How to Survive Slow Book Sales

Snail

Slow Sales?

So, you’ve written your first indie masterpiece, which, no doubt, has solicited glowing tributes from friends and family. You’ve edited it, procured an arresting cover, and posted it up on Amazon, eagerly awaiting that first shower of appreciative reviews before sales start to pour in.

Early the next morning, you fire up your amazon kdp account, your eyes wide with expectation, and check your unit sales column.

Empty!

This can’t be. There must be some mistake. Perhaps America is off on holiday today. Wait. Don’t book sales take a while to show up? They’re probably bunching up at this very moment.

Anyway, best not think about it. Check again tomorrow.

The next day flips over like an egg on toast, sunny side down. It’s early morning. Really early. 2am to be precise. You need the bathroom and decide to check on sales again. You keep one eye shut.

The cold pang scuttles up from your solar plexus and settles on your chest. Still not a single sale to report! You’ll never get to sleep now. And you no longer feel like going to the bathroom.

You stumble to the kitchen to make yourself a cup of coffee, and, in a flood of self-doubt, you pour over your manuscript again, looking for mistakes.

You find two and quickly correct them. Damn! How did they manage to slip through? They could cost you your writing career! You should have hired a professional editor, after all. Too late now.

You upload the corrected manuscript.

Next day, having taken a mild off-the-shelf sedative to help you sleep, you manage to hold out till sunup before switching on your screen and checking on that sales column again.

Empty.

Well, that just about tears it! There can no longer be any doubt. You suck as a writer. People have exaggerated your abilities, probably because you seemed so darned determined to succeed.

That must be it. If you were really any good, this would not be happening. Talent, after all, is impervious to failure. Isn’t it?

Just as well you kept your day job. You’re never typing another word again. Ever!

Boo hoo.

—-

Ring a bell? It does for me. That is pretty much how I remember my early amazon experience with my first ever novel, Scarab. The book languished in obscurity for many days before sales began to appear. A trickle at first. Then a rivulet. And finally a torrent. But those first few days felt like an eternity.

With the sales, came the reviews. Most were very good. A couple were downright nasty. One of the reviewers suggested that my level of English languished below that of primary school. Ironically enough, whenever a nasty review came in, sales picked up dramatically, as if discerning readers were shouting it down with their credit cards.

Scarab went to number one in the bestseller lists in the scifi/hi-tech categories at amazon.com and amazon.co.uk and stayed in the top ten for many months. It was balm to my worst fears. The rest, as they say, is history.

So, what have I learnt from my experience, and from comments by fellow indie writers?

Simply this: if you have a modicum of talent and are willing to work hard, you will inevitably improve and eventually succeed.

But what do you focus on while sales remain tardy?

The answer is simple: Write that next book! And the next! And the next! John Locke believes that new writers shouldn’t publish before they have written several books. That way, when success comes for one, it will come for the others. He should know. He sold a million books.

We could too!

Summary

Write more books while waiting for sales of your current one to pick up; better still, write a whole bunch and release them simultaneously.

Invitation

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Image by: fdecomite
License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

3 thoughts on “How to Survive Slow Book Sales

  1. Carradee

    Writing the next book IS best. I have…something of a “benefit”, here, because I’ve known from the start that my two main series are comparable to the Death Gate Cycle, in that the reader can’t TRULY understand what’s going on until book 4 or so…and I only have book 2 out in both series. Sales are low, but that’s okay. I don’t promote—and I won’t until book 3 is out at least, if not book 4.

    But speaking of books 3 & 4, one of the series has book 3 drafted (on Wattpad) and book 4 in progress (also on Wattpad). I’m actually pretty successful over there. Not insanely so, but half a million reads on book 1 in about a year isn’t anything to sneeze at, and now my book 4 is trending on the Fantasy list.

    And even on Wattpad, the major thing that gained me rabid fans was getting books 3 & now 4 up. As I keep posting in book 4 in that series, book 1 is averaging ≥1k reads per day.

    My reviews and sales on vendors are still low, but that’s okay. (For instance, I foolishly didn’t put buy links on my actual profile page until, well, this past week. Oops.) And I’ve been getting some AMAZING comments on Wattpad.

    So though it’s disheartening to see what results when people only have books 1 or 1 & 2 in hand, it’s also very heartening to see that, as folks are hitting book 4, that things are working out how I expected/intended all along.

    Reply
    1. Stavros Halvatzis Post author

      Thanks for sharing your experience with us, especially insight about Wattpad. The bottom line is, as you say, WRITE MORE BOOKS!

      Reply
  2. Reese Ryan

    Excellent advice, Stavros. I’m currently published with a small digital publisher, but my primary focus this year is on going indie. A member of my local RWA chapter who is a very successful indie author gave me similar advice over the weekend. She advised me to wait until I have at least three books ready before going indie. Guess that means I’d better get back to work.

    Reply

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