I said a few weeks ago that there were 7 reasons to like e-books if you’re an author. Then I mentioned the other day that there was an 8th reason. Now I have found reason #9. (Maybe I’ll work my way up to 10 next month.)
I’ve been reading The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (free download at Smashwords) as I continue to study marketing ahead of the launch of my debut novel, Acceptance. A lot of the stuff he says I already know from previous research, but I did learn something quite interesting.
Print books are sent to brick-and-mortar stores, where they sit on a shelf for 2-4 weeks. If they don’t have decent sales, they are sent back to the publisher for a refund. They are either then destroyed, or sold to book discounters like those you see in outlet malls, or they wind up at Dollar General or The Dollar Tree. And there ends your book’s career (and all chance you have of making money from it).
E-books (and print-on-demand), however, are almost never removed from virtual/online shelves. They can sit there for months and slowly build up sales and reviews until–if you’re lucky–you hit the tipping point (aka breaking out). And, as Mark Coker points out, if you’re not getting the sales you want, you can experiment with your cover design, your blurb (aka book description), your price point, edit/update the text, do promotional events, etc. If something doesn’t work, try something else; you have the rest of your life to figure it out.
I’ve also been reading The Best of Catherine, Caffeinated, in which Catherine talks about how she became a self-supporting self-published author. She confirms some of the stats that Mark Coker references, which is that it takes, on average, a year for a debut novel to start generating decent sales (and by decent, I mean enough to live on if you’re lower middle class). If you don’t do a lot of marketing and promotion (which Catherine did), your growth will be slower, and you might be looking at closer to 2 years.
Each subsequent novel, however, takes less time to reach its boiling point (i.e. that amount of sales which is consistent from month to month), because once you build a fan base, most of them will buy your subsequent novels fairly soon after you release them.