Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Green-Eyed Monster

When an author first publishes (whether traditionally or indie), he or she tells themselves that the most important thing is getting their story out. Finding readers who connect with their novel and its characters. Getting good reviews is more important than sales. I know I said it, and I meant it.

And then...we start to forget. Especially when we read about Author X who announces that they’ve sold ten gazillion copies of his (her) book. And he’s quit his day job, bought a villa in the south of France, and has workers who maintain a garden that inspires him to greater literary heights. At which point, the green-eyed monster of envy decides to visit. After all, we (newbie writers) would like a villa in the south of France, instead of an apartment/condo/house that has peeling linoleum and whose chief literary inspiration is the mold growing on the bathroom ceiling that resists X-14.

By the time we’re done cursing bathroom mold, peeling linoleum, and all villas located near the south of France, we’ve forgotten why we wrote. Then, everything starts to fall apart. Instead of taking joy in our work, we start checking those book sales every day. We desperately try this or that marketing strategy, which seem to make no difference. We become people our families don’t recognize.

So, here’s a little wake-up call. First of all, not everyone can or will be Author X with the twenty gazillion sales. (Yes, sales doubled in the twenty seconds it took you to read these paragraphs—that’s how fast Author X is selling books.) You can’t be Author X. Sorry. Cope. Author X is Author X. And you are you. And before you (or I) grouse any more, here’s the deal.

First of all, the numbers aren’t always the numbers. When a traditionally published author says he published Y number of books, it’s not always the truth. (I’m not talking about liars here, though there are those too.) For example, maybe 60K copies of his books were printed and shipped to bookstores. But those aren’t sales. And the author won’t know how many sales he’ll make until the bookstore sends the unsold books back for a refund. As for the indie publisher (BTW, according to Amazon’s contract you’re not supposed to release your sales numbers—read the contract fine print.), do the numbers that they release include returns, do they include books given away for free, etc.?  Until recently, Amazon’s author stats didn’t even include a way to separate promo books (free) from books where people spent money. All that to say, that the numbers aren’t always the numbers.

I could go on about the fact that the playing field isn’t level. If you have a full-time job or children, you don’t have the time that others do to invest in marketing. If you don’t have a lot of money, you can’t invest in your career. Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do our best at marketing, I’m just saying that life isn’t fair. But I think you already knew that.

The answer is to remember why we first wrote—the joy of writing. We need to take joy in the good reviews and the people who say, “I loved your book.” And take joy in your sales, whatever they are—2 books or 20,000. Every book sold is one more reader who’s joined you in the world you created.

So celebrate your successes! Celebrate others’ successes!

Here’s a photo of my latest celebration—I hit a personal sales’ goal.

Pink champagne and a European fruit tart. YUM!
BTW, if I ever buy a villa in the south of France, you’re all welcome to visit.


  1. Just remember all of us little people when your sitting in your villa drinking pink champagne. We'll miss you. :D

  2. Loved this. And great picture!

  3. *applauding wildly* I LOVE THIS POST!

    It's so very easy to get caught up in what other people are doing especially when it "seems" so awesome. But just because the grass is greener doesn't mean their dog doesn't crap in it :)

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    1. Sorry, my computer wigged out on me. Good post!

  5. Great photo! You are gorgeous!!
    Awesome post too. Thanks for reminding us all of why we started in the first place :)

  6. I just freaked out! That tart looks amazing!

    I would rather write a good book than a successful. It's easier to write a good book than sell loads of copies and I'm lazy!

  7. So very true! There will always be someone who's doing better than you or I - luckier, better sold or marketed. But such is the cyclical nature of publication for all authors that maybe even the top bestselling writers look balefully at the lists when their book has been out a while, has had its moment in the sun and starts to slide down the rankings. It's all over until the next one and other names take precedence. Meanwhile the pressure's on to do it all again.