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

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Self-Publishing – Making Your Own Luck

 

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I’ve always said that there are three elements to a successful writing career – Talent, Perseverance, and Luck. The trouble is, you really only control one of those things.
Perseverance.

The stick-to-it-iveness.
The not-giving-up, working-as-hard-as-you-possibly-can part.

As far as talent is concerned, you either have it or you don’t. Fortunately, I seem to have some degree of writing talent to work with. Add a large degree of perseverance to that degree of talent, and I at least have a shot at making it as a successful writer.
Luck is just random. Some good writers get published by traditional publishers. Most don’t. And there is absolutely nothing you can do to improve your luck when it comes to getting a literary agent or big publisher to give you a chance.

The whole self-publishing deal changes the whole dynamic. For once, it’s the hard workers, not the lucky ones, who can find success. I’ve spent fifteen years working hard as a screenwriter, and then four years working hard as a novelist. I’ve had a few near misses with success, but have ultimately been unlucky.

Like in Hollywood,  traditional publishers count on those huge blockbusters – the Harry Potters, the 50 Shades of Grey, the Hunger Games kind of books to make their money. They make very little money on moderately successful, known as midlist, authors so they don’t pay them much mind. Simply put, publishers and agents aren’t interested in writers unless they think they will become the “next big thing”. The beauty of self-publishing is that an individual author *can* make money with midlist-type of success. Indie authors don’t have to sell nearly as many books to make a living as a traditionally published writer does because we don’t have to fork over well over half of the money to somebody else!
If you’re a really hardworking indie author who is willing and able to write lots of good books, over time you can make your own success. I’m so excited at

the prospect of actually being able to make money doing something that I love.
Plus, you know, there’s that whole thing about having people actually READ your books. That’s the best part for me. It really is. If I cared just about making money, I wouldn’t be donating the proceeds from my first published book to the Harvey Milk Foundation. This isn’t just my first published book, it’s also my favorite and it practically makes me tear up just thinking about the fact that people have actually bought and read it! Real readers who read it because they liked the concept and they wanted to read it and see what happens.

Real readers are so much different than making family members and friends read my book whether they want to or not. My closest family members and friends have read it (Thank you, guys!) but I have other friends, acquaintances, and coworkers who claim they want to read it, ask for me to send it to them, and then I never hear another word about it. It’s gotten to the point where I just smile and nod as I listen to them tell me that they can’t wait to read it. Suuuuuure you’ll read it, I think.

They never do.

When I published QUEEN HENRY, people bought it. People read it. Not thousands, but readers nonetheless.
No matter the number, how big or how small, people will continue to read it. People who I don’t know. They don’t know me, but they’re going to come to know Henry and Thomas and Sam and Alice, those characters that I’ve lived with and loved for so long.
To paraphrase a well-known inspirational baseball film (you have to whisper it…):

If you write it, people will read.

I better stop. I’m tearing up again….

Linda Fausnet

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Why I Decided to Self-Publish My Novel

 

Little Red Hen

I guess there were lots of reasons I decided to self-publish after all these years. I think the #1 reason was that I wrote a novel that I couldn’t bear the idea of not getting published. It’s kind of like the wonderful speech the best man, Steve, gave at our wedding. When my husband was going to propose to me, Steve said he advised him “the thing you have to ask yourself is – can I spend the rest of my life with this woman?” to which Bill replied, “The question is, could I spend the rest of my life without her?”

Is Bill the best or what??

I began asking myself – can I spend the rest of my life without getting this particular novel published?

As a writer whose ultimate goal was to be traditionally published, I’ve written a lot of books that I knew might never see the light of day. I’ve spent months – even years – researching, planning, outlining, writing, rewriting, getting critiqued, rewriting again, perfecting, and polishing books that, quite possibly, no one would ever read. I poured my heart, soul, and every ounce of emotion that I could muster into those tales knowing full well that my stories and my characters might languish on the shelf collecting dust for all eternity. There’s a long list of agents and publishers to query to try to get these novels read and published, but it is a finite list. Sooner or later, I do come to the end of it. When I reach the end of the line and I still have no agent to represent me and no publisher to publish it, it’s all over for that particular novel. There’s just nothing more that I can do for it.

