Am I Doing This Author Thing Right?

As a new author, I write and participate in social media and promote my book at every opportunity. I spend hours and hours on the computer, every day, without knowing: Am I doing this author thing right?

I think I write a decent book – based on reviews and the majority of comments I’ve received. (Thank you all, very much!)

But from a business standpoint: How is my book selling? Is being an author a viable occupation on a financial level? I mean, like you all, I have bills. My car needs fixing. My children need to go to college.

For those of you unfamiliar with writing for a traditional publishing house – and I am basing this post on my working with Harlequin – authors get sales reports (aka royalty statements) every six months. The nurse manager/businesswoman in me suffers dry heaves and the shakes at the thought of not knowing my book sales or having access to financial reports more often than every six months.

 To give you an example of how the process works: I received The Call in October 2010. My first book, When One Night Isn’t Enough, was officially released in June 2011. (In the UK, France, Germany) To my knowledge, Harlequin’s cutoff dates for sales data are June 30th and December 30th. Then the sales data is interpreted and compiled and authors receive statements of their sales five months later. So data collected in June is reported to the author in November, and data collected in December is reported in May.

So for my June release, other than my sales rankings on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, I have absolutely no idea how my book is selling overall, if my marketing is effective, or if I am going to earn any money above my initial advance until five months after the book was released. 

This  current lack of information and lack of control over my career makes self-publishing quite appealing. 

But I recently read a post about Simon and Schuster who is now providing their authors access to ongoing sales data! You can read the article here.  I think this is a wonderful step in the right direction, and I seriously hope other traditional publishers follow their proactive lead.

To my author friends: Who do you publish with? Do your books come out in print and e-book? What has your experience been? How often do you receive sales data/royalty statements?

To my reader friends: Do you read books from small e-book publishers? Do you read self-published books? If so, what has your experience been? Or do you simply go on the Amazon top sellers lists and order what appeals to you regardless of where it was published? And what sites do you visit to buy your books?

Thanks for stopping by!

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  • Wendy S. Marcus
    Posted October 24, 2011 at 11:04 AM | Permalink

    Okay. I fixed the link. Sorry about that!

  • Jen FItzGerald
    Posted October 24, 2011 at 11:38 AM | Permalink

    Wendy I read whatever tickles my fancy at the time, whether e-pubbed or self-pubbed or main publisher.

    If you decide to dip a toe into the self-pubbed pool, I’d recommend doing your research about formatting. Many of the self-pubbed books I’ve read have formatting glitches that give the appearance that the author doesn’t care and has just thrown the book out there hoping for sales.

  • Posted October 24, 2011 at 11:54 AM | Permalink

    I do read books from small presses. I go on jags where I search amazon for books that appeal and then send samples to my Kindle and I pay no attention to who the publisher at that point. I also write books I hear about from various sources on my desk calendar and then when I happen to be on Amazon I have samples of those books sent to my Kindle. That way when I have a few minutes I can read and if the sample pulls me in I buy at that time – it could be hours or weeks after I first loaded the sample. When I actually buy is when I pay attention to the publisher.

  • Wendy S. Marcus
    Posted October 24, 2011 at 12:02 PM | Permalink

    Hi Jen!
    I read a lot about formatting issues from self-published authors. And I would think the same as you if I read a book that looked hastily thrown together. I know many self published authors who work very hard to get the formatting right. There are now companies who can help with this.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Posted October 24, 2011 at 12:03 PM | Permalink

    Can a fiction writer make a living writing? Most can’t. Even those with 20-30 books that have done well under their belts must have another source of income to eat decently.

    Writing is something you do for love and hope it is profitable. There is a famous bit of wisdom that says something like “the entire publishing business is a tiny industry perched atop a mountainous hobby.”

    Maybe indie publishing will change that. When writers can sell direct to readers and cut out the publisher-middleman, there might be enough margin for the writer to make a decent living.

  • Wendy S. Marcus
    Posted October 24, 2011 at 12:04 PM | Permalink

    Hi Regina!
    I didn’t know I could download samples of books on my Kindle. Is this in addition to the excerpts posted on Amazon?

    And I do the same as you in that I download books to my Kindle and then it could be months before I actually read them…it’s an expensive habit. If you’d share how to download samples, I think I may give that a try!


  • Posted October 24, 2011 at 12:06 PM | Permalink

    Sorry if that sounded discouraging.

  • Wendy S. Marcus
    Posted October 24, 2011 at 12:10 PM | Permalink

    Hi Regina!
    I do love the art of crafting stories. And if I were a hobby writer, writing purely for my own enjoyment, then money would not be an issue.

    But I’ve decided to go the route of publication. I work as hard at my writing and being a published author as I did at my full time job. So why shouldn’t I be compensated justly?

    I do believe an author can make a decent living if they write and sell a lot of books. And that takes time.

    Unfortunately, I am not a very patient person. But I’m doing my best to see where all this will lead.

