Guest Post: Betting on Books by Jean Ryan

Jean Ryan’s Survival Skills is a collection of short stories published by Ashland Creek Press, which will be available beginning in April.  While I’m not crazy about the cover of this one, I’m enjoying the short stories very much so far, and will have a review of one from the collection this Friday.

Today, Jean will share with us her experiences marketing her collection, especially as the publishing world is evolving constantly and social media becomes nearly all-consuming.  She originally posted this on her own Website, but I’m re-posting it here for your enjoyment.  I hope that you’ll leave a comment, ask some questions, and begin a dialogue about these important topics.

Betting on Books

Next month is the long-awaited launch of my short story collection, SURVIVAL SKILLS. Soon I’ll be joining the ranks of all the other authors who are hoping their newly published books will find an audience.

In the past several months, many of us have been doing what we can to get the word out, mostly through social media: Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest. How successful these marketing venues have been for us remains to be seen. All we know is that exposure is key, and the more we like and follow, tweet and retweet, post and share, the greater our chances for recognition. For those of us who were not brought up in the electronic age, learning the tricks involved in setting up blogs and author pages is challenging to say the least, and it doesn’t help that technology is constantly jumping ahead of itself. Writers of any age would rather be writing than cyber networking, but we enter the fray and do our best.

The most daunting reality I’ve experienced thus far is the sheer number of us. Racing toward the same goal, we are teammates competing with each other. After all, there is only so much recognition to go around, only so much money to spend on books. It’s a selling frenzy and a buyer’s market, with books selling for less than a dollar, or being given away, by the thousands, in hopes of actual sales. Publishers in this country, electronic and otherwise, churn out 800 books a day. In this galaxy of productivity, what sort of odds does one book, my book, have?

And where do buyers begin? With self-publishing having eclipsed conventional forms, how do readers determine quality? Can we trust bloggers and reviewers? Stars and likes? Considering the many ways a web presence can be manipulated, does 15,000 Twitter followers mean anything at all? The internet is a monstrous game of chance and everyone is placing bets.

I’ve no idea how one separates the wheat from the chaff. And of course, one man’s chaff is another man’s wheat. I have zero interest in vampire novels, however well written, but who can dispute their  popularity? I like literary short fiction, a genre not known for blockbuster sales (which is ironic when you consider our tight schedules and short attention spans). I’ve asked people about this and they tell me that short stories don’t deliver, that they just don’t have enough meat on the bone. Well, I think there are plenty of meaty stories out there, stories that amuse and amaze, stories that will break your heart. You just need to know where to look.

So what can I say about SURVIVAL SKILLS? What bare truths can I give you? I can tell you that this an honest offering, that these stories evolved over several years and required my best effort. I can tell you that most of them originally appeared in reputable journals. I can tell you that my publisher, Ashland Creek Press, is committed to promoting quality literature that explores our connections with the natural world.

The characters in SURVIVAL SKILLS are not heroes. Like you and me, they are just trying to outlast the perils that surround them, taking what comfort they can on the way and often acquiring some strange companions. You won’t come across any vampires in these tales, but I’m betting you’ll enjoy them anyway.

Thanks, Jean, for sharing your thoughts with us.


  1. I’m not a fan of the cover either, but now I’m really curious about the stories!

  2. Beth Hoffman says

    I thoroughly enjoyed this guest post! In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I am going to buy this collection of short stories immediately.

    Serena, thank you for introducing us to Jean Ryan!

  3. I’m working on a book about book marketing, so this is always interesting to me! And one thing I hear from people who come from all sorts of publishing backgrounds (i.e., those who have been publishing books since the 1970s, those who publish with big presses, those who are self-published, those who’ve published in e-book format only, etc.) is that the single most important thing is word of mouth. It seems that’s the one common denominator — and of course there are so many ways to find readers, both in person through events and online, through social media and Goodreads. And the other good overall lesson seems to be finding your audience one book at a time. It’s almost more work than writing … but always so worth it when you find readers who connect with your book!

  4. I will be reviewing this collection as well.

    What sets one author apart from another is the work! If the book or collection speaks to a reader in some way, the word of mouth is often enough to get the ball rolling in the right direction.

    I have to say it, covers play a big part in it too. A cover can make or break a book and this book’s cover and title are a challenge if we are being honest here.

  5. Interesting post! Marketing a book can’t be easy these days. I guess the best thing to do is to rely on people you trust for recommendations.

    • I can’t imagine how hard it is to market a book. At least with in-person appearances, you would reach some people, but with social media, there is so much noise.