Be Realistic – Most People Aren’t Bestsellers

howey3I read an interesting post today from Hugh Howey’s website. Now, in case you don’t know who he is, well, he’s the guy who’s just made a load of money out of self-publishing and is having his book series converted to film by Ridley Scott. So, read his blog if you don’t already.

His post, written on Sunday, is a sobering reminder to all of us who get carried away with the success stories. He simply echoes a few voices out there at the moment who are attempting to introduce more realism into the industry. Just because you can self-publish your books it does not mean that you can sell millions.

Whenever I hear of success stories I can’t help but feel jealous, or even frustrated with my own ability, when they say how many books they’ve sold. It’s great that they’re selling so many books but it’s human to ask, “why them?”

Hugh Howey states that in the old days 99% of writers would remain on the slush pile, nowadays 99% of self-publishers will never sell more than 1,000 books. The percentages haven’t changed and it’s normal to start slow.

He’s writing this so that other wannabe authors don’t become disillusioned and give up on their dream just because they haven’t had overnight success. Everything in life takes perseverance. You have to keep turning up and ploughing the furrow, eventually you may reap what you sow but it’s a long road.

We’re all doing what we love and we have to keep at it. The only way to get better at writing is to keep writing. The only way to write better stories is to write more stories. The only way to get one book that appeals to a wider audience and, potentially gives you a platform to build from, is by writing more books.


There are no quick fixes that will turn you into a bestseller. The exceptional stories are just that, exceptional. Just keep on, keeping on. Hopefully, one day we’ll all get there.

Until next time…

6 responses to “Be Realistic – Most People Aren’t Bestsellers

  1. I completely agree with the above… And I’ll add a few more figures I just heard (though it’s not the same context)… This weekend, I was at the Geneva Writers Convention. We met a US agent… And more of a boutique agency than a really big one… Still, these guys get 10 manuscripts a day, will only release 2 the same year, and none of these 2 will have been unsolicited… In the English speaking world, that is if you do not come from there, you entirely depend upon agents, and you’d better come to them with some proven success, possibly achieved via self-publishing… And a lot of work! A well known US writer at the same event told us that any book will sell on average 99 copies a year. That’s it. I’ll just quote you now: you have to keep turning up and ploughing the furrow, eventually you may reap what you sow but it’s indeed one hell of a long road…

    • That’s some interesting stuff, Chris. Thanks.

      But, if the road is long then let’s enjoy it a bit while we’re there. Turn the music up, wind the windows down, and let’s enjoy just being on the road in the first place.

  2. Couldn’t agree more. Its the same with any job though, and I do find myself bewildered at the perception some people have of the industry as though its an easy way to make a gazillion pounds. I didn’t get into my day job overnight, I had to work my arse off (and frustratingly don’t come close to making a gazillion pounds). I know it will be the same with selling stories. Doesn’t mean I won’t get disillusioned along the way or jealous, as you say, but it also means the pragmatic part of me will always keep pushing. Plus I actually WANT it to be that way. I would get disillusioned if all I had to rely on was luck and the judgment of others. I have to believe that hard work, some innovative thinking and patience will get me there eventually. If lightening does strike, then cool, but otherwise I need to make it happen.

    There are of course things you can do to help your work sell and increase your reader base, but personally I think you’ve got it spot on – the best way to sell your book is to write another book.

  3. Haha what a strange post 😀 I’m not sure whether to be depressed or inspired!

    • Be inspired… please. It’s saying that you shouldn’t beat yourself up just because you’re not selling hundreds of thousands of books each month. It’s a long game and the serious people will stick at it and get better, the jokers will all get the hump and turn back to sales calls again.

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