Buy, Read, Talk: How to Help a Writer’s Career

A post from Sarah Monette / Katherine Addison.

Sarah Monette is one of the authors who writes the Shadow Unit series, as you may know. She also wrote, among other things, MELUSINE, which was an extremely well-written book that I didn’t actually like. (Too grim in ways that I found hard to tolerate.) MELUSINE was the first book in a four-book series, and although it did fine, the series as a whole killed Sarah’s career (at least temporarily).

This post came out of that experience. Here, Sarah explains some of the pitfalls inherent in writing a series. This, btw, is why I frequently wait to read a series until the whole series is complete, but nevertheless buy the books as they come out. If you love a particular author or expect to love a particular series, this is a strategy I thoroughly recommend, as the (not unusual) fall-off in sales through a series is often deadly to an author.

Anyway, now Sarah has a new book coming out under the name Katherine Addison: THE GOBLIN EMPEROR, about which I am already hearing good things. Here’s hoping it does well for her.

On knowing whether a book will take off:

“Nobody actually understands why readers choose to buy the books they do. Nobody understands why J. K. Rowling took the world by storm and Diana Wynne Jones never did. … Publishers are trying their damnedest to find the books that will replicate this phenomenon, but they do it by guess and gamble, and when they succeed, they don’t know why, either. Nobody knows why people buy books.

The thing we do know is that word-of-mouth is the best and most persuasive way for a potential reader to find out about a book.”

We don’t know why one title takes off for the stratosphere while most linger barely above ground. No one knows. But in today’s publishing world, of small print runs and low promotion, a hundred copies sold more or less can make a real difference to an author. I just thought I would mention that.

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