Sales: A Horrible Way to Think About Readers…
That’s my opinion and I wish I could say I always believed that, but I would be lying. When I was working traditional publishing, I only looked at sales numbers, copies shipped, and numbers on royalty statements.
About eight or nine years ago, right at the start of the indie movement, I did yet another count of the numbers of books I had sold.
Just over seventeen million.
That’s right, I had seventeen million copies of my books in print as of eight or so years ago. And I have been selling steadily since. Both the traditional books still sell and my indie books chug right along as well.
No clue what that number is now because in the last five years it suddenly dawned on me what that number meant. Seventeen million people had bought my books at one point or another.
People. Not numbers. People.
People spending money.
Since I realized a sale was a person, I have stopped counting. Now my focus is on the readers on the other side of the screen. And Kris and I teach that focus a great deal in our workshops. An awareness of the reader.
So now back to the topic of artistic freedom and the choice that many writers make to write to a market.
Money drives that choice. Money gets into the front part of any creative process and colors it like a bad stain. Impossible to get out once let into any project.
Now I love that writers have the artistic freedom these days to convince themselves they know more about publishing than anyone else and write what they think is selling.
Selling equals sales numbers.
Sales numbers equal money in your bank.
And if it works, good for those writers. And if they can maintain it for longer than few years, even better for them. Talked all about that in previous posts on this topic.
So now, the same writers who write for money give a ton of lip service to making sure readers are happy, telling readers about their books, and so on. You know… self-promotion.
So on one hand indie writers push sales while on the other hand they talk about readers. Not necessarily mutually exclusive, but conflicted.
But I don’t think many writers, especially those chasing “markets” with their artistic freedom, actually understand what a sale means.
For example, I heard a writer the other day complain that he had only thirty sales on a new book in its first month. I said nothing.
But I really, really wanted to get thirty people to line up in front of that writer, be happy about buying his book, and hand him their money for his book. I really wanted him to see what thirty sales really meant.
It meant that one person, one human being per day liked what he had done enough to spend hard-earned money on it.
And this writer was complaining. Luckily, none of those readers could hear him being ungrateful for their support.
So, in my opinion, artistic freedom gives a writer the freedom to write for money or to write for love. Sometimes, on a project or two, the two cross, but rarely.
There was a great comment on a post a few back. This writer was quoting another writer who said basically they write for an audience of one. That audience is themselves.
Yup, I have made the artistic choice to write to entertain myself. I put the story out for sale when done, but honestly, the reason I write is to create worlds and characters that no one else is creating and entertain myself in the process.
So do I let those seventeen million readers who have bought my books into my creation process? Nope. I cherish the fact that they supported my writing in that way over the decades.
But I write for only me.
Not for money, not for readers, not for anything else. My artistic choice is to entertain myself.
Surprisingly to the old traditional writer in me, that’s more than enough.