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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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Innocence Abroad

            Nobody knows me personally in England, Scotland or Wales. The same is true for Germany. Ditto Japan, India and Australia. And I think I know one person in Canada, though it’s been a while since we’ve been in touch.
            Yet in all those countries, I have, or might have, people who know me through my mystery novels. Or so Amazon tells me. Digital copies of The McHenry Inheritance and WashHer Guilt Away have been downloaded in those countries, and I’ve even sold a couple of print books in the UK.
            Not bad for a little-known author.
            The ability to sell books worldwide in modest (all right, very modest) numbers is one of the few unqualified good things about the internet. And since those books are downloaded, I don’t even have to mess with lugging copies to the post office and calculating overseas shipment and customs declarations.

Inventory in the Car Trunk

            In the bad old days, like 10 to 15 years ago, a self-published author had to print up a bunch of copies of his book and try to unload them himself. In practice, this meant a lot of driving around to bookstores, practically begging them to take a few copies on consignment. Even when you live, as I do, at the periphery of a large metropolitan area, that’s a daunting task.
            The rule of thumb used to be that a self-published author typically sold 150 copies of his or her book. There’s a basis for that number. It’s estimated that the average person in America knows about 150 people reasonably well through friendships, work, neighborhood, and religious and affinity groups. Self-published books were sold mostly to friends and acquaintances, with a few being picked up by browsers at the handful of bookstores that carried them.
            Although I’ve had paid sales outside the U.S., most of my foreign downloads have been on days when I did a free promotion on one book or another. One day I had a huge response in Germany; on another, India; and yet another in Australia. Why the books go out the door in a country one day and not another is yet another Amazon mystery.

The Joy of Connecting

            I have some reservations about Amazon, but one thing I can’t kick about is the way they let me put my books in front of the whole world and possibly connect with readers all around the globe. It’s my hope that the numbers will grow as the years pass and more books come out.
            From time to time, well-meaning friends will make suggestions, such as trying to get my books into sporting goods stores, because there are fishing scenes in them. I am dubious. My experience so far has indicated that people who fish don’t necessarily read mystery novels, and someone who doesn’t read fiction is unlikely to read it because it contains scenes about their hobbies.
            No, I think mysteries are read by mystery readers, and my books are out there now for them to see and discover. There’s so much competition it’s not easy to reach an audience, but some people are finding me. If it isn’t as many people as I’d like, it’s still much better than all the years when the manuscripts sat inside my computer, out of the world’s view.