The Ugly Truth About Book Sales

This is an excellent follow up to my last blog post, where Leona talks more about a blog post from Kameron Hurley I linked to in the comments section. It’s eye-opening stuff and shows that it isn’t just indie authors who have to work hard to achieve success.

Leona's Blog of Shadows

Today I am going to share some eye-opening truths, which might shatter the illusions regarding the book publishing business and crush the dreams of some folk out there. I have recently come across a rather interesting blog post link in the comments section under a post at Suffolk Scribblings blog.

It was a rather grim post by author Kameron Hurley. For those who are not familiar with her, she is an established author who has been a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, the Locus Award and the BSFA Award for Best Novel. Her short fiction has appeared in prestigious SFF magazines such as Lightspeed, EscapePod, and Strange Horizons. Her fiction has been translated into Romanian, Swedish, Spanish, and Russian. She is also a graduate of Clarion West. Impressive credentials many of us dream about accomplishing some day, if ever.

According to her…

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9 thoughts on “The Ugly Truth About Book Sales

  1. Excellent post. Thanks for re-posting so more of us could read it.

    Every word is true. This has certainly been my experience. I am nowhere near as accomplished as Ms. Hurley, but I too have been traditionally published and am an indie author. You can literally spend all of your time marketing and get almost no new writing done. It’s frustrating and, in a way, humiliating, as Ms. Hurley so eloquently describes.

    I’ve decided to take a different tack. I no longer try to write to the market, or what I think the market wants, or what others tell me the market wants. I do a little marketing, but spend most of my time writing stories that I would want to read. In other words, I write for myself. When I blog, I blog about things that interest me. I rarely spend time trying to hawk my wares.

    You would think that this is the kiss of death for a writer — at least, that’s what we hear all the time. If you don’t market like crazy, blog, tweet, Facebook, etc. etc. it’ll never happen for you. Well, maybe so, but I have only a limited time in this life and I refuse to spend it trying to scream louder than all the other thousands of authors out there. The truth is, the ONLY thing that ever really sells books is word of mouth, and we authors have pretty much zero control over that. The best we can do is write the books we want and hope others like them. And that’s what I intend to do.

    If I am successful, great. But I long ago gave up any fantasies about getting rich and famous as a writer. It’s harder now than it ever was. Chasing that fantasy is a waste of time, time I’d rather spend writing.

    • I have a very good friend in the music industry and after reading this post said “sounds familiar.” The problem with all creative industries is that there is an unlimited supply. Millions of people enjoy creating and would love a career doing the thing they love. Not all go through with it but enough do that the major publishers can happily throw new works into the market and see which stick. I don’t blame them, they are, after all, taking the risk, but it’s a dehumanising process. Your point “I have only a limited time in this life and I refuse to spend it trying to scream louder than all the other thousands of authors out there” is a good one. I too feel that way. I will promote my work, but not to the detriment of creating more. Thank you for your great comment.

    • It’s a hard read but I think there is something any writer can take away from it, which is that there are things you can do to improve your book’s performance. That’s not to say you will be as successful as Kameron Hurley, even if you do work as hard as she did, but there is no automatic sense of inevitability to a books performance.

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