Monday, June 10, 2013

101 Thoughts on Self-Publishing -- 006: Don't Let Failure Define You

In December of 2012, a project I had been working on for over two years finally came to completion. I published my science fiction novel Chrysopteron. Spanning hundreds of years and several generations, it was a story that touched on space colonization, the future of our planet, religion, human nature, self determination. It was epic, and I was damn proud of it.

I published it shortly before Christmas, hoping to draw the attention of those who had been newly gifted with eReaders.

The response? Crickets.

Sure, copies sold to those few who were die-hard fans. But after the initial rush, sales tricked in, if they tricked at all. Even when I reduced the price to 99 cents, it still didn't move. I finally caved and put it in Amazon's Kindle Select program so I could offer it for free. Even free, there just wasn't much interest.

Now, I'm still proud of Chrysopteron, and reviews have indicated that those who have read it do like it, but either the title or the cover or the description just doesn't draw people. I must admit that I became a bit depressed after Chrysopteron's lousy showing, especially since Sullivan's War, my previous novel, had been so well received and continued to sell steadily.

When the sequel to Sullivan's War, Sullivan's Wrath, came out, I had another disappointment. Where were all the people who had bought Sullivan's War? Where was the enthusiasm that had been shown my earlier work?

I felt like a failure. My first year as a self-published author had gone extremely well, but beginning with the release of Chrysopteron, things had come to a near standstill. I was depressed. I abandoned my 12 Novels in 12 Months project. I stopped writing almost entirely.

I had let failure define me.

I wasted several months feeling sorry for myself, months that could have been very productive, that could have produced another novel by now. I don't tell you this to make you feel sorry for me but to warn you against doing the same thing.

There are exactly two things we can control as writers: the writing and the marketing. We can't control how the writing will be received, nor can we control the results of marketing.

If sales are poor, if you get a bad review, if, no matter what you do, no one seems to care about your book, let it go. You can try different marketing strategies, but don't stop writing. The best thing you can do to promote yourself as a writer is to release a new book. Keep writing. Keep producing. If your last book doesn't sell, let it go, and focus on the next.

As I said, I'm still proud of Chrysopteron. I'll continue to market it because I want people to read it. But I know it will probably never be a hit. If I ever become "known," it's not what I'll be known for. But that's okay. I'll keep writing. As long as I do that, I have not failed.


If you're enjoying the series so far and would like a single page to bookmark, I'll be adding each of my 101 Thoughts on Self-Publishing here. Also be sure to subscribe by email (see the box in the sidebar) to be automatically notified about my new posts.

You might also be interested in my eBook, Building a Promotional Package: How to Prepare for Your Successful Book Launch. Details about it can be found here.

Michael K. Rose


  1. Ditto your experience. My first novel, The Ezekiel Code, went live on amazon in 2007. It eventually became an amazon bestseller and rode that wave for an astonishing 57+ weeks. I was actually paying all my monthly bills from the royalties. Then the sales started a slow decline but it was gradual enough that I was still able to pay the bills with the royalties for another 2 years.

    Three years later my second novel, Ash: Return Of The Beast, came out. In terms of the writing, the pacing and the story structure, it's far superior to my first effort. Sales? What sales? Practically nada. The majority of those who have read it have given it excellent reviews, even comparing it to the likes of Stephen King, Dennis Lehane, Peter Straub and such.

    But I totally agree with what you said about how to handle it. Just...keep...writing...

  2. I totally agree. I have 15 E-books out. I am publishing a short story a month. Nothing is going to stop me. Last year I went 4 months and sold nothing. This year my sales are picking up I am selling every month. I am looking forward to your future blogs. It takes effort to publish a story every month, but nothing, not even failure is going to get in my way

  3. You just have to keep a good attitude, even when sales trickle. I learned that the hard way also.