Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: What About All The Authors Whose Books Don’t Sell Very Many Copies?

Top Posts & Pages for #Readers, #Writers, & #Publishers


I usually promote a post from other blogs on Sundays; but, today, I’ll promote the most visited posts and pages on this blog since its beginning in January of 2011

There have been over 105,000 visits

35,035 visits were to the main page—showing whatever posts happened to be current.

5,228 visits were to the About Page, which is usually a well-viewed feature on most any blog.

2,126 were to Writing Challenge ~ Use The 1200 Most Common Words To Write A Story…

 

1,837 were to * The Book ~ Notes from An Alien

1,216 were to Why Do Certain People Become Writers?

975 went to Free Software for Writers . . .

718 went to What’s The “Best” Way To Learn “Proper” Grammar?

635 went to Are Fiction Writers Capable of Freelancing?

601 went to * Behind The Scenes . . .

600 went to Diagramming Sentences ~ A Lost Art?

585 ended up at The Danger of A Single Story

483 visits went to * Our Author Interviews

453 were to What’s The Relationship Between A Writer & Their Characters?

438 were visits to Writing ~ Is It A Craft or An Art?

And, finally, 406 lucky people ended up at What About All The Authors Whose Books Don’t Sell Very Many Copies?

These were the most visited of 1,787 posts and 9 pages…

So, why did I say the 406 folks who went to What About All The Authors Whose Books Don’t Sell Very Many Copies? were lucky?

Because, I consider that post the most important thing I’ve written in the last six years of blogging.

If you’re new here, you can also access the Top Tags widget (further down on the left side-bar) for a handy way to find groups of posts with similar ideas
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Does Book Promotion Actually Help Sell Books?


As far as my experience goes (and, the experience of the trusted souls I seek advice from…), there is no simple or definitive answer to the question, “Does Book Promotion Actually Help Sell Books?”

I am going to be sharing excerpts from an article on Jane Friedman’s blog by a guest writer, which is about seeking “Influencers” to help with book promotion; but, I must give you fair warning by quoting myself from a post back in 2013, What About All The Authors Whose Books Don’t Sell Very Many Copies?

“An extremely small percentage of writers sell more than 500 copies of a book…

“One source I checked said this:

“’…in 2004, 950,000 titles out of the 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies. Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies. Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies.’

“’The average book in America sells about 500 copies’ (Publishers Weekly, July 17, 2006). And average sales have since fallen much more. According to BookScan, which tracks most bookstore, online, and other retail sales of books, only 299 million books were sold in 2008 in the U.S. in all adult nonfiction categories combined. The average U.S. book is now [2011] selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime.”

Now to move on to the article by Angela Ackerman on Jane Friedman’s blog, How to Find and Reach Influencers to Help Promote Your Book.

First excerpt:

“As a writing coach and avid user of social media, one of the most heartbreaking things I see is when an author puts a ton of effort into writing, editing, polishing, and finally publishing a book—only to see it fail to gain traction in the marketplace. Often this comes down to a marketing misstep that’s all too common: failing to understand (and therefore reach) one’s ideal book audience.”

I must insert some personal info…

I’ve been using the readers of this blog as my “ideal book audience” for the last 5 years…

Since November of last year, I’ve added my followers on Wattpad

Since last week, I’ve been focusing on adding a new potential audience—mostly college students that hang-out at a groovy coffee house…

I’m in that coffee house right now…

Plus, I’ve been giving my novel away—Grab a copy Here or check out this post—Free = Sales ~ Give It Away & Sell More…—for “justification”…

And, even though Angela is very “upbeat” in her article about finding Influencers to help you sell books, I want to help you insulate yourself against disappointment if none of your efforts help you sell books (don’t forget the first link in this post…)…

So, back to excerpts from Angela—first, her list of Influencers:

popular authors who write very similar books

bloggers who are passionate about a topic or theme that ties into the author’s book

well-regarded book reviewers

bookstore owners

librarians

organizers of literacy or book programs and events

teachers and instructors

groups and organizations that cover the same specific interest featured in the author’s book

celebrities (hey, it can’t hurt, right?)

businesses that cater to the same audience as the author’s in some way

forums and websites dedicated to the same topic/event/theme explored in the author’s book

well-connected individuals (who endorse the book or author to other influential people)

people who are passionate about a particular topic/theme (that ties into the author’s book)

fans of the author and her work (if the author is established)

Very good list

She also has a section titled, How to Reach Out to an Influencer.

