Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I have been thinking about my last post about book events especially after this comment:

>Just curious as a new author ... if we consider that your time is worth a certain dollar amount per hour, do you end up making money on the sale of your books at these events? How many books sold make it worth it? Or is it more just getting your name out and hoping that will later translate to sales?

and I realize I have been thinking about this all the wrong way. The problem with events and promotions is that when you begin to think about them as "cost on investments" you always will end up short, unsatisfied and very likely a tad resentful.

This last holiday season, I offered free bookplates to anyone who wanted one. I did this a couple years before, so I knew what I was getting into. Making, mailing and signing--time and money that probably would not yield a greater return then what I invested.

But I didn't really care. I called it a promotion, but in my head, it was more of a thank-you to anyone who had ever bought one of my books.

And that is the attitude I would like to shift (back) to. I want to make promotion feel like a gift, to me and the receiver. So, I want to think of my book launch as a party, an event of celebration instead of an event to sell books at. I don't want to think, how many books will make this event worth it? I want to think: I have written and illustrated a book I am proud of! It is something to be happy about! This is something to celebrate!

I hope you will celebrate it with me!


Libby Koponen said...

Grace! That is such a great way to think about it. Having a new book out (especially one as beautiful as WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON) IS something to celebrate -- and having people who love you and your books is something to be grateful for, too. Thank you for pointing this out in a way I'll remember.


Anonymous said...

As the original question-asker, I totally agree with this approach. I want to share my book in ways that feel personally meaningful and are a fit for my personality.

My focus on sales in my question, however, comes from the fact (or maybe it's a misinterpretation) that publishers are looking for us to do activities in which promotion = sales. Or do they not really care so much as everyone seems to think? I think new writers especially feel a pressure to "produce" promotionally.

I love the idea of saying thank-you. I just don't necessarily want to sit behind a stack of books at a party because it's what thank-you is SUPPOSED to look like. Yet doesn't sound like that's really the case! Thank YOU, Grace : )

Barbara O'Connor said...

Celebration is a wonderful way to approach the release of a new book. I remember when I was kvetching to you in Ohio about marketing and how I thought the best thing I could do for my career is to sit down and write my next book. And you were wise enough to point out that the problem with that is that it doesn't give you an opportunity to celebrate the release of your newly published book. That was one of those comments that made an impact on me and made a lot of sense. (Not that I'm actually going to HEED the advice, though...Hahahah)

I also loved your comment about having a limited number of "extrovert marbles" and the necessity of prioritizing and using them wisely.

How'd you get so smart?

Have fun in Texas. Giddy-up!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but I also wonder if some of this plays into the idea that artists shouldn't care if they make money.

I'm all for celebrating the work, but I doubt very much that a painter, who might rely on her paintings selling to feed her family and pay her bills, would be happy just to "celebrate" at her gallery opening and not sell most, if not all, of her canvases.

I realize it's not a perfect parallel (it's not technically our job to sell our books and I realize that few people live completely off their sales). However, I don't think someone should feel bad about considering return on investment when picking and choosing how to spend their time. Shouldn't artists also aspire to be good businesspeople?

Grace Lin said...

Hmm, that is a good point, anon #2. Artists and authors should be paid for their work, and are "allowed" to care about money. I completely agree with that. And I also agree, artists should consider what they want to spend their time on, what makes the most sense for them financially, etc.--which is why I decided I'm not going to try to do 15 small events that I don't care about just to try to sell books, because I don't think they will sell enough books to make it worthwhile.

But what I was really trying to say was that I wanted to change the attitude of how I handle promotional events. As Anna said earlier, "it is pretty impossible even for professional publicists to tell if one event or one attempt at getting publicity for your books is worth it alone" which pretty much means, promotion--while extremely important-- has a very ransom and unknown effect. Most things that are done will have a negligible effect on book sales. And since that is the case, instead of trying to do everything or chose things based on what I think might give me the best sales (because there is a good chance my guess would be wrong anyway), I'd rather just do the things the way that I like, in a way I will enjoy.

Anna Alter said...

The thing about promotion, celebrations, or any kind of event you throw for your books is that its all pretty unpredictable in terms of how it will impact your sales down the road. I think even publishers feel this way. You never really know what will be the result of putting your book in the right person's hands. You could end up chatting with an enthusiastic book lover who tells 20 people about you afterwards. You just never know. Of course that makes it all the more frustrating, no one wants to waste their time. But I think being a good business person in this industry is a lot of trying lots of things to get the word out and hoping luck is on your side. Not such comforting words I know, but I think its the nature of publishing that there are so many variables to financial success, that its nearly impossible to predict.

Anna Alter said...

ps. I wrote my post before yours posted Grace... sounds like you already covered what I was trying to say!