Everyone’s journey is different and I ask only that you keep comments respectful and don’t point fingers and make the “Well, if only you would do X” comments. the point of this post is not to give people promotion ideas, it’s to remind the struggling authors out there that most of us are also struggling and you’re not alone and you should not judge your self worth – or even the worth of your writing – on whether you make a lot of money or not, nor should you get discouraged and feel hopeless because you’re not “good enough”. You ARE good enough. Your book is good enough. And half of those people you think are selling millions of books, really aren’t, anyway.
pennies for the author
The secret to making tons of money as an author is: There is no secret.
Yeah, that’s right. There’s no “If you just do X you’ll make it big.” It’s not just about marketing, it’s not just about a good book, it’s not just about great writing, it’s also about luck.
Otherwise 50 Shades of Gray would never have been big.
I got into a discussion on Facebook today where I tried to explain that to a fellow author who was feeling down about her lack of success (with only one book out, I think she’s doing pretty good if she’s sold so much as one copy to a stranger. I only sold 25 my first four months, all to people I knew), but of course that explanation was met (by someone else) with the same old same old:
“If you just do this, this, and…
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Thank you so much for this post! I needed to read this!! Recently, I came under attack for admitting I lost income, and it all boiled down to, “Well, that’s because you’re not doing X.” I have been beating my head against the wall all year and doing much more promotion than I’ve done up to this point, but I still made less money than the previous two years. It’s not fair to put that kind of blame on an author.
I know authors who have excellent books (you are one of them) and have done all the right marketing techniques, but they aren’t selling what they should be. Luck is a huge part of this equation, and authors have no control over it.
To quote the article: People read 50 Shades because “everyone else was reading it”, not because it’s good.
This is so true. I sat with fellow author Janet Syas Nitsick at a place where we were trying to sell our books, and most of the women who came up to us asked, “Do have 50 Shades of Grey?” Upon talking to them, we found out they had no idea what the book was about. They wanted it because they heard of it from someone else. They were willing to buy it without knowing a single thing about it.
A lot of the “long term” authors I know have taken hits. I think we’re to the point where we’ve passed the market peak, and it just gets tougher. Plus there’s market saturation. People aren’t converting to eReaders in droves anymore, and there’s a good chance concerning back lists that those who may be interested in a book already have it – add to the KU and KS making free books the norm, and it all equals fewer sales.
Aw, thank you! And Exactly. I borrowed the book from my niece (I did not even get half through it) because everyone else read – period. Though I wanted to see if it was really as bad as they said, but still I’d have never gone looking for it, and had I run into I’d have never purchased it or borrowed it if everyone else wasn’t reading it.
I’m glad you mentioned that about “long term” authors you’ve talked to. I’ve heard this, too, but it’s like the redheaded stepchild no one wants to talk about. It’s not cool to talk about, so people don’t. And if you dare mention it, you get criticized.
Even more horrible is being criticized for believing that writing doesn’t have to be about money. While it’s nice to make it and want to make it, if an author isn’t obsessed with it, why is that wrong? I never started writing because I thought I was going to make money. I just wanted to tell a story I wanted to read. I lucked into it. I didn’t luck into millions of dollars. I’m not anywhere near that. But I have been able to support my family with the help of my husband’s military pension. There’s nothing I did that was any different than most authors, and honestly, there’s a lot of stuff I didn’t do that I was told I must do by marketing gurus. I have no idea how it happened. Luck isn’t all of the equation, but I do believe it plays a part.
Thank you!!! This! Exactly this! And if you say you’re not in it to make money it automatically means that you must put out a shoddy product and not work at it, because if you did work at it then money would be your only goal. Ugh! Why can’t we work hard, and put out a good product for the sake of putting out a good product? What is wrong with doing something well just for the pride of doing it well? Why do people assume that everyone has to have a monetary incentive in order to put out effort? Like you said, it’s nice to make money, and I’d love to make a million, but if I don’t that’s fine. There have to more than just the three of us who feel that way…right?
You work hard at your craft. You’re extremely professional, and your work is top notch. No, we can’t be the only three. There has to be others out there.
And by the way, I appreciated that post you’re talking about. Your candor and honesty about the markets are one of the things I have always admired about you!
When I began publishing my novels in 2010, I promised myself I’d never worry about sales. I’d worked hard and saved enough money so that I’d never have to concern myself with making a living on my writing. I was also lucky. I’m gay, I have a long-term financially solvent partner, and we never had children to raise, put through college and pay for their weddings. When people tell me I must do this or that to be a successful writer, I see 99% of the time this or that is what they happen to be selling. I’ve never attempted to calculate how many books I’ve sold or given away. I simply don’t care. Many thanks for this post, Joleene, and for your comment, Ruth Ann.
I love this comment! This is exactly what I was trying to get across to the author I was speaking to on facebook – that writing with the idea of selling millions and making millions is just asking for heartbreak. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work hard, or write great books or even hope for the great breakthrough (for some reason people seem to think the things are mutually exclusive – you have to either be obsessed with sales numbers or you are “sloppy” and don’t care at all – this drives me nuts!) but that we should not pin all our self worth on it, because success can be measured in a million different ways, and only one of them involves money.
(I’m lucky and have no children either, and a hubby with a good job, though for me it’s usually fellow authors telling me what I *should* be doing. Long posts and articles that state “you must do X to be a *real* author or be successful etc etc”. I often think it is more of a way to make the cliques and define the “real” from the “not real” – the “good enough” from the “not good enough”, and that always makes me sad.)
Ron, I’ve always loved your attitude about writing. You’ve been a breath of fresh air because you’ve never made me or anyone else feel inferior if we didn’t live up to some preconceived expectation of what success should be. You’ve only offered support and encouragement, and that has been a real blessing. Thank you.
Another reason I don’t pay much attention to what people tell me I should be doing: I’m always too busy writing my next novel, as I am now. I love reading your posts and comments, Ruth Ann and Joleene. You’re the breath of fresh air to me.
Thank you for posting this! I know more than a few authors who are getting discouraged because they feel they’re not selling well enough, while some of their friends are doing great, making the bestseller lists, etc. I saw the same thing in traditional publishing, though. Very few authors make enough to even make a living at it, and fewer still get rich doing it. In my previous life (tradition publishing), I was really competitive; now, I don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. I write what I want to write, and if it does well, great. If not, I can live with it.
Of course, being retired and getting a monthly Social Security check helps keep that attitude….
And the bestseller list on Amazon doesn’t mean much. With those numbers I’ve been on the paid list twice and the free one three or four times. Now the New York list I’ll never see. But that’s okay. Lots of amazing writers never have, and it doesn’t make them any less amazing to me! 🙂
Did you see the post about a guy who made a book about his foot and made the Amazon bestseller list by picking a very small niche and selling three copies? Let me see if I can dig it up. This article is one of the funniest I’ve ever read. It does have an ad or two that pop up, but it’s worth passing through those because the content is hilarious and illustrates a good point on how meaningless those Amazon bestseller lists really are. http://observer.com/2016/02/behind-the-scam-what-does-it-takes-to-be-a-bestselling-author-3-and-5-minutes/
Ha ha! Thanks! I need to check this out!