Since Kristin’s blog, a lot of people have commented with questions about how/why this happened.
There seems to be a misconception that because LYKY hadn’t been a bestseller it was, by default, a failure. In truth, it’s quite common for a book to sell well–really well–without hitting a major list.
You see, lists are determined by who has had a great week. LYKY was a book that, during its first two years, had a lot of very good weeks–bookstores kept selling out and reordering; the publisher kept going back to print. And, perhaps most importantly, people seemed to be telling their friends.
So it was a success. But it was a success that was certainly flying below the radar (which, I think was the point of Kristin’s blog).
It sold well enough that when CROSS MY HEART AND HOPE TO SPY was released in October 2007 enough people were interested in the sequel that it had a “great” week and landed on the Times list.
At the time, LYKY was still doing well, but it wasn’t as shiny and new as its baby sister, and that was okay by us.
And then a weird thing happened: in early January I got the call that both LYKY and CMH were going to be on the TIMES list. This absolutely floored me and to this day I still don’t know exactly why/how it happened.
But that hasn’t kept me from formulating some theories:
1. Holiday gift cards are a very important part of the teen book market. Let’s face it, grandparents have no idea what to give the 13-year-old in their life, but they know they approve of reading, and so they give a lot of gift cards for the holidays and, as a result, YA sales in general tend to be very strong in end of December and early January.
And yet, a high tide floats all boats and I honestly don’t know why LYKY floated a little higher than it had been. But it did.
Which brings us to…
2. When CMH hit the list it put new attention on the series in general and people wanted to start at the beginning, thus resulting in a new surge of people heading for the paperback.
Which leads us to…
3. With book 2 out and doing well, it stands to reason that both books 1 and 2 would get better placement in stores, included in “Bestseller” displays and ads, etc.
So, in some ways I think a person could say that book 1 hit the list because book 2 was there first. But you could also say that book 2 hit the list because book 1 got people hooked.
It’s a chicken and egg thing, I guess, and whenever it comes to the Times list, I don’t think anyone every knows ANYTHING for sure.
In the end there are only three things about which I am positive:
–it wasn’t from self promotion.
All this time I was home…writing. And if book 3 hits the list it will probably be because people liked book 2 and, in that case, that was time well spent.
–it wasn’t overnight.
I firmly believe that this is a business of referrals. Some books may come out and hit the list their first week (all the recent discussion of celebrity books makes for good examples of this), but in the long-run, word-of-mouth determines what you can still find on shelves months or years after a book’s initial lay-down.
–all success is relative–especially in this industry.
The unagented just want an agent.
The agented just want to publish something.
The published just want to be published better (better reviews… better store placement… better sales, etc.).
So I can understand how some might say “Well, Ally got Kristin as an agent and Kristin sold her first (published) book (CHEATING AT SOLITAIRE) after it was on submission about a month–she’s an overnight success!”
Well…that’s true. If you gauge success in the amount of time your agent has to wait for an offer. That, of course, doesn’t take into account the ten years I spent writing (really bad) screenplays. Or the still unpublished novel I wrote after that.
It also assumes that having two books on the Times list is where “success” ends. Because, in truth, it doesn’t. Or at least for me. There’s always some new challenge/goal. And not only that, but new books have to perform at least as well as previous books or else my “success” story of today becomes tomorrow’s cautionary tale.
It’s all relative. And it’s all fleeting. And the only thing that stays the same so far as I can see is that every day my butt has to go in the chair and every day my fingers have to go on the keys and the less I think about the rest of it the more sane I’m able to stay.
Happy writing, everyone!