Sales are pretty much what it is all about. You get yourself published by a company such as Kellan Publishing, you get your name out there, and people help support you and your art while getting lost in the art that is your writing, making it all worthwhile. To get to that point, after the complex challenge of publishing, you must then navigate through a labyrinthine level of sales and marketing necessary to make the connection of “published” to “known.” As an introvert all my days this has turned out to be one of the great challenges of my life.
I recall my book signing of Clan of Midnight somewhat fondly. I went in there, I sold a few books, things went alright, but I remember it didn’t quite hit me the way I wanted it to. I live in a not too densely populated area of California and it was a used bookstore, literally the only place within like fifty miles that I could book, giving a strong impression that a book signing in a place like San Francisco, in a huge book store with huge traffic flow, would have had a much better response. That sort of thing one should take into account: location and the audience which in my case was not filled with groups of people devoted to fantasy novels.
For book sales, and how little or much you get, I suggest for you not to expect anything. Nothing is worse than expecting great sales and finding none of them happening. One needs to work at it, and hard, before anything really sells. I don’t recall doing particularly well when I got published because I had far too high expectations and what I should have done was hit the internet with everything I had to raise those expectations and that is what I recommend every day. Take it very seriously and work hard at it.
I did better in self-publishing for some reason. Self-publishing has its ups and downs: one keeps more of the sales but one does all the work. If you’re the kind of person who can pull that off, it’s not a bad path, but it’s not official either and some awards, people, conventions, stores for book signings, etc. etc. won’t respond to self-published work.
I got my own book trailer for Clan of Midnight and while a movie-like trailer for a novel seemed odd at the time I’ve come to understand it’s probably a pretty good thing. People today, even readers, are hooked on visual stimulation. Less and less people seem to be picking up books and looking at them to find a great novel so putting out a powerful and appealing trailer is a great way to get today’s modern audience’s attention.
The final lesson I’ve learned is that this is incredibly important. What is marketable? Almost everything is marketable somewhere, the secret seems to be to find the audience which is in fact the hard part. Press releases, online resources which I’ve never been good with, paying for marketing, press kits, blurbs, and radio talk show marketing are all important but to varying degrees. I’m not sure which one is better and what you write will certainly make a great deal of differences on each one. Fantasy novels aimed for a young audience may not appeal to a talk radio show as interests tend to not be in radio who rarely talk about subjects found in fantasy writing but a thriller novel aimed at older people, who tend to listen to radio more to begin with, and on the subject of real-life government, an often spoken topic on talk radio, one might have greater success.
In the end, it seems everything is important: selling your novel is work, it’s like writing another book but in a different and more unpleasant way, and every tool is needed. Some are less effective for one novel than they are another, but none are to be fully ignored. The trick is learning which ones to focus on for yourself and how they appeal to the audience to get them to understand just how wonderful your story is and what they’re missing out on.