Saturday, April 17, 2010

“Hey Rachel, how’s the book doing?”

People are often surprised to hear that I don’t know.

This post falls under my “demystification” heading and is meant for those of you interested in what happens on the business end of a book contract. Keep in mind that I’m an “n of 1,” as we in scientific fields say. Others will have different experiences, and that’s why it’s important to visit other writing/publishing blogs and make lots of writer-type friends to learn more about how stuff works.

Some background:

Final Approach came out eight months ago. My contract says that every April I’ll receive a royalty statement for sales in the previous calendar year. That’s fine, except it left this newbie with a few anxiety-filled questions for eight long months while I waited for April to roll around:

  1. Is my publisher losing money on me? I’ve said before that one of my biggest worries has been letting down the folks who took a chance on me. A publisher invests money in its authors. There is always a bit of stress on my end wondering if that risk paid off. I’d hate to disappoint my publisher, and I’d really, really hate to cost them money.
  2. Did the ads work? Last fall I dropped a lot of cash on print ads in skydiving magazines, hoping to reach readers in that niche. A royalty statement that blankets sales for the whole previous year doesn’t indicate which months did better than others. So there was no way for me to know if this method of promotion should be abandoned or repeated.
  3. What about bookstore and library events? How about on-line promotion? Was there a sales spike during weeks I guest blogged, or during the months I did more in-person events? No telling.
  4. “How many copies have sold?” Your guess is as good as mine.

The statement came last week and some of these were answered. I was relieved that I sold through my advance, which I’m guessing means that my publisher did not lose money on the book. Since the statement reported total sales, there wasn’t an indication which months sold better than others, but my publisher is changing that this year and will mail statements more frequently. That means authors will have a better idea about which of our promotional efforts are working. Good news, all around.

Mainly, I was excited to see that more copies of Final Approach sold than the number of people I know on the planet. That means that my neighbors and mailman aren’t the only ones picking up the book.

For those who may wonder, I still spend way more money on writing than I bring in. The bulk of what I spend goes toward conference travel, the rest goes toward promotion. I’d go to writers’ conferences even if I didn’t have a book out; those things are just plain fun. So I don’t view that as a loss. But I’m sharing this here to reiterate what you probably already know: writing probably won’t make you rich. The rewards, for me at least, are the intangibles: time spent in my imagination, watching a new story unfold, and the feeling of accomplishment when I finally get to type THE END.

Switching gears now, I have a Book 3 update: I finally started it.

To keep myself honest, I’ve added a progress bar over there on the left. If you see it sit in the same place too long, consider this your license to open a can of whoop-ass on me. With the help of a friend, I’ve devised a humiliating punishment for any weeks I may miss my word count goal, and this will be unveiled on my April 30th Stiletto Gang post.

Gotta keep things fun.


  1. Nice post, Rachel! Congrats on earning out--that's terrific! It's funny isn't, the stuff you just assumed before you get published vs. the real story. Not bad, just different. My book came out a few weeks ago, and people are asking how it's doing. When I say I have no freakin' clue, they look at me funny!

  2. Great post, Rachel! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Congratulations on surpassing the advance! It will be interesting to see what types of promoting correlate with sales!

  4. Way to go, Rachel! Selling more copies than people you know is SUCCESS. You go, girl!