According to Internet information, most published books do not sell more than a hundred copies, if that.  Been Blued has sold over two hundred!  I was reading through writer type ‘stuff’ on the ‘net and found the stat on  Normally, I’m a bit skeptical of ‘percentages’ type of data, but I can’t ignore that one.  My publisher,, had mentioned that most books sell a hundred or less copies.  I supposed that was why ‘forty percent of books printed end up being repulped,’ but I had no idea the numbers were so dismal for new titles.

No wonder the publishing industry is so hard to break into with traditional publishing houses.  If they’re supposed to be the ‘gatekeepers’ who keep bad writing from getting into print, some of them are falling down on the job!  But that’s not the whole picture, is it?  It’s word of mouth and other kinds of marketing that get people to buy books.

Yes, most of my books were sold by me, personally.  This way, I get a higher percentage of the profits as an author, and I have more say over who ends up with a copy of my book.  Is this ‘fair?’ you might ask.  Of course it is.  Who died and made the traditional publishing houses gods over the industry?  They make their investments and take their chances, just like I do.  If they suddenly ‘discover’ my titles and want to strike a deal, we’ll talk.  I wish them success, but I want it too.  And just maybe I’ve found a way to get further, faster, and with a better bottom line.

Here’s how to do it:  First, and this is something I’ve heard from others, Write A Great Book!  I did.  Been Blued keeps ‘haunting’ me, as people come back and tell me they can’t get ahold of their own copy because all their family and friends keep borrowing it.  (I suggest buying more copies, but most of them don’t–haven’t found a way to correct that yet.  “Makes a great gift,” I tell them.)

Second, be enthusiastic!!!  If you’re not excited about your book, why did you bother writing it in the first place?  Go talk to a counselor and see what you should really do with your life.  I was my own counselor, and after my first career failed to materialize, I decided to do what I really wanted with my life.  But the practical advice is this: write a brief synopsis that you can memorize and tell people in ten seconds or less.  After that time, they’ll either quit listening, interupt you, or want your book.  If you’ve lost them, LET THEM GO.  Nobody likes a suckup or a pest.  Some of us are very good at being both.  You also need to have more than one ‘angle.’  Been Blued is a science fiction story that some parts of the Internet list as ‘high tech.’  But I wanted it to have a wider appeal, so I included lots of humor and a bit of romance.  I’ve sold more than one copy on the romance angle, and people do tend to chuckle when I tell them the general premise.  If you’re interested, here’s what I tell people when I pitch it to them:  “Been Blued is about an advanced group of people who left Earth so long ago they now consider themselves aliens; but a virus in space wiped out their women, so they came back with high hopes and ran into problems.”  That’s it.  If they appear interested, I go on to mention the symbiont that keeps them from starting a family until it senses a female is willing…  You get the picture.

Third, you have to be opportunistic.  If someone buys your book ‘just’ because you’re a local author, thank them profusely.  Carry a few copies with you wherever you go.  Do a press release and take it, along with a copy of your book, to the local media.  I might not have sold more than a hundred copies by now if not for the local TV and newspaper coverage.  (Be sure to send them Thank You cards–it’s not sucking up, it’s showing appreciation and it’s common courtesy.)  Libraries are wonderful places, and an expression of the freedoms we enjoy.  I view a donated copy as free advertising.  (The nearest city to where I live can’t keep Been Blued on the shelf, it’s had more checkout action than most of their books ever dream of seeing.)  The village I live in is building a new community center; I’m seeing if they’ll let me do a book signing at the grand opening.  Be sure and advertise your book signings.  I put up flyers all over town for my first one, and had the use of a parking lot sign at the mall where I did it.  My publisher later told me that I’d done 150% over what a well-known author with a big name publisher would expect.  ‘Shameless promotion?’  I doubt it–if I’d written a bad book, it might be, but I have the talent to justify what I do.  Maybe some of the books in the ‘hundred or less in sales’ category are simply books that fail to capture readers.

Either way, the publishing industry needs to do something.  Businesses that lose enough money go bankrupt.  The loss of the publishing industry would not only be a shame, it could endanger democracy itself.  Perhaps self-publishing and supported self-publishing will turn out to be more of a solution than the problem ‘big name’ publishing has traditionally viewed it as.  It is hard to predict which titles will sell more than a hundred copies, but it’s not hard to be enthusiastic.

Thanks for reading.  🙂

Phyllis K Twombly

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About Scifialiens

Author of the Martian Symbiont series: three titles, so far; Been Blued, Martian Blues, Martian Divides. Currently writing screenplays. 'Mating With Humans' can be found on her account. Enjoyed writing from the start. Also a Star Trek and Doctor Who fan. Canadian so far. Paternal grandparents were American. Feels more at home in the States. Loves dogs and most other animals. Loves cats from afar--allergies. Plays flute and saxophone; 'messes with' keyboard and electric guitar. Single so far. Not really looking at the moment. Age: irrelevant. Not to be confused with the fictional comic book character, Phyllis Twombly, who lived for 600 years in the American Midwest.

One response »

  1. Naomi says:

    GAH! Nasty tags!

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