Writing A Book About Suicide Is One Thing: Getting People to Read It Is Quite Another

It’s not a summer read that you gobble down in a matter of hours while you lounge in the sun, sip your drink of choice, and, if you’re under 40, work on your tan.  (Actually, I see a lot of “older” women out there with the goal of turning a golden brown.  They’ll be sorry.  Trust me.)

I digress.  Maybe it’s my attempt to make a serious subject into a lighter one.  But there’s no way.  Teen suicide is serious: dead serious.  Whether we like it or not, our kids are attempting suicide and, sadly, completing suicide at record numbers.  Suicides among girls ages 15 to 19 reached a 40-year-high in 2015.  That number doubled between 2007 and 2015.  We can never know for sure, but the best estimates show that 5,240 teens attempt suicide every day.  More than 5,000 in grades seven through twelve die every year.

 

www.newshelves.com

When I hired NewShelves to help me promote Dead Serious: Breaking The Cycle of Teen Suicide, head honcho Amy Collins (She’s the best!) was straight up with me: Bookstores are not your best bet.  Really?  I thought such an important topic at a time when teen suicide is rocking thousands and thousands of families, friends, and communities would be a bookseller’s must have.  “No,” said Amy.  “People just aren’t comfortable going into a bookstore and buying a book about suicide.”

 

I was sure she was wrong; sadly, she was not.  Libraries, she said, are the home for Dead Serious.  Again, she’s proven to be right.  Now, I don’t get the difference between taking out your library card and checking out a book or standing in front of a bookstore salesperson and buying a book.  I mean, neither knows you and is probably too busy multi-tasking to pay much attention.

But in this age of everything Amazon (or Kobo, Barnes&Noble, Kobo and the like), a reader can order a book online and either have the eBook format downloaded to their Kindle or other reader or have the actual book mailed to their home.  There is complete anonymity in such transactions.  (Maybe that’s why Dead Serious has been ranked in the Top Ten on Amazon in the Books > Teens > Social Issues > Suicide category since its publication at the end of January, 2018.  Yea!)

 

At this point, I’m going to plug away.  I’ve decided to focus on main libraries in major cities rather than market to a zillion smaller towns around the country.  NewShelves sent me an Excel sheet a million miles long with contact information for librarians who buy books to add to their collections.  It would take me the next year to get in touch with each one.  A Herculean task I’m not about to undertake.

No, teen suicide is not a happy subject.  Reading a book on the subject can be a challenge.  But Dead Serious revolves around the stories of teens in their own words, all kinds of strategies for breaking the cycle, song lyrics, and new chapters on bullying, LGBTQ teen, successful suicide prevention programs, and more.

Authors assume their work is done once they’ve birthed a new book and put it out into the universe.  The hard truth: their work has just begun.

 

 

 

CAN NEGATIVE PR BE GOOD?

Well, according to my first literary agent, Berenice Hoffman, there is no such thing as bad PR. Any review, negative or positive, is good.  The review gets your name out there (wherever “there” is), and we all know that name recognition (Today, we call it a brand) is what it’s all about.

I needed to remind myself of Hoffman’s pronouncement (Was she preparing me for the shit to hit the fan?) because I got a one-star review today on Goodreads.  I have to assume that the reviewer HATED the book, but she didn’t have the guts to say so.  She just clicked on one measly little star and sent her non review out into the world of social media.  Couldn’t she have shown a little mercy on this first weekday of the New Year and clicked on one more star?

Okay.  My day didn’t start well.  But I was determined not to let one illiterate nobody ruin my life. So, I went online.  And what do you know?  The first article (rather, study) I found was titled  “Positive Effects of Negative Publicity: When Negative Reviews Increase Sales.”  Bingo!  And if the authors of the study representing The Wharton School and Stanford didn’t know what they were talking about, who would?

Now, in all fairness, the study does give sway to situations when negative PR is . . . well, negative. But as I scanned the piece, I found this:

. . . negative publicity may increase sales when product awareness or accessibility is low.  If few people know about a book released by a new author, any publicity, regardless of valence, should increase awareness.

Well, I’m not exactly a new author but I’m surely not a household name.  (Hell, even friends have trouble spelling it.)  But, in the scheme of things, despite my dogged efforts to the contrary, those friends and a few strangers know about the book.  (Okay, so it made it to #1 on Amazon in its category for about a day or two.  Let me crow just a bit because, right now, I want to disappear into the proverbial sludge pile and never return.)

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/when-bad-publicity-is-a-very-good-thing/

The study’s big wigs went on and analyzed book sales of books featured in the New York Times Book Review, and also did experiments in which people read reviews of both real and fictitious books and were then asked how likely they’d be to buy them. The results?

  • Positive publicity does have a positive impact. Overall, a positive review in the New York Times Book Review boosted sales of that book by 32 to 52 percent. (Oh, how I wish that someday . . .)
  • If you’re relatively unknown, there is no such thing as bad publicity. For unknown authors, a bad review actually increased book sales by 45 percent.  (Yippee!)
  • If you’re more established, bad publicity is actually bad. For authors that were better-known, a bad review resulted in a 15 percent hit to sales.  (No worries.)

http://jonahberger.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Negative_Publicity.pdf

You’ll excuse me now, won’t you?  I have some 5-star reviews to reread.