Authors: Don’t Be a Bloody Statistic

There are people that are writing in the hope of getting rich, and there are people that are writing for the love of the craft. I would firmly plant myself between these two extremes.

I suspect that those writers who are most disappointed are in the first category.

I love writing, have reached a point in my life where I recognise I have always loved it, yet was hampered by an inaccurate belief that making a career out of it was out of my reach and capabilities.  Today I’m ready to pursue it to the death, only with the hope in my mind that I might make a decent living out of it.

Since the moment I first began working on my book, I knew I’d never stop writing again. I know that even if I never sold another word, I couldn’t stop. I’m forty three years old; that’s how long it has taken me to get to this place

Do I hate the idea of getting rich quick? No. I’ve almost accepted around four email marriage proposals from Nigerian Princes in 2014 alone. Do I care if I don’t make my fortune with writing? No, actually, I do not.

I’m not taking my rejections personally, not watching my sales figures hour by hour asking why the world isn’t recognising my genius and I’m not dying inside every time a fellow author has heaps more success than I do. This is my journey; my dream. I’m not going to dilute it or belittle its significance to my life’s journey by making it all about money or the competition. I wish we could live a little (okay a lot) easier and I do imagine that big cheque landing on my doormat, of course I do. But my ultimate goal is having a better, more fulfilled life experience. It is doing what I think I was supposed to do with my life and being in love with it. That, for me, is worth more than gold.

I’m offering you here my best advice on how to overcome your obstacles as a new writer. It is an A for attitude – and the greatest thing about attitude, is you get to choose yours. There are too many articles telling writers to be careful what you wish for and I for one don’t like reading them. It is good to know the pitfalls you might face, but not good to focus on them too much.

Let me break it down in to a simple sentence: Don’t let people tell you you can’t do something.

A few months back, I wrote to hundreds of book shops all over the world, asking them to put ‘The New Mrs D’ on their shelves. I emailed scores of book reviewers, joining what I don’t doubt is an absolute sea of similar requests from self-published authors just like me. As well as the rejections this book has had, I also have the biggest pile of ‘no thank you’ emails you’ve ever seen. The ‘no reply at all’ pile is so big, I’m considering climbing it for charity.  🙂

A submission that sticks in my mind the most is the book I bought and posted, as per the submission guidelines on their website, all the way over to Barnes & Noble in New York asking that they please consider stocking it on their shelves. Their response was (something along the lines of), ‘in our experience, self-published authors only sell on average two hundred copies for the lifetime of the book, many of those to family and friends.’ In case you haven’t guessed where this is going, they declined my request. Yet I had already sold a thousand copies by the time I read their letter, and believe me, I don’t have that many family and friends.

I read this particular line again: ‘Most self-published authors only sell on average 200 copies for the lifetime of their book.’ I’d already proved them wrong in my own case, but instead of internalising this statistic, as some might be inclined to do, I decided to smash it. And no, I haven’t yet. This is not a victorious, ‘I told you so, you short sighted bookshops, agents and publishers’ post. I didn’t sell thousands of copies, but to date over 32,000 people have downloaded ‘The New Mrs D’ and of that 32,000 I gave away just over 29,000 in a free Amazon promotion. It’s not a huge, life-changing income, but it’s a very promising potential readership for book two. Although, in a personal way, it is life-changing. It taught me I’m ever-so-slightly addicted to being read. Thank you for feeding my addiction today.

I can’t offer advice from the perspective of a long in the tooth, experienced writer who has made it to the top. I can only offer the perspective of a long in the tooth person with some years of life experience behind her. And my advice is, if you love it, don’t let it lie.

Don’t be a bloody statistic.

Am I selling dreams of writer success to people who can’t write? I don’t think so. If writing is what you love and truly believe is inside of you to do, even if your first attempt sucked, you are going to work hard to get better. You’ll scrape together your last pounds for proper, professional editing, get the best cover art you can afford and you’ll read your submissions feedback, searching for the common elements and taking at least some of the advice given to make your project shine. You’ll give it all you’ve got and stop wallowing in bitterness and self pity.

(Okay, give yourself an hour on this last one, then move on) 😉

You won’t spend your precious writing time emailing agents that reject you with a stream of profanities telling him/her they have missed a golden opportunity and don’t know what they’re talking about. You are writing all of the time and reading about writing all the time.

