I recently read an article about the current glut of movie releases. With approximately 700 movies released in the theaters each year in the US, the author said, it’s difficult for most of them to find an audience and be successful.
Compare that to the number of indie books published. Figures vary somewhat, but there are about 10,000 independent books released.
That’s not per year, that’s per week.
In other words, over a half million books, most of them fiction, hit the market each year, and that doesn’t even include traditionally published books.
In the minute since you started reading this, another hopeful author uploaded her contemporary romance or YA fantasy novel.
Who is buying and reading all these books? For the most part, no one, other than the author’s family and close friends. Most independent authors are lucky to gross $100 in a year.
This reality isn’t likely to change unless sunspots permanently take down the internet or a virus makes us all illiterate. Sadly, most of us will only dream of having fans line up at midnight to buy our latest novel or making enough money to buy an Italian villa as a writer’s retreat.
But there are things we writers can do for ourselves, other than turn to hard liquor and daytime TV. I offer this list of advice for making the most out of your writing life.
Write a good book. Better yet, write a great book.
Every writer who uploads a book to Kindle thinks it’s good, but 95% are mediocre at best. If you put passion and skill into your novel, and create a truly memorable story and characters, you’re much more likely to stand out in the crowd.
Write two or three more great books.
To bulid a readership, you need a body of work. Good work. Keep writing and rewriting. Make each book better than the last. Keep your readers wanting more.
Be smart about marketing.
Even if you write a good book, most people aren’t likely to discover it. You need to build your community. You need to advertise. As writer Ana Spoke recently pointed out, you also need to price your book right when supply far outstrips demand.
Don’t quit your day job.
Most of us will never make an honest living solely by being a writer. We’ll continue to be teachers, doctors, stock brokers, and Starbucks baristas. On the other hand, a regular job gets us out of the house and gives us something to write about other than the heartache of being a writer.
Believe in luck.
If a skeptical editor hadn’t give the first chapter of a manuscript to his eight-year-old daughter to read, Harry Potter might still be in the back of J.K. Rowling’s drawer. Of course, the fact that the novel was good helped overcome the doubts about its commercial prospects, but it still needed some luck on its side. You need to believe in luck too, though you’ll never know what it will look like until after it happens.
Write Because You Love to Write.
No matter what happens in your writing career, if you write because you love creating a world and inhabiting it with characters, then you will find satisfaction and everything that follows will be icing on your cake.