A few words about expectations management

Every so often well-meaning family and/or friends ask me questions like “So when do you get to quit your day job?” or “When do you get to be the next Tolkien/J.K. Rowling/Stephanie Meyer/Amanda Hocking/etc.?”

Which are lovely questions and I do appreciate the support, but the long and short of it is, the likely answer to both of these questions for the foreseeable future is “I don’t”.

For a writer, especially these days, getting to a point where quitting the day job is feasible is extremely hard. For one thing, I live in the United States, and while I’m fortunate enough to have a good job with good medical benefits, if I left that job, those benefits would vanish. And getting health coverage on your own? That’s just about as hard as trying to support yourself as a writer. And after all the medical adventures I’ve had over the last ten years, frankly, I ain’t leaving a well-paying, benefits-providing job unless my books start selling a few million copies a year.

Which brings me to the second question, i.e., will I ever match the sales levels of those aforementioned famous authors? Probably not.

Because let’s get real here, folks–even though I do have a trilogy about to start coming out via Carina, I do remain a primarily digitally published author. In 2012, I sold 143 copies of Faerie Blood to the general public (which doesn’t count the Kickstarter backers). Some of those are print copies, but the majority are ebook. The maximum number I’ve sold per month is just over 50. The minimum is 12. Given that I suck at self-promotion, I’m deeply grateful that I’ve managed to score even these numbers–but still? They’re tiny numbers.

And I don’t honestly expect them to change much when Valor of the Healer comes out. A few reasons for this.

One, people still keep periodically saying to me, “Well gosh Anna, I’d love to read your books, except I don’t like ebooks/can’t read them/can’t afford an ereader/etc.” Whatever the reason, it boils down to “I’m not going to buy your book.” So the fact that I’m a digitally published author means that I don’t pull those readers in.

Two, even though I do have print copies of Faerie Blood, you do still have to buy them from me directly. This takes effort, more effort than just walking into a bookstore and picking a book off the bookshelf. There’s an inevitable delay between “asking me for the book” and “actually getting it so you can read it”.

Three, it’s going to be a tough sell to get Carina’s majority book-buying audience (which is coming out of romance) interested in what I write (which is to say, SF/F with romantic elements). Likewise, it’s going to be a tough sell to get SF/F readers willing to look at an epic fantasy trilogy sold by an imprint of a company primarily known for romance–because there’s still a lot of genre snobbery out there, and a lot of it is unfortunately directed at romance. So I fully expect there to be some level of “well, she’s published via a romance imprint, her book must be a romance novel, pass” in play.

Four, even among the digital book-buying public, it’s going to be hard to stand out from the crowd. It is supremely easy to self-publish these days. Anybody with a novel and the tools to slap together an ebook can do it, and so the major ebook vending sites are awash in an overwhelming flood of digitally published work. Just because a book’s out there though doesn’t mean it’s good, or that people are going to be able to find it, or that they’re going to actually want to read it when they do.

Five, hell, you guys, I know a lot of authors in print who struggle to sell enough copies to quit their day jobs. I know of authors who, despite the fact that they are well-lauded in their respective genres, despite the fact that they do in fact have day jobs, despite the fact that they’ve gotten titles onto the New York Times Bestselling list, still have to struggle to make ends meet. I’ve seen authors in print have series collapse out from under them because print sales have taken such a hit over the last several years–authors who have then had to either start writing under different names, or choose to self-publish the rest of their series via Kickstarter, or what have you.

“Writer” is very, very seldom synonomous with “rich”.

Long story short–if the Rebels of Adalonia trilogy performs better than Faerie Blood, even if just to the tune of a couple more hundred copies sold per year, I’ll be happy. I’m not in this for the money; that’s what I’ve got the day job for. I’m in this to share some stories with you folks, and I’m in it for the long haul and the hope that each time I put out a book, I’ll maybe pick up a small number of new readers. Maybe eventually, I’ll hit that critical mass and be somebody who can get talked about on the same level as Butcher or Richardson or McGuire or Priest or what have you.

Till then, I hope y’all stick around. And be on the lookout, because Valor of the Healer is COMING.