The realities of being a writer OR The art of not selling

So, as some of you may know, last March I had my first novel published.

Well, it was a novella actually, but with the few short stories I’ve had published over the years it was (and is) the longest piece of writing I’ve had published.

It was a lot of firsts for me. First time working with an editor, first time working with a cover artist, first time having something published as a stand alone and not in an anthology.

It was incredible and fun and exciting and it made me hungry for more. I couldn’t wait to finish my next book. It would be longer and better.

The thing is, when I wrote Cold Blood, Warm Heart I thought it had everything. It was filled with excitement, had sexy chemistry between the leads, a strong heroin and some heart. Also, it was short. I actually thought it would be a quick fun read. You know, a beach book for the paranormal romance fan. I didn’t think sales would be an issue.

And then I didn’t sell a single copy.

It was made available on Cobblestone press’ site, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc. and yet not a single copy sold.

I waited in excitement for friends and family at least, to snatch up one of these little ebooks but even that didn’t happen.

My first quarterly statement arrived in my email box with a great big 0 in the “copies sold” box.

It was a weirdly numbing experience. I thought back on the writing process, on how hard I had worked, on how much fun I’d had and I was disappointed. I wanted people to read it at least, even if they hated it, I wanted it to be experienced by someone, anyone…

Eventually, I sent out a little reminder to friends and two of them purchased the book but I couldn’t help but feel it was out of pity.

Then, a young woman I had gone to high school with agreed to review the novella. She had become the book reviewer for a big newspaper-which worried me.

This was a trashy romance novel to read for fun, not a great literary work. I sent it to her anyway, fingers crossed until she finished reading it and I received her curt email saying, very briefly, “I cannot review your book”.

To be honest, it took the steam out of me even more.

You always hear stories about writers starting out and not selling. It’s not that I didn’t think that would apply to me, but for some reason, I didn’t think I would mind that.

I thought that my writing was done to nourish my soul and for no other reason. That’s not true though. It’s so unlike me to even think that way. Of course I write because I love to BUT I also cherish a sense of community. I love to talk to other writers, to share works of fiction, poetry or art that I love in order to inspire others. I love to read other people’s work and I love to contribute. I want to share. That trait is in my very being.

After a while of this deflated feeling, working on every art aside from writing fiction, I finally realized; I would have rather put it out for free somewhere like fiction press, or even Tumblr if that meant it would be read. I admit that I even stopped reading my emails.

I’ve started to write again. This time a YA novel that would be published in my real name and separately from my adult romance for obvious reasons. Yes, I still want to publish. Why? Because being a writer is what I’ve always wanted, whether anyone reads my writing or not. Heck. I don’t mind writing on the side, as long as I am actually writing.

And then I checked my email.

My publisher had missed sending me my royalties. The first quarter I had nothing. The second quarter my sales were under ten dollars so it wasn’t sent. The third quarter I had fallen through the cracks and been missed.

I opened the statement expecting nothing.

There was almost twenty dollars.

There was another ten after that but I hadn’t known about it since i’d avoided my email for so long.

Maybe a year ago thirty-five dollars would have seemed like nothing but now! Now, thirty-five dollars means that ten people have bought my book!

What an incredible feeling to go from zero to ten. I am elated.

Getting to this place took a little longer than it should have for me, but it was a lesson to keep doing what I love. It was a long winded way to remind me to keep going because any small progress is a big pay off when you work for it.

It’s funny, there are so many stories of writers being disappointed by lack of sales but there are very few to describe the absolute pleasure of knowing that even one person out there has read your work.

Keep writing all you authors out there. It is so worth it.

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