And I’m also excited because Leena Williams, the novel’s protagonist, is being interviewed on author Melissa Maygrove’s blog! If you have a moment, stop by and check it out! 🙂
So a couple weeks ago I blogged about why you should consider independent publishing and today I’m talking about having realistic publishing expectations.
Before I published my first novel, I had all of these unreasonable publishing expectations. For starters, the book would sell so well that I’d end up on the Oprah show, despite the fact that the show was off the air (because of course, she would bring it back, just so she could interview yours truly). And when I went to parties and told people that I was a bonafide published author, they would look at me like I was up there with the Einsteins and Newtons of the world and say, “You?”
“Yes, me,” I’d reply proudly, with my Nobel Prize stapled to the front of my shirt (I’d also be sipping martinis and signing copies of my New York Times best selling novel).
Fast forward a few years and this is how it actually went:
I published a novel. My mother called me and said, “Now how do I get it? On YouTube?”
“No. It’s an eBook. You’ll have to read it on a Kindle.”
I had a few blog tours and garnered several positive reviews, met several fantastic authors who helped me to spread the word of my novel, and actually sold several copies of the book without having to twist anybody’s arm. But there was no Oprah, no Nobel Prize, and sadly, no martinis. Why not? Well, as you can probably imagine, my publishing expectations were probably just a leetle far-fetched.
I heard Bella Andre speak at the San Francisco Writers Conference last year and she said she believes that book number five is the “sweet spot” for authors, meaning that, this is the point at which most authors are able to make a living publishing books. She was speaking specifically about writing a series, but I think it applies to non-series books as well: after people know who you are (and like your work), they will probably go back and buy everything you’ve written since kindergarten. But until that time comes, most authors struggle to build their audience.
Here are a few sobering facts:
- There’s a chance that no one, not even your friends and family (at gunpoint) will buy your book. In fact, you might go days, weeks, or months without selling a single copy and may potentially end up hitting the bottle and singing, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.” Dude: I’m here for you. We all are.
- Most books don’t sell well, whether traditionally or independently published, so if you were thinking of quitting your day job (or buying that house in the Hamptons on credit because you’re, like, so sure your book is going to sell a million copies) you might want to hold off on that for the moment.
- Even after people read your book, there’s a chance that (gasp!) they won’t like it. Yes: I know. You think your novel’s the best thing since War and Peace and that the people who don’t like it are obviously delusional, but keep in mind that not everyone has read War and Peace. And that probably includes yourself.
- You might have a hard time getting reviews initially. What not to do: send out a nasty email to reviewers telling them how they’re going to regret not reviewing your work because your book is going to be bigger than Twilight, Harry Potter, and 50 Shades combined (and then when they don’t respond, send a follow up email asking if they received your previous message. No beuno). What you should do: Write your next book. Keep networking and building your platform and eventually, once you start building your brand, people will begin to recognize your name and this won’t be as big of an issue.
- Social media does not exist for the sole purpose of you promoting your book. I know this may come as a bit of a shock, but if all you do is tweet, “Buy my book!” people might come to regard you as a spammer. And we all know what happens to spammers: they get deleted. Or unfollowed.
“But Quanie,” you say, I’m in a hurry to become an overnight success. What shall I do?” Write, boo. And once you’re done writing, write some more. Got one book? Well, get started on that second one. And if you’ve already gotten past book number five, then book seven might be the sweet spot for you. So get crackin’.
And in the meanwhile? Surround yourself with positive, supportive people (including other authors), and if you wake up one day and find yourself feeling particularly blue, do something nice for someone else without expecting anything in return. That probably won’t help your book sales but doing something nice for someone is always a good thing. Besides, if you sow positive things you are bound to reap them—and you might even reap them in the form of stupendous book sales.
What about others? What’s been your publishing experience? If you haven’t published yet, what are you expectations? I’d love to hear your thoughts!