This topic came up in a group discussion. A writer who had worked for many years and has a ton of great published genre books admitted that he was seriously about to hang it up. It really had to do with lack of sales. I generally reserve my writer advocate articles for my blog: Guerrilla Warfare For Writers. Yet, I just might let this one go in my YA fantasy website, even though my Word Press audience is a bit more sensitive and non-responsive. When I see a defeatist attitude in writing, wild horses cannot keep me away. I’ll tone down the swear words and rhetoric, I promise.
(Author), you’re good writer and I’ve read many of your first pages. I’m about ready to clobber you for thinking like this. I’m as depressed and cynical as you most of the time about this slanted industry, only you come right out and express those feelings all the time. Not a thing wrong with that. Writers have got to get each other’s Six. I hold back because I don’t want to appear like a Danny Downer. But I will tell you this, I run Guerrilla Warfare for Writers and I can make Harlan Ellison reel back in shock. I’m a straight-up writer advocate and industry watchdog, and I’ve always been no BS about the way things are. I’ve been published since 1987, but started writing in ’74. I sure the heck have watched the changes in this industry and taken voluminous notes. Talk about typewriters, Xerox copies and 4th Class special book? Do you even know what that means?
Provided we have the perfect, or near perfect presentation of our books on our Amazon page, we (or most of us) are in the worst sales and review slump I’ve seen in the history of literature. I’ve heard every excuse in the book as to why this is happening “Nobody reads anymore.” “People are financially stressed, especially during this pandemic.” “We are glutted to the gunwales with books and the surge is never-ending.”Supply has run-over demand.” “You’ve targeted the wrong audience.” “Your book is too niche.” “You don’t advertise.” “You’re too new.” “You’re washed up.” (The Harry Potter days are gone.” Fill in the blank.
Remember that I said ALL ducks are in a row for the book? Now lets says it’s a little multi-award winner, priced @ 99 cents (for 1.5 years) has great reviews, tons of spiking sales that’s gotten it into the top 100 lists multiple times, has been featured or appeared with 15 solid marketing companies at the expense of hundreds and hundreds of dollars, and now Hollywood is ever so softly knocking on its door, AND THE DANG BOOK IS STILL NOT SELLING!
My fourth full refund from the heavy marketers, Booksy (this time), just wrote to me this morning and told me they were refunding me for under-performance. They apologized. I won’t name the others. One of two things: Nobody is buying any books or I’m waaaay over-marketed. No sales.
Want to hear a real horror story? Starting eighteen months ago I sent out 2,750 personalized, individual review pitches (for said above book). That means I read their bios, guidelines and mission statements, to the letter and always went email instead of form when I could. This allowed me to paste the cover in the email (no attachments). Over that early span of time I got 525 requests for the book. They said the premise was so extraordinary, and the letter was so polite, they couldn’t resist it.
At this time I have 33 reviews for that book. I got about 50 letters of “so sorry I’m late, I still haven’t read your first one”, second one, fill in the blank.
The next in the series got 495 pitches sent out. 90 acceptances. I have 12 reviews
Last in the trilogy–250 sent out. 12 acceptances. 1 review.
I cannot stress to you how many thousands of person-hours went into marketing, promoting and pitching this series. The last submission I sent out was four months ago for the last book. I haven’t even started a new book because all my strength went into the review campaign.
Having a monstrous social media presence has done nothing. You can interact in 15 to 20 FB sub-groups and comment to no end and, no matter how interesting, educational or complimentary, it will NOT sell books. Free display sites will not sell books. Everywhere you go, you’re archived deep in the stacks. FB non-ad announcements won’t sell books. Twitter mentions do not sell books. You realize that the only organic sales that you’ve gotten came from family, friends and fans at the very beginning. BTW, as a side note, during my review submissions, I noticed that about 35% to 40% of the reviewers refused to take on Indie books. I’m a hybrid so this kind of irked me a bit. I asked a handful of them why they had this rule. It was the same answer–“lack of editing.” You can make of that what you will.
My point in all this: you are not alone. Not by a long shot. My last two publishers are quite large for small presses. I have been taking 20 minutes out of the day to check on all the most recent (within about nine months) book sales and reviews. I’m talking about a total of about 30 to 50 titles here. I’m heartbroken to see that 80% of them have little to no sales, and a huge majority of them have zero numbers on both accounts. I felt so sorry for about four of them, I just flat bought their books to get them on the board. I don’t know if I’ll ever read or have the time to review them.
Going viral, (world of mouth), BookBub feature, AMs and maybe a few other guaranteed marketing companies might be the only way to sell books today. My agent told me last night that three or four major Big-5 imprints have bitten the dust. She has a death grip on my espionage thriller that she’s been trying to sell for seven years. We’ve sold seven books in the past six years. The Big houses are primarily signing their stable, A-list authors, or celebs where they can project a huge ROI. But they are so [euphemism]ed up that they continuously lose huge chunks of advance money on losers.
It’s not You! You are so intelligent, (Author), you should know this. We had it rough enough before the pandemic. But the rumor that everyone would be buying books because of interior lock-down was/is total untruth. The books that are selling right now are HEA Christmas romances, memoirs, non-fic inspirational and children’s picture book. There are some outliers that are doing well in the present climate. God bless you outliers; you’re the lucky ones. But I sympathize with the newbie writers out there right now that are clicking their heels because they’re holding their very own first book in their hands. I hope, like you, they do not throw in the towel.
Me? I’m critically ill (up-graded from terminal), dragging an oxygen hose around with me everywhere I go, and eating morphine-strength meds. I not long for this world, God knows, but I’ll be [euphemism]ing destined to hell if I even think about giving up right now. Story-telling is all I know and all I love. And it is with you too, dear (Author) because you wear that Passion all over you. I see that drive, that concern and that fright in you. And that is what a writer is–an emotional overload, because that is part of our up and down nature. We are told “NO” 99% of the time. We’re in the entertainment industry anyway you cut it. We are the toughest souls on this planet. Now straighten yourself out and get back to writing.
It’s about time I read-shift outta here…..