“Cast your bread upon the waters and it will come back to you after many days.”
You may be familiar with this bit of advice offered by King Solomon as expressed in its more modern form—you reap what you sow. It is one of those truths that crosses religious, cultural, racial, and national lines. It is not difficult to find it expressed in some form in them all. We are still talking about writing, but here two paths diverge in a wood, and we take the one less traveled.
Solomon also pointed out there is a time for sowing and a time for reaping, but they are not the same time. Sowing precedes reaping, unless you are a thief and even then, some labor goes into larceny. One problem people encounter with sowing and reaping is that while all people are of equal worth, we are not equally talented. (Don’t get ahead of me here.)
Many writers, I dare say most writers, are not good farmers. Writers generally have a firm grasp on reaping. The concept of sowing is harder to hold. Reaping is when the royalty check arrives, right? Right. Sowing is putting down the words on your laptop, right? Wrong.
No matter how talented a writer a person may be, they are, of necessity, also a salesman. You may have written the best thing since War and Peace, but no one will ever know (not even you) until you sell it to someone. That book you have is only a seed. The sowing isn’t over until you plant it, water it, and pull the weeds from around it.
I had a son-in-law who was one of those people you hear about who could sell ice to Eskimos. I am, admittedly, a very quiet, reserved person. I’m socially challenged and it’s hard for me to meet new people. I have found that readers will not flock to me—I have to chase them down or hide behind a blind until a flock passes by.
That means not only hitting all the places where readers gather but ambushing them in the wild. A winery might be a good place to host a signing for a murder that occurs in a vineyard. Festivals, street fairs, holiday markets, coffee shops, even a campout can be fertile ground for book sales. Cast that seed anyplace with the slightest connection to you or your story.
The places you choose don’t even have to be real. Launch out into the blogosphere and explore podcasts. Real book buying beings are behind avatars, holograms, and screen names.
There’s no shame in being turned down when asking to hold a book signing or seeking an opportunity to promote your book. Some of the best authors around hold book signings and no one shows. If we had a nickel for everyone who turns us down with an “I don’t read anymore”, we’d all be rich. Books are not the easiest sell in the world. That’s no reason not to try.
Sowing precedes reaping and there is a season for both.
I’m turning to St. Paul, who did a bit of writing himself for one last exhortation. “And let us not grow weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”