  • Posted October 24, 2011 at 6:26 PM | Permalink

    To read free samples:

    Go to the Amazon page for that ebook. On the right hand side of the screen beneath the “buy it” button there’s a “Send Sample Now” button. Click it and you can see if you like it before you buy.

  • Posted October 24, 2011 at 6:26 PM | Permalink

    If anyone can make it in this business you can, Wendy!

  • Posted October 24, 2011 at 7:05 PM | Permalink

    HI Wendy! Am struggling with the same issue. Lost my job, began writing full time, made a bunch of sales, but will not see any type of money till summer, and even then not sure how much. It’s hard out there, but I’m doing what I love, doing the best I can at it, and having faith it will work out. We shall see! I LOVE getting samples on my Kindle, I can tell immediately if I want to buy it. And I have a nice crossover, I try a lot of indie books at .99 or 2.99 and have found great authors that way. Then I have my favorites that I’d spend $10 for. Thanks for such a great post! You will def make it, just remember – slow and steady wins the race!!!!!

  • Wendy S. Marcus
    Posted October 24, 2011 at 8:00 PM | Permalink

    Hi Regina!
    I will definitely check out that send sample now link!

    And thanks for your faith in me and your support!

  • Wendy S. Marcus
    Posted October 24, 2011 at 8:03 PM | Permalink

    Hi Jen!
    I must admit, to date I’ve only purchased self published books from authors I know. I have my concerns about quality. That being said, I do believe there are a lot of quality authors who self-publish. Does that make sense?

    I keep telling myself slow and steady wins the race…but I’m having a hard time restraining the hare in me!!!

  • Posted October 24, 2011 at 9:04 PM | Permalink

    Excellent post, Wendy. Though I am not published yet I hope to have a better understanding of the sales data and access to it when I am published. Long sentence, but you get the point. 🙂

    Thanks for this link to the article, too.

  • Wendy S. Marcus
    Posted October 24, 2011 at 10:20 PM | Permalink

    Hi Christine!
    Publishing is a rapidly changing industry. It seems each day there’s something new!

    Very exciting times!!! Fingers crossed on your submissions!!!

  • Posted October 26, 2011 at 6:04 AM | Permalink

    The six month wait is tough. I’ve read several articles about this from other authors (wish I could find links for you)so you’re not alone. I hope that some of the uncertainty eases as you get more books published and others are republished. I’m very excited about the growth in the ebook industry too. It’ll be interesting to see where the world of publishing is in another decade.

  • Posted October 26, 2011 at 9:29 PM | Permalink

    Oh, hun, you KNOW I’m not doing the self-promotion thing right. God only knows how it will impact my sales.

  • Posted October 26, 2011 at 10:33 PM | Permalink

    Hi Lacey!
    Maybe after a few statements I’ll be better able to figure my potential earnings. But a monthly statement would be great. Access to my sales account – even better!!!

    Things are moving fast. Very exciting times!

  • Posted October 26, 2011 at 10:35 PM | Permalink

    Hi Aimee!
    We all go about it differently. It will be interesting to see what works and what doesn’t. And I see your name around the blog-o-sphere plenty!

    Good luck to us both!!!

  • Posted October 27, 2011 at 6:14 AM | Permalink


    This is a fantastic post. I share your concerns too. I think 6 months is a long time to wait to see how well your marketing efforts are doing.
    Luckily my publisher provides monthly sales reports. So when my book is released in December, I should be able to see how it’s doing in January.

    In terms of my reading habits, while I have my traditional favourites, I constantly try out new authors. My Kindle makes it easy and with some books priced at $0.99, it’s easy to do without being stung. I’ve found some great new authors that way.

    Whatever you decide, I’m sure you’ll do great.

    On another note, do you know when Once A Good Girl will be available on Kindle. I tried pre-ordering it but it’s only available on paperback.


  • Posted October 27, 2011 at 9:17 AM | Permalink

    Hi Kiru!
    Monthly sales reports would be fab! And good luck with your December release! Will it be available in the U.S.? I remember reading about it on your website/blog.

    Once A Good Girl will be officially released in the UK in December 2011. I just checked the November 2011 medical romance releases and their Kindle editons are available for pre-order. So I’m guessing the kindle edition for Once a Good Girl should be up for pre-order in the next few weeks! I hope you enjoy it!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • Posted October 30, 2011 at 4:10 PM | Permalink

    WENDY, I know the feeling. Waiting is hard and wanting to know if you’ve earned out your advance can make for misery. I’ve been fortunate not to have to wroory about this and at lost most of my small publishers let me know every three months how I’m doing.

  • Wendy S. Marcus
    Posted October 31, 2011 at 9:11 PM | Permalink

    Hi Janet!
    I think a mix of small and large publisher releases, with maybe an indie release here and there is ideal. So you have all your bases covered!

    Will have to work on that!

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