Now, I bet you think I’m going to write something cute about how some of my own personal writing habits are my own worst enemy, right? Nope. The truth is, I have actual writing nemeses out there–all authors so. It’s the dirty little secret that few of us ever confess to. Because here’s the thing; when your book hits the shelves, it’s directly competing against all the other releases that week (in addition to the books that go on sale in the weeks leading up to publication, and the ones for a month or so afterward). There’s a reason that we compulsively check Amazon rankings during those critical first few weeks; many publishers keep close tabs on early sales to determine if a) they’ll continue to publish your work, and b) if you merit an extra marketing push, or if the book will be left to languish.
There is quite literally not enough shelf space for all the new releases (even less now that so many stores have shuttered); and some will get prime placement, while others are crowded together in the stacks, with only the spine showing. It takes a truly dedicated reader to turn from those table overflowing with mountains of books to a perusal of the spines. And either way, your book will only be physically present in a store for anywhere from a few weeks to, at most, a few months after publication.
Which brings me back to my nemesis. Because not only is my book competing with every other book released in the same time frame, it’s also been directly competing for marketing dollars and attention with the other books being released by my publishing imprint.
And one of those authors, unbenownst to her, is my current nemesis.
Our books were released on the same day, so keeping tabs on her sales gives me a sense of how we’re performing with regard to each other. Because there’s an excellent chance that our next books will share a release date, too. And if one of our books takes off, and the other doesn’t, when the sales and marketing team is trying to decide which novel to push in August 2013, guess which one they’ll go with?
I know authors who went ballistic when a competing major author switched to “their” release week, claiming it stole their chance to make a bestseller’s list. I’ve never gone so far as that, but I’ve certainly experienced frustration when another author with the same publisher received a marketing benefit that my book was denied.
I had a different nemesis with my debut novel, a lovely man whose own debut received the bulk of co-op placement and marketing dollars from our publisher. Oh, how I loathed him at the time. It’s really not so different from an office environment. When a good friend gets a promotion, merited or not, it’s difficult not to struggle with the green-eyed monster; especially if you felt it was a promotion you were owed. Well, it’s no different for writers. Although our water coolers are virtual, and every day is casual Friday.
And that’s our dirty little secret.
ADDENDUM: AMAZON UPDATE
I was checking my book’s pages last night, and inexplicably, DON’T TURN AROUND is suddenly listed as a paperback, not a hardcover; the Kindle version can no longer be ordered at all, and none of the books are linked on each others’ pages anymore. Maybe I’m paranoid, but this feels a lot like retaliation for my blog post about Amazon deleting legitimate reviews…