Jun. 1, 2022

Wrestling for Jalapeno Poppers

Many of you probably think that book writing is all champagne and guest appearances on A-list talk shows and luxury vehicles in your driveway paid for by the royalty checks overflowing from your mailbox. But here is a reality check for you: Yes, book writing is exactly like that. If your name is Stephen King or Ruth Ware.

The rest of us spend years laboring over our book, then polishing, polishing, polishing. After that, we spend more years shopping the book around to agents and editors. Then we polish and rewrite and polish some more. Then shop, shop, shop. And our actual souls evaporate in the process. Almost. But sometimes, just before we become hollow, disillusioned husks, one of us will get lucky, and a publisher will love our book.

And it will get published.

Then you end up at parties where the caterers wear tuxedoes and carry silver platters and you find yourself and John Grisham reaching for the same jalapeno popper. Again, IF you're Stephen King.

If you don't have that instant name recognition that translates to millions in sales even if you copy the user manual for a John Deere lawn tractor and put your name on it, then you begin the process of marketing your book to a world that has never heard of you.

You will put in hundreds, even thousands of hours marketing your book in the coming weeks and months. Some of the ways you will spend your time include:

  • Writing press releases
  • Contacting libraries
  • Posting to social media daily
  • Writing a blog
  • Updating your website
  • Organizing promotions
  • Organizing signings
  • Contacting bookstores
  • Checking to see if there are any snacks in the pantry
  • Begging for interviews
  • Contacting book clubs
  • Playing solitaire on your phone
  • Sending out postcards and emails to everyone you know
  • Creating promotional videos
  • Checking to see if there are any good leftovers in the refrigerator
  • Driving to the closest convenience store to find something to snack on

And lots more. The reason we must do this is: Because we are not Stephen King, our publisher will not be spending six figures on a national advertising campaign, and so we will need to take an active role in promoting our work. And all of this busy work will help keep our minds off of how few books we are likely to sell. Jack Canfield, one of the authors of the gazillion-seller Chicken Soup for the Soul books, has noted that, of the tens of thousands of books published each year, 93% of them sell fewer than 100 copies. Sobering.

So, given the odds against us, why do we do it? And the answer is, We love the Jamaican Bobsled Team. Like the JBT, we are the underdog, and we love the idea that, if the stars align just so, the underdog might succeed.

And then, just like John Grisham, we can wrestle Stephen King for that jalapeno popper.