Warning: I’m going to do something that is frowned upon in the publishing industry. I’m going to share actual sales numbers with you. I’m doing this because I know a lot of folks that will find this blog are struggling indie authors like me. They should know that they are not alone. It is tough to make a decent living in this business, and I’m hoping by pulling back the veil they will get a sense of what to expect when indie publishing. Here’s what to keep in my mind as you read the rest of this post.
- No one knows who C. Hoyt Caldwell is. In this online era, personal brand rules the day when it comes to book sales. Konrath, Scalzi, and Doctorow are talented writers, but their writing would go largely unnoticed if they weren’t personal brands. They make selling books look easy. It’s not. I am not Konrath. I am not Scalzi. I am not Doctorow. I am you. My experience at this point in my journey will/does closely resemble yours.
- I am an indie author. Those three authors I mentioned above come from the traditional publishing world. Konrath is currently comfortably ensconced in the indie world, and I think Doctorow paid us a brief visit, but to my knowledge, Scalzi is Tor’s wunderkind. Always has been. Always will be. Indie means I’m doing this shit on my own without a large fan base. If I sound jealous, it’s because I am. I don’t begrudge them their current positions. On the contrary, I look up to them for what they’ve accomplished. I just covet what they have.
- The odds are not in your favor. You are going to fail and feel awful about yourself repeatedly throughout your indie publishing career. If it was easy, those various bestsellers lists would be packed with authors like me counting our money and shopping for our own private writing cottages. The good news is the disappointment that is ahead of you won’t kill you. Your book will be forever available for sale in virtual space… well until virtual space collapses in on itself and destroys the known universe. You’ll still have plenty of time to make it a success.
- Your book is better than mine. Every author’s book is better than every other author’s book. It doesn’t matter. The chances your book will climb to the top of the sales charts without you relentlessly marketing it are the same as you winning an Oscar just for visiting IMDB. Okay, maybe it’s not that impossible, but it might as well be.
- Your readers are your ticket to a lot of sales. The more you have the more you’ll get. Treat them like they are responsible for your success because they are. The happier they are with you the more they multiply. I don’t know if they divide and grow like zygotes or they have some special bar where they hook up and create more readers over drinks and empty promises, but the fact is they show up in droves when you show up for them. Don’t ignore them. Engage them.
- How do you market? I have no friggin’ idea. That’s why I’m here trying to figure it out. You’re welcome to learn from my mistakes and victories, or better yet, if you know what the hell you’re doing, tell me.
And, here’s the reason I decided to write this blog today. I got a message from someone yesterday congratulating me on the sales success of Bad Way Out, and I giggled because I thought they were joking. They weren’t. They were quiet sincere. They based their comment on my current Amazon Kindle ranking. It’s somewhere in the 6,000 range. That doesn’t sound great on the surface, but when you consider there are millions of books available to buy via Kindle, it’s actually not too shabby for a guy like me.
It is, however, not good enough. Since the two day giveaway ended on April 8, a total of 60 books have been purchased on the Kindle store. Ten have been borrowed through Amazon Prime. That’s 70 books for which I will receive some kind of payment. With a $1.99 purchase price, I’m not going to be starting a retirement fund with my sales so far.
I’ve been doing some poking around. A lot of indie authors aren’t doing even that well. That’s why I got the congratulatory email. The best I can figure, if you want to make this a fulltime gig, you have to have a book that ranks in the mid to low three figures consistently. If you want to buy that writing cottage, it’s top ten or bust for many, many weeks.
As the days and weeks pass, I’ll post more sales figures. I’ll do so until it gets so low I get depressed or it gets so high there’s a chance my relatives will read about it and want to borrow money from me.
BTW – Don’t mistake this post as me complaining. I’m very grateful for the sales and reviews I’ve received so far. I’m not just going to pretend that struggling isn’t tough. It is. But, hell struggling to make it as an author is nothing compared to the other struggles out there in this sometimes too cruel world. I’m lucky as hell and happy for it.