07 March 2012

Why Can't I Sell My Books?

Why can’t I sell any of my books? They’re original, interesting, people like them, and I get great reviews. But I can’t seem to get my writing noticed.
I don’t need to be on the New York Times Best-Sellers list. I don’t need to become fabulously wealthy. I just need about $1000 a month. I really don’t think I am expecting too much.

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had stories running around in my head. All the ordinary places and situations I’d encounter seemed like they could have had a much more interesting storyline. Nevertheless, it was only much later in life that I started to put down in words my alternative view of what could be.

As much as I loved inventing people and placing them in whatever universe I chose, I knew writing could not be a career. I was a Flower Child of the 60’s; I needed to save the world. I became an educator, and that is how I have spent my life until about a year ago.

I did really love teaching and probably still do. But I can no longer tolerate all the negatives that go along with the profession. I just want to be happy, and writing makes me happier than anything in whole wide world.

My “professional” writing career started with the advent of the blog. Suddenly, I could tell stories about the people and places I encountered while working and traveling overseas. I added beautiful pictures onto a readymade template and voila, I was a published author. It was a joy to know that anyone in the world could read my words. Now that my name was out there, it gave me new hope that I could succeed as a novelist. I continued to work on my book projects.

My travel writing took a further leap forward when I became a Lonely Planet featured blogger. This lead to writing a few shoe reviews. And last fall I had an article published in a Vietnamese, English language magazine. Aside from a few pairs of shoes, I was not paid for my writing. Still, it made me happy.

I thought my dreams had been answered when print-on-demand, self-publishing, became a viable alternative to stacks of rejection letters. Finally, for a few hundred dollars, I could have copies of my murder mystery in book form, rather than as stack of photo-copied sheets. I eagerly awaited the arrival of the first batch of Murder, Jaz, & Tel Aviv, completely thrilled with my story, my cover, and the back blurb. I was sure I would be able to at least make back my investment. If everyone I knew in my life bought just one copy, and then told just one friend about it, I’d be on the road to a real career as a writer. That did not work out as planned.

Surely, my paranormal romance, The Curse Breaker of Cairo, would propel me into the ranks of self-employed author. This time there were even more ways to market myself. Following the advice of other independent authors, I joined twitter, (not that I really get it), and I contacted numerous paranormal romance sites. I sent out a bunch of books to folks who were interested in reading and reviewing both of my works. I did a giveaway on GoodReads and was ecstatic when over 1000 people entered the contest. I eagerly sent out ten books to the winners and waited by my laptop to read their ratings and reviews. Out of all the many books I have given away over the past seven or eight months, only two people have written reviews.

I’ve contacted local, independent bookstores and several agreed to take a few copies. I went by a Barnes and Noble and pitched my book to the head buyer. Although she was quite impressed with my product and was sure it would sell, they were not able to carry print-on-demand books. And last week I sat outside a coffee shop in a trendy neighborhood shopping area, box of books and sign by my side, hoping to get a few sales. Only one person even talked to me.

So what do I do, world? I worry that my travel writing has fallen by the wayside since I have been stuck in the US for nearly a year. Then again, that shouldn’t bother me since it never did generate any money and really hasn’t furthered my writing career. In fact, more people are now accessing my blog for the photos than the writing. Should I switch to photography? I keep writing, of course, but soon that will not be enough. Working full time on stories and marketing sounds noble, but it doesn’t pay the bills.

I will try to continue to believe in the stories I invent and in my ability to carry readers away to a world outside of their own. I will persevere in my marketing tactics even if they often seem pointless. I will flood the universe with positive thoughts and visions of my books on shelves throughout the land.
I haven't yet given up.