Part 6: So, How Do Authors Actually Make Money? And, Is That What Matters?
According to The Economist, “The open secret of publishing is that very few authors can live by books alone. Even some of the most successful ones make most of their money from public speaking, consulting, or teaching, and use the publicity gained by their books to justify higher fees.”
Well, I don’t do workshops or public speaking. I’m a storyteller, and my book is composed of stories, not steps or advice. In fact, my continuing anticipatory anxieties around speaking and performing have led me to stop (for this time) doing more book readings or radio interviews. Life is too short to feel anxious. On the other hand, writing my book was a calling, an inspiration, and a joy.
The Economist article also says: “The trouble with many budding writers is that they are not cut out for this new world. They are often introverts, preferring solitude to salesmanship. Readers these days want to get to know the creators of the books they buy. Diffident authors may feel uncomfortable with getting so close to their fans.”
Yep, that’s me. And that’s a lot of the reason I didn’t want to blog. But so many of my readers asked and encouraged me to write one that I finally did, one year after my book was published. I’ve now written nine blog posts and created a blog page on my website called “I don’t blog . . . .” But the fact remains that I am not a social-media person.
Confessions of a social-media dropout: I rarely tweeted and finally stopped. I have a dumb phone, not smart enough for Instagram. I even had trouble getting into Facebook; I originally joined to see photos of my grandkids. But suddenly I was told I had to make lots of friends and create Facebook relationships. It felt phony and cheesy. Still, I soon started to enjoy it, so much so that I spent way too many hours reading Facebook, worrying over my posts and responses and wondering why I’d get a meager share of “likes” for great reviews of my book . . . but tons of “loves” for some photo of a baby zebra!
I’ve read that top authors or writers who have the money for it pay people to write and post their Facebook postings as well as their tweets and emails. I also know many fellow authors who hire people to help them create a social-media campaign. I could not see doing this (even if I could afford it); but if I did, I believe it would still be a time-consuming commitment. Some good marketing advice I have learned is to consider all options and then do the things you’re drawn to, the ones that will give you pleasure and feel right.
I often remember Luke Seaward’s words: “Everything Is Marketing.” For the first six months after my book was released, I felt awful always thinking about sales when meeting friends—or even strangers—on the street. And I had to really push myself to ask people to please write an Amazon or Goodreads review.
One major conflict I had to deal with and still find hard to resolve: I wrote a spiritual/inspirational book, and here I was obsessing over sales and promotion! My book shows ways to find more peace, love, and true connection, and there I was spending hours on Facebook or thinking about how to subtly ask “Ms. So-and-So” to buy my book.
But Luke also said, “Oh yeah, have fun.” And the post-pub years brought me great joy too: readings that clicked; connecting with so many wonderful people; beautiful notes and emails; elders singing together in assisted living centers; third-grade children in classrooms getting it and saying, “Your stories are like poems.” I’ve also been blessed to hear teenagers or 30-somethings or the elderly tell me how my book inspired, gladdened, or comforted them . . . or even changed their lives.
Which reminds me of something else Luke said: If you change one person’s life for the better, that’s what it’s all about.
And I do believe that each book has its own special journey, which is guided by something higher than PR. You can be guided by that too: Just keep the faith!
© 2018 Rivvy Neshama. All rights reserved. No part of this six-part essay may be reproduced without permission in writing from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations that acknowledge both the writer and the title of her book, “RECIPES FOR A SACRED LIFE: True Stories and a Few Miracles.”