Jeff Seymour - Author of Fantasy, Literary Fiction, & c.: Industry Norms: Buying Other Authors' Books

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Industry Norms: Buying Other Authors' Books

This weekend I did a book signing at Robots & Rogues in Lafayette, IN, during a larger event called the Mosey Down Main Street. It was awesome. On top of selling a bunch of books, I met a bunch of great people, including several local authors. I got to hang out and talk fantasy and science fiction for hours on a Saturday night as well, which is one of my favorite things to do in the world.

When the bookstore and I settled up afterward, I had made some money. I gave about half of it back by buying the books of authors I'd met that night, or who were going to be coming by the store later in the summer and whose books I wanted to read beforehand.

This is an industry norm, and it's one I didn't learn about until last year, and it's one that caught me by surprise.

So I thought I'd write about it here, because I now know that there are other writers early in their careers who read this blog, and I feel guilty about not knowing about this norm at the first signing I did and failing to reciprocate when some really friendly authors bought my book there.

It makes sense on many levels, when you think about it. One, it's professional courtesy. But beyond that, it's the best way to make connections with your peers, and believe me, connections with your peers are exceptionally, superlatively important. During one of the signing's quieter moments, I overheard people talking about how "It's really all in who you know." I'm not sure whether they were talking about publishing or not (because a lot of industries work that way), but they could have been.

And the way you get to know people in this industry is by reading their books and reaching out to them. I've made many mistakes in my career (already!), and one of the biggest was in waiting to read the books of other indie authors until I was almost ready to publish Soulwoven. I should have been doing it for a year ahead of time, both so that I knew the market better and so that I could find the ones I liked and tell them how much I liked them. Because that's really important to do as an author. We all live in a world of deep, dark fears and years of trauma during which we learned to write primarily by being told everything that's wrong with how we write. Peer recognition is important---it's a human thing.

So read other authors, especially those you meet in person and who buy your books. Then if you like their book, reach out and tell them so.

I think my initial resistance to doing that was that it felt too much like a pyramid scheme. "What do you mean I have to read a dozen other authors before I publish my book? That sounds fishy..." And when you put it that way, it is fishy.

But you wouldn't launch a restaurant without trying out some of the other ones in the neighborhood, right? And you wouldn't launch a website without seeing who else was doing the same thing and how, right? It's the same here. Reading other authors, in addition to being professional courtesy, is market research. It's important. You should do it. You'll be glad you did.

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