Writing about Writing


Managing Expectations

At the recommendation of a fellow writer (Can I say “fellow writer” when I haven’t even published anything yet?), I’ve taken some time away from my draft of What Dark Passages.  This way, when I get back to it I’ll be refreshed and, hopefully, be able to edit it with a clear mind and fresh eyes.  This also nicely coincides with the period where I’m waiting for my various beta readers to get back to me.

I have, though, had plenty of time to consider my expectations for this book.

As a Psychological Literary Fiction (PLF), What Dark Passages is a niche book.  By nature of its content, there just isn’t a huge audience for it.  There are 2,059 PLF novels currently listed on Amazon.com. In comparison, there are 178,436 Romance novels. On one hand, I have less competition to get noticed, but on the other, supply tends to come from demand.

Another knock would be the fact that this is a standalone novel.  The story is self-contained.  There never was, and never will be, a planned sequel.  The reason this becomes a problem for sales is that there is nothing to generate interest in the future.  With a series, every time you release a book down the line you generate interest in the previous installments.  With a standalone book, it is a lot harder to maintain interest/sales over time.  I’m not saying it is impossible, look at Stephen King.  But he is an exception, not a norm.

Where does this leave me with regards to What Dark Passages?  I would like to think it is a good, quality read that people will enjoy.  I would like to think it says something meaningful, and will make people stop and think about how they, and people around them, are affected by traumatic events.  In my wilder dreams, I would even like to think that a bold individual will take the plunge on my book, like it as much as I do, then tell his or her friends about it, then they tell their friends, and so on until it becomes a bestseller.

If any of these things came true, I think it would be amazing.  But at the same time I need to base my expectations in reality.  And the reality is that the odds of me becoming a bestselling author that sleeps on a bed of money are bad.  Really bad.  Consider: Print-On-Demand (POD) services are all the rage amongst self-publishers.  POD services produce millions of books a year for thousands of authors. But what does that actually equate to?  >200.  The average author sells less than 200 printed copies of his/her book.  And considering the slim profit margin on a physical copy, that’s not very good.

How about e-books?  Profit margins are a heck of a lot higher and e-book sales continue to go through the roof.  A cursory search on the internet, however, indicates that an average e-book generates less than $300 in profit per year.  And because it is an average, that number is nicely buoyed by the few very successful authors out there.  Meaning most authors will make much less.

What does this all mean?  It means I was delusional, or woefully misinformed, if I got into this thinking I was going to get rich.  But that was never the plan.  As fun as it is to imagine getting rich, I know how unrealistic and incredibly unlikely that is.  Even making back the cost of an editor tips towards the unlikely side of the scale.

So I’ve banished thoughts of money and profit.  Truth is, it doesn’t really belong here.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to do everything I can to share and promote the book as much as possible, but I won’t be doing it because of some vague expectation of getting wealthy.  I’ll be doing it because I’m proud of what I wrote and want to share it with the world.

The money, if it comes, is just a bonus.