Sunday, October 30, 2005


A comment was left on my blog with this question:

In today's publishing climate where it appears that publishing houses themselves do very little promoting of most authors and their books, what role do you think writers themselves take on? Ellen Hart said that writers have to be their own promoters and take to the road. Could you address this? 

My answer to the first part of this question is that writers have to take on whatever they’re comfortable with and what they think will sell their book better than the publisher can.

In the past I’ve been sent on book tours (twice with Ellen) by my publisher and although parts of it were fun, I couldn’t see that it sold more books than if I hadn’t been in a bookstore reading, or on a panel discussing where we get our ideas.

There’s no data that says touring will sell books.  In fact, I’ve heard that it really doesn’t payoff.  If I had to go on tour because my publisher felt it would help I’d do it.  But I wouldn’t be happy about it.  I certainly would never finance my own tour.  That has to be a losing proposition.

Perhaps tours help bestselling authors, but I’ve never understood the need for those people to go on tour.  Just as I’ll never understand why publishers take out ads for books that are already on the bestseller lists.

Publishers say ads don’t do anything.  Really?  I think an ad in the right place might let readers know that a book is out there.  However, I know of an author who took out ads three days in a row to prove to his publisher that that would sell more books.  It didn’t.

Janet Evanovich writes her books, Random House publishes them and then her entire family becomes a production company, according to an article in the NYT’s. On her website there’s a cornucopia of things to buy…T-shirts, hats, key rings, and things to do…like puzzles, contests, casting the characters for movies.  There are even photos of reader’s pets.

I’m not making a judgment here.  It’s simply that I wouldn’t have the energy or desire to do anything like that.  I have this blog and I have a website. Nothing on my website moves or makes a sound or morphs into anything else.  It’s mainly about my writing as this blog is about my writing and writing in general.

If I did what Evanovitch does I wouldn’t have time to write because writing isn’t only the time I spend in front of that screen. It’s a full time job which requires me to be still when I’m not actually writing. This is so that I can think.

Evanovitch  goes on extended tours.  The longest one I ever went on was two weeks and I was exhausted afterward.

Maybe it’s me.  I didn’t become a writer to travel, sell things other than books, be an actor, or have webcams watching me work. I became a writer to write and because I couldn’t not write.  I’d love to sell as many books as those bestselling authors who tour and appear on morning television shows, but I’ll never sell that many books no matter what I do and television adds ten pounds.

So back to the original question, what role do I think writers have to take on to sell books?  This writer has to write a book and cooperate with what the publisher would like me to do.  That’s it.




Bill Peschel said...

In Janet's case, it helps to have a family ready to pitch in. You'd have to be schitzo to have a mind for business and for making up stories.

Gena said...

very interesting. I often wondered about book tours and if they help writers sell books. I think a lot of people who see authors in bookstores go because it's free entertainment. Buying a book kinda defeats that. I for one, buy books from authors I know and love--like you, Sandra, and I hear about these books through newspaper book reviews and Amazon, mostly. If I'm spending the time to go see an author in person on tour, I am familiar with her work, and either have decided or not decided to buy the book by that time anyway.

paula said...

Thanks for your take on the question. As the one who posed the question, I was very interested in your answer. I was particularly interested in your comment that there's no any real evidence that the "author promo stuff" really pays off in increased sales. Thanks.

WordsRock said...

Here's another question for you.

I know you wrote a few books under the pen name Jack Early. What compelled you to use a pen name and a male name at that?


Sandra Scoppettone said...

At that point in my career things weren't going very well. Sometimes it's good if you can start over. I had an idea for a PI novel. But it was in the voice of a man. I thought that using a woman's name on a novel written in first person male would be off-putting. So I chose the name Jack Early. No one but my agent and editor knew who Jack was. And guess what? I got fabulous reviews ... better than I ever had before. The same was true for the next Jack Early books. I was compared to big name male mystery writers. Sandra never would have been.

Oh, yes, I was nominated for an Edgar and a Shamus. I won the Shamus, but of course I couldn't be there to accept it.

I'll never be able to prove that a man's name on the books made a difference, but you'll never convince me otherwise.

Layrayski said...

I know of an author who have a myspace account and blogged there. It was suggested by his agent, if I remember it correctly. I don't know if it helped sell books but he did get a lot of fans through myspace blogging. His name is Brad Listi.