Recently, someone told me, “I didn’t by a copy of Outbound Train because (on Facebook) it looks like you’re doing so well.”
I paused for a moment, not understanding the rationale behind the statement. Why would someone ever think I am doing so well that I don’t need help? At that moment I knew I needed to immediately clear up this misunderstanding, while not breaking the unwritten rule: Authors don’t talk about sales.
Today, I’m going to talk about sales during the time of COVID-19.
Outbound Train debuted at number 22 in Southern Fiction. Because I thought I knew how many books it took to receive that ranking, I was elated. The reality punched me square in the gut.
Five years ago, this ranking meant a novel sold approximately five to six hundred copies in a week.
Two years ago, this ranking meant a novel sold approximately two-three hundred copies in a week
This year, debuting at number 22 meant Outbound Train sold less than 25 copies in order to achieve this “high ranking.“
Fewer than twenty-five copies.
Here’s what authors are telling me behind the scenes:
Every day I try to find something good, a little bit of news I can post about my novel just to keep it in the public eye.
Everyone is on Facebook; it is saturated with videos about books.
I wish readers would write reviews.
I wish readers would tell their friends.
I wish readers would ask the library to order a copy of my book.
I wish someone would buy my book
What is going to happen to us?
But what I’m hearing most is the following: I’m going to take a year off, maybe two years and think about whether I’ll write again.
Authors have already seen changes to the way publishers do business. The shift began in March as publishing companies furloughed editors, halted the distribution of paper galleys to reviewers, and pushed back book release dates. Moving forward, many publishers will select future novels based on public interest (meaning more celebrity books, more conspiracy and pandemic books) [Source, Publisher’s Weekly]. Many Independent Authors, who struggle to find a place on this ever shifting platform, simply haven’t the energy – or the money–to invest in a book when a financial reward isn’t possible.
As the saying goes, “Don’t quit your day job.”
Pay attention to how many of your favorite authors have taken teaching positions, or who offer summer conferences. There’s the truth about publishing. Authors simply can not make a living in this business. Traditional publishing has always been difficult, but now debut novelists and those represented by small presses will not receive future contracts without good sales now.
So what’s an author to do? The only thing I know is to be honest with readers, which, as you know, has always been the case.
Outbound Train has received phenomenal support from readers. Some recommended Outbound Train to book clubs. (Thank You). Some readers have given copies away (Thank You). With so many unemployed, I realize people don’t have money to buy books right now. Did you know, you can recommend Outbound Train to your librarian?
However, that doesn’t solve the problem of those who think the book is so successful I don’t need their help. Friends, I need your help more than ever. Helping is so easy. Even if you haven’t read Outbound Train, even if you have no intention of reading it, even if you don’t read – at all – you can support me and other Indie authors by posing on your Social Media Platform. You can tell a friend. You can talk to your librarian.
Social media experts need only grab an image of the cover,and copy the following into your social media platform with the following words:
“Happy to see Renea Winchester’s debut novel, Outbound Train, available wherever books are sold.”
“Congratulations to Renea Winchester whose debut novel, Outbound Train was selected as a #SummerRead by famed reviewer, Dannye Powell.
Support Independent Bookstores by including this link to purchase https://bookshop.org/shop/rwinchester
or the publisher https://shoplpc.com/outbound-train/
Pick one, or all three and share.
Your friends who are readers, and are looking to discover a new writer, will see your post and boom, that’s how Outbound Train stays alive. That’s how all authors stay alive to write another book. Because at the end of the day, authors are also small businesses and we need your support.
As always, my success comes from readers telling other readers. And my gratitude is immeasurable and heartfelt. And as always, I welcome your thoughts about lifting the veil on the illusion of an author’s success.
Renea Winchester is an award-winning non-fiction author. After years of writing nonfiction, Outbound is her first novel and is available wherever books are sold.