someday) that I wonder how do you get that news out, how do you get people to buy you? How do they notice your book amongst the many? And then this gentleman did what I thought impossible. I thought it was inspiring.

  3. Fair play to him.I would find it really difficult to approach people like that though. I really would. I don’t think I have that ‘in’ me.I worked in a bookshop and some authors were in a lot, signing their books, and making themselves known. I always admired their bravery.I do face my books out in shops (so does my Ma!), and have signed them in shops where I know staff (or if my publisher pushes me in the door). Otherwise, I’m useless. Too shy.

  4. wrw I understand, that’s exactly how I feel. I imagine that a lot of writers are not outgoing pushy people, that’s why we are at home writing! I have been asked to do a couple of readings, and I am quaking at the very thought. I have never wanted to be on a stage, I could make a fool of myself, eek, etc…So hard when it’s not enough to write the words. In an ideal world the publisher would arrange lots of lovely promotion and all would be well!What was so good about this particular guy was his quietness, the way he seemed so non-intrusive. And good on ya for turning your books face out!

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