When I was a very active member of several non-profit boards, I used to have to “dial for dollars” to get donations. It was a very miserable experience. When I was on the board of many early-stage companies, I would also have to “dial for dollars” to help these companies raise investment capital. Also, a miserable experience! Now I am “dialing for readers” (actually emailing is more accurate) for my book, The Flight of a Wild Duck.
Getting readers is not about getting sales/revenue. My book was never meant to be a profitable activity. It is just the opposite. But I felt/feel that I had something to say, to share, and to offer. Perhaps a book is no longer the best medium to communicate. But it would be hard to capture a lifetime of experiences in a 15 second Tik Tok video.
So every day, I reach out to friends and former colleagues to let them know about my book. Most say they will get it, but the sales numbers demonstrate that this is not the case. But I would say the same thing. First, however, I would buy the book and at least attempt to read it.
I have done about ten interviews (podcasts and Youtube videos). By in large, they have had good experiences. But I have no way to know how many people listen to them. I thought that this might be a way to get more readers. However, it is not working that way. After listening to me be interviewed for an hour, people probably feel that they have enough and there is no reason to read the book. I might feel that way too.
Pushing people to buy the book does not serve my purpose because I want them to read it. However, sales do affect how Amazon, for instance, behaves when it comes to their recommendations.
I have gotten many great reviews, but I mostly had to ask for those as well.
Do I sound discouraged? Well, I am a bit. However, I should say that if no one had read my book, I would still have written it. So I gained a lot from experience.
Soon, I will be publishing essays (3-5 pages) and lessons (1 page). I may use substack to distribute them. Possibly, they will be more viral and could lead people back to my book.
Now do your part!
Let see if I can be of help. First, I bought your book and I might even buy a second one (it looks like FedEx lost it).
You spent a fair amount of money for the self publishing of your book because you wanted it to feel professionally made, although with Amazon, you don’t have to. Editing, cover, you even hired an editing company (I don’t remember exactly, but the name has a feminine orientation). And you told me several times that it’s a painful experience.
Seems to me that you stoped short your effort by thinking that you could do the marketing by yourself. You can’t. Selling ourselves is the most difficult task, way more difficult than dialing for dollar.
You need to hire a PR company that will market your book to your natural audience: computer aficionados. A PR who will present your book to the computer magazines. And you need to do it soon because your book is still “fresh” (and I would remove this article and the one where you ask us to buy the book). And you need to select a distributor to bring it to the bookstore’s computer section.
I could be wrong, but to me, the book is written, but it is still in the warehouse. It still has to reach the shelves.
Thanks as always for your thoughtful comments. I did hire a PR company but fired them. I think part of the problem is that there are so many books published. The average number of sales is 500 in total. But it is not the number of sales but the impact and I want to reach the right people. I did a lot more marketing efforts than you know about including research into the target markets and how to reach them. But unless I spend a lot of money, much of this does not matter.
I use my blog to express how I feel and how I think. I don’t think that I would get any sales in book stores and that would be a wasted effort. I have a distributor for the paperback and hardcover.
My book is not about the computer industry it is about my journey. I had to dumb down the technical things that would appeal to computer people.
Anyway, thanks again. I look forward to more comments once you have read the book.
Avram, I had the same experience with my book. Yet although it came out in 2005, yesterday in response to a social media comment I made on something completely unrelated, a woman I’d never heard of responded “I loved your book.” So despite sales that felt anemic to me after a career in magazine/internet publishing, it wasn’t unnoticed, and I hope you will come to feel that way. Robin
I know, it is a very slow experience.
I thought the book was great. A rollercoaster! I even had our local library order a copy so it has a chance to be distributed far and wide throughout our 27 library loan group (OCLN, Old Colony Library Network). Of course, I related mostly to the DEC events, but the description of how the communications and telecom companies grew, changed, and devoured was fascinating. There was much I watched but never thought about or followed that closely. We techies sometimes just use the stuff as it becomes available. You made me remember dial-up modems, for heaven’s sake! Now we move 8MB photos around with ease. Once we heard Moore’s Law, we just accepted change as the next thing in succession. I loved the chance to see it all laid out. Your management advice is well considered. People without vision or the wrong vision (sorry, Ken) can sink the ship. We’ve all watched a few good ships go down! Anyway, great book, and I hope you keep writing your blog. Can’t help but think there’s a movie in this tech history that hasn’t been done yet. (Comcast, Microsoft, and Facebook infuriate me, but that’s a different discussion, one that will hopefully be held on Capitol Hill at some point.)
Thanks so much for your comments. I really appreciate them. Don’t think there is a movie in my future, for sure.
I’m still waiting for your Amazon exclusivity to end, so I can buy the ebook. To be clear – I am not anti-Amazon. However for *my* convenience I keep my digital media in one place. ie I do not want some songs in one place, some songs in another, some books elsewhere, other books in another location etc.
3 times this year I have failed to buy ebooks – all non-fiction and all first time authors. Two were because of Amazon exclusivity, and one was because it was only available in one country. I’ve never had trouble getting fiction ebooks from my preferred store.
You can imagine how frustrating this is as a reader – especially as you can’t add the ebooks to a wishlist in the preferred store because they aren’t listed at all. Unfortunately non-sales don’t show up in statistics.
There are services like Sparktoro that help to find the kind of audience you are after, but as you noted it does take time and effort, with a later payoff.
Have you considered making the book free and having the chapters as web pages here so search engines can index them? I’ve seen tech authors take that approach while still having the book for sale for people who want to “support” the author.
BTW the “My Book” page here should also say it is out.
Thanks for your comments. I will be posting a number of essays (outtakes from the book) and will probably use substack to get out as well as lessons (one-pagers). Hopefully, they may get some attention and point people to the book. Right now, I would be happy if all the people who say they are have are are going to get the book, actually do.
I bought your book after Amazon finally decided it could be delivered to a U.S. residential address. I am reading it when I have more than just 10 minutes to devote to it. It deserves my full attention. I bought it because of your influence in the computer industry and your involvement with DEC.
I was amazed to read about your fix for the PDP-9(?) real time processing issue that you sent to DEC. I am not surprised that they used it. Listening to their users was one thing that DEC was very good at for quite a while. I think I finally threw away my DECUS membership card a while back when it had broken into several pieces. I was pleased when documentation suggestions I made as an employee were incorporated into the official documentation set.
I have flogged your book to several friends that I thought would find it interesting. My wife, who was a non-technical DEC employee at the Mill, has enjoyed the parts I have shared with her.
I want to thank you for writing this book. I am enjoying learning about your incredible life as well as your insights into the computer / networking industry.
And finally, thank you for being you. The world is a better place because of you.
Bob, I really appreciate your words. Thank you so much.
I bought it and half way through.
Thanks. When you finish, please post a review.
Avram. Do not get or be discouraged. Your book is a great read. I’m about halfway through it. The stunning thing to me, is the congruence of others. I’ve read Woz’s book, Steve Jobs, Andy Grove’s and other titans of Silicon Valley. Your’s is an intimate journey, an insight into your mind, your thinking. Sure, context is everything. Blunt and opinionated, you tell it like it was, as you saw it, experienced it. You are indeed a special and unique individual. You know that. Humanity is interesting. Your story is one of the many threads that creates one of the most interesting and exciting tapestry that changed the world. Forever. Hang in there. Cheers.
Tim, thanks for your words of encouragement. Would you please post a review on Amazon and also rate my book. That might help get Amazon’s attention.