So you’ve poured your heart and soul into a lovingly crafted 70,000 plus word novel you feel just might be the Next Big Thing. You’ve had it accepted by an e-publisher, who assigns you fantastic editors and arranges a wonderful cover. You start blogging, guest blogging, warming up Twitter and Facebook.
Full of confidence, you outline the sequel.
You spend hours on author loops, supporting others and being supported in return. Tears of joy trickle from your mother’s eyes at her budding soon-to-be-famous author offspring. The day of release arrives and your fellow authors slap you on the back. Buoyed by a wave of euphoria, you wait for those fabulous reviews to roll in to Goodreads, BN.com and Amazon. You consult NovelRank daily—sometimes hourly—for glowing sales reports.
You sell ten to fifteen copies the first few days as your friends and family rally behind you. Your Amazon rank falls below #400. When the numbers fall off, you’re not dissuaded nor discouraged. You step up your game. You make a list of review sites your publisher hasn’t contacted and send out requests for reviews…twenty or thirty of them. Maybe you buy a few inexpensive ads on Night Owl Reviews and web sites that recommend ebooks. You are generous with giveaways, and send out more free copies of your books than you’ve sold, hoping to generate reviews.
Days pass, and then weeks. Sales dive. One or two reader reviews have accrued here and there, but the review sites have completely ignored you. Not to worry, sometimes there’s a backlog, you reason. Two months go by and your grin is starting to slip. You haven’t sold a single book in weeks and your Amazon ranking is approaching #2,000,000. You’re beginning to accept the stinging reality that your book has rolled over and died.
What went wrong?
According to Bob Mayer of “Write It Forward,” first novels have a 90% failure rate. In an article from Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, statistics indicate that most indie authors sell fewer than 200 copies.
Feel better now that you know you’re in good company? No, heck no. But it’s time to conduct a post-mortem. Assuming you’re a decent writer and your story was a good one, why hasn’t your book taken off?
I was kicking the topic around with literary strategist and consultant, Bri Clark (Belle Consulting), who felt that Regency Romance is what’s strong at the moment and Highland Romance with slight paranormal elements. In an About.com article by Elizabeth Kennedy on Teen Reading Trends: 2012, the president of the Young Adult Library Services, Sarah Flowers, thinks dystopias and post-apocalypse books will be popular. She also sees steampunk and paranormal romance as still somewhat popular but perhaps vamps are fading.
Okay, but what if you don’t write that stuff? Do you switch from science fiction and try to whip up a good old-fashioned bodice-ripper or do you persevere with your Next Big Title? You didn’t become a writer to become wealthy necessarily, but neither do you wish to slave away unnoticed, leaving dozens of unsold manuscripts in the attic for your descendants to hawk or shred long after you’ve passed on.
Perhaps we should consider this exchange from the 1995 mini-series Pride and Prejudice (hat tip to Drew’s Script-O-Rama):
Jane: I should so much like…to marry for love.
Elizabeth: And so you shall, I’m sure. Only take care you fall in love with a man of good fortune.
Maybe, as struggling authors, we should write what we know and love, but take care to put in marketable elements? It certainly opens up vast new genres, doesn’t it? Secretly-passionate debutantes in space? Long-dead Highland warriors who sparkle in the sun?
Inquiring minds want to know…
As readers, what do you reach for when you want a good book? Do you look for best selling authors no matter what or are you open to a new voice with a great story? What seems tired or what never seems old?
~ S.G. Rogers
Creepy Gravestone: © Ken Cole | Dreamstime.com
Alpini Thinker: © Timothy Nichols | Dreamstime.com