Why It’s Okay to Publish a Book That Probably Won’t Sell

 

fave

No, this article is not about to tell you that it’s okay to use a stock cover, do your own editing, and ignore proper formatting rules.

I’m talking about genre, story. The best-selling indie books tend to be erotica, romance, mystery, and thriller. What if you have an idea for a novel that doesn’t fit anywhere in these popular categories?

Neither traditional publishing nor Hollywood are known for taking on risky projects. It’s understandable, really, because there’s typically a lot of money at stake and there’s a lot to lose if you gamble on an untested type of story. Unfortunately, that’s why there is such a glut of superhero movies and sequels. Slap the word Marvel on a film and it’s guaranteed to make big bucks, and a sequel to a bad movie is likely to make money if the first one did. With traditional publishing, the number one priority of agents and publishers is producing a book they really believe will sell well. Again, this makes good business sense, but it also results in a lot of repetition, severe lack of originality, and little room for passion projects.

Enter self-publishing.

We indie folks are all about passion projects. We don’t have to wait for someone else to tell us we’re allowed to write and publish what we love, and we can afford to take risks. If you publish a book traditionally and it doesn’t sell well – and quickly – it’s going to get yanked from the shelves with no second chances. If you thought it was hard to get traditionally published the first time, good luck getting a second deal, EVER, if your first book didn’t sell well. I was listening to one of Simon Whistlers’ podcasts recently with host David Gaughran, author of Let’s Get Digital, and they were discussing the fact that there are no asterisks in publishing. Even if your terrible sales record was completely beyond your control ( for instance, your book was released on 9/11, or your publisher suddenly pulled all its advertising of your book to focus on another hot release) you’re still going to be blamed for sluggish book sales. Your career could be over before it’s begun.

The worst-case scenario for a self-published book is that you’re disappointed that your book didn’t sell well, then it’s on to the next. You can even leave your book up for sale indefinitely in the hopes that it could still take off someday. And why not? The book is still part of your backlist and could still get sales as you slowly build your following.

You can slowly build your following.

And there it is – one of the coolest parts of being an indie author. Your career doesn’t have to take off like gangbusters right away. Realistically, how many endeavors are successful immediately? Almost everything worth doing takes a lot of perseverance and hard work.

So if you’ve got a book that you just love and don’t want to let go of – DON’T. You can’t expect it to make you a lot of money (though it could), but you can expect to be really excited and proud of it. That passion shines through, and you’ll probably find at least a handful of readers who really love that book of yours that means so much to you. Isn’t that what being an author is all about? That special relationship between reader and author?

I wrote a middle-grade book called THE JOYVILLE SWEAT SOX. It’s about baseball, which I love. It has lots of humor, which l love. My eleven-year-old, baseball-playing son loves the book, and I love him.

I can’t market the book, which is targeted at boys and girls aged 9-12, on Twitter. Those little people aren’t old enough to be on Facebook, and it’s not too likely they’re going to sign up for my email list anytime soon.

This book is likely not going to be hugely successful for me.

I wrote this article – Self-publishing Means Never Having to Say Goodbye – all about how sad I was that I that I was never going to publish that middle-grade novel.

Yeah, well, I’ve changed my mind.

It probably won’t make much money. So what? I don’t have an agent or a publisher breathing down my neck for big sales numbers. The publishing company releasing the book is WANNABE PRIDE publishing. MY COMPANY. I’m the boss, and I approved this project.

No, it won’t sell a ton of books, but maybe it will make a few kids laugh. Maybe I’ll get to give a talk at a school about it at some point. And, as proud as I am of QUEEN HENRY, my super-gay, pro-equality LGBT book, I know it’s not for everyone. I don’t mind talking about the book, but when someone who is uber-conservative asks me about what I’ve written, I kind of inwardly roll my eyes. Just don’t ask. You’re not gonna like it.

THE JOYVILLE SWEAT SOX is perfectly acceptable and appropriate for all ages. Knowing the kind of racy stuff I usually write, I’m not going to be able to say that often. The book is about a woman, Konnie Mack, who loves baseball but hasn’t played the sport since her beloved father passed away. It’s against the law to get mad in the town of Joyville, and her punishment for having a hot temper is to coach the local Little League team. The kids have never played baseball, so it will take a lot of patience for her to teach them without totally blowing her top.

Once this book is released, I’ll always have a book that my friends and family can read and promote to others without blushing. I can send a copy to the old orthodontic office where I used to work, and if I’m chatting up old ladies in line in the supermarket, I can recommend they buy a copy for their grandkids. I might only sell a handful of copies, but I will get to share my story after all.

And that’s pretty cool.

So if you’ve got a weird, crazy, potential-flop of a tale you really want to tell, DO IT. Go ahead and greenlight the project and make it happen! You’re the boss and you’re in charge. Don’t invest your life savings in a super-risky project, but don’t let the fear of failure stop you from pursuing something that you truly have a passion for.

