Writing Life: Sales Expectations

If you decide to go independent, don’t expect to get rich overnight. It takes on average 5-10 years to make a living and that is if you do everything right. Again, there is a lot of advice out there, but it boils down to this: Produce a professional, well-written, enjoyable, well-presented product.

And therein lies the rub. You can control three of those four elements. You can produce a professional product; you can control the quality of writing within your ability, and your editor’s ability; and you can present it well. What you can’t control is if a reader finds it enjoyable, or not.

Also, beyond your control, is if a reader picks up your book in the first place.

Depressing, right?

Those are just the facts you have to live with. You can do your best, but you cannot guarantee sales, or enjoyment, because you are not your readers. All you can do is tell a story you enjoy, and tell it well. The chances are good that someone else will enjoy it, too.

There are also genre, and story-type factors that affect sales. In general:

  • Short fiction does not sell as well as long fiction. My sales figures reflect this, except in the case of one particularly quirky short story that I can’t explain.
  • Poetry does not sell as well as short fiction. My sales figures reflect this, too.
  • Collections and Anthologies sell better than individual shorts, but not as well as long fiction.
  • Novels sell better than short fiction, collections and poetry. Sales figures say yes to this, too.
  • The romance genre sells better than the science fiction or fantasy genres… or so it is said. Sales figures also give this the nod—I sell fantasy and romance, and will soon add science fiction to that.
  • Regular releases build your readership more than putting your finished work out in bursts. I recently conducted an experiment on this by releasing a short story a fortnight. Why a short story? Because that was the only way to get a fortnightly schedule up and running quickly, and build in time to finish longer work to add into the schedule later. As that longer work is completed, I expect my schedule to look a lot more balanced between short and long fiction, collections and novels, and between genres and my various pen names. The main point here is: regular releases, for some reason, result in sales across the spectrum of your work regardless of similarities or differences in genre or length… or so say my sales figures.

So, in a nut-shell. You need to write and publish regularly in order for readers to notice your work. You need to produce the best quality story you can. Beyond that, your readers will choose what they want to read, and what they enjoy. Don’t expect to make a fortune overnight.



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