Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Indie Tuesday—Help! My Book and I Are Failures

by Charity Tinnin @CharityTinnin

I considered titling this post “How to Manage Your Expectations.” But, let’s be honest, that sounds too clinical. When sales aren’t meeting your goals, you and I are anything but clinical. “Help! My Book and I Are Failures” captures the panic a little better, don’t you think?

Let’s say, hypothetically, that you had a stellar release week for your indie debut. Ever since, however, you’re averaging one to four sales a week, and doubt creeps in. What if those sales dry up too? What if you don’t recoup your initial investment before book two? In fact, should you even bother with book two at this rate? 

At this point, you will be tempted to take advantage of the immediacy indie publishing allows. You can lower your pricing and change your Amazon or Barnes & Noble categories in less than five minutes. You can set up a Goodreads giveaway or buy a BookBub ad. Flood your Twitter or Facebook feed with ads. Maybe all of the above in the same weekend. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

In that moment, I beg you (and myself) to take a breath. Seriously. Okay, maybe another. Are you still hyperventilating? (Me either.) Now, what do we need to do?

First, remind yourself of the truth. You are not a failure because your first week, month, or quarter sales did not meet expectations. Most debut indie authors don’t see steady sales for seven-twelve months. More importantly, debut authors don’t gain fans (readers who love an author and tell others about said author) until they have multiple books out. Did you write a great book, hire/swap services with an experienced editor, and put together an attractive thumbnail cover, intriguing description, and compelling sample chapters? Then you are on the right track.

Second, review your goals, creative plan, and business plan. This has proved the most helpful for me. Why? Because only a minority of my goals have to do with finances and those that do are set out at one, three, and five year intervals. I’m on target with my creative goals and the financial ones? Well, I still have ten months before I hit that first threshold. You’ve started a business. It takes time to turn a profit. You made plans with this in mind; work your plans.

Now, with a fixed perspective, look at your marketing plan for the next one to three months. This is not the time to throw your plan out the window. It is, rather, time to ask how you might need to adjust: 

  • What is producing sales? Do more of that. 
  • What isn't working? Set a deadline for when you’ll cut back on that item if it doesn't start performing. 
  • What might you want to add? Consider a new component to your marketing efforts. 
Regardless, it's early yet. Neither you nor your book is a failure. Success is still within your grasp.

And whatever you do, keep writing.

Help! My book's a failure. @CharityTinnin discusses disappointment & unmet expectations on Indie Tuesday #indiepub

When you feel like a self-publishing failure. #IndieTuesday with @CharityTinnin via @EdieMelson #indiepub 

Charity Tinnin’s fascination with dystopian lit began in high school, so it's no surprise that her debut novel, Haunted, would be a YA dystopian. Now, she mentors high school students, works as a freelance editor, and lives in the foothills of North Carolina. When she’s not editing for a client or working on the State v. Seforé series, she spends her time reading YA and discussing the merits of fictional heroes online. Speaking of the Internet, Charity loves to talk about YA lit, TV, and State v. Seforé. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, or her website to continue the conversation.


  1. Hypothetically speaking...this is so on point for every Indie I've talked to. And when I talk to people who have started their own businesses they quote me 1-2 years of hard work every single day before they started turning a livable profit.

    I think the abundance of information in the indie world is a two sided coin that has both good and bad. It's good because authors can know now more than ever everything they need to produce a quality book and get any information about self-publishing they could ever want. The bad is we all hear the numbers from other people and are at risk of comparing our successes or lack there of (or what we think is lack there of). I recently got down because I was comparing my sales and finances to a friend who has been indie publishing for 16 months and has 7 books out. How ridiculous of me, right? Yet I had a couple bad days of wondering what I was doing wrong before I snapped myself back out of that.

    So glad to have many indie friends who are realistic and offer encouragement! :)

    1. Yes! Having indie friends to commiserate with AND pull one out of the funk is essential. So grateful you're one of mine. :)

  2. Great post and so spot on. Comparisons... that way lies madness. But it's true that it's the dual edged sword of open access to information - too much, and you'll spend all your time buried in it wondering why you're not an insta-success. I resist a lot of insta-success advice and work my plan. Would I sell more books if I followed the flavor-of-the-day marketing thing? Maybe. Would I be happier in my writing journey? Not likely. And right now, I'm pretty dang happy, and only part of that is related to sales. Most of it, in fact, is about the stories I'm getting to tell and the impact they're having on people. Most successful authors will tell you that, at the end of the day, the writing and the fans are what makes it a journey worth taking.

    Just this morning, as I told my husband some piece of advice that I was giving a newly published author but that she was struggling with, and he said, "Well, sure, that's easy to say, when you're selling books!" But the thing is... I was saying it before I was selling books too. I reminded him of that, and he agreed (mostly he just likes to yank my chain. Why do I keep that boy around again? Oh right. I love him.)

    Hang in there! You're just getting started.

    1. Thanks, Sue! And yes, the writing and the fans are definitely the best part. I've been incredibly grateful that my moments of "Oh no! Was this a mistake?" have been few. This is partly due to the fact that I knew indie publishing was the only way Noah and Daniel would meet the world. Having them out there, in the way I wanted them out there, and hearing what people think is so gratifying. The other reason is that I felt well prepped by you and my other indie friends to expect some unmet expectations in the beginning. Even so, the panic does creep up at times. When it does, I go back to my plan. Here's hoping this bit of transparency helps prepare/encourage others diving in as well.