Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Books and Promotions

My last few days have been filled with bookishness.

I’ve been reading, of course, and I bought a few more books at the Discovery Shop recently, but I’ve also been involved in a couple of meetings.

Last Thursday, the Board of Trustees for the Franklin County Library met. (I represent the Union Hall district on the board.) We discussed and clarified a bit of policy that should make dealing with a sticky issue a bit easier. We didn’t discuss acquisitions or personnel—given the cut-backs, not much money is out there for either. There’s even a hiring freeze; the current employees are spread pretty thin. I imagine that’s the case at most libraries.

Thank goodness we have a lot of volunteers because library use is heavy. Every time I go to the library, the place is busy. Everyone knows where to come to find the book they're looking for and/or where to go to use computers.

On Friday at Lake Writers, Betsy Ashton and I led a discussion about querying and promotion. I’ve queried more than most other members, attended several conferences where agents have talked about querying, and I read a bunch of agent blogs. Betsy’s specialty is marketing. More than half the Lake Writers have books in the works and aspire to commercial publishing. Several are self-published or small press-published. Consequently, we had a pretty good exchange of ideas.

Everyone at the meeting now realizes—if they didn't already—that books just don't sell themselves. They require promotion and marketing.

On Saturday, a bunch of Valley Writers met at our president’s lake house for socializing, dinner, and a boat ride. One of the members had brought along a novel written by a relative of hers and based on family history. She wanted some input about how her relative could get it into the schools. Because I was unfamiliar with the book, I could only offer vague suggestions. I noted who the publisher was, though.

Because the hard-back looked pretty good, I did some Googling today to see how the book had already been promoted. Apparently, it hadn't. The publisher, it turns out, is a “subsidy” publisher in a nearby state, so the author paid to get published—most likely paid a lot. I doubt this publisher has a distributor, so it’s likely the book won’t be in any bookstores. It would be well nigh impossible for schools to order it.

A big problem: I couldn’t find the book, published a half-dozen years ago, on the publisher’s website. I suspect the publisher only carried it for a couple of years. I did find that the publisher listed the book as available in 2006.

On, there were three copies available from resellers, and listed it as out of stock. Apparently the doesn’t carry it because it isn’t available. There were three peer reviews on, but no professional reviews.

The book’s title did pop up on a lot of reseller’s sites—with a high price tag. It’s unlikely these sellers have an actual copy. They’ll list anything with an ISBN number and hope they can procure a copy if someone orders from them.

I checked Barnes & Noble—it’s not listed at all on their website. Hence, it’s unavailable from them. (For comparison, my four vanity-pubbed books—collections of my previously published material and still available from a much cheaper vanity outfit—were available at both and B&N.)

A search at told me the book was in only five libraries. Not a lot of folks have access to it.

I Googled the author’s name and couldn’t find her website or blog. I couldn’t find her on Facebook, either.

Do you see the problem: It’s hard enough to promote a non-commercial book with an Internet presence even when the book is readily available. With a book that isn’t available online or in stores, promotion can’t yield results. With no Internet presence and no bookstore presence, how can folks learn about the book?

Perhaps the author has a stash of copies, though, and can hand-sell them herself at presentations she does. At any rate, trying to promote a book that folks can’t find at a bookstore or library is well nigh impossible.

This is why I encourage writers to seek a commercial publisher—even a small press that can get the book out there. I’ve run into too many folks, though, who bought into the field of dreams: If I write a book, the readers will come.

Except they won't.

If you want them to come, you'll have to provide some incentives. You'll have to show them where to find the book. And the book has to be waiting for them at the end of their journey.


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Blogger Amy Tate said...

Great post. There are so many misconceptions about the publishing industry. If only it were easier...nah! Then it wouldn't be near as rewarding.

2:33 PM  
Blogger Betsy Ashton said...

When Becky and I led the discussion for our Lake Writers, I was not surprised by the "deer in the headlight" look from may writers with completed manuscripts. The comment that led to the look was simple: once you have a book in print, you must treat writing as a business. I heard a lot of silent raspberries. But it's true. Writing is a business. Publishing is a business. And promoting a book is most definitely a business.

3:49 PM  
Blogger Debi Kelly Van Cleave said...

That's what I was thinking--writing is a business.

10:18 PM  
Blogger CountryDew said...

It is a business with a modifer - difficult. A difficult business.

3:49 PM  

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