And, a short section titled, Remember Anyone Can Be an Influencer.

Plus, How Do You Find Your Influencers?

And, with the strong recommendation that you (if you’re a writer…) go read the full article, I leave you one last excerpt from Angela:

“Bottom line, wouldn’t you just love it if one day someone came to you and offered to put your name forward because they liked and admired you? So, adopt the mindset of a giver. Ask yourself what value you can add, what you can do for others. If you can help, do, because you never know when it will come back to you tenfold. (This is coming from someone who knows this firsthand!)”

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What’s Wrong with #Selfpublishing ?


Three years ago I wrote what I consider my most important post; and, that’s most important out of 1,400-some posts… 

It’s called, What About All The Authors Whose Books Don’t Sell Very Many Copies?

One of the main points in the post was how wrong some writers’ opinions can be when they only look at authors who’ve sold thousands or millions of books.

They seem to cling to what those authors have said about how to be a “success”—they usually find no success

Naturally, “success” can come in many colors and knowing that the book trade these days is in rapid and confusing transformation can lead some writers to quit and others to redefine what “success” really means

Part of my point in today’s post depends on what the differences are between Self-publishing and Traditional publishing <— those links will show you posts I’ve written about these seemingly contradictory methods of publishing (This post will show up in those links since I’ll be tagging it with both terms :-).

So, I’ll now introduce you to the author Ros Barber.

She had an article in The Guardian this month called For me, traditional publishing means poverty. But self-publish? No way.

For me, that title is a little ball of mystery and contradiction

I found out that The Guardian wrote that title because she wrote a blog post—“You” = “One” = “Me”—that tries to excuse her from what she wrote in the article.

The blog post was a big ball of mystery with a different blend of contradictions

I’ll share some excerpts from her Guardian article, as well as my opinions.

Under the topic heading, “You have to forget writing for a living”, she says, in part:

“If you self-publish your book, you are not going to be writing for a living. You are going to be marketing for a living….if your passion is creating worlds and characters, telling great stories, and/or revelling in language, you might want to aim for traditional publication.”

I must mention her blog post about The Guardian article to let you share in some of the mystery of how this author expresses herself.

She got quite a bit of negative feedback from The Guardian article

In the blog post, she says her biggest mistake was using “you” as an “indefinite pronoun” since she didn’t want the article to be full of the word “I” and that “one” was “too posh”, etc….

In spite of what the received “wisdom” of Grammar might say, if “you” read the words, “If you self-publish your book”, do you think the writer is talking about themselves or about “You”?

And, there are plenty of ways to let folks know about a self-published book without intensive “marketing”—just one being to put it on Wattpad in serialized segments and interact with folks a bit—it doesn’t, by any means, have to take more time promoting a book than writing more of them.

And, the second half of that first excerpt is Way out there

Is it absolutely impossible to create worlds and characters, tell great stories, and/or revel in language in a self-published book?

Is to “aim for traditional publishing” going to magically make a writer create worlds and characters, tell great stories, and/or revel in language??

Let me excerpt only her other topic headings (so I don’t have to become entwined in her mysterious manner of justification) and comment a bit on each:

“Self-publishing can make you behave like a fool”

Now, if I could have read her blog post before I read her Guardian article, I would have known that she meant she had acted like a fool

Simple little logic question here:

Because she acted like a fool in her self-publishing adventures (or, because she feels she would act like a fool—it’s hard to know since she has self-published but she claimed in the blog post that “you” means her, so why does she show someone else’s “foolish” twitter behavior?)

Sorry, have to start over since I tried too hard in that last sentence to be fair to an author who says one thing but certainly appears to mean another

This is the logic question: If someone who’s self-published has acted like a fool in their promotion efforts, does that mean everyone who self-publishes will act like a fool?

And, let me try to be yet more fair with this logic question (since she claims “you” means her): If Ros Barber acted like a fool about self-publishing, does that mean most folks will?

