OK, I know that headline sounds kind of cutesy. Sorry — it goes with the general concept, which is: “Getting noticed as a writer today is like a snowflake trying to stand out in a blizzard.”
The problem with most marketing devices is that they just toss your book in with thousands of other books — or millions, in the case of Amazon and Barnes & Noble. How does that help?
I know, because I’m also on this journey, snowblind like the rest of you.
My novel, “The Kudzu Kid,” is not great literature. At least, I don’t think it is — I’m not even sure what constitutes great literature any more. But it’s my first novel, so it was a learning experience. The next one will be better.
Still, I was happy with it. My goal was to tell an entertaining story with interesting characters and provide some insight into what the profession of journalism is really like, especially on the gut level of a small town. I feel like I accomplished that, and I think a lot of people would enjoy reading it.
Except, as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, why should they? I’m an unknown novelist whose book doesn’t fit into any of the popular genres. Hoping that the average reader might snatch it up off a Barnes & Noble shelf or click on it on Amazon is a little like my Dad’s faith in his perpetual New York State Lottery number.
After nearly two decades passed, during which he never won a dime, I asked him: “Dad, don’t you think it’s time to try another number?.”
“Are you crazy?” he said. “That’s my lucky number.”
What’s that Einstein quote about doing things the same way but expecting different results?
I have a dozen or so reviews posted on Amazon, all of them complimentary. Yet it wouldn’t matter if I had a thousand if no one ever looks at them.
So the idea behind “Snowflakes in a Blizzard” — a free service, by the way — is to take a book like mine that’s struggling for attention and place it in a setting where it can go one-on-one with prospective readers. Think of it as like a winery or brewery offering twice-weekly tastings of off-brands.
I’m looking for books that are self-published, or came from small presses, or were published a while ago and have seen sales level off. Or maybe books by authors from other countries looking to get traction in U.S. markets (fluent English is, however, a requirement — our books can’t have subtitles). I’m especially interested in good books that are as yet unpublished, hoping that exposure on this site will help create a pre-publication buzz and maybe influence a publisher or agent (although there is nothing at all wrong with self-publishing). These books can be fiction or non-fiction, and the 27 authors I’ve plugged in so far represent both.
Much as I hate to become just another gatekeeper, I do need to make sure that what is submitted is something most people would want to read. This, I realize, is subjective, but there are standards. Something riddled with typos and grammatical mistakes obviously won’t pass. I will also read enough of a submitted book to make sure it makes sense. Other than that, I have a broad tolerance for different styles, genres and viewpoints. It can be weird, as long as it’s readable.
I have tried to schedule books in such a way as to provide variety. I don’t want two mysteries back-to-back, for instance, or two self-help books, or a couple of consecutive sci-fi efforts. Ironically, the one exception will be the first three blogs, where I’m featuring books that connect in some way with the Vietnam War (but all in different ways).
We have to maintain our collective credibility, or risk chasing our audience away. And without an audience, we’re just another tree falling in the forest. There would be no point.
Therefore, I’m working hard on that element prior to the official launch of this blog sometime in April. And I do have some ideas.
1. What if we gave book or two away in connection with every blog entry, based on a random drawing of people coming to the site?
2. What if the author let it be known that he or she would love to talk about their book, how and why they wrote it, and about writing in general, for a certain period after the book was featured?
3. What if we took a vote of readers at the end of the year and gave some sort of significant prize to what was deemed the most popular blog entry? I, for one, would be glad to offer a free edit for some future piece of writing.
4. What if we featured a person or company every Snowflake edition that helps writers in some way?
5. What if we did a really good job of archiving prior posts?
Anyone else have any ideas? The time is getting close.