Keeping Hope Alive
I’ve often likened one’s writing output to rescue notes inside bottles cast out into the cold, cruel virtual sea from the solitary seclusion of one’s private little island (computer).
I’m 53 years old. I finished my first novel when I was 19. I’ve had a few minor breakthroughs – most notably a film option of one of my books, perpetually stuck in development hell – and I’ve self-published as well as been published by small presses (not that there’s really much difference these days).
While my near misses outnumber my victories, I still mine a certain degree of confidence and consolation from the knowledge that if I had given up after my first few failures, none of my later triumphs would’ve materialized.
Believing in yourself is the first step.
Reasons to Believe
There are several inspirational stories out there for self-published authors and independent publishers alike.
Take the case of British author Adam Croft, who self-published his first novel, Too Close for Comfort, in 2011.
Five years and eight more books later, Croft now boasts sales of over 350,000 copies of his thrillers, leading to a deal with Amazon’s crime imprint, Thomas and Mercer.
But this type of fairy tale isn’t exclusive to foreign markets. A recent report claims that 40% of bestselling eBooks in the United States are in fact self-published. This seems to negate or at least undermine another report from Amazon itself, stating that there are only 40 “successful” self-published authors currently working, at least via their own estimation and platform.
Still, their own sales figures provide good news for small presses as self-publishers alike: the “Big 5” New York publishing companies now only account for less a quarter of overall sales, whereas indies are now the dominating force with 45% of the market – and growing.
This seems to be a positive trend, at least since 2012, when it was reported that most indie authors earned less than $500.00 in royalties per year.
Of course, the competition for consumer dollars is fiercer than ever too. Almost anyone can upload a book these days, so there isn’t any shortage of product for hungry readers, even if their own numbers seem to be shrinking while the number of authors vying for their attention continues to grow.
But even though the vast majority of writers attempting to duplicate these tales of triumph will wind up languishing in total obscurity, it’s important to remember that if Adam Croft hadn’t given it a shot, ignoring the odds, he wouldn’t be where he is today.
Trust me, I need this regular pep talk myself.
Right before I wrote this blog, I received an email from a French publisher interested in taking a look at my work. Out of the blue.
Chances are nothing will come of it. Just another opportunity for my ship to sail into port, and then back out without me, leaving me stranded. But I already feel stranded. Sometimes it’s nice just to get noticed by a total stranger, especially one in a position to help you.
The point? You never know when you might get rescued. Hope springs eternal. Or as long as you let it, anyway.
Never give up, Gilligan.
PHOTO: MITCH KLOORFAIN
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New Orleans, LA