Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The 'List'

Like many authors, I aspire to be on The List. You know, the New York Times Bestselling list. The A list. The short list for an award.

I made two: the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators short list for the Crystal Kite Award. Members chose books from their traditionally published ranks in 11 different regions. Sirenz didn't win but really, it was a thrill to be nominated for that first book.

On the second list I have have a lot of authors keeping me company: the midlist. It's kind of like no-man's land between unpublished and superstardom. It's where most authors end up. Most of us get overlooked in favor of the big names.

But how does a book make it to the 'superstar' list? Sales have a lot to do with it (hence, 'bestselling'). And how does one get to be bestselling? It's not by talent alone. There have been some stinky books, in my opinion, that have sold millions, won awards, or had movies made of them. And there is a gold mine of superb books that don't make it off the midlist. (And no, I'm not talking about Sirenz, Sirenz Back in Fashion, or Blonde OPS. I'm talking about other people's books, this is not a plug for Sirenz, Sirenz Back in Fashion or Blonde OPS.)  Certain books just pick up a following and momentum builds. It also helps if you spend a lot of money on PR (either publisher or author), have people who are rabid about helping promote your books, and the critic gods smile on you. But even with that, some books languish, with the rest of us, on the midlist.

Beloved author Jane Yolen, seeing many authors pushed aside when celebrity books debut (as celebrities, they already have promo and money) has established a grant to help midlist authors. It's hard to compete with all the actors, singers, talk show hosts, rockers, sports players, and some-who-are-famous-but-I-don't-know-why people pushing their books and sucking up PR dollars. It's not easy being a green writer.

It's one reason I don't gush over celeb books. I use my effort for my midlist colleagues because they need it more, they're more appreciative (has anyone gotten a thank you from a celeb for mentioning or praising their book?), and frankly, I think they deserve it. We spend years perfecting our craft, revising, re-imagining, resubmitting our work. No ghost writers or on-call editors for us! Plus, we do most of the marketing for our books; publishers can only do so much when you're not a guarantee of million dollar plus sales.

So, pick a not-so-well-known author to read from the library, from the bookstore. Share it with your friends. Talk about it on your blog, your Facebook page, Twitter, Yik Yak, etc. You might be the difference between a truly good author continuing to write or being forever lost in the midlist.


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