Saturday, November 26, 2011

(Not So) Great Expectations

So you’ve written a book, revised it, revised it some more, had it edited, proofread. You’ve selected a cover, formatted the word file, uploaded it to Amazon. Now it’s up on the internet and available for the whole world to buy. You’ve done it. You’re published. That’s it…right?

Not quite.

In the past, in the legacy world, being published was a finishing post of sorts. A writer picked up the advance cheque and got to say they were Published. The book might flop right on its ass and sell squit all, but the writer could still say they were Published and—more importantly—keep the advance cheque.

In the modern, free-wheeling, self-published world, being published is more like the starting post. A self-published writer might have more freedom and keep a much higher percentage of each sale, but that’s worth nothing if they don’t sell any books.

This is where management of expectations becomes important. That initial euphoria on seeing your work out there in the big wide world can quickly become despair as you watch your Amazon rankings spiral down into seven figures and wonder if anyone out there gives a damn about your book.

Don’t panic!

It happens to most of us. Think of your favourite bands. Most of them started out playing in little pubs with about five people in the audience. This is the same. Unless you’re enormously talented AND lucky, a massive audience followed by bestseller status doesn’t happen overnight. In the meantime stay grounded.

1. Don’t spit in the boss’s eye and quit your day job. You’re likely still going to need it for a while. If my earnings from writing creep past my salary I might consider writing full-time. Until then I’m turning up for work at 9am same as everyone else.

2. Don’t plan to rely on the money coming in. It might not. I don’t factor royalties into my financial planning at all. It’s bonus money. I can use it for savings or splash out on a luxury item, but I don’t want to be in a situation where I’m sweating on whether it will be enough to pay the electric bill.

3. Keep writing.

4. Keep writing! Yeah, I could repeat this one ad infinitum. I have three books out and in each case a new book coming out has boosted the sales of the previous book. Don’t sit back on the first book. Work on the next ones and get them out. Doubts don’t have a chance to take hold if you’re already concentrating on getting the next book out there.

I’m not a massive success story and might never be. Since starting out last October with my first short story collection, A Succubus for Christmas, I’ve seen my Amazon sales creep up from around a book a week to a book a day. That’s still a long way off fame and fortune, but it’s movement in the right direction. It’s encouragement to keep at it and search for more potential readers.

Most of all, I’m enjoying the writing. At the end of the day, does anything else matter?

M.E. Hydra


  1. Great post! I'm not quite there yet. Although next year I plan to publish tow in a series. One of which I wrote during my first NaNo. Needless to say, there is LOTS of editing to do. Beta readers begins early Spring, by the end of Spring early Summer, I want my first book published. I don't know whether to got indie or self-pub. It all costs so much! Shah. X

  2. Great post, thank you for these reminders. It's often easy to forget the joy of just writing as you become focused on sales.

  3. Hi Shah. If you self publish an ebook it shouldn't cost that much at all, depending on where you outsource for the editing and cover. I don't have the full breakdown of costs as I was fortunate enough to have brilliant fellow writers at eXcessica who'd already gone through the process.

  4. Great post! At the end of the day, if your writing it what drives you, it certainly doesn't matter!