The Author Question I Can’t Answer

Author CaptionI’ve been subscribing to mystery writer Hope Clark’s newsletter for quite some time. She often has interesting insights about writing and the writing biz. This week’s topic was about things that writers don’t like to talk about in public. Some of those things included, how many books we authors sell, how much money we make, and how much we spend on promotion?

Plenty of authors don’t like answering those questions because we’re judged by our answers and, trust me, authors face enough judgement. But you know, maybe the questions aren’t that important to begin with.

It’s impossible to know how many books we sell through purchased ads, for instance. For those of us who’ve been traditionally published, royalty statements show that our earnings per book fluctuates a fair bit, depending on the discount our publisher gives the vendor. Let me tell you, 15% royalty on a paperback that’s been heavily discounted doesn’t amount to much per book.

To me, the only question that truly matters and that cannot be answered, is how many people have read and liked your book? I’ve sold a lot of copies to libraries here in Canada. I have no idea how many people have borrowed the book, or even liked it.

When I buy copies of my books from my publisher, I’m paid royalties on those books. For income tax, and therefore recordkeeping purposes, they count as sales. I then sell those books at writing events and craft fairs. On the other side of the spectrum, I might sell one book to a customer who shares it with three or four other people. It’s also possible that my customer might never get around to reading my book at all.

Really, the questions aren’t worth fretting over because my ability to put food on the table doesn’t depend on book sales. I know I’m lucky in this respect, and I’m truly grateful that I can afford to focus on what really matters…joy and commitment toward writing the best book I can.