Sunday, January 22, 2006

Be the Bra

I'm writing this as my Amazon Shorts download FOUR PACK OF JACK sits comfortably at the #10 spot in the Amazon ranking for shorts.

It had briefly made it up to #6, and considering I don't have a new book out, and I haven't spread the word through my newsletter yet, I'm pretty impressed by the number of people who bought it in the three days it has been live.

Thanks for your support!

Which brings up the topic of today's blog: Supporting your fellow authors.

Like most people in this business, money in my household is tight. Being paid in sporadic big chunks means our family has to carefully budget, and the amount of money I spend on self-promotion is staggering (you can read about it in the current issue of Forbes) and I usually go overboard.

But I have a cardinal rule that I always try to maintain. When possible, I buy the books of my peers.

I've never asked for a blurb without owning every book the author has written (or at least those still in print.)

I buy every book by Tess Gerritsen, Anne Fraiser, Alex Kava, Julia-Spencer Fleming, MJ Rose, David Morrell, Lee Child, Gayle Lynds, Ridley Pearson, Andrew Vachss, Michael Prescott, George Chesbro, Warren Murphy, David Wiltse, Robert Walker, Barry Eisler, David Ellis, PJ Parrish, William Kent Krueger, James Born, Barb D'Amato, Libby Fisher Hellmann, Steve Alten, James Rollins, Jay Bonansinga, Jack Kerley, Bill Fitzhugh, F. Paul Wilson, Rob Kantner, Steve Spruill, Rick Hautala, and Raymond Benson---not just because they are wonderful writers, but because they've blurbed me.

Buying them is the least I could do. They generously gave of their time, and according to the laws of karma I need to give back when I can. Not only to them, but to the world. Which is one of the reasons I blurbed over 30 books last year.

Very recently, space considerations forced me to get rid of some of my books (I have a library of over 5000.) But as I perused my shelves looking for what is donatable to the local thrift store, I made a shocking discovery.

I have over 450 signed books from authors I've met. A few of these were given to me, and some were traded for signed copies of my books, but 85% of them were bought, by me.

I don't remember buying most of these. I certainly haven't read most of these. Some aren't the type of genre I like, and some don't seem the least bit interesting to me. But I bought them anyway, to support my peers.

As Tom Waits said, we're chained to the world, and we all gotta pull.

Though I've blocked these many purchases from my mind as incidental, three events do stand out from the years I've been an author.

Once, at a library event, an eager POD author came up to my table and plunked down money for my book, and then showed me her book. It didn't look like anything I'd ever read, and didn't look appealing at all, even by POD standards. I congratulated her for writing a book, thanked her for buying mine, wished her much success, but didn't buy her book.

I've bought dozens of POD books from authors I've done events with, books that I never read. But for some reason I didn't buy hers, and it has stuck in my mind as a major regret years later.

Another mind-sticky event happened during my tour last year. I did a signing with a famous author (let's call him Jasper Fforde) who had a huge line of fans compared to my tiny line. I did my book-talk and managed to sell a few books to his sloppy seconds, but not nearly the large pile that he did. We spoke a little, between him signing copies, and he seemed a nice enough bloke.

I bought a copy of his hardcover because that's what I usually do when I'm at a signing with another author. (My other cardinal rule is: Whenever I do a signing at an independent bookstore, I buy a book to show my support for the store.)

Mr. Fforde did not buy a copy of mine. Not even a paperback.

Should that have bothered me? Perhaps not. But it does.

The last one that I'll always remember was at the Magna Cum Murder convention in Indiana. I was schmoozing the book table and who approached but none other then bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith, of The Number One Ladies' Detective Agency fame. He's sold more books than everyone else I know put together, and I know some famous people.

We got to talking, exchanged a few jokes and pleasantries, and he asked if I had any books for sale. I pointed out WHISKEY SOUR and pitched him the serial killer plot, ending my speil with, "It's exactly the polar opposite of the gentle, humorous stories that you write." That was my way of saying that I in no way expected him to buy a copy, because I knew he'd dislike it.

He bought a copy anyway. Thanks again, Mr. Smith.

Naturally, I already owned a copy of his book.

Which brings this full circle. Whenever I do a library panel, or a conference, or a multiple author signing, I try to buy the books of my fellow authors. Especially if they buy my book.

Often, I'll trade copies, which is fine, but it isn't the same as plunking down the cash and supporting my peers with that miniscule royalty and tiny blip in their sales figures.

I've noticed that I've extended this show of support to many of the blogs I visit. If I find myself posting on someone's blog often, and I haven't checked out their books, I'll pick up one or two.

I'm also known to pop on over to Amazon and do reviews of many of my peers' books. Not because they ask me to. But because I want to show support.

Is this a subtle message to everyone who reads this blog to get your asses over to Amazon.com/shorts and buy FOUR PACK OF JACK?

Hell no. I don't think this message is subtle at all.

SUPPORT ME! I'M WORTH THE 49 CRUMMY CENTS!

And not only me. Support each other. We're in this together, folks.

Also, if any of you are named "Joe" and would like to buy a personalized copy of "The Big Over Easy" by Jasper Fforde, I have one for sale. Cheap.