A Catch 22 scenario that is the bane of most authors' lives is the fact that most bookstores - including supermakets - will concentrate on the big established names' latest books, rather than give shelf space to new authors who are trying to establish themselves. Therefore it's very difficult indeed to establish a new name, because quite frankly most casual readers won't know that you exist.
I'm very fortunate in that I have a couple of huge publishing houses supporting and pushing me as a 'new author', but even then it isn't plain sailing. I have to stop and wonder what chance new books from many thousands of writers stand in getting any shelf space whatsoever.
And if they're lucky to have their book picked up by a bookshop...
Here's a quandry:
Book shop receives stock
Book shop puts stock on sale
Stock sells out
Book shop doesn't re-order replacement stock
Stock therefore doesn't sell (because it isn't on the shelves)
Book doesn't make it into the big sellers
No sales last week, so book shop will replace it with something that did sell
No sales this week either
Book drops out of sight
Next book doesn't get ordered as first didn't sell.
What chance does an author have of establishing him/herself?
Thankfully this isn't a scenario I've suffered from and my books are still on sale - but I've seen it happen on a smaller scale.
Here's what happened when my first book came out in hardback:
I approached a manager of a chain store and offered to sign their stock of my books for them. At the time I was number 12 in the Sunday Times hardback charts. The manager gladly accepted, but on checking found their order was late and therefore no books were available to sign. The manager asked if I could come back the following week, which I dutifully did, but the books still weren't there. Another ten days went by and I went in again. There was a box of forty books waiting for me. Oh, goody, I thought, only for the manager's hand to go up. 'Oh, hold on...Where are you in the charts now?' On checking, my book - due to none being in the shops for customers to purchase - had dropped back to the low forties. The manager said, 'In that case we can't put them out on the shelf because we only stock up to the number 40. Err, don't bother signing any in case we have to send them back...but would you mind signing one I've bought for my brother?'
I wonder how many other authors have faced a similar dillemma, and how many author's careers have gone up in a puff of smoke due to similar situations.
Here's a sum for you.
A: An author's book is published at 1,000 copies. 900 of them get sold and 100 sent back to the publisher as unsold returns.
B: Another author's book is published at 100,000 copies. 80,000 get sold and 20,000 sent back to the publisher as unsold returns.
Who is the succesful author?
The answer BELIEVE IT OR NOT is A.
Author A sold 90 per cent of the books with only a meagre 100 returns
Author B 'only' sold 80 per cent of their books and the publisher was 'stuck' with 20,000 remainder copies.
It is, but that's the way statistics are reported.
Therefore, Author A is more viable and their next book is pushed harder. Author B is a liability, and theirs isn't.
Again, thankfully, I'm not speaking from personal experience, but know someone who this happened to.
Here's another scenario:
Huge book store chain says, 'We aren't supporting (insert author's name here) until we see how they do with sales....Maybe if they do all right, we'll start supporting them after their third or fourth book.
Basically, it's a frustrating situation, when all you want to do is sell books, entertain your readers and perhaps make a little bit of a living out of it.
Are you sure you still want to be a published author?
OF COURSE YOU DO.
Because the benefits outweight the maudlin times ten-fold.
As writers it isn't about becoming mega-stars, but actually writing something that you think other people would like to read.
There's nothing like the feeling of seeing your 'by line' on a book cover, and having the knowledge that other people are reading and enjoying your work. Those two simple points outweigh all the frutrations mentioned above. Pretty much, they're out of your hands, so just do what you do best.