Cruel and Unusual Punishment: Asking Authors How Many Books They Sold

There’s this tendency for non-writers to ask how many books you sold. And as an author, that question always causes a spike in anxiety.

Why?

Most authors wish more copies of their book sold. Plain and simple.

We’re happy to have sold the copies we’ve sold, of course we are, because that means people are reading our work.

But many of us want to do this full time, and selling 50 or 100 copies of a book does not a full time wage make.

So, as happy as we are to sell any copies, there’s always the weight of not selling enough to be a full time author hanging about our shoulders.

Many non-writers are unaware of what it takes to manage to sell even just a handful of books (or how many $2-$5 royalties it takes to make a living wage). Even without considering the writing, editing, formatting, metadata and publishing (if indie), querying (if traditional), there’s an absolute shit ton of work that goes into selling books.

Months, or years, of social media posts. Newsletters, networking with other authors, blog tours, and Instagram tours.

Then, there’s advertising, which is a hellscape, in and of itself. So many authors (myself included) hate advertising because it feels as if there’s just too much to learn, and if you do it wrong, you’re literally just dumping money down the drain.

It’s intimidating.

And then, of course, there’s the vicious cycle of being afraid to check your sales and your ads (even though it’s necessary to tweak ads to get them to actually work), thus leading to ads running and doing nothing, then finally getting up the nerve to check them (or giving in to the shame/self-blame of knowing we’re not doing what we should, thus finally checking the ads) and seeing that they’ve done nothing, because they haven’t been adjusted. Which just hurts and confirms the self-doubt we all harbor.

Writing is a very vulnerable process.

We’re basically putting ourselves on the market, because a lot of ourselves go into our books, not to mention the time and effort to get them written and ready.

So, to all the non-writers reading this, if a book is selling well, the author will let you know. They’ll be ecstatic.

And even if they aren’t chomping at the bit to tell you, it’ll likely appear on material promoting the book. Because selling a lot of copies is actually a good tool to sell more books.

That’s why you see awards on book covers or the title “USA Today Bestselling Author” or “New York Times Bestselling Author” above author names. It’s a tool to sell more books, to let you know that you can trust that book and that author because so many other people already have.

So, please, if you know an author, don’t stress them with talk of sales. If you’re curious about the fact that they write, ask about the main character of the book they’re working on/just released.

For all the authors out there wishing you’d sold more copies and comparing your numbers to the whole “most books sell less than 250 copies” thing, don’t forget that this average includes all the bestsellers, who skew that number quite a bit.

Look at your audience (excluding follow loop numbers), and 5% of that number is where you should aim for preorders. If you get that (or exceed that) then not only are you doing just fine, you should celebrate.

Like… a lot.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Check out my gritty, literary sci-fi and fantasy books hereSubscribe for sneak peeks and updates on my upcoming books (and get a free short story). Or if you’d rather pitch in for editing and other writing-related expenses, you can support me directly here.

Five Tropes that I Hate: A Book Rant

It’s time for a rant, and man, have I been building up to this. This trope series has been rather positive so far, but now, it’s time to spill some tea. Today, I’m talking about my least favorite tropes in books.

First and foremost, we’ll start with on that is unbelievably popular, much to my confusion.

Harems and Reverse Harems

Just… why?

These always feel unnecessary to me, not to mention ridiculously unlikely. Unless you’re dealing with an actual celebrity, the odds of seven people being into the same person are just… too high for me to really accept within a book.

Not to mention… juggling that many people just seems exhausting.

I’m good on all that.

The Bookworm (Or the writer)

I know, another controversial one. Reading about a bookworm or a librarian who goes on adventures seems like something that should appeal to me.

But for some reason, it’s actually a pet peeve of mine.

Maybe it’s because I want to read about characters that I don’t have quite so much in common with, and since books are kinda my lifeline, a character with the same lifeline really isn’t breaking the mold for me.

