The Difficulty of Debuting

The official countdown has begun! My debut book releases in exactly one month! To celebrate this dream come true, each Monday morning in September I’ll post a trivia question about The Preacher’s Bride in the sidebar. And then on Friday mornings, I’ll announce the weekly winner. So come back Monday to play for prizes!

Also, I’ll be posting “first sighting” pictures into a slide show in my sidebar. Throughout the month, as the book begins to show up in various places, I'd love to hear where you first see it. So send me a picture of you with your first sight of my book (whether it arrives in the mail at home or you see it on the shelf at the store!). I’ve posted my first sight! Last week my editor sent me a book HOT off the press, and I couldn’t resist giving it a big kiss!

For the past couple of months I’ve already started making efforts to market my book. I’ve been contacting bookstore owners and managers, librarians, local press, churches, etc. In the process, I’ve been learning just how difficult debuting is. Yes, it’s an exciting time, but it’s also a humbling process. Here are just a few of the lessons I’m learning:

Most non-writers don’t care who your publisher is.

Even though I have the privilege of being published with a large, traditional publishing house—Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing—I’m finding that the average non-writer doesn’t really care or know that much about publishing houses.

In other words, most people lump me together with all the other authors they know, including those who’ve self-published. They don’t realize the difference nor do they care by which method my book came into print. A book is a book. Especially when we’re new and unknown.

Most average non-writers don’t know author names.

The average non-writer doesn’t pay a whole lot of attention to author names, unless we’re a household name like Rowling. For example, I received a really sweet personal email from a best-selling Amish fiction writer, Beverly Lewis (she also writes for Bethany House). I was super excited to get the email from her—she told me she’d seen the cover of my book and thought it was stunning. When I mentioned the email to my family, two of my daughters’ friends were visiting, and they didn’t know who Beverly Lewis was.

Of course, I was shocked. I thought everyone knew Beverly Lewis. But I have to remember that I eat, sleep, and breathe the world of fiction. The average person doesn’t pay attention to author names.

The nameless factor can be a benefit to a debut author because that means people will pick up our book regardless of not knowing us. But it’s also humbling to realize that if popular authors have to struggle with anonymity, it’s even harder for new authors trying to break in.

Not everyone is enthusiastic about helping a debut author.

Let’s face it, the average person doesn't pay much attention to publishers and author names. But even those who do pay attention aren’t always enthusiastic either—especially about debut authors.

With the growth of self-publishing and subsidy press, I'm learning that bookstore owners, librarians, and the media are often bombarded with requests for help in promotion. When I first approached my local library to introduce myself, they were nice, but they didn’t make any promises about getting my book in their system. They told me that they get a lot of requests from self-published authors to carry their books and that it takes time, effort, and money to add books.

Same is true of the bookstores I visited. They get requests for book-signings mostly from local self-published authors, so they tend to have a cautious approach. Because I’m a debut author, I probably won’t draw an enormous crowd to their store and so there’s really not a huge benefit to them in hosting me. A signing could end up being more of an inconvenience to them than a help.

~Summary: Because literally anyone can type up words and get them published, the market is oversatured, especially with debut authors (including self-published) all needing to promote their books. With so many authors vying for the public eye, the uniqueness that once accompanied the title and role of being a published author is fading.

I believe it's more important than ever before for writers to belong to a community who can truly understand how difficult the journey is and subsequently how monumental publication is. The rest of the world may not "get it," but all of us who've written a book know how much sweat and blood go into each page, the sacrifices we make, and the hours and hours of laboring to reach the end.

Publication might become commonplace, but the act of writing a book will always be special.

So, what do you think? Have you come across non-writers who don't know or care much about publisher or author names? With the rise of self-publishing, is the specialness of publication fading for everyone, including traditionally published?

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