Next topic heading:

“Gatekeepers are saving you from your own ego”

“Gatekeepers” is a word for various people in the Traditional publishing industry; but, I’m wearing myself out trying to be fair to this author, so I’ll just ask you to read my past post, Are Readers Going To Be The New Gatekeepers?

Next topic heading:

“Good writers become good because they undertake an apprenticeship. Serving your apprenticeship is important”

“Your apprenticeship” in that heading refers to writing a number of books and having them turned down by traditional publishers.

What’s to stop a person from writing a whole bunch of books, self-publishing them, finding out that each time they published their books were a bit better?

And, if they’re worried that publishing a string of “bad” books might harm their reception when they’ve reached a point in their personal apprenticeship where they have a fairly decent book to offer, they can just self-publish to a select audience (Wattpad come to mind again…) until they feel they can hit the major self-publishing channels.

Why not learn how to interact with an audience of readers as you improve your work instead of waiting for the opinion of one traditional publisher to shine on your effort with God-like grace?

Next heading:

“You can forget Hay festival and the Booker”

“Hay” and “Booker” are the award programs that seem to me like riding a merry-go-round and waiting for someone who might happen to walk past throw a gold ring at you

Next heading:

“You risk looking like an amateur”

If I tried to rationally deal with what she says in this section, I’d need a vacation in Australia to recuperate

This section tries to make people believe that to “look like” a “professional” author you must entrust the editing, cover, marketing, and publicists to a traditional publisher.

And, the magic belief that “proves” her point is that it will cost a fortune to do all that as a self-published author.

Do I really need to explain that, as self-publishing has gained market-share, entrepreneurs in all those areas have devised relatively low-cost ways to accomplish all those tasks?

In fact, because I’ve been researching and writing about the book world for the last five years, I’m sure there are more options for editing, cover production, marketing, etc. than ever before and they will only increase—when a market is expanding, people rush to take advantage of it (naturally, one must use common sense in judging the trustworthiness of people—I won’t mention the lack of trust many authors have from their experience with traditional publishers—oops, Damn!, I mentioned it…)

“70% of nothing is nothing”

Here she’s referring to a very common royalty percentage offered to self-published authors.

She’s also expressing her opinion of the odds of selling scads of self-published books.

As an argument for never self-publishing and entrusting your writing career to traditional publishers, that heading takes no account of the sales histories of most traditionally published authors (Please read this particular post…).

And, please, also, don’t forget the title of this author’s Guardian post: “For me, traditional publishing means poverty. But self-publish? No way”.

And, even though in the blog post about the Guardian article she says The Guardian wrote the title, I feel the article (along with the blog post) more than justifies what the title claims

I usually encourage folks to read the complete article I’m reporting on

If you can stand peculiar, one-sided “logic”, go ahead and read Barber’s article; but, also, to be fair to her, read the blog post she wrote after the article appeared

I’ve said it before and I stand up and shout it now:

Words are slippery critters; and, sentences are slipperier—God save us from paragraphs and longer written works!

You do know I’m “somewhat” kidding, right…?
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4 Bloggers Have A Conversation About The Book World


Back on the 19th of January, I had an interview with author Philippa A. Rees.

Four Blogs Have A Conversation about the Book World

Image Courtesy of Michal Zacharzewski ~ http://www.freeimages.com/profile/mzacha

In her blog post, The Egotism of Expertise- Interior Conformity, she said:

“A few recent posts have been devoted to a collective wail about the impossibility of non-genre books ever being discovered in the goose step parade of all the others who polish their boots and take steps in synchrony with guidelines and expectations.”

But the story of this conversation goes back to January 5th on Vivienne Tuffnell’s blog, Zen and The Art of Tightrope Walking, and the post, The Loss of Joy. Here are a few brief excerpts:

“Did blogging drive away my joy in writing?”

“No, I think it started to go around the same time I began to explore the possibility of publishing.”

Then, she speaks of being “…drained by the demands from all the other aspects of self-publishing.”

And continues with:

“There is a vast ocean of books out there and a flotilla of rafts bearing authors all pointing their oars at a speck in the ocean indistinguishable from all the other specks, shouting, ‘BUY MY BOOK!’, all at the tops of their voices.”

