I have the unique job of being able to look inside the mind of authors and see what they’re thinking. This blog article is about cracking open skulls and letting you stare inside to take look at some of the ways authors have cheated themselves out of success.
As we stand in the middle of a solid, growing sales month, following on from a difficult period of trading during the coronavirus crisis, I have been thinking heavily about the elements that make a Western author a success during both peacetime and panic time. Now, some folks say to me, “Why do you want to tell people about failures? That’s not good promotion.”
Well, friend, the failures are the things that hinder success. Having seen both books at the top of the charts, and books fall through the cracks, I believe it’s important to educate about both sides of the coin. What is it that makes someone like Thompson, Joiner or Winkle stand out when countless others have quit, shrivelled up and retired to cry in the corner like newborn babies? What causes an author to wither on the vine? Let’s find out…
Lack of Focus
Sometimes the failure of a book project (or author) can be put down to a simple lack of focus or an inability to concentrate. You often find that at the start all authors are extremely passionate but can’t maintain that passion. Soon they go from believing in their product to questioning their product, and from there the curtain falls. They end up zig-zagging around without any concept of what they want, any concept of what they can expect. There are even those who come out with outrageous statements trying to force change, and yet the reader keeps on buying the books of other authors. Near the top of the list of success for authors is focus on the product. Believe in your product. Concentrate on what you can do to enhance visibility of your product, and most importantly… always be working on the next product. You’ll need it. Catalogue sells. Don’t get hooked on the yoyo of love/hate with books. You wrote it, you enjoyed it, see what readers make of it. They hate it? Write another! They love it… write another.
Pride to the Point of Pain
Ah, yes. This is the sin of sins. Prideful pride. This is the interesting stage where the author believes they have the greatest of all stories and categorically castigates readers for not recognizing their genius. “My book is much better than…” is the first step towards failure. Readers choose their favorites. We provide them with options. The reader is never wrong. If the reader isn’t too into you—why? Maybe the book wasn’t as great as you thought it was. Keep in mind we have more variety than ever when it comes to purchasing Westerns today. More authors, more stories, more publishing companies. The competition is fierce, and the reader doesn’t much care if you thought your book was great if they didn’t enjoy reading it. They don’t lose any sleep. So work on making them care and lose sleep while they read your book all night. A reader in trouble for being late to work after reading all night is a reader who won’t ever forget your book.
Taking Advice From the Wrong People
This reminds me of an author who took career advice to a new extreme when talking to another author. The author in question had a growing hit and was advised by another author, or so-called friend, to leave his publisher and join a new company led by the advising author.
A few weeks later, after leaving his publisher, signing a new contract, touting an advance as his motivation for greatness, this bewildered Western writer wanted to know if I could find out what was going on— he hadn’t been paid the advance he had been promised and the editor had quit on his book due to non-payment. Turns out this new company had run out of money and was running on empty. That was one author who never regained momentum. It all sounds wonderful to work with fellow creative authors— but it seldom pays off. Authors generally care about their own books and if the person pushing your books has their own books, who do you think they prioritize?
And don’t forget you might have all the anger in the world if you make a mistake, but all your “friend” will do is shrug and say bad luck. The company didn’t work out, leaving you in the cold.
The impatient author is a destructive author. They will cut their own nose off to spite their face at times, trying to rush books to release without understanding the market, being generally difficult, endearing themselves to no one.
The thing about our genre is that although authors are unique, they are plentiful. Until you become a name seller you are no more likely than the next author to be a success. Many are the authors who have overjudged their own value to readers to find themselves forgotten. Readers have loyalty to certain authors and brands but tend to find the rest interchangeable. Wait until you are indispensable to make demands. Bide your time.
Spending Money, Spending All Their Money
This is the number one way for an author to burn themselves out. I am reminded of the author who mortgaged his house to buy copies of his own book. He believed he could buy his own book and drive it to number one, therefore gaining momentum and thus achieving world dominance. What he didn’t count on was finding out that when he purchased a huge order of his own books, it counted as one sale on the platform he purchased from. The plan was destroyed by the way the platform counted sales… so keep your checkbook in check and don’t blow your wad on fancy ideas unless those fancy ideas are tested, true and acceptable. I am a great believer in meat and potatoes promotion. Constant promotion. Not just little hype episodes. Remember these hype episodes are what turned the record industry to decline. The “events” of each artist were hyped, and the listeners cared less and less each time.
And so there you have it. The frogs authors sometimes have to kiss before meeting their true love. Now I have a question for you. Which Westerns have you been reading or watching lately? I would love to hear your recommendations. You can, as always, contact me through the form below.