So I guess I’m talking to YOU.

Now, get off this page and on to your own. X



48 thoughts on “Authors: Don’t Be a Bloody Statistic”

  1. I would like to apologise to the world for the awful formatting from WordPress on this post. It has cut many of my words in half at the end of lines and I’ve decided to get on with my writing instead of spending more time trying to fix it. Thank-
    You 😉

  2. Inspirational! Sharing this on Twitter! I needed this since I’ve only had 4 preorders since making my book available last week. It’s so hard to make a good start and I feel like it’s going to be impossible to get noticed when there are so many books out there.

    I’ve been reading the “hard facts” articles and getting a little burnt out. I never planned on getting rich, but I’d like to be able to go part-time one day to focus more energy on my writing. I’d hate to think to think this dream is impossible.

    Today, you reminded me that my dreams are within my control all because of attitude. Thank you!

    1. Thanks Kylie – I highly recommend you read my previous post on doing a KDP free promotion too, I got great results with this and yes, they were helped by a fantastic and lucky BookBub promotion, but on that day I have 17,000 downloads. Over the 3 days I had 29,000 so it wasn’t all because of BookBub.
      I am the same though; the hard facts articles wear you down. They’re like the ‘old grey man’ you find in every new job you start. He’s the guy that’s been there for years and tells you not to enjoy your enthusiasm for as long as you can because you’ll soon end up like him; indifferent to it all and worn down by failure. No you won’t. Not if you decide not to! Good luck and thank you so much for stopping by 🙂

  3. Oh, so true…so very true. I’ve been writing since elementary school…sometimes with success (moderate) and sometimes not. I gave it up for a few years, disgusted, disgruntled, and depressed. But then I started again, and now I can’t stop. Someone asked me what I do about writer’s block. I wouldn’t know – I just can’t stop writing now that I’ve freed myself of the need to be super-successful, on the best-sellers list, and reviewed by People magazine. Now I write, I write well, I get my novels/books edited by professionals, and design my covers because I’m also a graphic artist, and if it garners success, so be it, but I write for me and for the craft and because someone out there is going to read it and like it and maybe it will make a difference in his/her life. So thanks for this post…you are correct. Good job.

    1. Thank you Marie, I did try briefly about twelve years ago with a children’s book and gave up after just SEVEN rejections. The difference between me at 33 and now is I clearly wasn’t ready then. I gave up too easily. I couldn’t contemplate it now. Onwards! Good luck to you and thanks for stopping by 🙂

  4. Nice post, Heather — you don’t have to look too far to see a lot of authors feeling somewhat dejected with the state of things at the moment… in fact, I’ve just come away from reading a thread on exactly that theme on a writers’ forum. I wonder how much of that has to do with expectation-setting. Like you say, if you set out thinking, “Imma be massive rich, like,” then there’s a good chance you’ll have the wind taken out of your sails soon enough (though not always, and to those who make it, I doff my cap).

    So, against that backdrop, it’s nice to see a positive post, especially as I agree with pretty much every word.

    Though I must confess, I’m still at the stage of checking my stats too often (though I limit myself to once daily). In my defence… I’m still new, innit?


      1. Re-read my post and it’s not totally clear that I was saying, “There are way too many negative posts about people not getting the success they wanted, so your post was a welcome break from that.”

        Thought I should clarify that 🙂

  5. Reblogged this on DeAnna Ross and commented:
    It can be so hard not to be discouraged in the world of writing. Whether it’s just in finishing your book, seeking an agent, seeking publication, and in sales of said book. Author Heather Hill has something to say on the matter and it’s definitely worth a read. Great stuff!

  6. I only started writing 5 yrs ago when I went to uni to see if a bok fan could learn to do it! I love what you’ve told us all hear. It’s honest and one thing I’ve learnt is that I hate mendacity! So with your thoughts in mind I shall dig up my project and continue with the 10000 words I’ve written so far and finish it! At least my friends will read it eh?!

    1. Hi Carl, indeed and thank you for your kind comments. I think a writer’s worst enemy is perfection. Remember, it can all be fixed on the rewrites, the edits etc. The most important thing is to get your thoughts and ideas on to the page to begin with. I always say think of that first draft as the undercoat when you’re decorating. Good luck and keep going with it!

