Recently, my friend Sabrina A. Fish and I met for a writer’s day at one of our local hot spots. Before I arrived, they seated her and she ordered her drink while she waited for me.
Of course, just as with every time we go there, as soon as she pulled out her computer, other patrons and servers stared. Why? Well, probably because our favorite hot spot is a movie theater. Yes, a movie theater and the same one from my post a few weeks ago about Bizarre Writing Spots.
Anyway, as I slid into the seat and asked her if she ordered. She smiled at me and said. “No, but I have to tell you, our waiter is a writer too.” Well isn’t that nice and good for him. I mean, I’m all about supporting writers. And, then she said the words I hear far too often…
“He asked me a rather funny question.”
“Really? What did he ask?”
“He asked me ‘so I’m just in the final stages of my first novel and I’m wondering if I self publish it and it sells millions of copies right away, would a big publisher pick it up quickly?”
After she was done speaking, we just sat there looking at each other. The smile on both of our faces spoke for us. While I can’t say that things like that can’t happen to an author, statistically if you are writing a novel just to make millions, you might want to just close the computer and slip back into your pajamas because, you, my friend, are dreaming.
Certainly, we’d all like to daydream of the six figured advances, the seven figured royalty checks, and the long distance phone calls from a movie studio executive dying to speak to you about media rights so they can start production on the movie based on your book.
Yes, it happens. But, no, it doesn’t happen very often.
When I started writing, I never allowed myself to dream big. Call it the pessimist in me, I don’t care, it’s just how I am. Sure, I wanted the novel to do well, but my “well” consisted of good reviews and to entertain at least my friends and family. Entertaining strangers was just an added bonus. I never let my thoughts drift to an advance, royalty checks, sitting in on the casting calls with the director, or what I would wear at the movie premier party.
What I did plan on was at least selling a hundred copies to friends and family. Yes, 100. That was my goal. And, while it wasn’t a very large goal, in the publishing world for an aspiring writer, that is quite large. Even larger when you receive rejection after rejection and you wonder if you will ever find a publisher. Sure, I could have self-published, but I didn’t want that for my first novel.
Even after I found “the one”, I still didn’t allow my thoughts to go past that 100 copies. ‘Do not pass go, do not collect $200’ was my moto, and it worked for me. It kept me grounded and realistic. Now, that’s not to say someone who revels in their dreams isn’t living grounded or realistic, I’m just saying for me, I can’t do such of a thing.
And, I’m glad I did, because, what I hadn’t planned on was how hard it is to sell the first book.
First books for any writer are hard to sell. Period. People like what they like, they like who they like, and if you have a new writer with little to no reviews, you are going to be hard-pressed to make a sale to someone who is on the fence about clicking the buy button. And, personally, in my opinion, I don’t really blame them. I’ve been one of the unfortunate to take a chance on a new author who I wish I hadn’t.
Yes, first books are hard.
Second books get a little easier, and the more titles you publish, the more your following will continue to grow. But, even with the growth, you still might not be able to quit your day job, just yet.
For more information on the study of royalty checks and book advances, see my post on The Ugly Truth about Big Book Deals.