My debut novel was published over three months ago, and it really hasn't sold well at all. I got my first royalty report and it was... well, let's just say it was embarrassing. I'd planned to splurge on a new dress or pair of shoes with that first cheque, but I ended up
celebrating commiserating with a bottle of off-brand domestic champagne that I bought on special because it was past its best-by date.
What do I do now? I was so certain it would sell at least a few copies. I'm realistic enough to know I wouldn't do Stephen King or John Grisham numbers, but this is devastating.
Do you have any advice?
All may not be as gloomy as it might seem. I don't know if you self-published or were published traditionally, but if you just received your first royalty report, it may not include all the sales for your book. It sometimes takes a while for sales made by third-party retailers to be collated and reported, and you will find these sales will show up in your next royalty report. I had the same devastating shock when I received my first ever royalty report from my publisher. Especially since the book had been a best-seller in its category the first weekend it went on sale.
But it could also be that your book really hasn't sold well. I read somewhere recently that most books published sell 250 copies or fewer. So at least you're not alone with your miserable royalty report.
As for what to do next, my suggestion would be not to give up. If you believe in the book, if you're certain it's good and worth the price it's being sold at, keep pushing it. It doesn't stop being worth selling just because it's not a new release anymore. And don't stop writing either. Sometimes it takes more than one book to make your mark.
Maybe your marketing wasn't right. Take a look at what you did and see if there is more you can do without spending a small fortune. Remember the idea is to make money and if you spend more on advertising than you earn, you're not making anything.
If you self-published, take a look at your cover and blurb. Do they do the book justice? Are they eye-catching? Intriguing? A book can sometimes get a whole new life just from a change in cover art or a new, tighter description.
On social media do you just talk about your book? Or do you engage with people about all sorts of things? You are not your book and the more you engage with people and let your personality shine through, the more likely people are to be interested in reading your work. My suggestion would be to only pimp your book occasionally on social media, maybe if it's on sale, or if a particularly good review comes through. Otherwise, stick to talking and sharing other things. Engage with people in a genuine way.
Have you had any reviews for the book? If they're good, use them as marketing material to help push the word out that this is a book worth reading. If they're not good, look at what the reviewers have said and see if you can use anything they said to your advantage. I'm not saying to re-write the book based on a couple of reviews, but if a reviewer mentioned poor editing or continuity, if you're a self-publisher, you should be able to fix that.
Reviews are important, so if you didn't reach out to reviewers pre-publication, it's not too late. You can still get reviews and they will still be valuable.
Just remember that books don't disappear. The right person might find it in two years' time and sing its praises to the rooftop, sending it skyrocketing to the top of the best-seller list. Or it might be your next book that really connects with readers, and that will send them searching for anything else you might have written.
Writing and publishing is a long game. It may take years and several books to reach the level of sales you dreamed of. You might never get to that level of sales. But you're still a published author and you should be proud of that, regardless of if you sell five books or five million.
Hope that helps!