      1. I am enjoying becoming a more apparent member of the wordpress family this year! The likes and great comments are a massive help and boost. It’s the little things in life that keep us bouncing and bobbing along!

      2. And that’s how it all started for me too! I began with an audience of one, then people started to read me! Very addictive. And a wonderful community to be a part of. Writing can be such a solitary thing; (especially if you’re me and stay home a lot) this is a godsend.

      3. Funny you say that because I just actually published a post! & I have decided that I would rather stick with the part time work I do as it’s 4 days on and 4 off. So ultimately (theoretically?) that’s 4 days for writing! & I do stop in much more now as I used to be the eternal party animal in years gone by! Thank you!

  7. Writing a book was a strange adventure and self-imposed challenge that I kind of spontaneously undertook. Now I can’t wait to write again. I’ll never be rich and famous, but I can hold a copy of a book I wrote, which is better in a lot of ways.

    1. You are right, Trey. I’m not ashamed to admit I had a little cry when I first held mine. It was worth it. I looked at the heaven’s and told my late father, ‘I did it, dad.’ Keep going X

  8. A great post which made me smile. I am jealous as I only get emails from Nigerian lawyers telling me that I have inherited millions but no correspondence from African royalty (ah woe is me)! You are absolutely right, one should never be discouraged. The very best of luck with your writing. Kevin

      1. Thank you for the tip. I have checked my spam folder and am pleased to report that I have received several proposals of marriage from African princesses which I am, of course actively pursuing by sending vast amounts of money to their bank accounts … Kevin

        On 1/12/15, Heather Hill, Author & Comedy Writer

  9. I liked your post. I’m just amazed you got so many replies turning you down! The few I received all said much the same thing: not commercial enough for today’s market – and I knew I was niche anyway. It’s a nice niche, and people seem to like what they find there. 🙂
    Have fun with your niche, and enjoy writing and being more successful than those who only sell 200 copies. 🙂

    1. Thank you Jemima. I think that the internet & social media shows you how many authors there are out there; even more reason for not taking the rejections personality. It’s just such a tough egg to crack 🙂

  10. Meant to add that it’s a great post Heather, you’ve given me the necessary kick up the backside to stop messing about and just get on with it…
    Dee 🙂

    1. Thanks Dee and thank you so much for re-blogging this. You reminded me of another thing Carl Jung said: : ‘Life really does begin at forty. Up until then, you are just doing research.’ 🙂 x

  11. This is a great post. I’m sharing. I’ve been telling people the same thing. If you want to put in the work and time you can make a life now as a writer. That’s always been the case, but (dare I say the “e” word ?) it’s actually easier now than ever before in history. Thanx for voicing all this in your post. 🙂

  12. Catching up on my blog reading, Heather – I absolutely love this! Cheers to you for telling it straight. If you want to be a writer, than be it with all your heart. 🙂

  13. Lovely advice and info, Heather, and I’m glad you seem to be getting somewhere and wish you all the success in the future. We have all but given up promoting, very half hearted these days. But we will never stop writing…we love it too much!

    1. Thank you Anita/Jaye, and thank you very much for reblogging my post too. I know it is so incredibly hard and can feel disheartening. I don’t have a huge budget for marketing so I can have good months and bad months with nothing to top up my marketing efforts. It isn’t easy, but one things for sure – it’s a labour of love. Keep going! Xx

  14. Reblogged this on Melissa Pouliot and commented:
    Love this love this!! I have been rejected and knocked back so many times by “real publishers” and bookstores who couldn’t market hence sell a book to save themselves. I’m proving them wrong every day via my self publishing path and guess what, I’m #stillwriting!! Thanks Heather, this is brilliant 🙂

    1. Hi Melissa, thanks so much for your comments and for reblogging this. Lovely to meet you here as well as Instagram, which is how I found your lovely blog. Self publishing is so very hard, but there are so many people making it work. I think you have to have self belief and determination in abundance, but most importantly, a great love for what you do and you’ll make it! Good luck and keep going 🙂

      1. Thankyou Heather!! It is great to meet in the virtual world. A major boost to my indie author path with Write About Me reaching #1 again on Amazon recently, and knowing that nearly 38k people are currently reading my book is a spark to #keepwriting!

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