Saturday, June 04, 2016

Do sad sales figures follow you like a cloud?

If a writer has two books published in market/category A (middle grade, for example) and Book 1 did well but Book 2 didn't, is the writer in the same unenviable position as today's OP if (drumroll) she CHANGES TO MARKET/CATEGORY B (romance, for example)? Assume this individual actually writes well for the second, completely different market, and is not merely changing out of desperation.

As is your habit, woodland creatures, you are obsessing here. I fear I bear some responsibility for this with my dire thoughts about what happens when Book #2 tanks.

Sales figures are not like job qualifications. Publishers can and do overlook sales figures on previous books any time they want to. Unlike when you've applied to be a hitman typist and have to take a shooting typing test, there is no minimum doa wpm requirement.

That said, the fewer things a publisher has to work around, the more they like it. Thus our preference for clean slates, debut authors, and so forth.

You can't worry about this or you'll paralyze yourself with fear.  Write the very best book you can. That's the ONLY thing you can control right now.  



Sam Hawke said...

Haha I do often wonder how often your answer to one question generates 5 more panicked emails, Janet!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Obsession?! Who? Us?

When I read the Shark's title, I imagined Pig Pen: (You have to scroll down a bit to find Pig Pen and if you have a queasy stomach, scroll quickly past bruised and injured body parts.)

Happy Saturday, everybody! I'm going out to spend big money. Buying a couch. On sale.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

"...clean slates and debut authors..."
Used goods vs. virgins.
Hey, sometimes experience matters. At least that's what I keep telling myself as I get older.

SiSi said...

"Write the very best book you can"--as if I can't twist myself into paralyzing knots of fear with this alone!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

What Sisi said- write the very best book you can- but how do you know it's your best? My little woodland creature guts are twisting and turning into knots. I am petting my pug instead of doing drugs to master my fears, but it's not working. Another cup of coffee and a shower. That's the ticket. You are not alone in your fretting, OP.

Shaun Hutchinson said...

"You can't worry about this or you'll paralyze yourself with fear. Write the very best book you can. That's the ONLY thing you can control right now. "

I feel like this is the answer to every question a writer least it should be the answer.

Sales figures are weird. My first book didn't do tanked actually. My second book hadn't come out yet when I split with my agent. When I started querying my third book, I got a lot of rejections that praised the book but then gave me vague reasons for the rejection. Whether they said so or not, I know a lot of the rejections were because of my crappy sales numbers for book 1. The wonderful agent I eventually signed with and I did talk about my crappy sales numbers, and she told me it would definitely be a challenge to sell my third book because of them, but that she believed in my third book enough to think we could overcome those sales numbers. And we did. We sold The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, and more books after that.

Bad sales numbers definitely play a role in future book sales, but they are not the end of the world.

Colin Smith said...

I agree, that's pretty much the answer to almost every woodland creature worry (I say almost--"What if bought a full-page spread in the NYT where I publicly shamed my agent and trashed the entire publishing industry?"... yeah, you've probably scuppered your chances of getting published traditionally): "Write the best book you can, that's the only thing you can control."

And on that note, back to the writing... :)

Oh, here's Lisa's Pig Pen link:

Anonymous said...

If sad sales figures aren't the cloud following us around, it's probably the overthinking.

Two people said they didn't like my opening. Does that mean the other people were just being nice?!
Oh hey, this book is really good! And it reminds me a lot of that WIP I've got going. ...Oh shit, I'm a hack who can't write anything original. No one'll want my book!
I'm not supposed to be negative on social media?! But what about that one time my dog died and I said I was sad? DID I JUST RUIN MY WRITING CAREER?

Then again, at least in my case, if I didn't do so much overthinking, my books wouldn't be half so well thought out. Doubled-edged sword and all that.

Joseph Snoe said...

Lisa Bodenheim - As far as the hanging dark cloud, none did it better than Hapless Joe Btfsplk (from Lil Abner):

SiSi and E.M. – You’re right. At least two parts nag me all the time. One is I make assumptions and decisions as to approach and style. I have no idea if my choices will appeal to a reader. The second one is there’s always a different way to write a sentence (verb, noun, paragraph, page, chapter, etc). The experimenting can take forever.

Shaun – Thanks for the encouraging post.

Colin Smith said...

Joe Snoe's link:

For those that need it, here's how you make your own hyperlinks in Blogger comments.

Caveat: For some reason, some people can't get certain links to linkify. I haven't had trouble with linkifying yet, so it's okay if you want to just post a naked link (not a link to naked things, mind--remember Janet's link rule: Links are fine as long as they are not going to sites that increase someone's bank account or naughty bits). I'm happy to linkify links, and others will, too.

Donnaeve said...

I hurt all over. Egad. Those pics.

I agree with what the others have said about the supreme answer to all writer questions starts and ends with "write the best book you can."

And E.M said, "how do you KNOW it's your best?" I don't really have the answer for that. The only one I do have is, you'll know to some degree - because you stop changing it. You'll read it, and do that thing we've talked about before. Moving commas.

