That difficult second... quarter?
I've just returned from an incredible holiday. It's been 7 long years since I had a proper holiday away with my children (and indeed the whole of my family), and it was incredible.
So why is it, when it comes to writing, I am so stuck?
I read an article the other day that the average author sells 200 books in a year. That is a depressingly small figure. This isn't about money: the idea of writing is to bring joy to people who enjoy your genre or style. But that is a huge amount of effort to please a couple of roomfuls of people. In fact you could almost achieve as much by buying a few pints for random strangers. It would certainly take a lot less effort for a lot more feedback!
In fact I have no idea how many books I have sold. Because books are sold on a sale
or return basis (i.e. shops give them back to publishers if they don't sell), some publishers can be very reticent about giving any figures until the royalties are due. In consequence, this also makes it very hard to find things to celebrate, or even to work out if any marketing you do yourself has any impact.
The question has to be, why are so few books sold by most authors? It's a complex one to answer. For a start, publishers only tend to push books of established authors, which makes it even less likely that a new author will succeed. Occasionally publishers will take a punt on a new author and go for huge exposure - though even here some of the practices by some retailers are pretty depressing. Examples include bookstores that place books on their bestseller lists on the basis that they might become bestsellers, or because a publisher has paid to put them there. Particularly savvy authors build up a following before they publish, but self-publicising is not a skill (or indeed a desire) of many authors.
This is definitely a huge hurdle for me. Even walking into Waterstones to sign a copy of my book on the shelf, as I did today, takes quite a lot of energy. As for asking friends to write a review if they enjoyed your novel; this is really something you can only ask once (maybe twice with a really good friend!). But in reality, you are completely dependent on those reviews, and you have to find some way to get them. Ultimately word of mouth is your only friend, and you need to become a social media advocate and happy to sell yourself... or hope someone else loves your book so much they will do it for you.
Any volunteers? :)
The photo is Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe border, in case you are wondering.