Saturday, March 01, 2008

Successful Failures

The following article really caught my attention:,guid,72a47852-5a5c-41d6-a025-c23c93bd96a3.aspx

Staggering Statistics in Book Publishing can Read Like a Stephen King Horror Novel. Is There Any Hope for Authors and Publishers?

Warning: May Cause Nightmares

Book industry numbers are cold-sweat terrifying for publishers and authors alike. According to Nielsen Bookscan, 3,000 books are published per day in the United States alone… Publishers report an average of 2,100 submissions per year, totaling 132 million submissions. Just under one percent are accepted for publication.

In the face of these staggering odds, is there any hope for authors and publishers?

The Majority of Books Sell Fewer than 99 Copies

Of the 1.2 million titles tracked by Bookscan in 2006, only 2.1% sold more than 5,000 books, 16.6% sold fewer than 1,000, and a terrifying 79.6% sold fewer than 99 copies…

I agree with the author here—these statistics are terrifying for writers. But this piece didn’t leave me feeling pessimistic as much as optimistic. I have been lucky to join that elite club of the “one percent” by having a book accepted for publication, and I have sold more books than 80% of my fellow authors apparently.

I might have misread those numbers, but at least I don’t feel so bad now that I’ve not made the New York Times bestseller list yet. Hey, just selling 100 copies of one of your titles means you’re a success. Not rich, not famous, but you are definitely a success in the publishing field. Those stats don’t lie—you are in the top of your class.

So how come is it so hard to convince everyone outside the writing and publishing field that you’re a success?

My guess is that it’s because the rest of the world operates on the idea of the “bottom line”. You make a million dollars—you’re a success. You pen a million words and sell more than 100 copies—you’re a crackpot eccentric who doesn’t have anything better to do with your time. There seems to be no winning for losing. The “real world” will continue to insist that writing is not a “real job” unless you write for something like a newspaper or magazine. Then you might aspire to the lofty title of “hack”. Wow.

“No respect, no respect…” I can hear Rodney Dangerfield now. Writers get no respect.

The recent screenwriters strike gives evidence of this fact. Fans complained when some of their favorite TV shows ended abruptly this past fall. Viewers tended to blamed the writers over the producers and agencies that cheated the writers of royalties for the disruption in the television schedule.

If only the writers would write for free—heck, they don’t need to eat or pay electric bills, right? Give us our entertainment… then go out and get a real job like ditch digging, writer-person.

Until writers can use their words to convince the rest of the world that “success” means more than dollar signs and seeing your name plastered across the tabloids in the supermarket check out line, we’ll have to learn to embrace our “failure” successfully.

Do you have a “success story”—a time where you felt you had succeeded even if others felt you had failed? How did you handle it? Share your tale of encouragement below, and I’ll toss your name in the hat for a drawing of one of my back titles. Thanks for sharing!


Maureen said...

I would have to say it was my daughter going to community college. I can't tell you how many pitying looks I've gotten since my daughter graduated from high school last June and everyone wanted to know where she was going to college. When you say community college it's like you have failed as a parent. Well, she is doing well in school and working full time as an assistant teacher for Easter Seals because she has decided she wants to be a Special Educations teacher and she wants to get experience.

ReadingIsSoMuchFun said...

Mines would be when my fiance and I decided to go back to school together and graduate. Alot of my friends & family didn't think I will stick with it and graduate. They thought I would quit like I did in High School. How I handled it my fiance and I kept pushing each other and was there for each other. I proved everyone wrong my fiance and I have graduated together :-) I am very proud of my fiance & I without him I probably wouldn't have been able to stay in school it was hard for me but I did it with him :-)


Kayelle Allen said...

I learned today that one of the books I wrote and released in 2004 sold more books in 2007 than it did then. I figure I must be doing something right. I have 5 books published, and all of them (thankfully) are well over the 99 book limit of failure. :)

Thanks for the encouragement here. I needed that!

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