I've been missing your blog posts tremendously! Every time I've checked, I see your latest post, which ends with the book titles... Sudden Violence. Silence. Truly ominous!
You can imagine what horrible scenarios a mystery writer could conjure up to explain your absence. Believe me, I thought of them all! Then I had the bright idea to check your twitter feed (duh) and was relieved to see that you're alive, if not well. Really hope you feel better soon.
If at some point you feel inspired to take a Whisky Hour (or Dr. Pepper break) and ponder a question for your Question Emporium, here's one I've been curious about. Perhaps tricky to answer, given the many variables...
Thanks for your good wishes. I'm slowly clawing my way back from the dead.
Here's the question:
How many books should I expect (or hope) to sell as a first-time novelist? What's a realistic sales goal? I realize the answer is somewhere between "100 copies to friends and family" and "the NYT bestseller list" but is there a # of thousands I should aim for in the first year? What's considered successful in the publishing industry? [My publisher is a small press and the novel is a genre novel (mystery).]
You're asking the wrong first question.
The first question you want to ask is how many books is the publisher printing? And don't squirm around and feel pushy for asking. This information is crucial for your publicity and marketing plans.
If the publisher plans to print using POD technology, that means they will print books to fill orders. Very little inventory if any.
If the publisher plans a print run and to hold some inventory, they'll most likely look at how many orders come in before publication date, and print some number more than that.
They should tell you which method they use up front. They should tell you how many books they're printing up front. (By upfront I mean close to publication date)
ASK before you do anything requiring an investment of cash or time.
And to answer your question: you hope to sell your print run. And then go back for a second printing and sell those too.