Expectation Vs. Reality

Today’s topic is expectation. I like to ask authors what their expectations were coming into this industry. A lot of them said they were surprised at how hard it was. Not the writing. The everything else.

Like any industry, new authors are starting as an entry level position. How much you put into it, depends on you. I’ve known several authors who put everything they have into it and for whatever reason, they don’t pull in the pay off worthy of the labor.

Conventions can be expensive. If it’s not the “right kind” of convention, you may not sell anything at all. For example, if you’re an author who writes extreme horror, it’s not likely you’ll do well at a quilting show.

When you look at the price of a book on a shelf, the cost of the book isn’t how much you get. So, if you’re thinking, “I can sell 50 books at 24.99 and make big money!” … you need to reanalyze.

The price of your copy depends on the size of your book. If you upload your book to Amazon, expect to pay between $4-5 (USD) for each book. Shipping on 50 books isn’t cheap, so make sure you take that into account. New authors generally don’t sell many books if they charge higher than $10-15 per copy. People want to know you have published other books and aren’t just a “one-off” author. Take into account your reader, too. Are they voracious readers? If you only have one book, they may finish your book in one day then move onto the next author if you don’t have anything else in your catalog.

Let’s say you have a publisher. I’m going to talk about small presses because that’s what I know, and I won’t pretend to know much about the traditional publishers. A small press may charge you a little more than wholesale for the books. Your $4-5 book may now become $6-10, depending on what the publisher is selling it for. And, don’t forget, you still need to pay for shipping.

Taking in all the information you just read, how much is left? Let’s do some math:

5 books x $5 = $250
Let’s say shipping is $24, which brings your total to $274
You need to sell at least 27 books to make that money back … But wait … How will you sell them?

On your website? How much is shipping to your customer? Will they be willing to pay the price of the book + shipping?

Will you sell them at a convention? Tables run between $200-$500 (or more). So now you’re at $574 total investment, and have to sell 58 books (using the $10 price tag).

Okay, let’s strategize: If I bump my book up to $15 I still have to sell 38 books.

How many books do you think you’re going to sell at a convention where you only have 1-2 books under your name?

Are you getting the picture more clearly, now?

Some new authors team up. This is a smart move! Having two of you sitting at the table allows you to socialize, engage, and sell to your reader. It also allows you to split the cost of the table. Now you only have to sell 19 books to make back what you paid for the books, shipping, and your portion of the table.

But that’s … breaking even. You are making back exactly what you paid for the books.

If you’re published, please remember you need to split your royalty with the publisher. If it’s a small press, let’s also keep in mind that Amazon will take it’s cut right off the bat.

So if the book sells for $10 on Amazon, and you sell …how many books? Ahhhh…here’s the expectation versus reality I am talking about, right here.

You are a new author, and the likelihood of you becoming a best seller off your first work is as obtainable as winning the lottery. Most new authors know they have finally earned their ink when they sell 50-100 books a month.

Do you think that is easy to do? Do you think a publisher will magically pull that number from air? Do you think all those fans on your social media will buy it?

The number of fans or likes on your social media do not equal “best seller.”

Best selling authors are-most of the time-established authors who have practiced the art of engaging their readers, put in countless amount of hours at conventions/bookstores and, in some cases, invested their own money into marketing (PR, Agent, Blog Tours, etc.).

Let me answer the question for you before you can finish thinking it up. Yes, you are also just as responsible (if not more) for marketing your own stuff. Why would you not talk about your book, and get to know your own fans/readers? How would you feel if you went to meet your favorite author and he/she didn’t want to acknowledge, or engage you?

How many fans and followers do you think will buy your book? 10%? 30%? More?

How about ads? Once again, you need to know what keywords will work, and how to set one up for success.

Think about your friend who invited you to their kitchenware party, or their makeup group. Remember the leggings that were everywhere? Did you like seeing someone shoving a sale in your face every day? How much of your friends’ stuff did you buy? When you bought everything you wanted, or needed, did you want to buy more?

Not everyone who reads your book will love it. Not all my friends like thrillers, or horror. For the ones who do? They may prefer supernatural or ghost stories: not the type of book I write. The million dollar question is, “What sells your book to a reader?”


They buy YOU.

Some will buy it because it had a great cover. Some will flip it over and be intrigued by the synopsis. Trust me, when a new reader comes to your table and looks at your book, they want to know why they should buy your book instead of the 12 other books from various authors sitting around you. It’s all you. You know the book from the front to the back. You lived this book for how long? Why would you sit there, and be content, to let them pick up this labor of love, without being proactive about getting them to read it? Stand up. Introduce yourself, and go into why the book they hold in their hand, is the best story they’ve ever read. If you don’t believe it is, then sit back down, and let them continue to the next table.

I’ve had readers tell me they weren’t interested in the book until I started talking to them. They loved how personable I was with them, loved the passion I had for the story, loved how I brought them into it, without them ever opening the book. It was at that moment the lightbulb came on for me.

My expectation when I started was that my book was so unique, and the cover was so intriguing, I would sell it while the ink was still wet.

I began promoting my first book a year before it was done. I sold t-shirts. I blogged. I networked. I did a presale. And you know how many I sold? 50 copies. To be honest? That’s impressive for a no-name, female, author in horror. I put in the work, and it did well. I didn’t wait for the Amazon link to go live. I didn’t wait for others to help me. This book meant everything to me, and I was going to put it in as many hands as I could.

What are you willing to do? What things have you done to set yourself up for success? I’d love to learn what your expectations were, and what, if anything, shattered the illusion.

Categories: The Pages, Writing and PublishingTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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