I’ve come close – maddeningly close – to getting an agent, but so far I’m still unagented. Unpublished. But that’s okay.

Or is it?

I was approaching a dubious anniversary. July of 2014 marked my 20th anniversary as a still unagented and unpublished writer. Now to be fair, I was a screenwriter for 15 of those years. This is pretty much an exercise in futility if you live 3000 miles away from an industry that is nearly 100% based on who you know. Still, I did manage to get two screenplays optioned with production companies in Los Angeles. I’ve really only been writing novels since 2009, so it really isn’t that terrible that I still don’t have an agent. I had a New York City agent read one of my novels and tell me that she did want to represent me, but her current caseload wouldn’t allow it. She told me that my novel “has an excellent chance of publication” and that she “enjoyed it immensely”. This may not sound like a big deal, but when you’ve been around as long as I have, you know that agents don’t say that kind of thing unless they really mean it. I was getting closer.

Still. Twenty years is an awfully long time to invest in something that hasn’t exactly panned out yet. For the most part, I’m okay with the wannabe life. It’s hard as hell to get an agent or get published, but I work hard as hell and I’m not giving up. So there you have it.

But yet…

I turned my favorite screenplay – QUEEN HENRY – into my favorite novel of the same name. I’ve always loved the story and the characters. I wrote the novel several years ago and I swear, I still hear Henry’s voice in my head. I’ve written three novels since then, but nothing I’ve written has ever resonated in my head and in my heart the way that story still does. It’s the story of a homophobic, macho, major league baseball player who takes part in a clinical drug trial to treat his asthma and the experimental drug has an unusual side effect: it makes him gay. At first, Henry is horrified to suddenly be attracted to men instead of women. Then he falls in love with a wonderful man and learns the important lesson that love really is love after all.

Believe me, that’s story’s been through a lot of changes over the years.

I got the worst reviews of my life when I first queried with the screenplay version. I mean, just bloody awful, terrible, no-good reviews that absolutely ripped out my heart. But I couldn’t bear to give up on my story. I rewrote the screenplay over and over and over again, working with a respected industry script analyst. I battled my way back and eventually QUEEN HENRY was a finalist in a small but national screenplay contest. They referred to the script as a “fun and uplifting story that combines baseball, homosexuality, and peach schnapps.” This was huge victory for me. Sure, it was a small contest and I was just a finalist, but it truly was an amazing accomplishment considering how bad the story was in the beginning. I loved the story so much that I stuck with it, refusing to give up. In the end, I finally got the story right.

Then, after I wrote the novel, I queried everywhere and got the worst response rate for anything I’d ever written. No one wanted any part of it. Every agent I queried told me that it wouldn’t sell because it’s a gay-themed story. No one even gave it chance. Not even a look. Just a NO when they found out what the story was about. But I found I still couldn’t bear to give up on it.

I had my heart set on traditionally publishing, but that’s just not going to happen with this novel. So, I could just put QUEEN HENRY back on the shelf and watch it gather dust, or…

I’m reminded of the story of the little red hen. She asks and asks and nobody will help her plant, harvest, mill, or bake the grain of wheat into bread. “Then I will do it myself,” said the little red hen.

That’s why I decided that, in July of 2014 on my 20th anniversary of being a wannabe writer, I was going to publish QUEEN HENRY for the following damn good reasons:

1. I want to prove to the world that a “gay-themed” story will sell.

2, I want to donate all of the proceeds to the Harvey milk Foundation.

3. I can’t live without publishing this novel.

No one would help the little red-headed writer write, edit, rewrite, polish, publish, or promote her book.

“Then I will do it myself,” said the little red-headed writer.

And she did.

QUEEN HENRY, now available at the following retailers:

Amazon eBook 

Paperback

Smashwords

Barnes and Noble

 

* All proceeds net of taxes will go to the Harvey Milk Foundation **

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