I must tell you something. Yes, you–the one this right now, the one who has read my novel, and the one who follows me on social media. This is for you.
Do you know how much power you have? You allow me to continue the art and craft of writing. You are my partner in this endeavor. Without you, I might have to go back to sitting in a cubicle for nine hours a day churning out marketing drivel to make big companies more money than they know what to do with. You support me in doing what I feel I was born to do. You buy my books. You read them. You write reviews.
But here’s the thing: I need more than that to survive.
My name is not J.K. Rowling, Elizabeth Gilbert, or Anne Lamott. And because of that I get lost in a sea of books that get published every day. While I am elated that the publishing world has opened up to people like me, it means that the competition is more fierce than Beyonce’s hottest diva look. In 2006, there were about 380,000 books published in the U.S. In 2012, there were 15,000,000.
The choices are overwhelming to potential readers and writers slowly fade into oblivion and are never heard from again. At one time the greatest challenge a writer faced was breaking through the gatekeepers to get published. Now the writer’s greatest challenge is just getting noticed!
The only way I can make this work is if I have fans who are willing to spread the word. That’s if, and ONLY if, my work is good enough to gain your trust and favor. The one thing in publishing that has not changed is a reader buys a book because someone they know recommended it. Word-of-mouth marketing is the holy grail. A reader tells two friends about a wonderful book she just read. Those two readers tell two more, and two more, and eventually the royalty check is enough to survive on while you write the next book.
But here again, just recommending a book to your friends is not enough.
Every writer needs readers who use their book as the reason for a conversation with a friend, with lots of friends. A writer needs readers who annoy the librarian until she puts that writer’s books on the shelf. A writer needs readers who write a review on Amazon of every book that writer has written. A writer needs readers who tell their dentist, their postal carrier, their hair stylist, and their bowling team about the books that writer has written. Becoming a reader who’s willing to partner with your favorite author to make a book and the author successful doesn’t cost much in terms of time or effort for the reader but for an author it can make the difference between writing that next book or going back to cubicle land.
I know writers who have teams of Loyal Fans who do just that, and much more. And those teams get the inside story on upcoming books, get to name characters, read sample chapters, win autographed copies and a Skype with the author. Yes, I’m planning to do all of this myself. But every reader who loves a book needs to understand that in today’s world of publishing, your support, in big and little ways, is the only thing that allows a writer to produce the entertainment they enjoy. Those of us who don’t get that kind of support will fade away into oblivion. And our readers will be the only ones who notice.
So, it’s up to you. You have the power. Without you, none of this would be possible for me. And you have no idea how much that makes me love you.