Today’s guest blogger is author Jack Tuttle, author of the upcoming BQB release, “It’s A Secret, So Pass It On: A Toobox For Life.”
I have written a book called “It’s A Secret, So Pass It On: A Toolbox For Life,” to be published by BQB Publishing for release fall 2014. It is my second book, having written “Dogs Need Our Love” back in 1982. In addition, my wife and I have owned a metaphysical bookstore since 1987. Thus, I have learned a few things about publishing and the industry in general which I’d like to share.
We had a physical store for 16 years and continue with a website to this day. Our experience may be different than for general bookstores. After all, independent people often migrate to independent bookstores, and their reading and buying tendencies do not always reflect patterns within the book-buying public as a whole.
We found ourselves going against the recommendations of most business experts. For instance, we had fewer customers after sending out our newsletters and doing other advertising. We had no choice but to trust we were there for a purpose, and people would find us when they needed us. This method worked extremely well for us.
However, we were anathema for those authors seeking a strong marketing strategy to sell their books. Our customers as a group tended to react negatively to any attempt to force a book or idea onto them. They wanted to make their own choices, in contrast to the high-intensity sales tactics many businesses use.
Businesses are encouraged to “grab the impulse buyer” with methods such as placing attractive, sellable items near the checkout counter or displaying multiples of a book for which they have extra or expect a big financial reward. This didn’t work in our store. What may work well in one situation can be counterproductive in another situation. Each bookseller must have options to reach the various personality types who enter the store.
We also found a certain destiny accompanied each book, tape, CD, video, etc. sold. When a book was meant to sell well, customers would find it even if it was obscured from view. That occurred with the book “Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield. We could hardly keep it in stock. Word of mouth spread like wildfire.
Redfield’s purpose for the book was to share nine insights with his readers, insights that could transform a reader sufficiently engaged in the process. Redfield used a fictional story to make his points. Ironically, when we asked people what they thought of the book, they talked about the interesting story line and not the insights. In our minds, it wasn’t comparable to books by the greatest fiction writers, but it was perceived that way. It became one of our best sellers despite its low-key approach.
However, some really great books rarely if ever sold in our store. We could have placed them by the front door and reduced the price considerably, and they would not have sold. In our minds, bookselling requires a degree of faith in serendipity, allowing for the unpredictable. The same is undoubtedly true for authors.
If a book or item is meant to become popular, no one can get in its way. We would have sold many copies of “Celestine Prophecy” whether it was displayed prominently or not. But when an item went out of print, it stopped selling in our store, even if it had been a popular item up to that time. Each item had a life of its own, and staying power was an unpredictable variable.
I realize many authors need to do marketing so others will know their books are available. In my mind, that is the best we can do. We can’t force prospective customers to buy our books, and even if they buy the books, there’s no guarantee they will read them and recommend them to friends. If we push people to buy a book that is not ideal for their needs, they may react negatively and distrust us and our book in the future.
Thus, I recommend authors trust that their work will be serving its purpose regardless of financial considerations. It is always great when a book becomes a best-seller, but I was told back in 1982 that the average book written sells only around 100 copies. Most authors won’t make a good living from their books.
But there is value in having a book or set of ideas reach the marketplace of public perception. We put it out there and trust it will reach those who need it.
I needed 36 years to write my second book. I believed it its veracity from the start, but years proving the validity of new concepts and eliminating incorrect thinking was necessary. And I improved my writing technique a great deal over those years. All the while, I maintained a strong urge to write it and eventually found everything falling into place. I feel strong beliefs like that are a sign the book is meant to be, and it will help those who read it.
As for finding a publisher, I learned the hard way from my first book not to contact major publishers unless you have an agent or have had success selling previous works. I chose BQB because it is small and independent and thus eager to assist the aspiring author. It is extremely helpful to have people advocating for you instead of just publishing to produce profit.
If we believe in our writing and find a publisher that can serve a team role for us, our effort is likely to enjoy a degree of success. And regardless of the number of books sold, I believe strongly that authors themselves benefit most of all from writing their books. The process is a valuable learning tool, and completion has its own rewards. Publishing and selling the book are fringe benefits.