The task for every author is finding an audience. If your book is any good (and I have some reason to believe that mine aren’t bad) then there is an audience out there for it. Most people who have read my books seem to like them pretty well. But that doesn’t mean that a lot of people have read them. Why not? The most basic reason is that most people have never heard of them.
The one factor you didn't talk about is the title. People really do judge a book based on its cover and title, especially in our current saturated market.
If I may be so bold as to openly critique your titles, here are my thoughts (which are obviously just one person's opinion!)
The Wistful and the Good:
I inherently like this. It has an unexpected contrast, similar to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. "Wistful" is a word that describes me in many ways (as does the word "melancholy"). But it's not a very pop-culture word, so many young adult readers might not know what it means, or might feel ambivalent toward it. Overall, 8/10.
St. Agnes and the Selkie:
For me, this falls into the trap of "Too many unknown words." That's very common with fantasy novels, where you'll see things like "The Aesora Rising," and have learned exactly nothing from it. I think "Selkie" refers to a mythical creature? Maybe in the general camp of the Siren? But I honestly don't know what it is. (My mythological knowledge is mostly limited to what I learned from Percy Jackson.) St. Agnes also means nothing to me. Is this referring to a well-known saint in the Catholic pantheon? What are they patron of? I don't have a stories-all-the-way-down connection to it, so it's not particularly evocative for me. 5/10, kind of confusing. (Again, just my limited opinion!)
Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight:
(As an aside: I really like this cover. It feels polished in a way most indie covers do not, and I love the use of a renaissance-looking painting).
Per the title, this one is okay. The word "Elf" is a bit of a turn-off for me, since this often means the writer is re-hashing tired fantasy tropes or writing a fairy tale. I'm not a big fan of fairy tales, which feel like the precursor to fantasy, a genre I much prefer. But there have been some exceptions: The Once and Future King, while not a fairy tale, is nevertheless a retelling that I love with all my heart. And Till We Have Faces is C.S. Lewis' retelling of an old fairy tale, but he got me in the door by using a title that was interesting for its own sake and didn't require knowledge of the reference. 7/10, I think this communicates well, but it does requires some insider knowledge.
The Needle of Avocation/The Rules of Trade:
I believe Needle was the original title, and Rules is what superseded it? If so, that was a good change. Needle of Avocation has similar problems to St. Agnes, while The Rules of Trade is so overtly simple that it suggests a sense of irony. "The Rules of Trade" sounds like a euphemism for something, and that makes me curious. 7/10, definitely intriguing.
"I spent a lot of time fruitlessly searching for comps for the books I was writing. I never found them. And small wonder. I write the kind of books I want to read because no one is publishing those kinds of books."
This describes my writing and publishing journey exactly. I wrote/write my books because I couldn't find anything like them in bookstores. When pressed to come up with comps, I couldn't really find anything relevant. An editor I worked with suggested a few books that I really didn't like, but I went along with them just to have something to put in queries, though they felt off. If I wasn't their audience, how could their audience be mine? But maybe I was overthinking it and readers are more flexible than I am...
I prefer your more muted book cover, but I agree that the more vibrant version holds it own better among all the others. I don't know what the answer is to finding or creating a channel versus discovering readers organically via a newsletter, etc. but I've taken a chance on lots of unknown authors I found through Bookbub. I know members can also advertise their books in the Historical Novel Society's newsletter and online. Beyond that, I'm kind of winging it myself. But I'm open to ideas!
Thanks for this one; I especially enjoyed the bit about channels, as true in selling fiction as in most sales--if you can get into an existing channel, much of the friction is reduced. And I’ll just confirm one assumption of yours: I’m here for the non-fiction.
You put words to thoughts I have almost daily, haha! It's a lot of trial and error, I guess. I've recently decided I need to get a lot more help with writing blurbs and summaries--writing an elevator pitch is more difficult for me than writing the entire novel itself! Thanks for your thoughts, and best of luck!
As you’ve mentioned, I’ve subscribed to your newsletter for your non-fiction work, which is great. However, after reading this I checked out what The Wistful and the Good was about and just bought it on Amazon. I love historical novels and especially the ones about vikings and pirates, and as I also like the way you write it was a no brainer for me. Thanks a lot for taking the time to share your thoughts and your work!