The only real failure is that risk you didn’t take.

  • Linda Fausnet

**Writers:
Join my WRITERS email list for Writing Tips and Book Recommendations!
**Readers:
Join my READERS email list to receive information on my books!

On Having Realistic Expectations for Self-Publishing


Past

The average statistic that is bandied about as far as self-published book sales is 100-150. Meaning, most self-published books will not sell more than 150 books.

So my goal for Queen Henry is to sell at least 200 books.

I would really love to sell 200 books in the first year of release, but I suppose it’s more realistic to just aim for 200 for the lifetime of the book. It surprises me that the average is only 150 books, especially since you can keep your book available for sale for as long as you like. With traditional publishing, the book will eventually be yanked from the shelves — and rather quickly if it’s not selling. I am a longtime writer but first-time self-publisher, so I’m sure I will find out the hard way how difficult it really is to sell a book as an unknown author. It just seems that, eventually, you’d be able to sell a fair amount of copies IF your book is good and IF you keep up with marketing. In theory, your book could be on the virtual shelves for the rest of your life, which should be plenty of time for any truly good book to gain traction.

The book-selling statistic above kind of makes me wonder how many people give up after a while. Their book doesn’t sell like gangbusters right away, so they sort of lose interest. I know that will never happen to me. I’ve been writing for twenty years, and my passion for writing has only increased in that time. Despite the years of ups and downs, I’m still here and I’m still enthusiastic about the craft of writing. I don’t have to be a huge success to stay interested in being an author.

I think my longevity as a writer plays a big part in my ability to have realistic expectations concerning book sales. Nobody knows better than I do that writing is no get-rich-quick scheme. I’ve been doing this for twenty years for free, and I’d still be doing it for free if it weren’t for self-publishing. I’ve had close calls with success before, but so far the only people who have read my books have been my parents, close friends, and the occasional literary agent. It kind of boggles my mind to think that, finally, other people are actually reading QUEEN HENRY. Instead of having crazy fantasies about making lots of money and quitting my job (the proceeds from QUEEN HENRY will go to the Harvey Milk Foundation, but I still wouldn’t plan on quitting my day job even if all the proceeds went to me….) I am excited about each and every sale and for each and every reader. For so long I’ve been writing in silence, pouring my heart and soul into stories and characters that have been destined to gather dust on the shelf. No more. Even if, despite my best marketing efforts, I am only destined to sell a handful of books, I will still be incredibly grateful for all of those who took the time to read my story.

I really am glad that it took me twenty years to get to this point. I’ve come to understand that just because I never made it in the traditional publishing world really doesn’t mean I don’t have what it takes. I’ve paid my dues, done my time. I’ve spent years studying the craft, and I’ve written and rewritten thousands of words. I’m not perfect, but I’m ready. I’m grateful for all the time that I’ve had to spend working on the craft of writing. If self-publishing had been a viable option when I first started out, I probably would have published too soon – a mistake that far, far too many new writers make. The idea of having your work published is exciting, and it’s awfully hard to wait.

But wait I have.

Not only did I spend about a year or so writing and rewriting the novel, QUEEN HENRY (which is not to mention all the time I spent reworking the screenplay version first), but I took an entire year to learn the self-publishing process. I don’t do anything half-assed when it comes to writing. I decided if I was gonna do this, I was gonna do it right. That meant paying for professional editing, professional formatting, and a professional cover. There’s nothing wrong with self-publishing, but I wanted to make sure my book would be indistinguishable from a traditionally-published book. I believe with all my heart that the writing of my book is up to traditional publishing standards, and I want to make sure the outside looks just as professional.

My journey to publication has been long and winding. I feel like I’ve earned the right to call myself an author and I’ve been through so much over the years that I’m able to appreciate every success, no matter how small. Just selling a handful of books was a huge accomplishment for me because it’s was more than I’ve sold in twenty years of writing. I sold 65 books in my first week of publication, which surpassed my expectations!

I also appreciate each and every good review because I’ve experienced my share of rejection in two decades. I also know that I can handle bad reviews because I’ve experienced them before. Many times. That’s how you learn. And that’s something that brand-new writers have never experienced. If you’ve never submitted to an agent or a publisher, you’ve never experienced rejection. Rejection is part of the process. It’s a badge of honor, and I wear it with pride. It means that I tried, and tried hard. If you self-publish your very first novel, you don’t know what it feels like to “not” be published. I do.

As wonderful as it is to be published, I don’t really harbor any delusions about being a breakout writing success. I just want to be an author. Whatever happens, I will always know that I did my best. I never took shortcuts by publishing before I was ready and I never took the easy way out by skimping on editing or using a stock cover for my book.

What happens now is up to fate.

– Linda Fausnet

**Writers:

Join my WRITERS email list for Writing Tips and Book Recommendations!

**Readers:

Join my READERS email list to receive just the Book Recommendations!