Monday, October 9, 2023

Comparison to a New York Times Best Seller

I am incredibly passionate about my novel Curveball at the Crossroads. I love my book.

However, here is a fact: Curveball at the Crossroads is not yet a NY Times Bestseller. I won't tell you how many books I have sold, but it is not at NY Times level. Yet.

I know authors are not supposed to compare themselves to other authors. We are all on our own journey. But there is one author I can't help but compare myself to. Our debut novels came out at the same time, but we could not be on more different journeys.

She and I have a lot in common. We both worked serious jobs and wrote on the side. However, while I have been published in the Tampa Bay Times, on sports websites, national defense websites, cybersecurity websites, and as many places that will have me, she was never published prior to her debut novel as far a I know. You would think that would give me an advantage. You would be wrong.

I recently watched Sarah Penner's presentation at the Southern Voices 2023 convention. She is a featured speaker at a book convention. She was selected as her debut novel, The Lost Apothecary, was a NY Times Bestseller. One for one right off the bat.

I have written before that I gave up on traditional, big market publishing. I didn't want to deal with agents and queries and all that rigmarole, especially as I was looking for a steady job and a steady relationship at the same time. That is a lot of possible rejection.

Sarah embraced the struggle to be published as she had a steady career and a steady relationship. That gave her the base in which to be patient in her creative endeavor. She pitched and pitched until she hooked an agent who found several publishers interested and her career as an author took off.

Sarah Penner's debut is about a strong woman who goes on a journey in the 1880s in London. Facts: women read more fiction than men. As Sarah mentions in her talk, women readers want to read about strong women. Books that take place in the past are also well-regarded. Sarah gave her readers what they wanted.

People have often asked me what year does Curveball at the Crossroads take place. To be honest, I didn't really think about that when I wrote it. I don't think that hurts the story, it is just not defined. The Lost Apothecary takes place in a defined era.

Curveball at the Crossroads’s primary audience is sports fiction fans. That is not a huge, robust audience. I am a white writer who wrote about a Black kid from rural Mississippi. My novel uses a very familiar trope in the deal with Devil. There is a lot of wordplay and unique phrasing throughout the book. Although I like to think publishers might look differently after the reviews I have received, I don't blame them for passing on it.

Then there was my fiasco with Legacy Book Publishing and the horrible first edition Gabriel Vaughn released with my name on it. Luckily, I had the rights to my book and was able to re-release it the way I wanted. 

Because Sarah had an agent, a publisher, and wrote to her audience, her book was able to take off. She didn't have the problems I had to get a book published. She was given a huge advance. Meanwhile, I am still trying to get out of the hole on my book investment. She is now a full-time author. I am still working my nine to five.

Sarah doesn't have to worry about marketing or distribution or contacting bookstores. In a way, she has become part of her publisher's product. I contact bookstores, coordinate my own signings, pay for my own marketing material, and post about my book on every social media possible.

I am out at breweries and book fairs, sports bars and parking lots selling Curveball at the Crossroads. I am on whatever and whoever's podcast will have me. I booked my own morning TV appearance. I will sell Curveball at the Crossroads on a train, on a plane, on a boat, or in a moat. I don't care. And every sale is noted on a huge spreadsheet I maintain to keep track of costs.

I am not hating Sarah Penner. Not at all. As a matter of fact, I applaud her. She has been nice enough to reply to some social media comments I have made. I congratulated her on her debut novel and on the launch of her second. But I can't help but compare myself to her, even if to realize how different two authors' journeys can be.