Plus, from a writing standpoint, it just feels too easy for a writer to give the character the exact same passion that the writer possesses means that writing the hobbies of their characters requires absolutely zero effort or research.

And it means that while reading, I’m less likely to pick up some ridiculous little bit of know-how or some little quirk that’s unique to that character’s hobby. Because I already know how to turn pages in books and I clearly know what it feels like to sit at a computer typing for hours on end.

The Ditz

I don’t typically like ditzy people in real life, so it isn’t terribly surprising that I don’t like them in books.

I want strong, capable characters who can think about what they’re doing and the consequences it’ll have. I want characters I can relate to, and that means they should probably use their brain, sometimes using it so much that they actually hold themselves back.

I don’t want to groan in frustration the whole time that I’m reading because the character is walking into asinine situations and endangering their life and the lives of others simply because they have too much hot air in their head to think anything through.

The Meat-Head

I know that these people exist in real life, but much like the ditz, I avoid them.

Muscles are cool, don’t get me wrong. But they’re not the most important thing in the world. That view seems rather short-sighted. Though considering the average intellect of the meat-head characters, that short-sightedness isn’t altogether surprising.

Again, I want intelligent characters. I want them to think about their situation and their choices. Brute force works in some situations, but not all.

And these characters fall short when any amount of brains are necessary.

Mr./Ms. Indecisive

What exactly is the point of a character that never makes a choice? If they hang back and let the world dictate their entire life, why are they playing a role in the plot?

I like character-driven stories, and these characters refuse to decide anything, thus ruining their ability to drive the plot forward.

What’s your least favorite trope? Let me know in the comments below. Really let loose. I certainly did.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Check out my books here and fill your heart with all the aforementioned tropes. Subscribe for sneak peeks and updates on my upcoming books. Or if you’d rather pitch in for editing and other writing-related expenses, you can support me directly here.

Why are we comparing short stories to novels?

Hi, guys!

Recently, in one of the many writing groups that I’m a part of, someone asked if people write short stories when they give up on writing a novel. As if writing a short story were something that could just be done with no thought or skill, whatsoever, because supposedly, it’s the easiest thing to write.

And that kinda stuck with me.

I was just flabbergasted.

That level of prejudice toward a type of story just… hadn’t occurred to me before then. I write stories of all lengths, flash fiction, short stories, novellas, novels, and now, series. So, I know that each one poses its own unique challenges.

No single one of these defines a writer’s skill.

None of them denote having given up.

Series require the solution to some problems, but the tension of certain things left undone for the next book. The characters have to develop and grow (or fall apart). They have to encounter one stumbling block after another, without it reading as if you’re literally just trying to draw the story out to make money on a second book. Or a third. Or a seventeenth.

Novels require all the loose ends to be tidied up by the end of the book, and hopefully enough intrigue to carry the reader to that point. Throwing in just enough obstacles to carry the characters (and the readers) through 70,000 to 110,000 words is a difficult balance to strike.

Novellas and novelettes have to operate on a smaller scale or go out with one hell of a bang. You have to choose your words carefully to get the exact right meaning across, which should be done regardless of book length, but especially so when you don’t have the word count to spare. And you have so much less space to truly develop your characters. It can be done, but it can be a challenge.

And then, there’s short stories and flash fiction.

Building a world, developing characters, and putting together a plot (then wrapping it up) in less than 7,500 words for a short story or less than 1,000 words for flash fiction is not an easy feat.

You have to grab people so quick. You have to make them give a shit about the character immediately.

Because there aren’t enough words not to.

So to say that failed novel writers become short story writers is a load of bullshit.

Writing short stories instead of novels has nothing to do with whether an author is successful or creative or smart. What it truly comes down to is the number of words it takes to successfully express a given story.

That’s it.

Some stories are meant to be a series that keeps you hanging on from one book to another. Some are meant to come in, punch you in the face with 700 words, and leave you reeling.

