I’ve been a self-published author for nearly three years. I’ve published 12 works and can now kind of gauge what’s happening with my books and readers by my sales. The majority of my readers are Black women since I write Interracial Erotic Romance with a main focus on Black Woman/White Man characters. Though my books rarely ever even address race. They’re just love stories like any other. Anyway, I digress.
When a book is first released, especially books that were available for pre-order, sales start out relatively high. After a while, depending on how well you promoted and how many readers are spreading the word, sales can peter off. Then let’s say, a few months later, I see Book 1 of one of my series sells on Monday, then on Tuesday or before Monday is even over, Book 2 is purchased and shortly after that Book 3. I can tell that it was more than likely one person that was really into my series and snatched up all the books. Then within a couple days of that random purchase, I’ll see sales for Book 1 shoot up when it had flat-lined for quite some time. It is relatively obvious then that the original reader told her friends, family and co-workers about the series and they want to experience the story too. In the nutshell, word-of-mouth.
Word-of-mouth is huge for an author. You can advertise, promote, and hustle all day and it will help. But word-of-mouth is what books live and die by. I’ve heard that Fifty Shades of Grey rose to the top because of book clubs that shouted praise at the top of their lungs. And I have no doubt that many, if not all of those book clubs were predominantly white. So it’s obvious that white word-of-mouth is a powerful tool when it comes to going mainstream. As a black author, I wish it wasn’t so. Because in my experience, when it comes to a book being lead by a black female protagonist, white readers clam up tighter than a virgin inside a bank vault.
I’ve been involved with a cross-promotional group of authors on Facebook for nearly a year now. It’s a mix of Romance authors, but mainly white. We blast our readers every quarter with freebies in an opportunity to expand our readership to readers that may have never found us, to begin with. For some of the black authors in the group, that means possibly finding white readers that normally wouldn’t go out of their way to look for us. In the most recent freebie blast, I gave away Chasing Day, Book 1 in a two-part series. That day, I got over 5,000 downloads. The potential for read-through to Book 2 and crossing over to new readers is definitely higher with those results. And every time we do a blast for some odd-marketing-universe-reason sales for that book shoot up even after it’s no longer free.
It wasn’t long before I saw definite read-through to Book 2. In fact, sales for Book 2 did remarkably well for a while, considering my still relatively newbie standards. So it’s obvious that those who have read Chasing Day so far, are liking it enough to buy the sequel. There were about 40-50 books for free in the promotion, so I don’t expect all of those 5,000+ readers to get to my book right away.
But also, what I noticed is that, though sales for Book 2 went up, sales for Book 1 flat-lined. Which it is glaringly obvious what’s happening, or shall I say, not happening. They are loving the story enough to continue on to the sequel. But they’re not comfortable enough to tell their friends, family, and co-workers about it. I am a reader before I am a writer. When I’ve come across a book I adore, I let it be known to anyone who will listen. And I know that is what almost all readers do. Because once you find your tribe, you have to share in the joys and heartbreak of a story. You can’t be alone in your adoration of a book. Even now, if I read a book that its characters are White Woman/White Man (i.e Archer’s Voice and Me Before You), if I love it enough, I will still tell my friends and readers about them. Even knowing that many of them prefer to read black heroines. A good book is a good book, no matter the race of the author or characters.
And I know what you’re probably thinking, “Maybe your book isn’t as good as you think it is and that’s why they aren’t sharing it.” I’ll admit, I love my series and may be biased but I seriously doubt that it’s the best series ever written. I’d have to be delusional and quite egotistical to believe that. But it’s still a good story that I poured my heart into. And a few of the white readers that were kind enough to leave a review, did in fact, sing its praises. So I’m not completely off-base in my summation here.
So I say to anyone who is reading this, I urge you, for the sake of art, if you come across a good book that you thoroughly enjoyed but it’s not something you or your friends would normally read…share it anyway. If you liked it, they probably will too. Your recommendation is our life’s blood. Our books live and die by your word-of-mouth. So for the love of God, speak up!
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