Expectations of Success
The interwebs are abuzz these past weeks with news about Amanda Hocking. From unpublished author in April 2010, she now has nine (going on ten) books self published, sold 100k books in December, 450k books in January, and goodness only know how many in February – probably a lot more than January, because the mainstream news media got hold of her then, giving her a lot more exposure. Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s an amazing success story, and I wish her the absolute best. I hope she keeps writing, too, because I’ve read two of her books now and enjoyed both of them (Hollowland more than Switched).
But a lot of people seem to be latching on to her as the sign of everything to come – “see, this is why you should publish independently!” Well, no, no more than you can use Stephen King as an example of why you should publish with mainstream/legacy publishing.
In any system, there will be outliers whose success greatly outstrips that of most other folks. It just happens – no one really understands the process. That’s not a good indication of the norm, though. Amanda actually blogged about this a little bit – she’s got a good head on her shoulders. I hope she remembers that the writing is the important part though, and keeps putting out good work book after book. This sort of early/fast fame is problematic for many artists.
So if Ms. Hocking’s success does NOT mean that the average indie will be able to sell 400k books a month soon, what does it mean?
To me, it says that the door is open.
For every one person who sells a 400k ebooks a month, there will be a few selling a hundred thousand or so, dozens who sell tens of thousands (and there are), and hundreds who sell a few thousand a month. Now, my odds, your odds, the odds of any one person becoming an overnight breakout superstar are pretty slim. But the odds of making it into those hundreds of successful writers selling in the thousands a month? That race isn’t about odds and chance so much as it is about elbow grease and hitting the keyboard.
To make enough money to support my family happily on writing income, I need to make about $7000 a month pre taxes. We could get by on a couple thousand less than that, but I think it’s a reasonable target to shoot for. That’s $4340 after taxes, roughly (gotta love that 38% income tax…ah, well). Pretty nice living, really, even counting having to pay for your own medical insurance. It’s not high off the hog, but not a bad number. It’s more than a lot of other folks make, doing jobs they don’t like nearly as much.
That’s 3500 $2.99 ebooks per month.
Not 100k. Not 450k. Three thousand five hundred. It’s still a lot. It’s more than most authors manage. But I think it falls into the range of “doable, with a few years of hard work”, so it’s a respectable target to shoot for.
As my wife points out, even a couple hundred sales a month would equate to some nice extra income. Even that would be a “success”, to some degree. So a lot of what “success” is depends upon how you define it. I hope we don’t see a generation of writers look at Amanda Hocking’s success, try to emulate it, fail in the first year and then give up writing. That would be a tragic shame. We’d lose a lot of good writing they might have produced in later years.
Remember that there is no way you can control sales of your books. You can only write the best book you can, and ship it somewhere to be sold (legacy or independent publishing, whichever). Then do it again. And again. And keep doing it, keep focusing on improving and building a body of work, until you reach your goals. At that point, it’s time to set new goals. ;)
|Print article||This entry was posted by Kevin on March 7, 2011 at 1:02 pm, and is filed under My Writing. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.|
about 11 months ago - 10 comments
Back in February, I posted the results of some data mining, specifically about the bestseller lists for fantasy and science fiction. You can see the old article here. It seemed like now might be a good time for an update. There’s been much to-do about the change to the Amazon algorithms. The very-important “Popularity” ranking…
about 11 months ago - 2 comments
There’s 1,410,714 ebooks on Amazon as of this writing. By this time next year, that will have gone up to over 2 million. By this time in five years, I expect it to be over five million. By this time in twenty years, I expect it to be…well, really, really, REALLY doggone high. Breakout…
about 12 months ago - No comments
Someone recently commented to me that publishing is in a state of crisis, and gave a list of various problems facing the industry. I looked at his list, and realized two things. First, he was right – publishing is facing a lot of problems. Second, that digital technology and distribution were on their way to…
about 1 year ago - No comments
This year at BEA (Book Expo America), a number of sponsors are working together to bring a special all-Sunday set of workshops and seminars. They’ve named the experience “UPublishU”, and it’s ALL about self publishing. For $99, it looks to me like it could be a fun and interesting experience. Here’s a link to the…
about 1 year ago - 1 comment
No, it’s not walking on broken glass. Nor typing on broken glass, although I wouldn’t count that possibility out entirely if my three year old has anything to say about it! I’m writing this post on an iPad, using the virtual keyboard. No external keyboard, not bluetooth. Thus, writing on glass. I was always a…
about 1 year ago - 3 comments
At the London Book Fair, one of the major topics of discussion was publishers discussing cessation of DRM use on their ebooks. DRM – digital rights management – is the encryption added to digital media which prevents copying, conversion, and some other sorts of uses of the media. In some cases, it might force the…
about 1 year ago - 3 comments
Self publishing is an outstanding way to go. Dean Wesley Smith has just sounded off that his position is now that for novels, self publishing is a better method than traditional publishing unless you’re being offered a solid six figures per book. And possibly even then, depending upon the contract clauses the traditional publisher is…
about 1 year ago - 7 comments
This change IS a pretty big deal for indie writers. Amazon announced today in their KDP newsletter that they have updated their recommendations for cover sizes for Kindle ebooks. The new guidelines are a minimum of 1000 pixels on the long side – although they “recommend 2,500 pixels on the longest side to ensure better…
about 1 year ago - 13 comments
I am forced to wonder, after reading this latest interview with the noted president of the Author’s Guild, if the man has actually a) bought any books in the last decade, b) listened to any of the writers he is supposed to be supporting about what they’d actually like, or c) thought for fifteen seconds…
about 1 year ago - 6 comments
The Author’s Guild blog has just posted a letter from Scott Turow titled “Grim News”. The post expounds upon how the DOJ’s recent announcement it intends to file suit against major publishers for conspiring to fix prices on books is a terrible thing for everyone, and basically defends the assorted publishers’ actions. Leaving aside the…