January was certainly disappointing. It used to be a banner month, but now it is like any other. The era of Christmas Kindles seems to have ended for good. Growth from now on will be slow or non-existent for those of us with a stable of books out there, because the decline in the established titles (I have books that used to sell 60 copies a month that now sell two or none) offsets the flutter from new titles. It's not enough to run as fast as you can to stay in the same place; you must run faster than that.
My sales have held up fairly well (after a long decline that ended last fall) but three or four books have accounted for most of that. One is my Guide, which I wrote only because I got weary with saying the same things over and over on this forum, and which I publish under a pen-name. Another is a book that sold little or nothing for a couple years and then seemed to catch on, and now sells a respectable number each month; it is actually a collection of essays on a hobby, all of them available on one of my websites for people to read without cost.
There are now just too many self-pubbers, putting too many books into the hopper, many or most of them simply rubbish.
Publishing was always a business with a long tail, with most authors not earning their advances. (That was in the days when publishers actually paid in advance!) Now the tail stretches around the world. Maybe a dozen writers have struck it reach on the KDP, while hundreds of thousands of us go nowhere.
My conclusion is that now it is more important than ever to have an agent and a publisher, if you can find them.
Perhaps I should have said catch one? Indeed they are easy to locate: just Google "association of author's representatives" for all the good it will do.
The internet, email, and PDFs have complicated all such competitions, from applying to college to "finding" a publisher. More than ever (and it was ever true) it's necessary to be recommended by someone already in the stable.
Notjohn, the only editor I use is a free lancer and she has a list of clients which have more than a hundred best sellers among them. She is on a first name basis with a lot of well known authors. People (like myself) are satisfied to wait many months to get their edited manuscripts back. I never mention her name in a public forum because I don't want to add to my own wait time. She knows this and laughs.
donald kirstine wrote:
Does all of this this mean that I'm wasting my time trying to write anything more? I haven't sold a book in months.
Edited by: donald kirstine on Sep 15, 2015 6:28 PM
Amazon is selling books--lots of them. So someone is doing well.
This year is going very well for me and I have already surpassed my last year's earnings. Next year, my sales might tank, and someone selling diddly now will rocket up. This is a fluid environment and you need to keep riding the wave.
For two years, I had one book sell about 20 books a day. It was my bread and butter. As of April or May, it dropped to about four a day. If that was my only book, and if I was counting on those royalties, I would be devastated and frustrated with the whole business. But since last summer, I've had two successful series that have more than taken that book's place.
There is money to be made here. There are readers who want to read your books. But you have to keep writing, and keep writing good books. And while I am not the expert here and don't really do anything, good marketing is very important. (If I had a clue as how to market, I would be doing even better, I'm sure.)
I've sometimes wondered if editors (cover artists, promotion sites like Book Bub, etc) do better than most writers.
Yes, they do. They have a stream of guaranteed customers, unlike writers. Writing is a constant slog of learning, practicing, writing, publishing, reviewing results and then starting it all over again.
Every book has a shelf life, when it will do it's best sales and then fall off the radar as other books takes its place. It is a natural cycle which is affected by changes in reader tastes, the influx of new material and changes in retail algorithms.