OFF TOPIC: The Fort Hood missing soldier tragedy has hit close to home. Here in the tiny town of Dunn, we've lost a bright, energetic, and talented young woman.

I am friends with the soldier's mother, Marlene Strongs. She and I have encouraged each other on our runs, and spent time walking together simply to talk, and catch up. Her beautiful daughter, Eddie Rae'Laurin Gates, when she wasn't on deployment, would also walk the neighborhood, and while on my runs I would always speak to her. She went to the same HS my kids graduated from, and right after, she joined the army, and went off to serve her country. She was one of the four missing in the flood.

BJ Muntain said...

They say you shouldn't worry about things you have no control over.

I know. I suck at that, too. But I've given up worrying about bad things that could go wrong when I ever get published. Instead, I do try to concentrate on what I can control right now - and I am preparing for the day when I do get published, to do my best to avoid those bad things.

I'm working on getting an agent, so I can avoid many of the contract problems mentioned here and elsewhere. I'm working on getting known for who I am, so people will know me when my books come out, and will hopefully help me spread the word. I'm working on developing my skills and knowledge, so I can be the best darn writer I can be. And so on and so forth.

By taking ownership of the things you can control, it helps to ease the worry about those you can't. Like building a net under a tightrope can make the wind a little less scary.

Adele said...

Until today I could have sworn it was Bftsplk. Much easier to pronounce.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Joe Snoe: I'd forgotten about Li'l Abner cartoons. Although I don't remember that guy (notice how I decided not to try to spell?)

Colin: thank you for linkifying and for that link for how we can do it on our own. I'm going to give it a try here right now...

Pig Pen My Page

Will it work?

Jenz said...

"I fear I bear some responsibility for this with my dire thoughts about what happens when Book #2 tanks."

Oh gee, ya think?

Here's a basic summary of that post:
35,000-40,000 in sales is good. 5,000 in sales on next book = your career is over. Mwa ha ha ha, suffer writers! *much glee from the Shark*

Elissa M said...

How do I know I've written the very best book I can? Well, what I know is that it's not. It's only the very best book I can write now.

At least, I hope I'm always getting better a whatever I'm doing.

Off Topic:

Donnaeve- Too many people don't realize that, even though we have troops in harm's way at this minute, more service members are regularly injured and killed in training than in combat. It's not a "safe" job even when we keep them home.

My heart goes out to you, your friend, and all the families involved.

Joseph Snoe said...

Donnaeve. Thank you for reminding us how significant every life is; and how human and special Eddie Rae Gates was. I feel for her parents and friends, and for the friends and families of the other people drowning in Texas in those floods.

roadkills-r-us said...

Joseph Snoe, thanks for bringing up L'il Abner! I thought about that strip the first time I saw your name, because I immediately thought of a shmoo.

DonnaEve, please let your friend know that a lot of us are feeling for them and praying for them. We're 45 minutes from Ft Hood, know soldiers and others there, and our son was there for a good while.

As far as the best book you can write, no book is ever truly done. It's never perfect. You just have to guess when it's good enough. But when you and your readers read it and find nothing more than the occasional minor edit, it's probably time to submit or publish.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

I am not squeamish.

But for those who are and missed out on the excellent blog post of a Chaos Cloud, here's a squeam-free link to the image of Pig Pen from Peanuts.

Chaos Cloud. Sounds like it's a phenomenon related to Weirdness Magnet.

Craig said...

Yes, always do your best. There are so many other aspects with which you have no say that you must do your best.

One of those things is timing. Genres rise and fall like the tides but by the time you finish writing something those tides have changed. Even if you secure an agent and get a deal you still have an interminable wait for you work to hit the market.

There is also the thing about breakout books. Somewhere around book three or four some writers are proclaimed to have written their breakout book. I think many of those writers just got lucky because a bunch of those variables aligned at the right time.

Also remember that many great books don't get recognized as such for years. Sometimes the writer has to have something catastrophic happen before their are recognized.

Do you best but keep striving because you best today will not be your best tomorrow if you continually try harder.

Julie Weathers said...


Thank you for reminding us about the lost soldiers at Ft. Hood as well as the other victims. It's terribly sad. The Blue Angel pilot who went down stayed with his plane instead of ejecting to try and guide it away from civilians.

As usual, Janet is correct. We are borrowing worries. There are rules about writing, no adverbs, no adjectives, no this, no that, write this way, write that way. Everyone has so much advice I'm amazed anyone has the courage to pick up the pen.

Then we worry about queries.

Then sales.

Then will we be able to write a second book.

The only thing you have control over is your writing and your attitude.

John Davis Frain said...

I just wish it was as easy to fix my writing as it is to fix my attitude. Which maybe goes to show I need to change my attitude about writing. Or maybe I just need to sleep some.

Happy Sunday writing everyone.

Julie Weathers said...


I've read some of your writing. I think you're doing fine. Writers are often their own worst critics. That's not to say some of what we write isn't crap. A scene I'm working on now isn't fit for worm meal, but it's a necessary one. I have hopes it may be decent after many revisions. Sometimes stuff flows and other times it's just danged hard work. The trick is to make the final work appear effortless.

Sleep is the great physician.