by James Scott Bell
If I may begin today with a toot (no, not that kind). A toot of my own horn. For today is release day for my seventh Mike Romeo thriller, Romeo’s Rage. (If you’re new to the series, please note these may be read in any order.) It’s there for you this week at the deal price of $2.99 (reg. $4.99). (Outside the U.S., go to your Amazon store and search for: B0BFRP7SQV)
Thank you. Now let’s talk thrills.
We of course specialize in thrillers and suspense here at TKZ. Our archives are filled with tips and techniques on such matters as the grabber opening, scenes that compel readers to turn the page, characters we care to follow, and so on.
We also frequently talk about the challenges writers face when striving to produce (see, e.g., Terry’s recent post). When we do overcome and the writing is flowing again, there’s a thrill in that. And so, too, when we put the final polish on a manuscript and send it to our publishing house, or up to the Kindle store.
And then there’s thrill of the book’s release. It’s like the start of the running of the bulls at Pamplona (as long as you can run fast, that is). It’s the raising of the curtain on opening night on Broadway, with you in the middle of the stage about to intone, “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York.” It’s just before you drop out of the plane with a parachute on your back, or dive off the bridge with a bungee cord around your ankles.
The thrill generally takes three forms.
- Working for the Forbidden City, it’s when you open the box of copies the publisher has sent you, and take out your baby and hold it in your hands. The idea may have been conceived a couple of years ago. You finished the book, and it’s been another year to eighteen months for the actual delivery. Here it is at last! You hold it and smell it, like a proud papa or mama.
- It’s when you go to the bookstore and see it on the shelf. Even better, on the shelf with the cover facing out. Better than that, on the New Release table. Best of all, if your publisher has laid out the bucks, it’s in a dedicated book display on the floor or in the window.
- For the indie writer, it’s when the book is live online.
I’ve experienced all three, and for me it never gets old.
Now comes the waiting, the watching. Your book is out there on its own. The initial thrill begins to fade, replaced by that onerous irritant, expectations. You’re hoping—for sales, great reviews, a bestseller list, a call from Spielberg.
You know what the odds are. The average number of novels sold by traditional publishers is in the mid- to low-four figures, unless, of course, you’re on the A or B+ list. It’s anyone’s guess about ebook sales. We do know the number of ebooks published annually is somewhere north of 4 million. Ack!
But you can’t help hoping. You’re a writer, and every writer desires a growing audience of readers who will become dedicated fans. Yet if your book doesn’t get the foothold you hoped for, the emotional crash is like a rancid tamale in the tummy. (I must be metaphor crazy today.)
As hard as it is to do, Stoic wisdom stresses the management of expectations. You simply cannot stress about the things that are out of your hands! Your hands are for typing (or handwriting). I wrote more about Stoic wisdom here.
You must manage expectations about social media, too. It’s well established now that social media is not the super-duper sales machine people originally thought it would be. Remember the early years of Twitter? Some writers were posting the same “Buy my book!” tweet a dozen times a day. “Hey! I’m reaching millions of people this way! That’s gotta sell some books!”
Of course, if you have 97 million followers on Instagram and 6 million on Twitter, like Billie Eilish, you might be able to move some books (though apparently not enough to cover a large advance).
For the rest of us, social media has its place, but not as the main driver of book sales.
So what happens when that tamale hits your gut? My advice is to cover it with ice cream. Let it hurt for a few hours, but no longer. Get back to your keyboard. For as you type, you’ll begin to feel it once more—the thrill of the new story, new characters, new plot twists and turns. And finally, the thrill of a new baby. The book is done. You’re back in the delivery room. It’s launch day again.
What about you? Do you still feel—or anticipate—a thrill on launch day? Does the prospect inspire you? Sustain you? Does it ever get old?
Or like B. B. King, are you lately singing, “The Thrill is Gone”? Are you doing anything to get it back?