The storytelling world is tough, and the mainstream media almost only ever highlights two opposite ends of the scale: 1) How most people fail, and 2) The examples of those who have made it huge, who are – of course – few and far between and a million-to-one shot. In the self-publishing world, you’re either one of the authors who can barely afford to eat, or the 50 Shades/Hugh Howey breakthrough that gets movie deals and worldwide publishing deals.
Just like in filmmaking, where there are low-budget films that crossover and receive mainstream attention, and the $200m blockbusters that you can’t escape from if you tried, there are indie authors who don’t fall into the low-end or the featured-in-The-Guardian-because-they’ve-sold-a-shedload brigade. They simply put pen to paper and keep publishing their novels, and they’ve built up a solid body of work and sales as a result.
I’m writing this because you rarely get to hear about the guys who are simply plugging along, and I think it’s unhealthy to concentrate solely on the mega successes and the failure. Like Hans Solo says, “Never tell me the odds!” I’m here to tell you that your book sales stats mean absolutely zip, and that you should keep on trucking regardless of your Amazon ranking. Here’s a few reasons why:
They can become an obsession
When you start worrying about the sales, and the odds of getting enough book sales to pay off the mortgage, that’s when they become an obsession, and the work will suffer as a result. Surely nobody gets into the writing game expecting to become an overnight smash, and have Channing Tatum banging down your door to play the lead in your movie adaptation? Keep telling the stories you want to write and get them out into the world. Everything else is out of your hands. Enjoy the ride.
They can make you feel inferior
Self-doubt and fear has ended more writing careers than knowing the difference between ‘they’re’ and ‘their’ ever will. Talent is a 50% of the game, luck is 30%, timing is 20% and the other 30% is being terrible at maths. Jokes aside, it’s easy to become bitter and twisted when your hard-hitting family saga is selling a dozen copies a month when 50 Shades is selling like cupcakes. Many great writers have turned away when what they should have done is kept plugging away. If your book stats are making your feel inferior, look at ways that you can improve your marketing. Or better yet, write another book.
They can make you desperate
This might make me sound like I’m being mean, but I can’t stand it when indie authors Tweet about their book all day long, and mention themselves in the third person within the Tweets. If I Tweeted out: “@DaleyJFrancis: Daley James Francis’s space tragedy SPACE MONKEY 2: THE WAR BEGINS is OUT NOW!” I’d never be able to live with myself, yet I see it all the time, and it wreaks of desperation.
Indie authors should be in this for the long haul. Keep writing those books, get them professionally edited and get a stunning cover made. Then load it up to as many online channels as possible and build that audience the best way you know how. If you build it, they may come. But if they don’t yet, don’t panic. You’re building a lasting legacy with your words. Keep building and forget the stats!