This blog is devoted to remembrances and essays on general topics, including literature and writing. It has evolved over time, and some older posts on this site might reflect a different perspective and purpose.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Delayed Gratification

            This past week I was reminded again of the virtue of patience, and of the fact that it takes people a while to get around to something they’re meaning to do.
            At my Rotary Club meeting on Wednesdays, people frequently get up and pay a “happy fine” to support the club’s community activities. Last week, for instance, I paid such a fine because I was happy that our son, Nick, had called for the first time since he began basic training at Fort Jackson, SC, and that we had actually been able to talk to him. One of the other happy fines that day caught me by surprise.
            One of our longtime members rose to pay a fine for having read and enjoyed my mystery novel, The McHenry Inheritance, and for having enjoyed my use of names drawn from the local community. I even offered to pay his fine, but he insisted.

Good Intentions Take Time

            Until that moment I had forgotten that my fellow Rotarian had mentioned last year that he’d bought the book , then never said any more about it. More than six months passed between his buying it and reading it, but please don’t think I’m complaining. I’m thrilled to death if anybody reads it anytime.
            What I have to remember is that while my book is one of the most important things in my life right now, for everybody else, it’s at best a to-do item. And it can take a long time for a to-do item to rise to the top of the list. If it ever does. When I’m thinking about it rationally, I figure that the best case is that half the people who mean to read the book actually crack it open to the first page and read it all the way through.
            There are authors whose first book meteorically soars to the top of the best-seller lists, but most of us, if we ever succeed, do it in the style of the old-school businessmen who started in the stockroom after getting out of high school and worked their way to the top over decades. In today’s business world, those folks would be passed over for an MBA who would probably make a hash of the job, but that’s another blog.

Authors Who Start in the Stockroom

            The equivalent for an author is slowly building an audience until you hit a tipping point where your books start getting noticed. Most authors begin with a first book that sells a few thousand copies. With luck their second book sells a few thousand more and the third a few thousand more than that. Maybe on the fourth or fifth book, they crack the best-seller list, triggering some more sales for the earlier books and leading to a bigger audience for the next one.
            In other words, what’s your hurry?
            When my book was first published, I moved a lot of copies as free promotional e-books. Then I started wondering why the people who were buying it weren’t reviewing it. In the past couple of months the reviews, generally positive, have been coming in, and people scanning the mystery section at Amazon can see that a dozen people have read and reviewed the book.
            That gives it some credibility with readers who haven’t heard of me (which is nearly all of them), but it doesn’t mean they’re suddenly going to buy the book. A lot of them will check it out several times over a period of months before deciding to plunk down their $2.99. Like everything else, it takes time.