The Pass-Along Writer
I often hear this from readers:
“I loved your book so much, that I gave it to my sister. She passed it to her daughter, who brought it to her teacher, who lent it to his wife.”
It’s gratifying to know that my work is read with such enthusiasm that readers want to share the experience. It’s wonderful when a reader is motivated enough to search for me on the internet, to find my website or this page, and to comment on the work. But for self-preservation reasons, I must admit to feelings of dismay when they tell me that my book has been passed along this way.
While writing is primarily an art for writers, it is a primarily a business for publishers. When a writer's work is being considered, editors must convince the marketing department that the writer is a good investment. One of the things that determine this is whether work like hers has sold well in the past.
In the case of Latina writers, they look at how other Latina writers have done in the marketplace. This determination is done by number of books sold. Not number of books read, books sold. My experience has been that our generous community buys one book then passes it along to a friend, a sister, a cousin, a co-worker. Four people have read the book, but as far as the publisher is concerned, only one person did, since only one book was registered on their sales tracker. So, 75% of our readers are not even counted!
You could be the most gifted writer out there, but if the numbers don't support an interest in the kind of literature you produce, it is unlikely a publisher will take a chance. So it is up to us to make publishers take Latina writers seriously by voting with our wallets.
Buy a book by a Latina author even if you shelve it until you have time to read it. Buy books as birthday, anniversary and wedding gifts. Create a wish list at Amazon.com, so that your friends can click there and buy you a book by a Latina author when they want to make a gift, when they want to thank you for a kindness, or when they just want to express their love. Buy books and donate them to your children's school library, so that Latino kids will see that there are people like them writing about people like them.
And speaking of Amazon.com, when you have read a book by one of our fabulous Latina authors, take a few minutes and write a review on Amazon, so that people who are browsing can "discover" them.
Every time I spend $25 on an item of clothing that I am only half committed to, I think how those same $25 spent on a book will bring me hours of pleasure without making me look in a mirror and criticize the bumps and bulges around my waist and where my bra meets my shoulders. A book is the most forgiving of companions, and $25 is a small price to pay for the joy of forgetting everyday life and delving into worlds created by others. That $25 is a blip in the publisher's screen, but every time that screen blips, another Latina writer has a greater chance of seeing her name in bold letters on a hardcover.
So, thank you for reading my work. Thank you for wanting to share it. But please, if you can afford it, buy another copy for your friend, cousin, or teacher – don’t pass it along. In this way, you ensure that your favorite Latino authors will continue to be taken seriously, will continue to be published, reviewed, and placed eye level on the shelves of your favorite bookstore.