ABOUT TIME AND SALES

At the writer lunch today we talked about a royalty statement I got recently from Pocket Books on one of my many Star Trek books. It showed that the book had sold six copies.

Under the old system, I would have glanced at that and just tossed the sheet laughing at how a book can only sell six copies in six months. But I am trying to move my thinking to readers.

The old traditional thinking (and those in traditional publishing to this day) never considers readers at all. Just sales, numbers on a piece of paper to be batted around with graphs and profit/loss statements.

Well, indie writers think of readers and what that royalty report stated clearly was that six people, six humans somewhere, spent money and time to buy one of my novels.

A novel I wrote 23 years ago.

Let me repeat that. I wrote that novel 23 years ago.

Indie publishing (ignoring the gold rush days) has been going now for about four years. I constantly try to get indie writers to think long term. Well, I sold six copies of a forgotten traditional book I wrote 23 years ago. No promotion, nothing.

How amazing is that?

Another Book from the Past

Also tonight I turned in to WMG Publishing an issue of Smith’s Monthly that is starting a novel serialization of my first published novel. For the rest of the year I will put in the 70,000 word novel Laying the Music to Rest over about ten issues of the magazine.

I am not changing a word or even a name. It will be the exact novel that was published by Warner Questar in 1989.  (Only we are fixing some of the typos that were in the earlier version.)

I wrote that book in 1987 on a typewriter, sold it in 1988, and it came out in 1989. It was not my first written novel, but my first sold. My first two written novels were destroyed in a house fire.

The reason I am bringing this novel back into print after all these years is the 30th anniversary next year of my writing it. The serialization will be done and WMG will have it in book form in 2017.

Thirty years.

Now try to imagine a book you write now still being in print in thirty years?

And earning sales.

Tough to imagine, huh? But you should, because that is the new world we live in. Books do not need to ever go out of print as my first novel did.

Ever.

And shouldn’t.

Yet indie writers who are keeping track only have about four years of data at most. And the Author Earnings Reports only have about two years of data. And just look at the changes they have charted in two years.

So indie publishing in thirty years? Any idea? Most writers just shake their head, put their head down, some into the sand, and don’t want to think about it.

But there are a few of us who are thinking about it and trying to get a grasp on the ramifications in sales, in money flow, and so much more.

For example: You want to know how to have over a hundred novels in print? Simple: Write four novels a year and get them into print for thirty years. I did that in traditional publishing.

That just made a bunch of indie writers shudder. (grin) And most writers would never be able to do that, which is why there are so few of us with the length of careers and numbers of books that I have.

Consider another point… I have been publishing in my magazine and then in stand-alone form a novel per month for the last two plus years. My goal is to get the magazine past issue 100. About seven years from now.

And all those novels and short stories can remain in print and selling for far longer than thirty years.

THE POINT

Why I am going on about two of my old novels is simple trying to push writers into thinking about longer term.

I know Kris and I seem to most as outliers or old-timers, depending on who is ignoring us in any conversation. But both of us and a lot of other long-term professional writers are trying to get glimpses into very, very cloudy crystal balls and ask the standard science fiction question: What if this goes on?

What will general publishing, what will indie writing, what will traditional publishers look like in just five years or even ten years, let alone thirty years???

And in this new world what kind of sales can a book generate over thirty years? Especially if you keep paying attention to it and changing the marketing to fit the times?

Or over the life of a copyright? (70 years past an author’s death)

When you start looking forward, into the future, this new world of publishing gets very, very rosy for the writers who think long-term and stay active.

But if your focus and your entire self worth is tied up in how your latest promotion and sales numbers went, you will be lost in short order.

I sold six copies of a book I wrote 23 years ago and I expect to sell a bunch of copies of a novel I wrote 30 years ago.

And since I am still alive for the moment, that book I wrote almost 30 years ago has a very, very long life of sales ahead of it yet. Maybe another hundred years or more.

And that sometimes is hard to grasp, but I am sure trying.