On Saturday I went wandering through the city for a while, and I wound up at a Barnes & Noble. It was fairly busy since it was a Saturday, but there weren’t that many people in any individual aisle of the store.
As I walked through the SF/F section, something occurred to me.
For a long time, one of the metrics of writerly success was to be able to go into a bookstore and see one’s books upon the shelf. It was repeated so often that it became something of a cliche (kind of like people saying how ebooks would never replace the “feel” and “smell” of paper books). If you had your books on a bookstore shelf, you had made it.
Except…how many people would go through the SF/F aisle on any given day? Books on a store shelf don’t do you much good if there’s no one there to actually see the books on the shelf.
This last weekend, I gave away 154 ebook copies of FROSTBORN: THE GRAY KNIGHT via Amazon. I am entirely certain that is more people than will walk through that aisle on a single day. Also, that is 154 people who gave their entire attention (however briefly) to FROSTBORN: THE GRAY KNIGHT in order to download it. I guarantee that isn’t happening a bookstore aisle.
In the past five years, I have given away more copies of DEMONSOULED and CHILD OF THE GHOSTS than people who will visit that bookstore during its life.
So, I think “my books on a shelf” has passed its useful life as a measure of writerly success. Better instead to write three books and make the first one free. You’ll get your books in front of far more eyes than if they’re sitting on a shelf in a bookstore.