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Thursday, May 31, 2012

By John Gilstrap

Okay, I’ll start with the apology.  When my editor told me that last week was the launch of the front-of-store displays for Damage Control, she was mistaken.  In reality, all of the promotional stuff starts next Monday with the launch of a post card to the 1,744 people on my mailing list, followed up the next day (the actual launch day) with a mass mailing of the same post card to Kensington’s 15,000-plus-person list.

If you’d like to be added to the list, send me an email to john at johngilstrap dot com and I’ll make sure that happens.  If you want to be removed from the list, there’s a link to that effect on anything you might receive from me.

Forgive me if I seem overly opportunistic, but I’d like to talk to day about what readers can do to most favorably impact the careers and livelihoods of the authors they like.  Obviously, buying books is an important first step, but it goes further than that.

Buy on or before the launch date.  More and more, the book industry is governed by the numbers.  If a book sells well in its first days, it is guaranteed to have a long life in the marketplace.  If it doesn’t, life becomes difficult.  It’s not just about the money that a book earns.  In fact the absolute value of the revenue generated is less important than the velocity with which it is generated.  Thus, if there’s an author out there whose book you know you will ultimately buy, you can have a far greater impact on the writer’s career if you pre-order or order in the first week than you can if you wait even two or three weeks after release.

Tell people about your purchase.  Even with the retraction of the paper book market and the death of the corner bookstores, word-of-mouth continues to be the number-one source of sales for books.  Your post on Twitter or Facebook or Amazon or Barnes & Noble makes a huge difference.  And if you don’t like one of my books, please spell my name correctly: G-R-I-S-H-A-M.

Tell your local bookseller.  If you’re a merchant, and you’ve got a couple thousand products on your shelves, there’s no way that you can be truly familiar with more than a few.  When you hear from a satisfied customer, that voice resonates loudly.  This is particularly important for authors who are relatively new in their careers.

If you don’t find a book on the shelves, ask the bookseller to order it.  Again, for the first- or second-timer whose books are rarely ordered again after the two or three original copies are sold, these requests literally translate to the life or death of their careers.

Utilize social media.  This is an area where I’m still learning my way around the basics.  If an author you like tweets something you think is interesting, re-tweet it.  Forward it via email.  Like it on Facebook.

Write to authors.  It’s a lonely world when you tell stories to your screen, and then launch them into the ether.  It’s always nice to know that there are real people out there on the other end of the writing equation.

So, what have I missed?

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