Kris Rusch provides more thoughtful takes on life as an indie and taking the long view of your career.
What I did do when I heard that Amanda Hocking’s books were selling well was download a free sample to see why. And I discovered that she has major storytelling chops. Critics loathe folks who can tell stories but whose prose isn’t English-major perfect. Once Hocking got her deal with St. Martins, the literary critics all downloaded a copy of her e-books then came out guns blazing, calling St. Martins stupid for buying such a seriously bad writer.
As usual, the major literary critics—the same folks who dismiss James Patterson and Nora Roberts as hacks—fail to understand what readers read for. We don’t read for beautiful language (well, some of us do some of the time.) We read to be entertained. We read to get lost in a good story. We read to forget about the plunge in the Dow and the European Debt Crisis and the war in Afghanistan and the Somali famine. We read so that we can relax after a long day of searching for a job, or trying to figure out which bill to pay, or taking care of our ill parents. We read to go somewhere else.
Hocking takes us there. So does Patterson. So does Nora Roberts. Some do it with better prose than others. But they all take us out of our lives for the time we’re inside the book.
The writers who, year after year, continue to sell books through indie publishing or traditional publishing tell great stories. Bottom line: those writers aren’t really writers. They’re storytellers.
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So when an established writer with a dozen books out there only has one or two indie e-books up, and that writer bitches that her indie books aren’t selling very well, I tend to discount it. Because that long-term writer is basing her information on next to nothing. And with the problems in e-book royalty reporting through traditional publishers (see my post on that here), traditionally published writers don’t know what their numbers are on their traditionally published e-books either.
What bothers me the most about those faces and bitter comments that the long-term established writers make is this: it smacks of professional jealousy. I wrote quite a bit about jealousy in the Freelancer’s Survival Guide, but the relevant post is here. Professional jealousy is an extremely destructive emotion. It serves an excuse for the jealous person to avoid learning something new or taking a hard look at herself and figuring out what she’s doing wrong. It can devolve into something much uglier than that, which I explore in that earlier post.
Generally speaking, what is the established writer missing when she compares herself with the new writer? A ton of information, for one thing.
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The other thing the newer writers tend to ignore is time. Yeah, you can goose your sales by getting on Amazon or B&N bestseller lists with the help of friends on the Kindle boards or in various writing circles. But the key is long-term sales.
I knew that this whole e-book thing was going to work when the only two things I had up as an e-book—and on only one site—sold fifteen copies each in February of 2010. Those two things had terrible covers and had no promotion at all. That’s about a book per day—and those two items, with better covers, surrounded by all my other e-books, sell better than that now.
But I would have been encouraged by five sales that month or even three. The fact that someone had found the books surprised and pleased me. The fact that that same someone invested some hard-earned dollars into my books really pleased me.
I don’t look at the short term. Honestly, anyone can goose the sales of their books artificially with the right kind of promotion. The key isn’t selling 100 copies in the month of June. The key is watching slowly growing sales figures over the course of a year. Sure, you might have one sale in January on a single title— and that’s counting all e-book sites. But by July, you might have five, and by the following January, fifteen. Over the course of a decade, you’ll make quite a bit of money on that book, especially if you have other books out there under that same name.
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So if you have the track record, if you’ve been selling books for years traditionally, then you know you can tell a story. That’s half the battle.
Stop watching your e-book numbers and get more of your backlist published. And for god’s sake stop being jealous of all the other writers with sales figures higher than yours. There will always be writers who sell better than you do. And there will be writers who sell worse.
Do your job and write the next book. Make sure your fans have a way to find that book—whether indie-published or through a traditional publisher. And once you’ve done that, do it all over again.
Stop comparing yourself to others. That way lies madness.
The best thing you can do is write, publish, and repeat. Over and over and over again.
Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch