Reality Check – Ouch!
How many of you have sold over 100 copies of your first book in just a month? Is your debut novel selling like hot bread? Are people from all over the world clamoring to read it? I ask these questions not to make fun of anyone's aspirations – (trust me I’ve been there!) but to bring attention to the reality that most new indie authors tend to ignore or, simply aren’t aware of.
I could be wrong – there are probably some of you who have sold many copies of your first book in a month, but I'm sure this is not so for the majority of first time writers that self-publish.
I found it necessary to write about this topic because, during the process of editing my first manuscript, I’d get these wild fantasies about my novel being the next “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho, or one of Isabel Allende’s many, captivating novels. Maybe, in the first month or so, I’d sell about a hundred or so copies and be well on my way to making decent money! Does this sound familiar, fellow self-published writers?
Well, it was through research my husband and I discovered that writing was not a get-rich-quick enterprise. I mean, I have a true passion for writing but I’m also an entrepreneur with a business that I want to see prosper. Personally, when these two roles are not working synergistically – they can create chaos! The writer side of me, so diligent and crafty says, “You need to spend more time on this chapter – chapter six just doesn’t sound right!” And then, there’s the entrepreneur-business woman side of me that just wants to scream at the prospects of a book taking a year or more to complete! These two sides are literally at war on a daily basis, until I intervene and designate time for writing, and time for looking at the monetary aspect of the craft.
Add the aforementioned to the mix of releasing your first book (with the hopes of raking in hundreds of sales in a few months!) and it creates the perfect recipe for despair when things take the opposite turn.
My fellow aspiring authors, the truth about your first novels is that, most of your sales for the first year are going to come from friends, family, and your friend’s friends. Yes, for you social butterflies, this could be a really nice deal, but remember, your book is not bread (notice, I like using the bread analogy!) people will only buy it once! (your book, not bread 😊) Then, you’ll have to find an audience for this book that’s now lost, in an ocean of books with other books vying for the multitude of readers attention! This is where it gets interesting. When you are a one book author, you have two options – you can either pay to have your book marketed using as many outlets as you can or, you can continue writing and not pay so much attention to the first book; I find the latter to be more logical and cost effective for several reasons, but that calls for another blog, entirely.
Marketing? Social media? Vlogs? Umm, but, I’m a writer – I don’t know how to do these things! Says the reluctant voice, and from this point, you’ll begin to realize that your first book is your break through into writing, look at it as an “Introduction to Writing”. Many editors and experienced writers tend to agree that a writer’s first book is hardly ever their best work – now this notion is debatable of course. I strongly believe that our first book should be used as a litmus test to see our strengths in writing. Usually constructive reviews will let us know how captivating our story is - well, most of the time, not always!
So, I write this blog simply to say, don't expect fame, notoriety, or that you’ll become a well renowned writer overnight by just writing one book. To become a prosperous writer, earning money from your writing takes work. If you treat your writing as your everyday job, you’ll find yourself spending more time and dedicating more efforts each day to complete that project you seem to be stuck on.
I want fellow writers to know, especially new writers and those who are exploring the field as a lifelong career to know that setback is not foreign - it happens all the time. I also want to urge you all to continue writing and continue growing as writers because, there’s so much to learn and there are so many possibilities with books being released everyday, there is no reason why you can’t produce a lot of books throughout your career as a writer. There are so many genres to choose from and there is so much to experiment with, being a self-published author is very exciting! You get to write your words your way, it's all about what you make it. Remember, effort out equals, results!
But it is important to know that it doesn’t end with the first book. You may not even get many sales at all for the first year that your book is available, but it will not always be like this if you are dedicated writer. As the months progress, you'll put content out, you'll explore ways to develop yourself and make your writing better. And, the hardest, but yes - we all have to go through this, we have to accept constructive criticism.
Now, there’s a difference between constructive criticism and straight up, nasty, uninformative feedback. In the former, people read our books and give feedback on areas where they think we were weak, and maybe spent too much time on and in others areas where, we just glossed over a plot that needed to be elaborated on. Now, a nasty review will not give you feedback on your work and will not help you grow as a person and a writer. Just ignore these - they are like
So, after reading this blog, if you're a first-time writer or maybe you have published a book or two and are not seeing a lot of sales, have no fear, all writers have been there and walked the walk and shared your concerns when they just began writing. Always remember that you have to start somewhere, you have to start from your first book and work your way up to maybe your, thirtieth book! It all depends on you, but knowing what to expect before you begin the journey of writing, will save you a lot of heartache and most of all, it will help you put things into perspective, knowing that writing as a career is very much like building a house; it starts from a solid foundation up to the roof, and the great thing about it is how high you choose to build a depends totally on you!
I hope you found this piece interesting, if you did please feel free to leave comments below or send me an email if you have questions. Keep your chins up, and keep writing!