I have been thinking long and hard about my writing career of late, and I have come to two important conclusions.
- Being a self-published author is not a writing job, it is a sales job. Having good books to sell is an important part of the job, but there is no profit in writing the books, only in selling them. Now, this is something that I have known for a long time, but I keep pushing away the knowledge, because I don’t want to admit the second conclusion to myself, which is:
- I am simply incapable of making living from a sales job. This is more than “I’m not good at it” or “I don’t want to do it”. I can not. I have a severe mental illness that makes it impossible for me to do the kind of socializing that is required in a sales position. Believe me, I have tried. I have done a number of different events, some by myself, some with other people, and I can only take a limited amount of exposure to crowds of people before I experience crippling panic attacks. Even before I reach that point, I am useless for engaging potential customers.
On the other hand, I can write. I can write books that people read and enjoy. I just can’t get those books to the customers.
This, as you might imagine, is a very discouraging line of thought. However, facts are facts, and ignoring them doesn’t make them go away.
Given that I need my books to be sold in order to make any money from them and I can’t sell them, the obvious conclusion is that if I am going to make money from my books, then someone else is going to have to sell them. But who? And why would they?
I have started looking at the model of independent manufacturer’s reps. There are self-published authors who are very good at sales, and who enjoy the work, who already have contact networks in place and routinely travel to conventions and other events. If I could interest one or more of those kinds of authors in selling my work in addition to their own, I could concentrate on doing the writing part, which is what I enjoy and am good at.
But why would they? Why on Earth would an author who is making money on their own works give up table space to mine? Obviously I would be offering a commission, but no matter what the percentage it is going to be less than they are making on their own works. So what can I offer that would make it a good deal for them?
An increased product line. More titles on the table means potentially more sales. I think there’s a point where this becomes counter productive–my experience at Archon showed, among other things, that too many choices can overwhelm customers–but for an author who has one series of books, being able to offer a second may increase total revenue by attracting new customers.
Something different. The Book Of Lost Doors series is outside of the SF/F mainstream–deliberately so. I can offer authors who are willing to rep my books something that customers aren’t going to get from the table next door.
A small, but loyal, fan base. I do not have a huge internet presence, but I do have one. I would be able to promote appearances of my books (even if I am not physically present) to my fans and generate traffic to the event that way.
Promotional materials. I would be willing to provide promotional materials customized to the event and the rep.
On-line content. I could provide guest blog posts to participating authors, once again tailored to the individual.
Anyway, this is an idea that is still in its infancy. But I have to come up with something–what I am doing now is not working.