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Thursday, 13 February 2014

It's Normal Not to Sell a Lot of Books

I came across this post: It's Normal not to Sell a Lothttp://bit.ly/1eqnq4X in the Writer's Café in Kindleboards the other week and thought how true it is.

People are influenced by the tales of overnight success many writers seem to have. So when someone decides they want to write professionally they are often stung by the cruel twist of reality. This feeling is made worse when someone asks how well your first book is selling only to be told you have yet to sell even one copy.

Most writers feel embarrassed or even mortified when the book they've worked so hard on doesn't sell a thousand copies overnight. And this is true whether you've just written your first or tenth novel. Sales are not guaranteed - ever. It doesn't matter if you've been writing for a month or twelve years. Sales are so random and unpredictable that if you let things get to you you'll be so miserable you'll have no energy to write the damn book in the first place.

Avoid people who have no insight into the business of writing and publishing for their unrealistic expectations will do you no favours. Just because J.K. Rowling has made more money than the Queen doesn't mean you will too.

So the message of this post is to be happy with what you have achieved. Not many people have the willpower to write even one book, so if you're writing your second then you've achieved far more than the average person.

If you desperately need money go out and find another form of income or hook a rich guy or gal. Don't spend hours wishing you could be Danielle Steel or Dan Brown. You are not them. You are you. Even though their money is nice there's definitely more to writing than the currency you're used to dealing with.

Expectations are a funny thing. When you start writing achieving one sale per month makes you feel like you've just climbed Mount Everest. Then you're selling ten books per month and the following year that goes up to fifty. But once you start selling and you get used to a certain number anything below that just isn't enough.

When I first started writing of course I had big dreams. But now I've learnt to tailor those dreams with a huge chunk of reality. Most books don't sell well and that's fine. Most books don't need to make the best seller charts. As long as writers keep writing I believe their books will one day earn enough to make a living.

If you're serious about making writing your career please remember this. Write as many books as you can and then write some more. Do not get obsessed with sales figures. Keep your perspective at all times. It doesn't matter how another writer is doing. Put all of your energy into you.


29 comments:

  1. Sigh. How right you are.

    Thousands of hours of research.
    Thousands more of writing, revising, reviewing, editing, revising, and so on.
    Finally get the proof and sent it back to the publisher.
    See it in your hands - the proof copy.
    Released to the reading world.

    Little or nothing.

    And you wonder if it's worth it. And your spouse chides you for spending so much time at the keyboard. "Where's the money, dear?"

    But - the truth is, WE HAVE TO WRITE! It's inside of us begging to get out. What else can we do.

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    1. You said it best.

      We invest thousands of hours in our manuscripts, research, and insight and rewrites. Then we spend lots of money on other expenses to get it in print for our customers!

      But learning more and more, over the past 10 yrs since I was first published, that it is your gift and talented in it, just do it! Someone one day will recognize your work and then will do well!

      I have had people ask, where is the money? Once they went to book events with me, they saw what I went through as a published author but hoping for more speaking events since it helps a lot.

      "your gifts will make room for you!" Believe you will receive.

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  2. A friend just sent me a link to Analyzing the Author Earnings Data Using Basic Analytics. It’s not the first article like this I’ve read and it won’t be the last. I sell very few books. It’s depressing. I look at the reviews I’ve got and they’re all good and many are long and detailed so I know my books are worth reading but people still aren’t buying them. There are lots of reasons but my personal belief is it’s the system we have to work with. The Internet is wonderful in so many ways but, and I’ve used this simile before, it’s like a dictionary: if you know the word you’re wanting to define then it’s the easiest thing to just look it up but what if you’re looking for a word that means “to sketch out in a vague way” what do you do? (The word’s ‘adumbrate’ by the way.) And that’s it. What if I only want to read thought-provoking books? How do you do about locating them? We have to rely on things like tags and some books simply do not tag well. Plus there are so many books out there. I haven’t had to buy a book in years. I get so many review copies and not just from self-published writers. And yet all the time I’m stumbling upon wonderful books that I’ve never heard of. Why have I never heard of them? Because there are too many other things getting in the way. I don’t think I’ve sold a single copy of my latest book. Not a one. And it’s a damn good book. But since when has quality been what people wanted? Just look at the best seller lists. THAT’s what people want to read.

    And yet I continue to write because I’m a writer and that’s what writers do. Publishing is another thing entirely. For me at least. I publish because these books ought to be published. It’s the right thing to do with them. If only so I can give my daughter a copy so she can be proud of me.

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    1. Jim you are so right.It is what I am telling to my husband,I believe in him and I am proud of him,So,go on guys,keep writing.And I want to know more about your books.Visit authorspromotion.wordpress.com and please contact me.

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    2. Hey Jim - I will buy your book? Where is it for sale?
      cheers Chrissy - also in the same business!

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    3. @Chrissy: That’s nice of you to offer. You can find my ebooks on Smashwords here and the cheapest and fastest option for paperbacks is here. My latest book is the short story collection Making Sense but if it doesn’t appeal please don’t feel obliged just because you’ve said. Maybe one of the novels will appeal instead. You can read reviews of all my book collated on my website.

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    4. I have a confession to make......I was very naive when the recession hit and I was short of work, I sat down and thought, how can I make use of this spare time to make money. Pathetically, I came to the conclusion that if I wrote a book, once the actual effort of writing it was over with, then I could sit back and live off the royalties!
      Oh dear! It hasn't quite turned out like that, It has taken 5 years to sell about 300 copies, but I take pleasure in the fact that everyone I have spoken to or had contact with who has read my first book has really enjoyed it. [yes... despite everything, I will be publishing book 2 soon, and book 3 is already part written]. I have chosen to hit my purchasing public head on with the title of book 2 "Funny as a Farting Corpse" in order to make it stand out a bit, I hope it works, I really would like to give up the day job, but it is never going to happen!

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  3. Loved the article. I love the writing process. My story may or may not suck because I had fun writing it and 'suck' is such an individual thing. One person's suck is another person's success.

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  4. All we can do is keep talking about our books anytime we can and trying to book different places that have speakers where we can speak about our book and sell and sign them. Rose Marie Dunphy, author of ORANGE PEELS and COBBLESTONES, on sale on Amazon.com, and Kindle.

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  5. Writing and publishing a book is not enough.

    Authors must find ways to reach readers and this usually means spending more time building an author's platform than writing the next book.

    For instance, I published my first book in December 2007 and sold only 562 copies in the first two years before I took a workshop on how to Blog to boost search engine rank.

    Then I launched my first serious Blog to support my first novel and spent an entire year only writing for that Blog until publishing more than 1,000 posts.

    Sales of my first book for 2010---after I launched the blog and worked full time on it---reached 2,375.

    That blog is still attracting readers today. But before you rush out and launch a Blog, discover how to Blog properly to build search engine rank. You want your Blog to land on page one of a search because most internet surfers/searchers are going to click on a link on that first search page and never go beyond that page.

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    1. Such great advice! I will also suggest that an author pick up a copy of Michael Hyatt's book Platform. I do not work with Michael or know him personally. His book is just awesome and I keep it on my desk or on my night stand. Kind of like the Platform Bible.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8q5q0uNEoBE

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  6. How funny people are!

    Media coverage over those "overnight success writers" causes the same for me. When I mention to non-writing colleagues that I have eleven books published, you can see the hamsters spinning their math wheel. They think I'm a millionaire. Then they look at me seriously, sheepishly glance about, and ask why I am still working.

    My college students assume the same--that I make millions. I don't know how many times I've given that tired old reply, "If I had reached a million, do you think I would still be here?"

    No, people! I would be home writing all day. It's who I am; it's in my blood; it's what I love; it's how I calm the voices in my head.

    My husband finally understands that, as does my daughter. It's a second job that allows me to share my message, my stories, with others who might enjoy them, but not one that is likely to support me or my family any time soon. Many famous writers started out the same way.

    I am a storyteller, a spinner of words, a provider of amusement and entertainment. I'm happy to get what I get because it means somebody is reading my words, my story that I sweated over for so long--that story I wrote, revised, and edited--that story they are laughing, crying, angering, and loving over, just like I did when I wrote it. That's what I prefer for all of the hard work. When a reader connects, I know I've succeeded in sharing that story and I love it!

    The first storytellers were lucky to get a smile and supper ... :D
    http://pgshriver.blogspot.com

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  7. I don't know whether to be encouraged or discouraged by this article. I have two published books and probably have less than 80 total sales in two years. My second novel, Aberration, earned a 4th place in the Mystery category of the Predators and Editors 2013 reader's poll. Don't know how, since it isn't selling very well. So...I have another book coming out in May and I'm writing my fourth. What else can I do but keep writing?

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  8. Thanks everyone for your thoughts, opinions and comments. If writing is something you love then just keep on writing. And who knows? Anything is possible :)

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  9. Great post. I'm one who's done a TON of study in advance and am very ambitious as far as marketing goes, but my numbers have been disappointing to me. Regardless, I do see them steadily increase each month, and that's encouraging. I hear that sales improve over time and with consistent market and content. Guess it's time to get out more content, eh?

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    1. Hi Crystal

      You have hit the nail on the head it is all to do with Marketing! I don't think my publisher really did the business for me so I have taken copyright back. Best of luck.

      Jim

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    2. The first book that I wrote and published did well initially...even before I was published! It was the marketing. I told everyone I saw that I was writing a story about my deaf-blind son and all his disappointments(mine) and the achievements(his) he has made despite his double challenge. I begin taking orders for my book even before it was published. I went to many classes on publishing, marketing and networking. I had my web page up well in advance. This made me write better and consistently because I had over 400 readers who paid in advance and was waiting patiently for my book. I couldn't let them down! This made me write on it every night. I joined a critique group and a member of the group was an agent and she offered me a contract for publishing through her company. I signed a 2-yr. contract. She introduced me to many different venues and I found out that many bookstores like to feature local authors so I was featured locally at different stores promoting my book. My neighbors bought copies and passed the word as well as family members. I flew to St. Louis, Mo to a book signing and then to different parts of the U. S. promoting my book. I finally found my audience at a Deaf-Blind conference in Washington D.C.
      Since that time, I began speaking to parents of disabled adults who were afraid to let their adult child go out on their own to live independently or with a roommate. . After meeting my son at many conventions and witnessing his independent attitude, they bought my books also. I was able to help many parents who child was facing a difficult time because the parents didn't know which way to go, no one to talk to. That's who I reached out to! So find your audience! Who would read your book? Not everybody is interested in the same genres. I stop counting the number of books I sell. I ask myself, How many lives can I touch? How many people with disabilities can I help to find their way in this world? What about those with other obstacles that stop them from going forward with hteir lives or careers? this is what I concentrate on now. it makes me feel so warm inside everytime I can show some one the right path to take, or an agency or company that can help them grow into the person who has confidence in themselves despite their apparent handicaps. Now, I fell god! I feel good because my books are making a difference in others lives and I feel fulfilled everytime I get an email or a letter thanking me for helping them find the way to a job or a place in their lives where they feel safe and are assured of a paycheck whether it is big or small. They feel they have accomplished something. This makes me feel successful. Who knows where our books will turn up or how many we sell? It is, or should be, what a difference we make in someone else's life that counts.

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  11. For me it is a mixed bag of selling. All my non-fiction have sold (5 books) although they were limited print runs of 600 in each case. My first novel (a Victorian espionage thriller) has however has not done well at all but the journey was worth it and I have taken it back from my publisher and will sit on it whilst publicising it myself. I have material and 40,000 words completed for book2 but done know whether to bother.

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  12. I went into this business with eyes wide open. I knew my first book would be popular with those who have an interest in the Plains Indian Wars but I knew they wouldn't buy it unless they knew about it. I knew I would HAVE to find groups to speak to, find bookstores to host me - I knew I'd have to get over my natural shyness and talk to people, in small or large groups. I also knew my publisher would only support me so far, that I had to find the venues, issue the news releases, call the book editors, make the posters and send the postcards.

    I now have three books published, more than 10,000 copies in print, the first one in its fourth printing and have made more than 370 appearances since 2008. You have got to be marketing CONSTANTLY if you want to make a go of this business - I'm still not satisfied I'm doing enough!

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    1. Jeff, I really appreciate your words! I just published my first novel, and I too realize I have to do the work if I want it to go anywhere! I'm scared silly of the prospect of approaching bookstores, and talking to groups of people about my book. I'm busy getting the social media up and running, and looking for venues, figuring out the press releases, and what a "book launch" really is! I have the postcards, now I'll have to figure out who I send them to! Bottom line, like you, I know that if I want to sell books, if I want my writing to end up in the hands of readers, I have a lot of work to do! Thanks for being so honest about this!

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  13. Thanks for sharing this statement. its already known but its encouraging to hear it now and then especially when you, as i am right now, struggeling with a new novel and somteimes doubt myself.
    best regards, Bielke von Sydow, indie-author with BIMA publishing
    www.bielkevonsydow.blogspot.se

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  14. Thanks for sharing this insightful piece...

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  15. Well put indeed. Good, sound advice! Thanks for sharing.
    Regards
    Ross A Lloyd

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  16. You're welcome. Glad you all enjoyed my post.

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  17. Hello. I liked your article as well. I first saw it on linkedin. I like your blog as well. I never thought to make any sales when I started publishing. My books sell sometimes and I'm grateful for that. I never ask for too much. Anything is better than nothing. I'm very thankful for a sale any time.

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  18. Hi Norma,

    Thanks for commenting. I'm pleased you could find my blog easily. I often post on LinkedIn. Good luck with your book sales. Every one is an achievement :)

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  20. It's SOoooo important that we read posts like this, to maintain a healthy perspective & sense of reality. Writing is (almost by definition!) a lonely occupation, and it's all too easy to lose perspective and either believe (a) the only yardstick of success is making ones million overnight (b) 'I'm the only one not making my million overnight.'

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