Not What I Expected At All

When I wrote Into the Badlands I wrote it because I love to write and the story held meaning for me. I didn’t expect it to sell and I didn’t expect to make any money on it.

I read Joe Konrath’s blog religiously, I follow the news about self-publishing, and I’m playing the self-publishing game with all the technique I can muster. I knew there were self-published authors out there selling thousands upon thousands of eBooks, but I very much doubted I’d be one of them.

Instead I set my sights on a more realistic goal.

I set a goal that I would sell 100 books in the first 12 months after my novel was published. 100 copies was a “stretch” goal; I felt it more plausible to reach for 50. In reality, I figured I’d actually sell 25 copies.

Even if I sold only 25 copies that would still be $50 in my pocket. I’d be getting paid for something I’d always done for free. And 25 people would have read my work. That’s still a win.

But then something strange happened. I released the book in September of this year. That month it sold 45 copies. I estimated 20 or so of those were probably sales to friends and family, so it was probably a fluke. I was happy, but realistic. I expected sales to screech to a halt in October.

That didn’t happen. Instead I actually sold more copies than I did the prior month. I sold 57 copies of the book, averaging almost 2 copies a day.

Those weren’t sales to friends and family. Those were sales to strangers. I even received two good reviews that month. (I haven’t solicited reviews, by the way; at least not so far. Not sure if that’ll change in the future.)

By the end of October I’d done something I never expected I would do: I not only achieved my 100 copy goal, I surpassed it. And I did it in 2 months instead of 12.

Then November rolled around and sales increased again. I couldn’t believe it. So far I’m averaging 4 to 5 copies sold per day. Perhaps that’s laughably low, but it’s an all-time high for me.

If sales hold steady I’m on track to sell around 125 books this month. So far in November alone I’ve sold over 100 copies. I’ve sold over 200 copies since it was published nearly three months ago. I also received two more positive reviews and an e-mail from a happy reader.

Will this trend continue? Have sales leveled out? Will they go down? Will they go up? I don’t know the answer to those questions. I do know that I have to take all my pre-conceived expectations and throw them out the window.

So what I was treating strictly as a hobby I’m now treating more like a part-time job; after all, for the first time in my life I’m actually making some money writing.

I’m also reaching readers, something I’ve never been able to do before. Based on the reviews so far it would appear the book is resonating with them. I couldn’t be happier about that.

I’m still not writing strictly for the money. If I start doing that I’ll poison the work. I make enough as a programmer that I can afford to take chances with my books. If I write a book that doesn’t sell, I still eat. But if the book does strike a chord with folks it’s even more rewarding because I stayed true to myself while writing it.

So what do I do now? That’s an easy one. I continue doing what I always do: writing stories to entertain myself and hopefully others. I might not ever sell another book. I might sell thousands. Who knows? All I know for sure is that I will keep writing more books for the right reasons. With the right combination of hard work, dedication, and luck I think things have a very good chance of falling into place.

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