I write books. I think I’m pretty good at it. A lot of people have told me they like my novels, and a few publishers have put their money on the line believing the same thing. But that’s the extent of what I offer in the process of making the actual book. When I hand my finished ms over to my editor I know it’s not done. In fact, this is only the beginning of the journey. My editor will go over it and send it back to me with observations on what does or does not work. It’s up to me then to work on fixing or making it clear why I don’t think something should be changed. Then the ms goes to my copyeditor who looks at a lot of issues and also offers suggestions for change. All of these people have one goal in mind, to help me produce the best book possible.
While this is going on a cover is worked on. I have very little to do with this beyond making some suggestions on what I want the book to look like. I make no attempt to design the thing, or create any of the graphics or title text or layout. I enjoy the chance to collaborate with the chosen artist, but this is not my area of expertise. I’m a firm believer that covers are key to book sales – especially if you are an unknown name. J.K Rowlings doesn’t have to worry about what her covers look like, she has only to put her name on it. Few of us have that luxury. So I want the best cover possible.
A few authors who take on the roll of editor, graphic artist, publisher and book marketer are successful at it. The vast majority are not. They waste their money and the paper used to print their books on. The world is full of more badly written, badly edited books today than ever in the history of publishing. Why? Because anybody can publish a book today. Harsh words, but true. Everybody who owns a computer has some kind of word processing software. Having the software does no render the user capable of creating good fiction. Owning a web cam or movie making software does not make a person a film maker. Owning desktop publishing software does not make someone a graphic designer. Like bad books, I think there is a surfeit of bad book trailers out there on YouTube.
I’ve spent the last month or so studying the trailers that people are producing and had pretty much decided not to bother trying to make one. Almost all the ones I saw were simply not exciting. They didn’t catch my attention and I couldn’t see why they would create any kind of interest in the book they were selling. Then I saw some that did work, and when they did, they were phenomenal. I’m now sold on book trailers as another marketing tool, IF THEY ARE WELL MADE. No, maybe there’s no quantitative statistics on how much they boost book sales. But then I don’t think there’s any data on how much anything we do boosts sales. Ads in the New York Times don’t sell books, TV ads don’t sell books, book tours sell a few books, but I doubt if any of them pay for the travel expenses. Reviews alone don’t necessarily sell books. In fact no one know what sells books. Not the big publishers, not the book stores, not the man on the street. I use all the tools available to me in my price range to get my name out there. In the end though, all I can do is write a damn good book and hope it finds its readers. I’ll leave all the other tools I want to use in the hands of the experts who know what they are doing.
Pat Brown’s latest release Geography of Murder is now available in ebook from MLR Press.