A while back someone asked me: What would you consider a success? I had contacted the woman in mid-January after I published my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories. She was local, and had a social media consulting business. Carole was eager to help. As she’d never used social media to promote a book Carole contacted a colleague for advice. The contact wanted to know if I’d only view myself successful if I reached my stated goal of 100,000 book sales (something I thought at the time was reasonable given the power of the Internet) or if I’d be satisfied signing with a traditional publishing house.
I suggested a third option. After some thought I decided I’d feel successful if Living in the Heartland was picked up by a publisher who also offered me the opportunity to do additional books about extraordinary women living in America’s heartland.
It’s approaching three months since Living in the Heartland appeared on Amazon.com. Has my personal measurement of succession changed? In a pie-in-the-sky world I’d say ‘No.’ I’d love to sell lots of books. I wrote Living in the Heartland because I wanted people to read about these extraordinary women, and because I wanted to promote dialog about issues faced by contemporary women and about diversity.
If I can’t lay claim to 100,000 book sales, I am willing to redefine my personal success in terms of securing a publisher for Living in the Heartland with hopes of future contracts to write more books.
Am I giving up on self-publishing? The answer is, “No and yes.” At the moment, I am not actively pursuing a publisher. Unless one reaches out to me, which isn’t likely until I sell enough for them to consider me a success, I’m committed to working to make my book a success. I believe that the future for books lies in social media especially as more books are sold in digital format. One thing I can say for certain is that I am positioned for the future, and ahead of authors who aren’t developing knowledge and skills in using social media.
Why then would I be happy to embrace a traditional publisher if one came to me and asked to handle my book? This blog presents some of my experiences in self-publishing. In doing background for some of my posts I’ve also come across some unsettling data. I’ve used excerpts from the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of American 2-1-2010 article Print-On-Demand Self-Publishing Services below. See if you don’t reach a similar conclusion.
E-commerce currently accounts for approximate 20% of book sales. Brick-and-mortar bookstores, especially the large chains, represent the most significant single sales source, and most of these don’t like dealing with print-on-demand self-published authors. Most books require a balance of online and offline presence to have sales of any significance.
Here are the eye-popping, gut-wrenching statistics that the article present: “The average book from a POD service sells fewer than 200 copies, mostly to ‘pocket’ markets surrounding the author–friends, family, local retailers who can be persuaded to place an order–and to the author him/herself. According to the chief executive of POD service iUniverse… 40% of iUniverse’s books s are sold directly to authors.
POD services’ own statistics support these low sales figures. AuthorHouse’s..reveals that it has signed up more than 40,000 authors, and issued more than 60,000 titles… AuthorHouse reports selling more than 2.5 million books in 2008–which sounds like a lot, but averages out to around 41 sales per title…
Stats for Xlibris were similar. According to a Wall Street Journal article, 85% of its books had sold fewer than 200 copies, and only around 3%–or 352 in all–had sold more than 500 copies. Things looked up in 2007: according to Xlibris’s own internal reports, obtained by Writer Beware, 4% of its titles had sold more than 1,000 copies. However, the averages still aren’t good. As of mid-2007, Xlibris had 23,000 authors and had published 23,500 titles, with total sales of over 3 million–around 127 sales per title.
Once independent companies, AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Xlibris, and Canada-based Trafford Publishing are now all owned by Author Solutions Inc… the average sales of titles from any of the company’s brands at around 150.”
Wish I’d read these numbers before deciding after only about two dozen rejections − some were actually handwritten and supportive – from agents and publishers. If I known what I do now I think I’d still be sending out manuscripts as opposed to complimentary copies of my book trying to establish a foothold in the market.
Read more at Amazon.com.
Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories.
My other blog is Living in the Heartland.