The toughest part of any writing journey is being brutally honest with one’s own work and possibilities. There is a short list of elite authors with whom most of us battle for any piece of success. The big question for millions of writers is how to achieve the smallest bit of impact without driving our families into bankruptcy and jumping off a mental bridge.
Being an “unknown author,” I have dealt with this challenge for several years. I know there are other writers who have spent even more time trying to just forge a small loyal audience.
I’ve had that Oprah dream too like many authors. You know. The one where she is introducing and crowning your book as the next great celebration of literary lordship. It’s one of the best dreams I’ve ever had. But, let’s be honest, Oprah Winfrey isn’t calling me or you. So how can an unknown author build any audience among the blockbuster writers like Gillian Flynn, James Patterson, and Nicholas Sparks?
Well, first of all, it starts with hard work and the price of the book itself. I’ve realized this after writing the last book of my trilogy, The Greatest Gift. The first book of the series, Necessary Heartbreak, was published by Simon & Schuster back in 2010. The price of the book has always been around $10, far higher than other books by most unknown authors. Necessary Heartbreak has never sold well.
Everybody’s Daughter, book two which was published by The Story Plant, has had moderate success when it was either promoted or the price was around $2.99. Once it was elevated above $5, the rankings tanked.
The results for The Greatest Gift should be known once the book is out there for a few months starting October 14th. I’m hoping the price is competitive.
The reality for me, like millions of other unknown authors, is we can only survive by selling our books at Wal-mart prices. We are slaves to our trade. There are too many aspiring authors willing to peddle their material for the price of a small pack of gum.
We don’t value our work much, do we?
But who can blame any author for keeping their price low to reach a bigger audience?
It is all about supply and demand. I understand this from my economic college courses. But are authors selling themselves short? Most of us work very hard, spend money even for our own editing services, and work tirelessly to perfect our craft. We spend countless hours supporting one another too.
I have been fortunate to have all three books of the trilogy produced by traditional publishers. This has saved me great expenses. But, like all unknown authors, I have had to dedicate hundreds of more hours to marketing and promoting.
How wonderful would it be to just dedicate every hour to writing?
What about self-publishing?
Self-publishing does have its advantages. I finished up my fourth novel, The Second World. I consider it my finest work, an issue-oriented story with a rich and deep plot. Should I consider the self-publishing option? The main reason to go this route is that I can control the price. It’s an intriguing option, one I thought I wouldn’t have considered until recently.
I’m honest with myself and the possibilities. Reality stares me in the face. It won’t silence my pen though. But what I have realized is I can’t compete unless the price of my books is low, in line with the many millions of books written by other unknown authors. These are the cold hard facts for me right now in my career.
What about you? Do you feel the stress of making such decisions?
What is frustrating is I know many of us work hard to make sure the quality of the stories is high. Each project requires tremendous amount of hours.
We writers are certainly underestimating the value of our work.
But I know I’m not James Patterson or Nicholas Sparks or Gillian Flynn. There’s a narrow window for unknown authors to slip through and the chances are slim.
I’m Michael John Sullivan. And I’m addicted to writing. I’m not ready to put my pen down.