Here's the message I sent - it's starts out with my answering the question that many new published authors ask when they see that they didn't come out of the box selling in quantity ...
First, get out of your head that you did something 'wrong.' The only things a writer can do that are truly wrong are - not publishing their work - publishing really bad work (and I mean really bad).
Becoming an accomplished (the word is relative but let's just agree that it means making more money than it cost you in time and money) writer is all about the 'VOLUME' of quality published works you put out. Don't ever measure on the strength of one book. Using your example of Ms. Hocking - she had 10 works that she had written over a course of 10 years that she published almost simultaneously - which gave her immediate breadth of volume. If you factor in the fact that she wrote in a popular genre, at the right time and with quality work (generally accepted) - you get her sales figures ... but it did NOT come from one published work!
The suggestions I'll give you below are not created by me - I learned them from the practices of long-term, accomplished writers. You can like or not ... don't matter - they are what they are - successful practices of successful, long-term midlist writers (notice I'm not giving you the advice of King, Patterson, Rowling, et al. on purpose - those are outliers - if you gain their success - God Bless you, you don't need advice then).
You should feel better about yourself after this advice too because like I said up top ... you're not doing anything wrong accept maybe "planting the seed in the morning and looking for the flower by noon" (I just made that up ... I like it! haha) Here goes:
Best practices of successful writers (in general order of importance):
- Publish a large volume of quality work - general rule of thumb is 3-4 novel length works per year! If not novels 240,000 to 320,000 words per year, every year! (May not be easy, I know it's not for a slow-poke like me, but it is something all of the successful midlist fiction writers do).
- If you write fiction, you should seriously consider publishing both eBook and print versions. Still to today - for fiction, print version can account for 60%+ sales, so you could be missing 6 out of 10 potential readers of your works by publishing eBook only. Look into CreateSpace if you intend on publishing paper - they are the most affordable and easiest.
- Once you publish - use your website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace (and you don't even need anything more than your own website and Facebook nowadays, as bare-bones) to promote your works ...AND THAT'S IT! Don't (READ: DO NOT) waste your time trying to sell any ONE work for too long - keep the title active in your social networking - explain it and yourself well on your site and WRITE YOUR NEXT ONE! This is the biggest mistake of new published writers - spending waaaayyy too much time looking at sales and trying to sell that first book!
- You should also send queries to as many reviewers as you can to ask for reviews but I can tell you - it's really hard to get reviewers for first novels - still you should try (I sent out to a dozen and so far, only got one professional review - but it was a doozy ... 5-Stars!) *** NEVER pay for a review ... EVER! It will destroy your integrity. Merely query, and over time you'll get someone that will give your work a review (I'm talking, professional review). Keep in mind though, a reviewer can just as easily pan your work as praise it - we writers don't have control over that ... so don't sweat it).
The #1 thing that sells fiction is word-of-mouth. You get word-of-mouth from writing quality works, publishing them, letting people know they're out there, and reviews if you can get 'em. OVER TIME, with more and more of your quality written works out there, you will get more and more W-O-M and that will lead to your entire catalog selling more and more!
Remember, in this new world of self-publishing and eBooks, etc., you works remain on sale FOREVER! That's a long time. So the book you wrote this year will bounce along the bottom for awhile in sales - 3 this month, 0 next months, etc. but who cares ... it doesn't cost you anything and you're busy writing and publishing your next one ... and then your next one ... and each time you publish you gain a few more readers and then a few more ... and each time you get new readers, they don't just buy your newest work, they buy ALL of your works (ala Hocking). Now, you're not selling 2-3 books per month, you're selling 2-3 X (2 or 3 new readers) X (fill in the number of books you've written since you listened to my advice). After year 2, you have 6-8 books each selling 9 copies/month. 8 X 9 = 72 books per month X 12 months = 864 ... then comes year 3 and now it's 12 books X 15/month = 180/month X 12 months = 2,160 per year ... etc!
It's a snowball effect as long as you faithfully turn out a large volume of quality work!
Like I told you before - don't concern yourself with how much Hocking sold or any other writer, including me. My sales are amped up from the norm because of a few things that are unique to me - I was a professional entertainer that is still known to thousands around the world ... so I got a little boost from that. I also did all of the steps above (followed the advice of Dean Wesley Smith ... I actually just started publishing a blog of my publishing experiences here: http://bit.ly/dVPPML. You can follow my progress there and weigh in with your own experiences).
I'm doing okay and I'll confess that I do look at my daily sales - but Dean is correct - don't fret about it - YOU'RE DOING NOTHING WRONG - except fretting when you could be typing your next work!
As for price point - you may have noticed I didn't even have it on the list above. That's because while it's important - it's not the all-important aspect that too many new writers think it is ... and ... it's a dynamic, NOT a static thing (in other words, prices will always change - as they should).
I originally put my eBook out for $5.99. I benefited from initial sales, then after 2 months, I lowered the price to $4.99 and ... got less sales (so far). I've spoken to many on the subject and for me, from now until something big changes I will price my full-length novels by this model:
Hardback = $24.99
Trade paper = $12.99
eBook = $4.99
As soon as novel # 2 is published in September, my new novel will be sold at prices above and novel #1 will be reduced - paper by about 10%-20% and eBook will be reduced to $0.99.
The point of my model is to reduce the price of my backlist so that buyers of the newest book will have an incentive to buy my entire catalog.
I hope this helps ... just keep writing and be patient. As you build a backlist, ALL of your titles will eventually sell more ... as long as your quality remains high!
If you self-publish or intend to self-publish you need to check out the blogs by Dean Wesley Smith and his wife Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Here's the links:
Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing
New World of Publishing
Think Like a Publisher
The Business Rusch: On Writing
(Please feel free to leave comments – your comments can be as helpful as anything I write for others. I hope this series turns out to be less my talking at you and more – a group of like-minded storytellers that self-publish or intend to. Peace & God Bless!)