Keep Your Eyes On The Road


There is a card posted on my computer which persistently asks: "Is what Iím doing right now taking me closer to or further away from my goal?" Itís an inspiration, and a curse. As a writer, the path to that goal on the "Road to Riches" is not always clearly marked. And many times, we find ourselves heading in the wrong direction.

I have a bumper sticker on the back of my car which reads: "Iíd rather be writing". Of course, if anyone sees it, it means Iím doing anything but. Until recently, many other authors have been reading this message as my car sat in various parking lots while I attended writerís clubs and association meetings in an effort to publicize and sell my books.

When I first began on this very bumpy "Road to Riches", I joined every writerís club I could find, locally, nationally and in cyber-space. My membership cards filled my wallet, replacing the cash which I had spent on dues.

I joined SPAWN, the Small Publishers, Authors and Writers Network. The organization threw "mixer" parties, we "networked" like crazy and I met a number of creative writers, but never sold a single book.

I joined a local writerís organization and spent one Tuesday a month listening to a barrage of publishing "experts" who knew less than I did about current trends. They were paid a hefty fee, which was a good thing, because without too many exceptions, no one in attendance purchased a single copy of their book. Not from them, or from the thousands of other authors whose works lined the shelves of Borders, where the group met.

I joined the National Writers Union and attended several meetings where we discussed legal issues of copyright laws, but very little on sales and marketing. Iím also a card-carrying member of the Authorís Guild, the International Women Writers Guild, the National Association of Women Writers and the National League of American Pen Women. All excellent sources of information, support and motivation, but little sales potential.

The "road" was slowly approaching a dead end, so I turned off at the next exit and attended a dinner meeting of the Southern California Book Publicist Association. Thinking it was the perfect opportunity to make some great contacts or, at the very least, learn more about marketing and promotion of books. I drove through Los Angeles rush hour traffic, which is any hour on the 101 freeway, paid twenty-five dollars for an unappetizing dinner and started introducing myself to members whom I assumed were publicists.

Much to my surprise, everyone I met was an author. Not a publicist in sight. On the table was a huge display of books, all non-fiction and all for sale. And not a single book sold. Although I did enjoy the guest speaker, somehow I knew Shelly Berman wasnít going to help sell my novel anymore than the ten people at my table, each of whom were asking me for help in promoting them. I did manage to sell one copy of my novel to some guy who asked for my phone number! I wrote it in the book and charged him for it. Whatever works.

In cyber space, promotional opportunities for authors are abundant. There are numerous promotional sites for authors, all promising to help increase sales: for a fee of course. But, there are also free web-rings and e-groups which are designed specifically for authors to promote themselves. The problem is that most of these sites are directed to other authors!

Iíve spent hours updating my own web site with authorís rings, authorís support groups and links to almost fifty web sites worldwide. This month alone, Iíve received over 2,000 "hits" and glowing e-mails on what a great site I have, but no deposits into my PayPal account!*

Iíve met some wonderful, talented writers from my association with these groups, but Iíve yet to sell more than a few copies of either "Red Wine For Breakfast" or "First Class Male. Yet, at the last book festival I attended, I sold ten copies of each in less than an hour! (If youíd like to read how I accomplished this, please read last monthís column.)

After all the time, effort and energy Iíve spent over the past two years, on-line and off, one thing finally became perfectly clear: authors donít buy other authorís books!

Authorís write. Weíd rather be writing, as my now faded bumper sticker proclaims, than anything else, including reading. But we also need to find other ways to sell our works than to rely on other authors. We need to find readers! And we need to steer the groups and associations we belong to onto the road that reaches our readership and doesnít veer off into a ditch.

To totally ruin J.F.Kís famous line, "Ask not what you can do for your association, ask what your association can do for you!" If members of your group are only interested in dinner and a show (speaker) rather than helping each other reach out to the reading public, youíre wasting your time. It should be mandatory that anyone who joins a writerís group must not only purchase a copy of everyoneís books, but sell at least 10 copies to their friends. Thatís networking! Anything less is taking us away from, not bringing us toward, our goal. To sell books!

As authors, we must turn off the easy, well paved road with other authors and take the dusty trail towards uncharted territory: readers!

U-Turn to The Road To Riches