Book sales … get real!

Let’s be honest about expectations. Every debut author dreams their book will be the one the publishing fairy touches with her magic wand. Their book will “go viral” in digital speak, and suddenly the whole world will buy, read, and talk about it. Like I said, we dream.

When I awoke, I convinced myself I never wanted to be a literary superstar anyway. The reality is that most traditionally published debut novels sell less than 1,000 copies. Knowing mine would be self-published, I set my sales goal far lower. And, reminded that my original goal was just to share my writing with a few others who might enjoy it, I was okay with that.

But along the way, I became infected by the marketing bug. It fed on the green-eyed jealousy monster. Other self-published authors were getting their 15-minutes of fame, along with a hefty royalty check. Why not me? It could be me! It would be me, if only, I did this … or that … or the other. If I wasn’t selling at least 100 copies a day, it’s only because I wasn’t marketing the book right. I wasn’t trying hard enough. I believed.

The problem is I believed that should be my expectation for my very first published novel. I know. None of you are that dumb. You would know it takes time. It takes several published works before you can even hope for those sales totals. Or you have to have incredible luck … or be Oprah’s best friend … or something.

I have only one book—a good book—but only one. It’s time to sink or swim. Fish or cut bait. Put up or shut up. It’s time to write another book because Harper Lee, I’m not.

And then someday …

22 thoughts on “Book sales … get real!

  1. I think that goes with the territory of newbie authors. We all get infected by the marketing bug and then have the full green jealousie flu for a while until we take some reality pills and slowly recover. Welcome to the club!


  2. Oh what! When I sent my first story off to Asimov’s (yes, indeed), I expected them to write back, thanking me for letting them publish such a refreshingly different tale of Sci Fi loveliness. They sent me a form rejection. I think, if you don’t dream, you don’t aspire, you never believe you’re worthy of the achievement. So dream away, Linda. Maybe this novel won’t trouble the best sellers’ list, but what about the next? And the next?
    I want to be able to say I knew you when you could barely string a sentence together, so please don’t go lowering your horizons on me!


    1. I was born dreaming, Suzanne, so I don’t expect to ever quit. Maybe the publishing fairy has her wand at the ready for my next book. Guess I’d better get busy. 🙂

      Btw, I sent my first submission to Glimmer Train, which is close to saying The New Yorker. 😉


  3. Hey Linda..if it helps..I do tell my friends to read Brevity :-). But its good to be enthusiastic about your work and expect it to reach a certain high. If we don’t hope, we don’t try..what do you say?


  4. Oh, I hope I never get that bug. I’m critical enough of anything I write without having the influence of wanna-be dreams and crushing expectations making things worse. I try not to think about the future or if I ever sell more than a handful of books. I’d be happy to sell as many as you have. 😉 One (wo)man’s accomplishments are often another (wo)man’s dream.

    I’ve remained fairly grounded in the knowledge that publication is hard, but acquiring sales is much harder.


    1. If anyone can keep expectations in check, T.A., it would be you. 🙂 And yes, if I think back to my original goal, I’m astounded at the number of people who’ve read my book … and then I get freaked out. 😉


  5. The marketing and sales aspects certainly aren’t as much fun as writing, I’m finding out… And I think it takes time, especially for those of us who are self-publishing, to find that critical mass of readers who love our work.

    I’m glad you’re getting back into writing, Linda, and looking forward to your next book.


  6. Great post!
    You are very right, it takes time and a lot of hard work. If you write for the love of writing that will shine through to the readers. And there are very few things more powerful then word of mouth!


  7. So sorry it took me so long to get to this post. I’ve had it starred for awhile, but I was on vacation. Anyway, sales. Yeah. I’m not seeing anything huge on my stuff, either, but I think you’re right in knowing that it takes time and more books. That’s exactly what I say, too. Now that I’m into this more and more, sales aren’t as high on my radar, and it’s a pretty good feeling. What means the most to me are the emails I get from people telling me how much they like my work. That’s why I write. 🙂


    1. Yes, Michelle, I’ve “heard” you say that. 😉 It’s hard not to check sales, but I’m trying to move away from that. I do appreciate the surprise of getting a new rating or review that I had no idea was coming. To find out people I don’t know are reading — and enjoying — my book still astounds me. That was my original intent for publishing, so I’m happy.


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