Friday, August 27, 2010

Marketing vs. Creativity

Gauguins and Connoisseurs at the Stafford Gallery- 1911-Spencer Gore I’ve basically trained myself to be creative on demand—and leave my muse out of the equation all together. Inspiration is too unpredictable—I seem to get better results from just old fashioned perseverance.

But there are times when it’s more difficult to write than others and I wonder if there are other writers out there in the same boat.

I’m going to limit my observations here to genre writing, which is all I’m familiar with. But—and this is a generalization—I think that genre writers are some of the hardest-working folks in the business.

I’m part of a couple of different promotional groups that are made up of genre writers published by big houses. Many of them have more than one series that they’re currently working on. Most are promoting at least one new release while on deadline with at least one book. And they're promoting the heck out of the new release--really strenuous, long-term marketing.

Almost all of them do a lot of sales tracking. And there are plenty of places to track these numbers. Some of them get the numbers directly from their editor (I got a few numbers from mine.) Some subscribe to Publisher’s Alley (and I’ll admit to being a subscriber.) Some even subscribe to Bookscan, which is REALLY pricy. Others look at Amazon and Barnes and Noble sales.

I do some sales tracking. I know enough to know that Delicious and Suspicious is selling well. I know enough to know that my publisher is happy with me.

But when I start doing sales comparisons between other releases or try to figure out where my sales are coming from or how to duplicate it—it just messes me up when I try to segue into a writing session.

I think this is because I’m being analytical—which is something I’m not great at, anyway. Then I try to go from looking at charts and numbers and chart legends—and return to being creative.

It’s hard. Most of the writers I know look to good numbers as validation of their writing talent. Or at numbers as a sign whether their series is going to be continued or not. And they’re still busily working on their next book or coming up with the next series idea while they're tracking sales.

Going from sales figures to creative writing isn’t easy. It’s also not easy to go from reading negative reviews (which happen to all of us) back to writing.

So, for me? I just want to know things in generalizations. Is my publisher happy or unhappy? If they’re unhappy, is there anything I can do to make amends or help out in any way from a marketing perspective?

On my end, I’m just planning to promote as best I can and write as well as I can. Because I think it all boils down to the writing in the end. Readers will buy good books. But I've had plenty of authors look at me askance when I've admitted that sales tracking only makes me feel anxious.

What do you think? If you’re published, do you study sales tracking? Or, if you’re unpublished, is there another factor that messes up your writing mojo?