Who’s Out There Reading?

I’ve been told that one of the things new authors tend to do is obsess over ratings and reviews. Because I’d had a lot of experience with Young Adult (YA) titles before breaking into the adult trade book market, I’d gotten over a lot of that. I can laugh off the occasional cranky review, and don’t expect to see the whole world talking about my book. My YA contracts were “work for hire,” so I didn’t even have to concern myself about sales after publication. Freelance writing is different, though, and it’s hard not to care at least a little about how the public is responding.

I’ve learned that Amazon rankings usually give a sense only for whether the book is selling almost no copies, selling a few, or selling a little better than that. The rankings fluctuate widely with the purchase (or lack of it) of only a few copies, and a book has to be in the top several hundred to be filling up the trucks leaving the warehouses. I’ve learned that the proliferation of websites devoted to reader reviews means that I will probably never see the majority of published comments about my work.

For a new writer of mainstream books such as UNTIL OUR LAST BREATH and THE FOUR SEASONS, it’s important to remember that sales are a significant marker of success, but not the only one. Libraries, used book stores, and book-sharing networks are all means by which authors develop a reputation that will carry over into the next book, so it’s impossible to know how much impact the sale of an individual copy is having.

That’s why the statistical data for this website have been so interesting to me. Yesterday, for example, there were more than eighty visits to the home page. All those people had somehow become aware of my work as an author and were interested enough to track my website down. Some clearly have come more than once, since over the course of each month, approximately eight hundred unique visitors make around two thousand visits total. What do they do when they get to the home page? Almost all look at the diary and scroll through the photos. Dynamic pages–the ones that get frequent updates–are by far the most popular.

So what does this tell me? People are showing interest in my work, and that’s very good news indeed. Thanks for coming to my website, for loving books, and for supporting authors.

Finding Emilie

Goodbye France, Hello Manuscript

It’s now been almost two weeks since I returned from France, and I’ve been too busy launching back into my novel in progress, THE LAWS OF MOTION, and recovering from lingering jet lag to be able until now to add a new entry to this site.

I wrote during the trip about points in between but not about the delightful beginning and end to my stay in Paris and eastern France, so I’ll focus only on those two things here. I began my stay in Paris with dinner on the Left Bank with Jacques Guiod, the French translator of THE FOUR SEASONS. Here we are, taking a look at the newly released LES france-060QUATRE SAISONS. By the end of the trip, I’d checked in six bookstores, large and small, in cities and in small towns, and found copies of it everywhere. Thanks, Jacques! If it’s a hit in France, take a big bow!

On the last day of the trip, I visted Ferney, the town near the Swiss border where Voltaire lived until shortly before his death. I’d gone to France with much of THE LAWS OF MOTION drafted, but the scenes set at Ferney are from the climactic pages of the book, dscn3875which are still ahead of me. It might sound odd to some people, but I’ve found it immensely helpful to do my on-site research after I’ve written a draft of a book. Basic information about settings is usually pretty easy to get at home. It’s the little facts and the small details that aren’t mentioned that I need to go find out for myself–what kinds of trees are in a garden, the floor plan of a house, the view from a particular window. Traveling afterwards, I can go with a better idea of exactly what I need to know, and I don’t end up regretting what I didn’t notice or didn’t think to do while was there. Of course if this writing thing ever starts paying the bills, I’d move to a place and write the book there, but I imagine that’s every writer’s dream!

It was, therefore, different and rather exhilarating to be at Ferney and imagine what might happen in the last chapter of my book rather than just fine-tuning the details. I’ll see how this new approach to research goes when I get to that point in the book, but right now, I’m going to sign off and get back to work. I’m rooting for my heroine, Lili, and I can’t wait to see what she’s going to do next!