I’m a debut EMU (and so proud of it!) but this is not my first rodeo. I’m the author of four published books. The first, a little non-fiction book, I sold myself and it’s still ticking away. The second and third were novels sold by my previous agent, and the fourth was solicited by my publisher.
With each launch I’ve felt the same sense of trepidation – that feeling never goes away. After all, you want the world to greet every one of your babies with love. You want each to soar. You’ve suffered through multiple revisions with each (that never goes away, either) and there are times when you’ve felt you can’t make another book.
Not to dampen your enthusiasm but here are a few sobering statistics, courtesy of marketing guru Tim Grahl:
- the number of books published in 2013 – 750,000
- the number of copies most sell in their first year – fewer than 250
- most sell fewer than 2000 copies in their lifetime
- odds of being stocked in a bookstore – less than 1%
I’ve been on both sides of these statistics. I’ve sold upwards of 20,000 copies of two of my books, and fewer than 2000 of one (which has gone out of print.) Ironically, the out-of-print book garnered awards and high praise. There are no guarantees that any one book will rise above the huge crowd of competitors. And let’s not even talk about earning a living wage.
But that’s where it’s all about sticking with it. Because, first, this is what we do, isn’t it? We write. And when we finish one book we write the next. Because we can’t imagine living in a world in which we aren’t writing.
And second, here’s the good, if not great news. If you feel as passionate as I do about writing, and you keep writing, and honing your craft, and making each book the best you can in that moment, you will indeed find an audience. Most authors do not spring out of the box as best sellers like Athena springing from the head of Zeus. Most authors who gather an audience do so bit by bit, book by book. With each book, new readers come to the library. With each book, appreciative booksellers grow in number. With each book, reviewers and librarians sit up and take notice. This career has a very, very long tail, and readers can and will discover your earlier work when they fall in love with your newer work.
I tell beginning writers that, as soon as they finish (and polish and vet and polish again) that first manuscript, and hit the send button, they should begin working on their next book. That beauty of a debut may be a hit and, if so, fantastic! But more often than not, readers find authors they love because the authors they love keep writing, and with each book readers want the next.
Write every day. Write the next book. Build a body of work. Build an audience, book by book. I’m in it for the long haul because writing is what I love to do and I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Janet Fox writes award-winning fiction and non-fiction for children of all ages. Her published works include the non-fiction middle grade book GET ORGANIZED WITHOUT LOSING IT (Free Spirit, 2006), and three YA historical romances: FAITHFUL (Speak/Penguin Group, 2010), FORGIVEN (2011), and SIRENS (2012). Janet’s debut middle grade novel THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE is an historical fantasy set in 1940 Scotland (Viking, 2016). Janet is a 2010 graduate of the MFA/Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and she lives in Bozeman, Montana. You can also find her at www.janetsfox.com