In the initial post to this series, I had a check-list that spoke to sales. The first item was a question asking whether or not you were ready to spend hundreds of dollars on advertising. The second was to expect abysmal sales & essentially no reviews. I’m bringing this up because I think that going into publishing, a lot of authors (myself included), imagine it’s not that hard to sell a few hundred or even in the low thousands of books. Some folks also imagine they might become the next J.K. Rowling. This is true also for the friends and family we have encouraging us. If I had a quarter for every time someone said, “J.K. Rowling had to start out somewhere too,” I could write full time and not have to worry about a pay-check. Whenever I hear this, I just roll my eyes and explain that I’m not J.K. Rowling and I’ve got to play by all of the usual rules.
That said, I do feel as though I could get myself up to a level where my work is nationally competitive, maybe even pushing toward making a living someday, but I am not ever going to hit the jackpot in story-telling the way someone like Rowling did. This is the optimism and ego speaking. I know more accurately, that even with hard work, diligent focus on improving my craft AND finding some good tales to tell, luck is still most of the equation. While I can’t say for sure, I expect true for almost all other writers. Of course, some folks are going to have luck right out of the gate, and it’s not really a small number, but when you consider the thousands upon thousands of writers releasing new material every month, you’re almost certain to be in the group that gets buried. As I’ve said before a bunch of times in this series, I’m not an expert on this, this is just what I’m seeing as I go through it myself.
To get to the point of this post, sales, I’m going to be totally up-front. As I’m writing this, I’ve sold 58 books, both e-book and digital and I think one or two people have read parts of it on KU – it’s hard to tell. This translates to a whopping, less than a hundred dollars in royalties (there are caveats here involving giveaways and things). While I regard 58 copies as a good showing, keep in mind that I’ve dropped close to $300 in advertising, $200 in paper books, and another sixty for elements of my cover. I’m under-water by over four hundred dollars – and I went CHEAP on this. In spite of the fact that sounds vaguely whiney, what I’m trying to get at is that self-publishing can be unforgiving and you’re as likely as not to spend more money than you ever make for any book.
When I first wrote the check-list to launch this series, I was 1 month in. Now I’m about 90 days in. In those first 30 days, I’d sold about 20 copies of the book total, had a solid week where I only had 1 Kindle Unlimited page read, and a single review. Nobody I didn’t know was picking the book up. Since then, things have come along (very, very modestly), but I’ve continued to post about my book and keep trying new ways to promote. I suspect that’s been keeping the ball in the air, so to speak, and the book continues to sell at a very modest pace. If I were to hazard a guess, based on my very limited experience, I’ve got a pretty typical result.
What I’m trying to say, from the perspective of a guy who impulsively published a book a few months ago (Wine Bottles and Broomsticks), is that you’re probably going to be pretty disappointed with how may people buy and read your first book –unless you’re expecting 0 sales. Again, I’m fully aware that this isn’t the only experience, but it’s been mine and I really don’t think it’s a unique situation. By all means, get your work out there, it’s important, but don’t expect to be Richard Castle. Being mentally prepared for lack-luster outcomes is going to help you stay focused on what’s important, which is writing another book and finding ways to promote. Plus, as has been pointed out to me. Indie publishing is a bit of a long game and so you’ve got plenty of time to keep your book listed and available to sell.
What was your experience in your first launch? Did you do better than 20 in the first month? Better than 60 in 3? What do you think the key to that success was?
Interested in the rest of the series? Click here.
For most of us, it may be better to focus on things we can control, like our publicity efforts, rather than try to count sales, which we ultimately do not control.
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I absolutely agree with this. I found it a really tough lesson though, and had to really see if for myself.
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