On Buying (and Selling) Books
OK, a little truthtelling time.
It’s three months before the publication of 1000 Words: A Writer's Guide to Staying Creative, Focused, and Productive All Year Round. People have started saying nice things about it on Goodreads which warms my cold, dead heart. I truly think if you like these letters you’re probably gonna feel the same about this book. There are 54 of our greatest living writers in it. And it’s gonna look hot on your desk.
People who write and publish books talk a lot about the importance of pre-orders, and it’s true, they are important, because they indicate to your publisher that people are interested in it, which means they might throw more money at the marketing of it or print more copies of it. And pre-orders are one of the main shots we have at getting on the bestseller lists.
But, let’s be real here: you can buy this book whenever you want.
Chances are slim I’ll make the bestseller list. You gotta sell like 3-4000 copies the first week to scrape the bottom of the list. I just checked with my publisher, and my pre-orders combined between Amazon and indies is maybe 500 or so. Honestly, no shame in that! There’s been no press on the book yet — those orders are purely based on this mailing list.
And maybe some of you are like, “I like to walk into a bookstore and buy it off the shelf the first week it comes out. Please leave me alone, I HAVE A SYSTEM.” Because you like to see your bookseller in person. Or because it’s fun to feel like you’re part of a moment in time in a very real and physical way. Or because sometimes it’s just nice to have a reason to leave your house. (That last part applies to me.)
Also I think in this category — Advice, misc. and how-to — it’s going to be a whole different ride. Because these books tend to sell in different patterns than fiction.
My impression of a lot of fiction readers is that they tend to be avid readers, they keep up with what’s going on in the literary world and what their favorite authors are doing, and are often looking for whatever’s new and cool. So most novels sell the most they’re going to sell in the first few months and then they sort of fade away. Unless they hit the bestseller list. And even then, if the word of mouth isn’t great after the first few weeks, they still can fade away. (But at least they can say they were a bestseller!)
Now I’ve never published in the advice category before but it seems to me that people who are looking for advice will take it where they can get it, when they need it. This is why some advice books sell for a long, long time. Good advice is eternal. And also these kinds of publishers know how to market books for special occasions. So 1000 Words might get pushed during college graduation season, for example, or for back-to-school, and it still could feel fresh and new and appropriate for that audience.
All this to say it would be incredibly cool if you pre-ordered my book and it somehow magically made the list. I think it would be fun if it happened, and, based on the number of people who open this email every week — which is 30,000+ of you! — in theory, I only need 10% of you to do it. Come on, it would be kind of rad, right?
But also you can buy it whenever and it will be waiting for you when you need it and I’m not gonna be mad about it. Maybe you don’t want to think about writing In That Way quite yet. Maybe you’re asking for it for your birthday present a few months later. Maybe you can’t afford it or you spend too much on books already and you are on a budget. (I respect a budget!) Maybe you want to ask your library to order it instead. Maybe you’ll open the tab to buy it and then you have to go to a meeting at work and then you’ll accidentally close the tab and forget you even meant to buy it in the first place and I GET IT because I do it all the time. Our brains are trash! Thanks internet!
But if you feel like it, right now, and want to make sure it shows up in your home the day it comes out, and want to give this book a little boost in the universe, here’s a nice bookstore to pre-order from and I’ll even sign it for you with a little X and O.
And I’ll really mean it.