Friday, February 4, 2011

Fortune favours the bold.

I am a writer because I do not like talking on the phone. I can be funny sometimes when I talk, and smart. But I am generally neither of these things on the phone. I can give a talk or deliver a workshop because I have prepared my material and the topics are not only familiar to me but are ingrained like a tattoo. But anything is possible on the phone. You have no idea what the other person is going to say and long pauses while you try and come up with something smart and/or funny to say back are awkward. Pauses during talks or workshops are okay. This is when folk put up their hands and taking the question(s) fills the pause nicely and gives you a chance to collect your thoughts as you consider their question and recall the next part of your talk. But not on the phone. Some people do not mind the phone. I am not one of them. Let me text any day. Or e-mail. I am made for e-mailing. I can take as long as I like to hone my prose, or not, if the mood takes me. The bottom line is, I control when I hit send. But I swallowed my fears and used the phone yesterday to successfully ask somebody important an important question. It makes me laugh that I can talk to a room full of people but can't pick up the phone to call a stranger. I am so glad I braved my phone allergy and as I am coming to realise more and more as I go along in life, I am extra glad I asked. I have had a lot of good results as a result of asking over the last year. There will definitely be more asking in my future. Fortune favours the bold.

I spotted this (the results of a study into children's book consumers) today on Graham Beattie's blog and I am sure I have already seen it somewhere in the ether over the last few days (over at the fabulous Maureen Crisp's blog!). It is a fascinating and at times surprising read and brings up so many questions and issues around the children's book industry. It is heartening to see that children still read and value books above other sources of amusement. It is interesting to note that physical books are still the medium of choice. It is great that most children get their books from school libraries but there is a downside. I am thrilled to have my books in many school libraries but know that this potentially means less retail sales of my titles. School libraries are not included in the Public lending Right here in New Zealand and as a children's author I am therefore disadvantaged. Understandably adding school libraries to the calculations would be problematic for many other authors unless the size of the PLR pie increased substantially. There is no easy fix to this but seeing the statistics made me realise how much this affects me.

And I found the statistics on book choice equally illuminating. Subsequent books in series rank high in sales as do those by recognized authors. Series or sequels can be challenging to write well but still seem strong sellers. And building one's name and length of career is crucial. And encouraging booksellers to face books cover out makes a difference, as does a great cover. I shall be keeping these points in mind as I move forward.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Of course you knew you were going to get at least one response from a School Librarian!
1] Those purchases are sales, sales are good. There would probably be fewer sales in NZ if it weren't for school libraries as most school librarians that I know consider it very important to support local authors in order to present the students with a representation of their world.

In quite a few cases [not particularly with yours as yours are not 'noticeably' NZ books], these books are bought because of the local content - not just because the writing and production value is as good as most of the books they buy from outside of NZ.
However the feedback we get is that generally NZ books are attractive with way better art work [than seen in the US for example] and we generally feel that a high majority of NZ authors are definitely worth buying. What we are often faced with is paperback books which fall apart quickly and books which go out of print /supply rather faster than they should.

2] School libraries are funded from parents' fundraising efforts, not by the MInistry of Education, rates or taxes and are not covered by the relevant government Act. There is no official body which could demand school librarians to send in a print out of their lendings each year/quarter. It is an interesting complication not easily solved. The only thing I can suggest is to balance a lending fee loss with getting paid to give readings, visits and writing classes - something NZ children's authors used to do for free in the bad old days.
We do know it takes months and years to produce each book and there is a lot of awareness that children's authors have a hard time making a living just from writing. We are also faced with the gamble of buying as many different books as we can for many different age, taste and ability levels and hoping that those books will be read more than a few times. Our budgets are mostly very constricted, so I wonder what would happen if we were paying lending royalties as well?