How to Stand Out in a World Crammed With Books

Color me surprised. Overall, The Breakaway did so much better than my other books in the first few selling weeks. I think it’s a combination of factors – the first being that the book hits an apparently huge niche market for young adult and adult readers who love kidnapping/captive/Stockholm Syndrome books. I had no idea such a market was out there for this genre, but it’s big. And it’s also picky, I’m finding. This specific niche market loves a certain type of ending, I think, and The Breakaway messes with that type of ending. So I’m really not sure how well it will keep doing. I have no idea. The other reason I think The Breakaway did so well (and will hopefully keep doing well) might have to do with the marketing tactics my publisher took – several that they did not do with Monarch because they hadn’t explored those avenues yet. But Monarch is also adult and a thriller and not really a true thriller, at that. Other reasons for The Breakaway’s success might also have had to do with the fact that it is young adult, the cover people seem to love, marketing tactics I took, or, well, sheer dumb luck.

So all of this one-book-doing-better-than-another thing has me thinking about a lot of publishing points. I have asked myself if I would be as jazzed about publishing more books if The Breakaway’s sales had been the same as Monarch and Cinders in their first few weeks. I worry that I question too many things. I worry that the sheer dumb luck I mentioned above is a bigger factor in all of this than I’m willing to admit. Because, honestly, that’s what it seems like at this point. I did less marketing for The Breakaway than any of my other work. I cared less. Maybe that was important. Or maybe it’s because I have other books out and I’ve built more of a readership. Maybe it’s because I’ve focused more on marketing to readers than writers. Who. The. Heck. Knows.

And I walk into a bookstore and realize that all the books on the shelves are like .0000001% of the books out in the world, and I get short of breath and realize that my books are only a tiny speck in the huge cosmos of stories out there. How … I ask myself … how in the world will I ever make it? How will I ever stand out in a world crammed with books?

My answer to that is: I already do … in certain people’s worlds. And that’s what matters.

But … I don’t write to take over the world in general (hahaha, if only), and I don’t write to stand out everywhere, and I don’t write to be on every shelf in every bookstore, and I don’t write to please everyone, and I don’t write just to make money and sales. I write because I write and want to keep writing. And the small, beautiful success I’ve seen with The Breakaway is a happy perk and something special I treasure right now. But quite honestly, while all those sales will always be awesome, they do not feel as poignant as that first sale I made on my little self-published book, Cinders, when I felt even smaller than I do now. And that’s what makes me stop and think. I look at the authors I love and wonder how small they feel, even if they are big in the publishing world. I wonder if I will always feel insignificant standing in a bookstore or sifting through hundreds of books online.

And I sit here and fret and worry about my next full-length book, Bonded, and how it will fare compared to The Breakaway in its first few weeks. So far, each book I have put out has done better than the last, but I am not sure I can top The Breakaway, and that scares me because beyond hundreds-of-thousands of dollars I don’t have to spend on marketing, there’s not much me and my publisher can do beyond what we have done for my other books. At least so far. I am sure my publisher will keep surprising me with their brilliance in marketing! And I know it’s not always about “the first few weeks” … it’s often how your books do overall over a long period of time, but still, the beginning can say a lot.

Everyone says Bonded will do amazing, but I have my doubts. Bonded is completely different, and it’s a collection and fantasy/fairy-tale based. Is that market as big as the market for The Breakaway? The first novella in Bonded has a controversial ending. The second novella, Thirds, is happy, but will people keep reading after Cinders and all the punches I pull in there? Perhaps not. The third novella, Scales, is far from a happy ending, and it’s my very favorite, like a piece of dark chocolate I think should be savored. Some people hate dark chocolate.

I guess this is enough rambling about all my worries and fears. It all reminds me of a post I wrote last year right before Monarch came out. I had cold feet, but I came to a conclusion I need to remember now. I need to staple it to my forehead: So bring on the cold feet. I know I’ll still worry and fret as the release date grows closer, but for me, the best part of the book has already happened – the fact that I finished and got it to a place where I’m 100% happy with it. Nothing will erase that. Ever. Remember, published or unpublished, you are a writer, an author, and a creative person who strives for the ultimate goal of creating something you’re proud of. Don’t ever let the little publication tag get in your way (and I need to add here that sales numbers should not get in your way either), because it doesn’t change anything in the end. It only overshadows the best part.

In the end, the only thing to do is write your next book, and at the end of the day, I’m pretty happy with that. So I’m going to go work on my next book and stop worrying.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle