I keep seeing various forms of the same question being asked on blogs, in forums and personally from authors. Please note, that I did not say INDIE author, I simply said author.
I really am picking on you, and all the other authors out there. Mostly you.
So, this question goes a little something like this:
“I have done everything I can to keep my sales going, but it
seems like they have just fallen off. I have settled into a
pattern of selling very few copies each day. I can’t figure out
where I am going wrong. Has anyone else had this
I would like to dissect these statements and eventual question and offer my take on the situation. So here we go.
So you published a book right? Yep. Good on you! Hours of slaving away behind a computer compiling words in a strict order that are intended to wow audiences into disbelief of your awesomeness!
You have read everything you can find on the internet and in books about how to be successful at social media marketing, trends in the book industry, formatting, distribution etc.
You have written and rewritten and written one more (or a hundred more times) your blurb. You have chosen the best quote from your book or from a reviewer for your cover.
You have spent money, time and effort on your cover ensuring that it really relates your story in a visual way.
The first couple of weeks your sales are okay. Not the million plus books you dreamed about late at night when no one was looking and you were awake staring at the ceiling. Still, sales haven’t been bad.You have gotten a few reviews and they have been pretty good. You’ve possibly survived your first really bad 1 star review at this point and set aside the time for the appropriate meltdown. Was it good? I bet it was. Mine were too. I didn’t like that vase anyway.
You have been good about posting to your blog, word of mouth marketing, have passed the book to others aside from your immediate family and friend circle. You do regular social media updates and you do guest blogs, author interviews and take advantage of every other opportunity you can to spread the word about the goods you have to sell. You have finally gotten over the sting of having to give away something you worked hard on to increase sales. Look at that, you are almost all grown up.
Then the book has a burst of success!! You get up to your first goal number of books sold. Be it 100, 500, 1,000 or for you really big success hounds, 15,000. You made it onto the various lists on Amazon and while you were there more books started selling and you made it onto more lists. You are on top of the world. There is no way you are ever coming down from here. With your book being so successful in so many places you are guaranteed that someone from a movie studio or a major publishing house is going to spot you and drag you from the pit of misery you currently live in, watching your numbers go up and down, climbing and then falling off the lists, feeling joy and then heartache as your baby struggles first to stand and then to walk and then swiftly falls down on their bum and refuses to get back up and try again.
Hi. My name is reality. This is called being an author.
I don’t care of you are an indie author or a traditionally published author. You are an author and that means you have been cursed and blessed to this life. Enjoy it, appreciate it, live it to the fullest.
Do you really think that you are alone in this? Do you think that others, even the ones who are currently on the New York Times best sellers list are not going through the same thing. Woo! Guess what? When John Grisham falls off the NYT list and is replaced by some author no one had ever heard of before, his shame is public. Your shame of falling off the mover’s and shaker’s list on Amazon, more private, but still painful. Look at the parallel lines there peeps. You wrote a book. So did John. You both went Humpty-Dumpty and had a great fall.
If your book does not do well and you are with a small publisher or you have self pubbed, there are opportunities to correct the book, make it bigger, badder, better and try it again. Give it a new cover if that is part of the problem. Rewrite the blurb. Find new advertising sources.
If John’s book bites the big one guess what? There are a HELL of a lot more steps to correcting it. Chances are, the word about a poorly written book from a major author will travel faster than the speed of light, thus relegating the book to a deserted wasteland of missed opportunity. Your book, on the other hand, still trucking along even at a few sales a day, and no one is really saying anything bad about you. Go, read the bad reviews and negative comments about John’s book. It might make you feel better.
Here are some basic things that you must realise when you are staring at your numbers and trying to make sense of them.
1. Every single author whether published traditionally or not is going to have a different experience. Yes, there are some absolute no no’s and there are some good examples to be followed with hope of success. The only guarantee you get as an author is that you will work hard.
2. Luck has a hand in the entire outcome. Some people would argue with this. Let them. Ever heard one of those stories of someone happening to be in the right place at the right time and have something amazing happen? Me too. Not to say that you don’t have to work hard, but rather that sometimes an author gets lucky (not like that, honestly people focus.)
3. Genres are different and some sell better than others. Do you have more chance of selling books in the romance/erotica genre than in any other? Research would say yes. There are fads for each genre. Depending on what the current market trend is, you could do the exact same thing with your book two years in a row and get two completely different results. Sadly, a very poorly written book in one genre may outsell an excellent book in another genre.
4. Unless you are very strange, the call to be a writer was never about money in the first place. If you have given up all other forms of work to be a writer, you had better be dedicated, determined and have a thick skin. I am not saying you cannot support yourself with your writing, I am saying that until you have built enough of a following–until you have enough steady sales–you may have to do some piece work as well. Freelance writing can be tough, but it can also pay the bills when times are lean. You can also monetize your blog, should you have the desire to do so.
5. Being a lower ranking author is no different than being a top author from a major house when it comes to give and take. When a big name author puts their seal of approval on another author’s work, it may have actually been the publicist that arranged for those words to magically appear on that cover. When you don’t have a team of editors, publicists and so on behind you, then you do this work yourself. Either way you must learn to give and give often. Don’t make it all about you. Take a hint from the above mentioned author Charles Yallowitz
He is great at this particular aspect.
Share your blog with other authors who want to do guest posts. Read other author’s work and do the same thing you are asking of them. You didn’t get to where you are alone. You won’t go any further than you are alone either. Appreciate that others are going through the same thing.
6. Grow a pair. (Ladies this includes you too.) If you are going to make it in this world of hard selling your brand, name, book(s) to an audience of unadoring fans who have no idea who you are, find your inner self confidence. Doubt and negativity will only harm you.
If you were selling X number of books before and now you are only selling % number of books, this is called life. Do you really take the time to examine what this means? If you have 1 copy of your book in someone’s hands, you are reaching an audience you never would have reached if you had not published your book. 2 people is twice that many. Wow! What are you complaining about again? Two strangers who don’t know you from Adam are reading your work, possibly all the way across the world from you. How can this be a disappointment?
Ever heard of 6 degrees of separation? Really, go look it up. Yes, I really did plan for that to be part of #6. The rule in action.
7. Write your bum off. Seriously. Whether you write in multiple genres or the same genre, the most important thing if you intend to take the world by storm with your writing is that you keep putting out books. Everywhere you go, there you are. If you are dedicated to supporting yourself with your writing, then you must be disciplined and treat it like a full time job.
When you were working your past life job (pre writer) did you let the TV stop you from working? Did the other distractions stop you from doing your work. Not if you wanted a paycheck they didn’t. You know that nagging voice in your head telling you to get back to writing? Listen to it, that is your boss telling you to get back to work.
8. Take a break once in a while that does not include looking at your numbers, writing or doing anything with your own work. I love strawberries. They are quite possibly my favourite food of all time. If I ate them every day I would get sick of them. You will come to a point when your writing is shite and it reflects your mood. Get away from it for a while. Go outside, get vitamin D. Do something with your family, friends, whatever. Get away. Your audience will thank you when your characters do not suddenly commit suicide in the middle of your book.
9. When you are staring at those numbers you are not working.
10. Pick an author, any author. Now go do some research on them. How long did it take them to get their name out there and become famous? When did you publish your book again? A few months ago. Whew. You have really fallen behind. That other author only took ten years to get his book into print and five failed attempts before one took off, what are you waiting for?
So here are my final thoughts: If you want it bad enough you can do it. Some things are out of your control and always will be. Serenity prayer, unless you are an atheist. Then “Oh F*ck it” will work just as well. Look outside your bubble once in a while and see what the rest of the world is doing. Write, write, write. Edit and put out the best book you can. Have some self confidence. Learn as you go. Stop stressing and write. You didn’t sign up for this to increase your blood pressure and cholesterol. You signed up to increase your sales, your fame, your success.
And there is my Tuesday two cents.