Promotion is on my mind these days because I am not doing any (which means a nagging voice in my head keeps saying "you need to be promoting your books . . .") and books are on my mind these days because the nights are getting darker earlier so I have more time to read. I am almost finished Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls, a novel based on her feisty, horse-breaking, horse-racing grandmother. It's a great story as is her memoir The Glass Castle, which does not involve horses, but is captivating nonetheless. Neither, however, need promoting or reviewing by lil' ol' me. The Glass Castle had 2,035 reviews (almost all five stars) on Amazon, is an international bestseller and has been translated into twenty-three languages. Half Broke Horses is on the New York Times Book Review Top 10 Best Books list and received rave reviews from topnotch sources, so nudges from me would mean nothing.
Along the same lines, I read Susan Richards two memoirs Chosen by a Horse and Saddled: How a Spirited Horse Reined me in and Set Me Free. Both are excellent reads and both have horses as main themes and threads throughout Richard's life as she deals with her childhood and adult issues. Chosen by a Horse had 223 positive reviews on Amazon. Saddled also received major kudos except for one person who wrote that it was "self absorbed drivel." (Well, that was blunt.) So again, me telling you to read them if your haven't will not affect either book's already best-selling status.
Reading them does have me pondering my own lack of best-selling status. I have written over twenty-five horse books and none have come anywhere near a hit. Many of quietly gone out of print (Yeah, I know, I should be resurrecting them into ebooks). The most reviews on Amazon are 71 for Shadow Horse, which is still selling well since 1999 (meaning I actually get royalties and Random House hasn't remaindered it). About once a week I get an email from a starry-eyed horse-girl who has read both Whirlwind and Shadow Horse and desperately hopes there will be a sequel. Alas, I tell them, Random House isn't interested in a sequel because Whirlwind, despite good reviews and some loyal fans, hasn't sold enough to pay back my advance.
What makes a best-seller? What makes an award-winner? What makes people want to pick up your book? It's not simply great writing-Twilight disproved that theory--or excellent research or a compelling heroine or a satisfying mystery. So what is it?
Pondering these questions is not in the form of a pity party. But the magic answer has eluded me for over sixty books and thirty-five years of publishing (yup, I am that old) and I wish I had the answer. Not for me. Since I am winding my writing career down, I am finally absolutely positively certain I will never have a best-seller. (I kept hoping until about two years ago when it finally dawned on me that I didn't care anymore.) I would love to know what it is that gets a book reviewed by multiple sources as well as what it is that keeps a person reading all night and then suggesting that book to a friend who suggests it to another who . . .
What are your thoughts? What best-sellers have you read that were disappointing? What 'quiet' book would you like to recommend?