It’s now 11 weeks since I published Mundane Magic; we are coming to the end of the first three months of its existence out in the world. As I prepare to start the second draft of my next book, I have been reflecting on what success means and what to do now I am reaching the end of the difficult third month.
Why am I calling it that? Well, the first few months are easier. You have the excitement of ‘this book I published just came out!’ – the rippling out of information as people who know you all begin to discover what you’ve done. Sales at this point, be it in month 0 (pre-order), month 1 or even month 2 are much higher. They’re also very disproportionate – I saw a much higher rate of print purchases in these first months than I will ever see again, as most of my friends and family purchased print copies for the sentimental value.
Now we are three months in, that energy has petered off. Most people who know me, either closely or peripherally, now know that I published a novel. Of those people, the vast majority of those who are planning to buy it have already done so. It’s now down to that most terrifying of hurdles: selling the book to people who I do not know.
At present this difficult phase doesn’t look like too much of a slump in comparison, but it’s beginning to tail off. Here is a graph showing some of my sales – note that this only shows e-book sales for Amazon UK:
As you can see, it’s not the smoothest of lines. Every time you see the line go up, that’s because I made more sales – the little hat-like portion you can see in August is where the book released. There are also, obviously, a lot more sales in August generally. There are fewer in September, and fewer again in October. And for a self-published author with no pre-existing fanbase…this is pretty normal, from what I can gather.
But it’s hard to tell. It’s not as if all indie authors speak candidly about their sales numbers – even I’m not showing you everything (I have cut out, for example, the Amazon rankings numbers that graph actually shows). It’s also difficult to get a feeling for it as a person with anxiety – when I look at it I don’t see all those sales I’ve made and how I’ve actually been making sales even three months later. I see those huge dips, and the fact that the graph only goes so high even at its highest.
When I was close to publishing, my mother asked me what sales numbers would make me happy. Was it ten? Fifty? A hundred? A thousand? – I found it hard to give answers, but I told her two numbers. One was my ‘I’ll be pleased with myself if I make this’ number, and one was my ‘oh wow I have achieved the dream’ numbers. I can tell you that I’ve definitely made the first number. Not so much the second – but then, the second is significantly larger, as you might imagine.
So it’s not that I don’t feel successful. I do. Even just publishing the book, and every part of the process, those things all make me feel successful. I suppose what I am trying to articulate is not a feeling of pride or disappointment – but the complex feelings that happen when you go through this process. The neverending pressure of needing to do more, to find a way to push it out further.
I am truly, genuinely proud of what I have achieved, and that is huge for me. But I am learning, more and more, that it is normal to be proud and happy with your success – whilst also wanting to push the bar higher.
Because actually…there’s no reason I can’t make that dream number.
If you haven’t already picked up your copy of Mundane Magic and you like upstairs-downstairs historical settings with dashes of fantasy, romance and mystery, check it out here!