That’s just how it goes.

The stories should decide what length they are.

The writer’s skill or work ethic has nothing to do with it.

So, if you write short stories or flash fiction, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Your work poses it’s own unique set of difficulties.

Overcome them and show those judgmental jerks who’s boss.

Now, as far as my own work is concerned, I’ve been forging ahead on projects of varying lengths over this past week.

I did a full round of edits on a short story called Born of Heathen Gods. I’m torn between releasing it on its own or saving it back for an anthology, down the road.

I made some progress on this round of edits on Where Darkness Leads, cutting out over 1,000 words of info dumps/repetition so far.

And I’ve written over 5,000 words in The Regonia Chronicles. Some pieces are falling into place within book two, and I’m pretty excited to keep moving ahead.

Just not tonight.

Today’s 12 hour shift in the sweaty ass tire factory really took it out of me.

So for now…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Three Types of Writers and What They Might Mean For You

Hi, guys!

There are so many ways to write a book. Every author has their own method, their own process. But there are a few basic types of writers that most can agree on, though some have different names for them.

For all the readers out there who are curious and for all the writers just looking to figure out where you fall (maybe you’re looking for a group of like-minded writers to seek out tips on streamlining the process you prefer, but need a name for your group), I’ll be going over three types of writers.

There’s the pantser, the plantser, and the plotter.

Basically, it’s a range of planning.

Plotters do ALL the planning.

They’ll take personality tests as their characters, building in depth profiles for every single one. They might spend months or even years building their world, ironing out every detail of that realm’s history, weather patterns, physics, and magic before ever putting down a single word of prose.

And they need that.

A lot of plotters feel lost or overwhelmed without those things. They need to have that organization, that detail, laid out before they start writing to ensure that when they start to write, they never mess anything up or forget anything.

Every twist and turn, every angle, every character development is planned and accounted for before they start writing.

Then, there’s the other end of the spectrum.

Pantsers (aka discovery writers, aka flashlight writers) jump right in. No planning. No outlines.

All that extra stuff, the detailed character profiles, the story bibles… feels like a waste of time to pantsers. It cages them in, restraining the characters and the story. It impinges on their creative freedom, a thing they value above all else.

They’d rather let the story unfold as they go, exploring the world and learning about the characters as the plot develops. That might mean going back and adjusting things every now and then to accommodate new developments, but that’s something they’re willing to do.

For these writers, the book is every bit as much of a mystery to them when writing as it is to readers. And they love it.

Characters often feel like separate entities and sometimes “refuse” to talk to them, a thing that plotters often put down to inadequate planning, but plotters chalk up to fully developed characters.

And then, there are the people in the middle.

Plantsers do some level of planning, but also enjoy the exploration and mystery.

They might put together a small outline, maybe a page or so, but deviate from it if necessary. And they probably won’t lose sleep over doing so.

They like to have an idea of how things will go and where the character arcs will lead them, but are open to change.

Personally, I tend to fall on the pantser end of the spectrum. If I know too much about a story when I start writing, I lose interest. Because there’s no freedom left in it.

There’s one story that I started writing several years ago, and one day, the ending just appeared in my mind, and I wrote it out, word for word, in complete detail.

And in my head, that story was done. I knew the ending. I knew how all the characters developed.

But the middle of the book wasn’t written.

And it still isn’t.

I’ve written several others instead.

Eventually, I’ll go back and write the middle of that one, but there are all these other ideas that haven’t reached a conclusion in my mind. Those just pull me in more than the one that’s “finished.”

Now, I do take notes as I go, putting character descriptions into a separate document as I go so I don’t give a side character blonde hair at the start of the book and black hair at the end.

But that’s about it.

What should all my fellow writers take away from this?

The resolution to write how you need to write. Everyone has their own process. Writing a book is an intensely personal experience. What works like a charm for one person might stop another in their tracks.

Write your book however you need to.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.