Two days ago, sales for The Iron Gate at Amazon crossed the 1000 copies mark. That’s print and ebook combined and it’s just the one vendor.
An ordinary sales run for traditionally published midlist sf/f can be between 2K and 5K, so that puts me on pace to be pretty average. That isn’t a bad goal for me at this stage of my non-career. It also assumes that sales will keep chugging along a pace that will let me pass the “You must sell this many copies to ride this ride” sign. Otherwise, I lose even the pretense of being midlist.
Some other works have done better. The Way into Chaos has sold nearly 14K at Amazon. Those would be respectable numbers at pretty much any publisher, and they don’t count the copies “sold” through the Kickstarter. It makes me wish I could take those numbers back in time to show the editor who rejected that novel because it was a fantasy, had a portal in it, but the protagonists didn’t go through the portal. Only the antagonists did. It was a story about being invaded, not about invading somewhere else. The editor called that “bad worldbuilding.”
Then again, that trilogy came right on the heels of the books Del Rey published, and which they marketed and publicized heavily. As of my last royalty statement, Child of Fire has sold almost forty thousand copies. It would have just earned out its advance if the contract didn’t call for basket accounting for all three books. To this day, those books from Del Rey outsell anything in my backlist that I’ve self-published.
So were the sales for The Way into Chaos so good because of residual effects of all that money and hard work Del Rey put into the Twenty Palaces books? No doubt.
Were sales so good because of that incredible Chris McGrath cover? Absolutely without a doubt. I’ve always known cover art is really important, but I’m thinking I should have put a couple of extra reallys in there.
And then there’s the very real possibility that this is just a slow fading of a career that never really took off. I have readers who enjoy my work, but it seems like there are fewer every year, as later books make readers lose interest without bringing new ones in. I used to think that my creative instincts could appeal to a broad audience, but now that I’ve been writing for a while, it seems not.
Not sure where I’m heading with this, except to say that I’m not going to stop writing and that I will write Twenty-One Palaces at some point. I’m grateful for the readers I’ve got. I’m grateful for the chance to write my books and a system that allows me to publish them in the face of widespread publisher disinterest.
But I still feel that my non-career is aging the same way that I am. Things don’t work as well as they used to. Everything is slower. It hurts more. People fall away, leaving you with a smaller circle. And there’s really nothing to do but work hard to slow the decline while also coming to terms with its inevitability.