What has happened with the recent launch of Fried Windows is fascinating to the publicist side of my nature. It is not entirely unexpected, but some things have been surprising.
Let’s be honest. The initial response to the launch of Fried Window has been, in a word, underwhelming. As much as an author would like to sell hundreds of books on the first day and reach best seller status for a few moments in the spotlight, those things happen because a lot of factors converge at once. It is a false indication of the book’s overall potential for success. A book is a success because of the connect it makes with the public, not because of how many friends and family member buy it on the first day. So it is dangerous to read too much into a launch day spike – or in my case the absence thereof.
The problem is almost never the book. Everyone who has read Fried Windows in advance has loved it. It has a great, attention-getting cover. Although some friends have told me it is startling and a little over the top the book is unusual. I think the graphic captures that.
The problem Fried Windows is having in the market place is the same as every other book from every one of the millions of obscure authors. It is a new book from what the public perceives as a new author. Readers are attracted to brand-name authors. They invest time as well as money in purchasing a new book to read.
My fan base response to Fried Windows has been lukewarm at best. That’s what is disappointing in that I have worked a lot on building relationships with others over the past few years. But I also understand that launching a new book without a lot of fanfare is like throwing a frozen burger patty into a skillet before it’s heated up. At first nothing happens. Heating things up a bit is all that’s necessary but it takes some time. Sounds simple, except it’s not quite as easy as turning a knob on a stove. As is true of nearly everything worth doing, there is a process involved and procedure to follow. The first step of that is finding out why promotional efforts in advance of the launch failed to produce the desired result – sales.
First of all, selling anything via social media alone – as was the case with this book – is difficult. People are online to be social, not transacting business. They tend to ignore direct pitches, especially since they are inundated with them. So despite FB’s claims that you can promote your page for a few dollars a day and gain all sorts of followers through likes, that in itself is not going to sell a book. Also, in the interest of bolstering their own business model, FB has altered their algorithm so that your messages reach perhaps only 7% of your friends. Unless you buy FB services what you post on your page will not reach all your followers. So out of the thousands of people who might have seen my message about a book launch, only a few actually received the message. Each social medium has its limitations. I’m picking on FB because they are the biggest and have most recently been playing games with their programming that counters whatever users may be doing to promote themselves in a social medium.
Let’s face it, people who will buy a book from a relatively unknown author have more than a passing acquaintance. And the mere fact that someone is a friend does not necessarily mean he or she will buy your book. For the moment, let’s set aside the real goal of an author, which is to have others read the book and sing its praises to others through written and posted reviews or spreading the word to their friends. It is a fan base problem.
Growing the number of fans is an evolutionary process. It cannot be rushed because attention and awareness must be cultivated and reinforced throughout your process, otherwise a fan will forget that he or she ever was a fan. The best connections are personalized through memorable events – like book signings or chatting online. Others may be people you know at your day job. They may purchase a book simply because they know you – even if you are not close friends – but usually co-workers will not buy your book unless they know you well. Why should they?
Since most of my online friends are other authors, I have never expected a great number of sales from those associations. Why would I? Authors are busy hawking their own wares. Some have bought my book, though. Those tend to be people whose books I have read and reviewed and those with whom I have had repeated contact. Again, it is a matter of turning an acquaintance into an fan. With most authors, it comes down to quid pro quo and professional courtesy. I’ll buy your book if you buy mine. I’ll write a review for you if you’ll write a review for me. Sharing blogs with other authors exposes one author to another’s fan base. So it’s worth having other authors as friends as long as the relationship is cultivated beyond mere acquaintance.
What about all those people you knew in school or wherever else? Counting on the support of people you knew in the past is iffy. It will depend on how well you got along in the past and whether your relationship continued or recently resumed. Even then, simply having contact with someone you know doesn’t mean he or she will buy your book. However, if your book becomes popular and you become famous, that dynamic will change dramatically. People you never knew you knew will suddenly claim to have known you well.
The launch of Fried Windows has exceeded any of my previous work. That’s progress and it’s due to building my fan base. Once the interest in the book increases through other promotional efforts, the momentum will build as well. It may take months and the subsequent launches of my other books in order to stir the desired level of interest in Fried Windows but it will happen. The book is that good. Once someone reads it they understand that it is unique in many ways.