By Joanne Elder
Four years ago, my over-active imagination tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “You should write a book.” A crazy thought, perhaps, but is it any crazier than daydreaming about thrilling, sci-fi adventures? I had always been a sci-fi fan, but a writer of science fiction? I pondered this notion acknowledging that I had a great deal of technical writing experience under my belt from years working as an engineer. But, to make the leap to fiction? I dismissed any uncertainties and sat down at my computer, knowing that when I start something, I like to take it the max. Now, with two science fiction books published, I thought it’s time I tell my story.
For months, I dedicated myself to writing Spectra. I became consumed with the plot, and the background research. All the while, I felt certain that upon completion of the manuscript, I’d get a literary agent to represent me and land a contract with one of the big publishing houses. After all, how many people could possibly dedicate themselves to a project of this magnitude and see it through to fruition? Well apparently thousands.
My cocky attitude was quickly humbled as I queried agents and larger publishers. Letters of rejection filled my inbox, but they didn’t crush my spirit. I turned my sights to the smaller presses and very quickly signed a contract with MuseItUp Publishing.
One year later not only did I hold a printed copy of Spectra in my hands, I had a second contract for its sequel, Entity. My overzealous attitude reignited. Launching my debut novel was akin to starting up a business and I believed success would come with the proper investment of both time and money. I did a press release, a book trailer, and threw myself into the social networking scene with a website, Facebook page and Twitter. I started blogging on my website and as a guest on others. I actively participated in forums, and Facebook and LinkedIn groups. I attended conferences. I even advertised with key science fiction magazines and websites. I watched my sales statistics each step of the way and, at no point, found any positive correlation between books sold and my efforts.
Next step, I hired a publicist. I will give a word of warning to any author considering this promotional avenue…shop carefully. They can lure you in with their promises and provide few results. That was my experience with the first publicist I used, which I will refrain from naming here. Their efforts, although well intentioned, lead to nothing more than a few reviews from mediocre review sites. Once again, no increase in sales. Bad fortune can make us smarter and I’m now working with a publicist I’m very pleased with. Will sales go up…time will tell.
Of all my efforts to promote Spectra, there is only one success story, which I inadvertently fell into. I submitted the novel to RT Book Reviews Magazine for review and they gave it their rating of TOP PICK, which they give to few books. For the month it appeared in their magazine, sales soared. Perhaps there is one lesson to be learned here. Good, reputable reviews sell books.
So how do authors get their name out there? What’s the right promotional recipe for success? I had hoped that with my experience I’d have these answers by now. The writing world is a changing place with ebooks and online sales dominating the marketplace. This has increased the selection of books for the discriminating reader, yet many still gravitate to the big name “Cadillac” authors. Readers often don’t realize that the latest novel penned by their favorite author may have actually been written by a ghost writer. Book clubs often stack their shelves with the latest media hits boasting vampires or things that are best kept behind closed doors. Are these books literary works of art? I think not, but they sell. I try to take things to the max and I’d like to think I’m not there yet with Spectra. Beyond perseverance, if the key to an author’s success is out there, I’ll find it. In the meanwhile, I’ll keep writing for no better reason than that I love it.
Joanne Elder is a member of the Professional Engineers of Ontario. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Engineering Science at the University of Western Ontario. During her professional career, she spent several years in the aeronautical and nuclear industries, published numerous technical papers in the field of Metallurgical Engineering and presented at international conferences. She now resides in King City, Ontario with her two teen-aged children and husband. Spectra, Elder’s debut novel, and the sequel, Entity, were published by MuseItUp Publishing.
You can visit Joanne Elder’s website at www.sciencefictionthrillers.com.