Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for September 3rd, 2013

Why every sale counts

with 4 comments

The author's third novel

I don’t often make a direct sales pitch on this blog—in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever done so, although I’m not above hyping my work in as many indirect ways as I can—but today, I’m going to break that rule. Ready? Here it is:

If you enjoy reading this blog, you might also want to pick up a copy of my novel Eternal Empire.

You know what? That actually felt pretty good. I don’t ever intend to turn this blog solely into a vehicle for promoting myself: I’ve seen too many writers whose Twitter feeds consist entirely of links to their book’s Amazon page, as if that were a legitimate sales tactic. (Trust me—it isn’t.) Yet since this is the day that Eternal Empire arrives in stores, I’m not just going to relax this rule, I’m going to talk a little about why sales matter so much to a writer like me. And it may not be for the reason that you think. 

If you know something about publishing, you’re probably aware that the bulk of a writer’s income doesn’t come from direct sales of his or her books. Prior to the book’s release, the writer signs a contract providing him with an advance, installments of which are paid on signing, on delivery, and on publication. An advance is pretty much what it sounds like: a portion of the royalties due to a writer paid up front, ideally to be made up later by sales. At least in theory. In practice, most books don’t earn out their advances, which means that this is the only money a writer ever sees. (If you’re lucky, you’ll get additional income from things like foreign rights, but that’s not something you can ever count on.) As a result, this generally means that the money from any one sale doesn’t go directly to the author, but to the publisher. Even if I “earn” a dollar or so from every copy sold of one of my books, I don’t see that money until the advance earns out, and when a novel is first released, that breakeven point starts to look an awfully long way in the future. 

The author's third novel

But every sale still counts, and not just because they’re inching me incrementally toward the day when I can start to earn additional royalties. In the short term, book sales are a point system—a way of keeping score. They tell Barnes & Noble how long to keep a book on display, which is a crucial consideration at a time when turnover is incredibly high. Within a publishing house, it’s a metric of an author’s future potential, and it helps determine the resources your next book receives. And if you ever go out to other publishers—as I happen to be doing right this minute—you can bet that they’ll check your Bookscan numbers before deciding whether or not to make an offer. It may not seem like a single sale can make much of a difference, but it really does: it’s a point in an author’s favor, proof that someone out there thought his work was worth buying, and when taken in the aggregate, it’s information that plays an enormous practical role. The money isn’t important; it’s that constantly updated score that has the potential to directly affect an author’s life. 

So I’ll say it once more, and I promise not to say it again. If you’ve enjoyed this blog, and especially if you’re one of those readers—and I love you—who spend a lot of time here, I’d like you to seriously consider picking up a copy of Eternal Empire or The Icon Thief or City of Exiles. I think they’re pretty good books, and they might even help you enjoy this blog all the more: I plan to start a detailed commentary on City of Exiles later this week, and I hope do the same for every novel I write. They’ll also give you a bit of perspective on any tidbits of advice, wisdom, or opinion I share. Nothing of what I’ve written here counts for much if I’m not also a writer whose work stands on its own merits, and the best way to judge this for yourself is to check it out at the source. Most of all, I’ve invested a lot of time into making these novels as interesting and entertaining as I can: without exception, they’ve always been books I wanted to read, and I’ve been lucky to get the chance to see them take physical shape. I sure as hell want to keep doing it. And every little bit makes a difference.

Written by nevalalee

September 3, 2013 at 8:26 am

Posted in Books, Publishing, Writing

Tagged with ,

Quote of the Day

leave a comment »

Written by nevalalee

September 3, 2013 at 7:30 am

%d bloggers like this: