After the book launch come the marketing: if you think you were busy before your book was published, just wait until it's out there and you have to promote it. Not only is there all the leg work of finding websites for author interviews and finding places and people to tell the good news to, you also have to deal to the wave of indifference you get from those you would think might actually want to congratulate and support you.
And we thought it was bad enough surfing the publishing world's indifference wave. Think again: there's two more groups much closer to home than that!
Luck V Serendipity
It goes without saying we make our own luck, but serendipity is another thing.
There was an article in the Guardian's Reading Group section by Sam Jordison discussing the many incarnations vampires have had over the centuries. Naturally I added a comment and somehow managed to include my book's title, The Darkness Beneath. I'm not sure if it's done anything for my sales, but you have to take your chances when the appear.
In fact I think that commenting on blogs that promote you as a writer and lets you mention your book's name (and include a link to it if possible) is as essential as promoting it through Twitter and Facebook.
On top of that I also found Wise Grey Owl through Linkedin. WGO's site exists to promote indie authors by allowing us to show the book's cover and include a synopsis and link. It's very easy to use and looks great.
Too Hard To Read?
There was an interesting discussion on The Hoopla website by Charlotte Wood that talked about how million-selling books are rejected by agents and publishers because of an unsympathetic lead character (or characters). She says:
"... the way some readers, and perhaps more depressingly, literary agents and publishers, need to find a character likeable before they can love a book."
Which is quite a depressing thought as it suggests the whole chain of people involved in deciding whether our books are good enough to sell or buy will only go for the easiest options.
Obviously that isn't true across the board (see many of the great comments Charlotte's article recieved) but it's hard enough being an unpublished or newly published author without having to battle against that sort of attitude.
One of the great things about story telling is that it allows us to say things and explore ideas in ways that we might not be able to do so elsewhere. For example, what makes a murderer tick? What is going on in the mind of someone who's believes so deeply about something they're willing to kill themselves for it? And perhaps more importantly, how do either get to that position in the first place?
Niether question can be explored without getting into the mind of the character - and that's going to be a very ugly and dark place. And if the publishing industry and readers are going to shy away from it, then all we're left with will the bland and the safe.
Fortunately there are still many publishers and agents who have an entirely different view and recognise that we, the book-buying public, have brains we want to exercise and are not afraid to be challenged - indeed welcome it.
Reading serves many purposes and take us to many places mentally, physically and emotionally. Books engage the brain and force the reader to get to grips with the story and the characters; stories force us to use our imaginations in a way that films can never compete with. They stimulate and excite, terrify and disgust and we are grateful that they can do all this without us having to leave the comfort of our armchairs, train seats or baths.
Life's Like That
It may not always be an easy or pretty experience but it's one we enjoy. And if we're brave and smart enough to accept this, then the publishing industry ought to be able to be brave and smart enough to give us what we want. After all, the book she opens her article with, Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk about Kev
went on to sell a million and is now a film.
So there's good commercial reasons to publish these sorts of books; reasons the industry would be foolish to ignore.