We all build as we go, as we grow as we go. R.D. Sherrill has written a realistic blog that proves—in charity and in the book business—that it all begins at home.
This is excellent advice for writers at any stage of his/her career.
As you read, note Sherrill’s success from Book 1 to Book 4, and the mental shift that made it all possible. Apply his thinking to your own book releases, and you’ve got a formula for upping your success.
We all have somewhere to go, right? Might as well be up.
Until next time, Happy Reading!
By R.D. Sherrill
It took several years and four books for the message to sink in: Before you are a world-wide bestseller, you’ve got to be a hometown bestseller.
Let me explain the growing pains it took to properly launch Murder U earlier this year.
Like many aspiring authors, I was full of hope when I completed my first novel. R.D. Sherrill had arrived! I expected the literary world to bow down to the next big thing. Red Dog Saloon was sure to be a bestseller in no time.
I contacted publishers and agents, all of whom I assumed would respond in short order, offering massive signing bonuses, and perhaps even a flashy Porsche in which I could drive to my book signings. Two years later and I’m still making payments on my own Hyundai. At least I’m getting good gas mileage to those signings.
The dream of immediate success is a pipe dream for a new author. While one in a million may hit a homerun the first time at bat, and a select few may eventually get called up to the majors, most will languish in the minor leagues for the rest of their lives. Sorry to be a buzzkill, but it’s simple math; we can’t all win.
It’s not a lack of talent. Heck, some of the best authors I’ve met have never even published a word. They are intimidated before they even enter the business. There are thousands of writers out there trying to land the same contact. A talented author is simply drowned out by the white noise, and unless your query can catch the eye of an opened-minded agent who happens to be browsing the slush pile, then you’re out of luck.
This is not only true when it comes to the traditional publishing business, but also applies in the new age of independent publishing. More and more people are self-publishing, meaning the competition for readers is reaching heights it never has before. So what’s a writer to do?
It all starts at home.
Sometimes we writers get ahead of ourselves. Before you become a world-wide sensation, you need to capture the hometown audience. Your hometown is your launching pad to success; you can’t take it for granted. It took me four books to understand what my publicist, Ashley Wright, had been telling me since I released Red Dog Saloon.
My day job is a crime and courts reporter for my hometown newspaper. As such, I am pretty well-known around town. I figured that alone would cement the hometown success of my first book. So, I rushed things and put the book out with very little advance warning. I expected everyone I’d ever known to flock to the premiere of my book.
Let me tell you, it’s awkward when you’re sitting in an empty room at the local library with a stack of books and nobody walking through the door. I had six people come to my literary debut, two of whom were relatives.
While the debut fell flat, I did go on to sell hundreds of my first book, as word spread that my stuff was actually pretty good. However, the failed debut was so frustrating that I didn’t bother having launch parties for my next two books, Average Joe and Friday Night Frights. Both books I rushed to market, wanting to have something “new” out there. As you would guess, those two releases sold far less.
Then it came time for Murder U to be released. A debut party at the same local library was scheduled. Unlike before, I put time into promoting the release, even going to the extent of delivering personal invitations to folks who had bought my other books. It was during this advance PR work I found out many people in my hometown of about thirteen thousand had no idea I’d published two books since Red Dog Saloon. Wow.
Here I am, trying to become a world-wide phenomenon, and readers in my own hometown had no idea about my last two releases.
This time I barraged social media, hit all the radio stations the day of my book debut, and made sure that my friends at the paper gave me a color page to announce my new book. And, instead of making it just a book signing—I made it an event with refreshments, door prizes, and a Q&A session.
To say it was an unexpected success would be an understatement. I sold seven books before my billed start time even rolled around. For the first time in my life as an author, I experienced something I never had before—a line waiting for me to sign. I almost sold out in the first hour. And not just Murder U: my other books were selling, too.
I know this is nothing to an established author who has a huge name and hundreds of great reviews, but to a small-town writer like me, it’s something special. And through the launch party, I got several offers to make appearances, some of which were elsewhere in the state. Using connections I’ve made through local civic organizations, I’ve even had a couple of out-of-state invitations.
So my advice is this: Get your base right at home and everything will build upward from there. It sounds simple, but I suspect many of us overlook this obvious fundamental of the independent publishing world.
R.D. Sherrill is an award-winning journalist with the Southern Standard newspaper in McMinnville, Tenn., where he has served as crime and courts reporter and columnist for the past twenty-five years. His most recent novel, Murder U, debuted in mid-July. His works may be found at www.RDSherrillbooks.com.
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Thanks to Tom Wood, Maria Giordano, Will Chessor, Emily Eytchison, and publisher/editorial director Clay Stafford for their assistance in putting together this week’s blog. And for more writer resources, visit us at www.KillerNashville.com, www.KillerNashvilleMagazine.com, and www.KillerNashvilleBookCon.com.)
And for more writer resources, visit us at www.KillerNashville.com, www.KillerNashvilleMagazine.com, and www.KillerNashvilleBookCon.com.)