Rosslyn Elliott: “@JodyHedlund on CBA Bestsellers List! Go, Jody!”
At first I thought I was dreaming. After all, it was only 5:15. The daylight savings switch was messing with my sleep—I'd been staying up late to edit, but my internal alarm hadn’t adjusted to sleeping later in the mornings.
I gave myself a mental shake then scrunched my blurry eyes and read Rosslyn’s tweet again. Was I really on the Bestseller List? She had to be joking. I tweeted her back saying I wouldn’t believe it until I saw it and asked her to send me the link. Of course, since it was such an ungodly hour, I knew she wouldn’t see my tweet right away.
By this time, my eyes were wide open and my heart was thudding loud enough to wake my children. I googled “CBA Bestseller List,” and thankfully on the first try I found a link to the list. And sure enough, there I was. The Preacher’s Bride was #18 out of the top 20 fiction titles.
I sat back in my desk chair and stared at the screen, stunned. How had my book ended up there? Had someone made a mistake in calculating sales figures? Had the list-maker done eenie-meenie-miny-moe with a stack of debut author books and somehow landed on mine?
How does a book make a best-seller list? And more importantly, how in the world had mine made it?
Of course I got excited, shed a tear or two of joy, and said a few prayers of thanksgiving. In fact, all day my smile was about as big as the one on the above balloon (sent by a friend to congratulate me!). My mom called me. My husband kept hugging me. Many of my cyber friends got excited with me. All-in-all it was a great day of celebrating.
But over the ensuing days, the question lingered. How had my book made the list? I decided to get expert opinions on the matter. So I asked my agent, Rachelle Gardner, and also my Bethany House Publisher (BHP) editor, Dave Long.
My wise and wonderful agent said: “There was a lot of buzz about the book, and your blog is a big part of that. The connections you made with other writers have been very important, because it created word of mouth. Some of the decisions BHP made definitely helped - giving it primary position in catalogs, pushing it with online retailers, etc. These things sometimes make a big difference, but if nobody likes the book, they don't make a bit of difference. So the biggest factor is the fact that when people read your book, they like it! That's what makes them talk about it and pass the word. Your book is great! If it wasn't, nothing else would matter.”
My talented, top-notch editor said: “The full reason is likely a combination of a number of factors . . . [the book] was featured by Lifeway and CBD and in other Christian retailing catalogs as a way of having its profile raised with the readers shopping their bookstores. I think it has a cover ideal for the market that could appeal both to historical romance readers and bonnet fiction readers—which covers a pretty large group. Hopefully your efforts online and BHP’s marketing efforts helped spread the word. First and foremost, though, I think it’s a strong story that captured people and got them recommending it.”
Both my agent and editor mentioned my online efforts.
You may be wondering (as I was) HOW much influence did blogging and an online presence play in pushing my book onto the Best Seller List?
While there’s no accurate way to measure the correlation, I think it’s safe to say, blogging and building a web presence contributed to the buzz, helped with word of mouth, and pushed my book out farther than if I’d done nothing online. THANK YOU to each and every one of you who purchased my book, read it, and helped promote it. YOU are ALL part of the reason my book is doing so well!
If my blogging can make a difference in the sales of my book, that should encourage all of us to keep working on building an online presence, especially in the early days before we’re contracted. Yes, it takes a lot of work and effort to build a platform. But if we work at it slowly but steadily, the platform will take shape and will hopefully be tall and solid by the time our books hit the shelves.
Even more important than an online presence, however, is the quality of our stories. Both my agent and editor mentioned that the STORY trumps everything else. We can have perfect marketing efforts, but they won’t do us any good if our story doesn’t grab the reader.
Blog? Perhaps. Build an online presence? Yes. Pour out our hearts and souls onto paper? Absolutely.
What do you think? Did my online presence and/or blog influence you to read my book? And are you working at slowly building and broadening your platform so that you can give your book a better chance at succeeding?