In 1960 Harper Lee successfully published her first and only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. It became a bestseller and Pulitzer prize winner, and of course went on to become an Oscar-winning film starring Gregory Peck. So, who’s next? You? Me?
We can dream, right? But the dream of a one-off success is likely to be just, well, a dream and nothing more. On a rare occasion an author experiences the Hollywood-esque success story. The rest of us, to become successful authors, have to do such unseemly, daunting, and difficult things as marketing and promotion. Bleah! Why did I ever imagine that becoming an author would bring to an end my involvement in sales?
Anyway, one of the marketing techniques that I’m learning about online is something known as writing; that is, writing a lot.
Kristin Lamb, in her helpful book Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World, advises that one of the best ways to promote your book is to write another book. And then another, and another, and so on. In other words, you (and I) need to have a body of literary works with your (and my) name on it. Once I thought about this, it became obvious enough to pull out of me an “oh yeah, duh.” I imagined a potential reader stumbling upon my book at Amazon, and saying “That looks interesting. What else has he written?”
Readers, like people generally (especially Americans), like to be presented with choices. If my potential reader sees that I have, in addition to my first (sci-fi dystopian) book, its sequel and its third sibling, plus an unrelated historical fiction novella, plus a couple of short stories; he or she is more likely to choose one of those options. When presented with only one book, my reader-to-be will more likely think, “Oh, he’s only dabbling in this writing thing. Not a real author.”
My imagined potential reader is not mean-spirited; please understand. He or she does value their time, though, and wants to know that I’m a serious (aka “real”) author. So if I can trick him into thinking–oops, I mean convince him that I have actually written more than just one story on a whim, they’re more likely to trust me as an author. This will all make sense if you imagine how you shop for books. (Or how we peruse the library shelves.) Yes, sometimes I’m thinking “Should I read this? What if I don’t like it?” But more often I find myself thinking, “Should I read this? What if I do like it? What else has he or she written?”
So other than my first book, what else do I have to offer? Have I written a shelf full of books? Well, no, but I’m working on it. I’m taking the advice of the pros seriously. I just finished writing a historic fiction novella, and will soon publish it alongside my first book. And I have already started writing the first book’s sequel, plus I have the skeletal plot of the third in the series in my head.
So I’m on my way to becoming a prolific author! (One book at a time.) How about you? How much have you written? Feel free to plug your book series (or single book) in the comments below.