Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Publishing rocks more than it sucks

Originally posted on Book Lover's Life.

As an Indie author who’s sold more than 30,000 books (due to a whole lot of hard work, and even more luck), I know all too well the highs and the lows of publishing. I’m not talking about writing here, which has its own unique set of highs and lows, but the actual act of publishing something and making it available to the masses. In short, it rocks at times; while other times it completely sucks. But in my experience, publishing rocks a whole lot more than it sucks.

Why publishing sucks sometimes
1. Selling books is hard!

So you’re an author and you’ve written what you believe to be a damn good book. Because of the incredibly awesome time we live in, you go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble or iBooks (or all three) and upload your damn good book along with a beautiful cover that you either designed yourself or hired someone to design for you. And then you hit publish. Whew! What a feeling! Your heart soars and you get this intense feeling of exhilaration and accomplishment and you pretty much want to do a happy dance and jumping jacks while eating ice cream. Yeah, it’s a good feeling—with 16 published books to my name I’ve been there many times.
Then comes the depression. Why? Because your book doesn’t sell. Which doesn’t make sense because it’s a damn good book and damn good books always sell, right? Not necessarily, and not necessarily right away. Even though you might be shouting about your book from the rooftops and have an army of supporters shouting about it from the rooftops, maybe everyone’s got their earbuds in, or maybe they’re just too busy, or maybe they’ve already got too many other books they want to read. Whatever the reason, this happens to almost all Indie authors at one point or another, usually at the beginning.

It certainly happened this way for me. My first series hardly sold at all. Because I fought so long and hard to find an agent for my debut series (which can suck all on its own), I’d actually written the entire trilogy before I decided to self-publish it. And when I did, it just didn’t sell. I ended up giving away far more copies than I sold. All that hard work for a few bucks I could barely spend at McDonald’s. *shakes fist in the air* I hate you publishing!
2. Reviewers are unpredictable!

Another thing that’s really hard for newly published authors is getting reviews. Sure, you’ll smile from ear to ear when you get a glowing 5-star review, but the highs of good reviews is nothing compared to the lows of a scathing 1-star review that compares your book to toilet paper or advises that readers spend their $0.99 on a candy bar rather than your book. Ouch. Double ouch. I’ve been there, and it sucks. I could get ten 5-star reviews in a day and be flying over the moon, and then get a single 1-star review and come crashing down to Earth. Taking criticism, regardless of whether in your heart you believe it’s fair and constructive or unfair and mean-spirited, is extremely hard.
One of the hardest things is when you think you’ve made a connection with someone who’s the exact target reader for your book, only to find out later that they hated it. Hate is a strong word, but it definitely applies to reading. There will be readers who hate your book—that’s a fact. And that’s hard to take, which is another reason publishing sucks!

Why publishing rocks more then it sucks!
1. You’ve got eternity (or at least your lifetime)

With the invention of the ebook, there’s no such thing as a finite shelf life for your book, which means it doesn’t have to sell right away, even if you’d like it to. Even with big published books, they don’t always take off right away, and sometimes it takes years for readers’ tastes to catch up with the book you’ve written. You could be humming along, selling 20 copies of your book a month, and then all of a sudden you’re selling 100, and then 1,000. It’s a possibility that gives you hope for the future. There’s always time to try a new type of promotion or advertising, and always time for your book to be “discovered” the old-fashioned way: by dumb luck.
In my case, my debut series wasn’t discovered, although it has eventually sold 3,000 copies in 3 years. Not a hugely impressive total, but not bad either. On the other hand, my SECOND series, The Dwellers/Country Saga, has gone on to sell 27,000 copies in two years. You might be thinking it was an instant success, right? Wrong. It sold 3,000 in its first year—which I was extremely happy with—but then suddenly took off in the second year, selling more than 20,000 copies. Why? I like to think it was the awesomeness of the series, but in reality I know it was the meeting of hard work and dumb luck. The fuse for the explosion was lit by Buzzfeed, when they miraculously included the first book in the series, The Moon Dwellers, in a list of 15 Series to Read if You Enjoyed The Hunger Games. Considering the other 14 series listed were all big-published bestsellers (many of which have been optioned for movies), this was pretty much the biggest high of my publishing career, and sales took off from there. But as I pointed out above, it took a year to happen and for the series to really get rolling. Time marches on.

2. Fans!
I’m certainly not famous by any stretch of the imagination, but before I entered the publishing world, NO ONE knew who I was, other than my friends and family of course. Despite my first series pretty much being a flop, I still managed to connect with a few readers who loved the series and who began to consider themselves my “fans”, a word I don’t necessarily like, but which still feels pretty good. These are people who never would’ve known me and who are now willing to spend their hard-earned dollars each and every time I publish a book. It’s a great feeling.

Now my official Goodreads Fan Group, David Estes Fans and YA Book Lovers Unite, has more than 2,500 members, and I consider them my friends rather than my fans. I chat and get to know them every single day, and I’ve met so many wonderfully awesome people, that my life has been enriched by the experience far more than theirs. *gives high fives all around* Talk about a high!
3. Reviewers are AWESOME!

I know, I know, I put something about reviewers being unpredictable in the part about why publishing sucks, but there are two sides to every coin, and I’m not just talking about the positive reviews. Although I LOVE the positive reviews (hey, it feels good to know that someone gets enjoyment out of what you do for a living) and they totally motivate me to keep going and be a better writer, I’ve learned to appreciate the constructive ones too. In fact, I first connected with three of my most loyal and trusted members of my beta reading team after they wrote me some pretty harsh reviews for my older books. I contacted them (which you’re not supposed to do) and told them I thought their reviews were accurate, well-written, detailed, and extremely helpful to me to improve as a writer. I also invited them to join my beta team, which they all did. All three have become my fans and appreciate the fact that I took their feedback and opinions seriously, and now I get to address their feedback before I publish my books. All in all, reviewers are awesome, both because of their fangirling and fanboying (free word of mouth advertising is the best kind!) and because of their honesty, which is usually heartfelt and sincere. *gives a huge thumbs up to reviewers, especially bloggers*
4. A chance to shine!

At the end of the day, publishing is the ultimate high, and although there will be days when it feels like it sucks, most days you’ll feel like it rocks. Publishing is an opportunity to showcase your talent and have it shine through to an audience that will grow just as you grow as a writer.


  1. Selling anything is hard, and it does have it times of high and lows! It really helps when you have good quality work, like yours to sell though :) Great post!

    1. Thanks Jenny!! It really is a major rollercoaster ride, but so worth it :)


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