A bit later, the riposte:

“And if you don’t sell, you’re a failure. You’re told to pull up your big girl panties, do your research, do the necessary work of learning new skills. Or give up and stop clogging the ocean with your specky books.”

There is much more to ponder in Vivienne’s post; but, I’ll leave it to you to discover an eloquent plaint that I feel many writers keep to themselves as they struggle through the landscape of today’s Book World

The conversation continues back on Philippa’s blog when she interviews Vivienne in the post, Defining the Gulf: The Debate: Writers seeking Readers. At what Cost? To Both?

Philippa:I get the impression from your blog that essentially you still believe that your original reasons remain intact. It is the gulf between expressing those truly and creatively and the erosion of the world that values books, or your kind of books. So essentially your despair lies in the so called ‘market’ and in its maelstrom the impossibility of finding readers. Is that the nub of it?”

Vivienne: “I think it’s a big part of it, for sure.”

Philippa: “If it is, would it be fair to suggest that it is the loneliness of being unwilling to compromise? You don’t want to write for the prevailing market. I don’t either, in fact I would not know how to, so is the essence of this problem the very uniqueness you want to write about?”

Vivienne“The prevailing market is founded on the very stale essence of what has already sold. It’s thrice chewed, and therefore pap. That’s not to say there’s nothing good or worth reading but the essence of much of it is tired and jaded. Some of the most famous and excellent authors have found that writing the same story over and over again is what their fans clamour for, and if they diverge from a tried and true formula there are howls of protest from readers and publishers alike.”

Again, there is much more of worth to read in that interview—two women discussing some sad and depressing qualities of today’s Book World

The next writer in this conversation is Ashen, on her blog, Course of Mirrors, with the post, … the gulf between writers and readers …

She says, concerning the above interview:

“This disrupted my sleep, in addition to lots of other stuff going on, so I tried stepping back for a wider perspective. No answers, only a few muddled reflections …”

And, later, these dynamite thoughts:

“In our present culture the commercial speed train whistles through every zone of life. Publishers are among many enterprises struggling to survive amidst overproduction. The ‘Road Closed Pending Repairs’ signs Philippa refers to in her interview grow like mushrooms….Plenty of people I know look beyond the more-is-better and cheaper hype, but their numbers won’t topple the algorithm-driven logic of mass-cargo firms like Amazon (click for latest newsletter.) Their long term strategy is to please the consumer, which, now, increasingly, includes writers who self-publish … To make profit in an oversaturated market requires ever-new smart inventions.”

Then, a bit later:

“I never shook hands with or exchanged a hug with Vivienne, but I empathise with her loss of joy, and her frustration with the ironic and antagonistic attitudes of people who belittle deeper strands of truth for fear of looking inside, and the sense of being a square peg that doesn’t fit the neat round hole of genres and algorithms.

“Many writers will recognise these obstacles, including Philippa, and myself. How do we attract and persuade people to sample the green growth in our plot? At the same time, I’m convinced we are co-creating artists of our continuous self-invention. Mourning a not-yet existing frame for our work  might hinder this process, which moves and dances naturally through each breath.”

Again, there is much more to ponder in Ashen’s full post

So, I want to add to the conversation by recalling something said in one of my past posts, What About All The Authors Whose Books Don’t Sell Very Many Copies?

I won’t pretend that what I quote from that post is the main point of this conversation about the Book World (spanning the minds of four writers); but, it is brought up and bemoaned—my response is personal, yet may resonate for other writers

From that past post, this quote from Tobias S. Buckell:

in business school there’s this point made that if you interview rich people who have won the lottery, you might come to believe that playing the lottery is the only way to become rich. I thought that was interesting. One of the things I’m constantly trying to point out is that we’re not doing nearly enough to highlight both median and failure modes, because that’s where the real lessons lie. As for myself, I find message boards where new writers struggle to sell more than a few copies interesting, and where I harvest data about the low end.”

And, to end this post, I’ll share a link, from my past post, to the post of Tobias, where that last quote came from:

Survivorship bias: why 90% of the advice about writing is bullshit right now
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