I opened my last quarter’s statement from Less Than Three Press with more than usual excitement. I’m always interested to know how my books are selling, and certainly happy to receive a check, but this time I was excited because the January – March quarter covered the release of The Persephone Star.
In a post from November of 2014, I wrote “I’m more concerned about reviews than sales”, but I’m going to be straight with you: that was in a post in which I was celebrating some pretty great sales numbers. In the first quarter it was out, The Only Way sold nearly 900 copies. It was an amazing feeling to open that statement and see those kinds of numbers.
And I was really hoping the same thing would happen with The Persephone Star.
Only – it didn’t.
Disappointing sales numbers are always going to be disappointing, but I think the real problem here is that in our society we have this notion that success begets success. Once an author has sold well, the reasoning goes, they should keep selling well. After all, surely the same people who bought and loved their last book will buy the new one.
To realize that something is a fluke rather than a trend is a bit hard to swallow.
I had a similar thing happen with my artwork. I was displaying my paintings in a gallery, and selling pretty well every month. And then one month I had fantastic sales – nearly five times my normal numbers! And I thought, ‘this is it! I’ve cracked the market! I’ve found my audience!’
Only, the next month, I barely sold anything. And the month after that, and the month after that. It got so bad that I actually had to pull out of the gallery because I wasn’t even breaking even after paying the gallery fees.
I hadn’t cracked the market – I had a fluke month, and then I flopped. It felt so much worse than if I have never sold well at all. I had to wonder, what happened to my audience? Where did they go?
Unfortunately, I’m feeling a similar way after seeing the numbers on The Persephone Star. I think it’s my best work, but now I’m left second guessing myself. What was it that turned readers off? Was it the genre? The setting? The premise?
I’m trying not to psyche myself out as I work on my next project. I want to write what I love, and hope that other people love it, too. I don’t want to ruin my writing by trying to guess what it is that readers want – I think that’s what happened with my artwork, and I’m still struggling to get back to ‘my’ style when I paint.
I am sad, though, because the main reason why I wanted to see great numbers on The Persephone Star –besides ego—was that I was planning on writing a sequel. But there’s no point writing a follow up to a book that no one’s read, so that idea has been filed away.
To those of you who did read The Persephone Star: thank you. The reviews have been great, and I take a lot of comfort in knowing that these people who did pick up the book seemed to like it.
My new project is really fun, and saving me from a pity party over sales figures. In the end, I have to remember that the number of copies sold of The Only Way is a good thing, no matter what happened afterwards. People like what they like, and I write what I write, and sometimes, miraculously, those two coincide. That’s the important thing to remember.