Thursday, February 6, 2020

On Disappointments and Surprises

March for Life weekend coincided with the annual ALA meeting when the awards are announced for the best books published in the previous year. Youth media award winners here (I've not yet read a single one, but our librarian is wonderful about stocking the major award-winners, so will remedy this soon). Even though I spent much of my time in prayer that weekend, I was aware of a little hollow. There was no phone message for me. See, I had entered Tongue-Tied for the Schneider Family Award. It didn't even make the honor. I wanted to cry. The previous year, I entered Bound. Yes, I cried then too. The sticker you see on Bound is the Seal of Approval from the Catholic Writing Guild, just the first step towards the Catholic Arts & Letters Award.

Why do I do this to myself? Because I think they could've won. Yes, I'm biased. But I'm also a big reader and my books are comparable to the ones who've won in previous years. We're told to not compare ourselves with others, to do the best we can do, but seeking comparable titles is something we should do. Why am I looking for more validation? The biggest reason is for gaining more readers, having a wider audience. If I get that shiny sticker, it's vetted by people in the business. I know that kids don't care about stickers or whether a book is work-for-hire or trade. They just want a good story and they are discerning. You can't fool kids. But the people who put those books in the hands of kids are adults--parents, teachers, librarians, grandparents--so you have to woo them too. Thankfully, Tongue-Tied is marketed directly to schools so it will get in the hands of kids, still I would've appreciated a sticker. I know, vanity, vanity, it's all vanity.

In other news, I went to my KDP dashboard and was surprised to see a spike--10 paperbacks sold of Bound! On Friday, Jan. 22nd, the day of the March for Life! I assumed it must've been a youth group leader or teacher who wanted to use it for discussion. I thought for sure I'd hear from this person and if they were within driving distance, I'd visit their group. But there were no such calls or emails. Then I thought, I should look up where the sales came from on my Author Central account. People, if you are not using this wonderful tool, you are missing out on data that Amazon collects. I discovered that the sales were spread throughout the country. What a coincidence. I wonder what prompted ten people to purchase a copy of Bound because I've observed that unless I run an advertising campaign, there are no sales. With self-publishing, discoverability is low. And I'm giving up on advertising because I lose money. Let's face it, I'm a writer, and I need to focus on the writing, but something somewhere triggered ten people to buy a copy and I'd like to know what it is. Maybe it was the recent magazine article in Shalom. That's the only thing I can think of. If you have any ideas, let me know. Regardless, I'm delighted that ten more people will read BOUND and share it. My readership will grow slowly. We write to change the world, to make a difference, one person at a time, and what a privilege it is to have this beautiful writing life.

Your thoughts on awards? Do you read award-winners?
ETA: Jan reminded me how personal it can be so adding a link to the time when I served as a judge for the SCBWI Magazine Merit Awards.  


Janeen Z said...

I'm so sorry, Vijaya. That's very disappointing. They're both wonderful books. I couldn't put Bound down. It just takes time for the word to spread. Ten books in one day is a great start! In the meantime, uniting your disappointment with Christ's suffering will merit much fruit.

Mirka Breen said...

Award programs are slippery slidey things. They're nice when they happen, but better kept out of mind otherwise.

Vijaya said...

Thank you Janeen. I wish I weren't so *worldly* at times. Thank you for reminding me how to deal with it in the best way. I have been praying the litany of humility and it still hurts. That's why the surprise was wonderful--I don't check my dashboard often.

Mirka, I agree. It's best to focus on the writing, not the accolades. Still, I have yet to be disappointed in a Newbery or Caldecott and I always love discovering new-to-me authors and illustrators.

janlcoates said...

Having been on award committees, including the Governor General's here in Canada, I know how personal those final choices are. Sometimes the winner may be the book somebody advocated most strongly for around the committee table. I'm new to the self-publishing world, but I'm digging to find places to sell my PB Karissa & Felix - gives me a whole new appreciation for book distribution done by publishers. Hope the sales bumps continue!

Vijaya said...

Jan, I hear you on how personal it can be. As a judge for magazine writing, how impassioned we three judges were defending our top picks! I should link the article I wrote about it. Thanks for your thoughts and the reminder.

I'm new to self-publishing too and there's so much to learn. Wearing all the hats is hard. I miss having a team of people supporting me. But what a thrill to be independent as well.

Jenni said...

I just think it's so cool that your book sales coincided with the March for Life. It can't be just a coincidence.I haven't read Bound yet, but it's on my list. It sounds wonderful!

Vijaya said...

Jenni, I don't think it's a coincidence either and I'm delighted it's on your reading list. I hope you fall in love with Joy and Rebecca too.