does a publisher expect an author to sell to consider their book a
success? That depends on the publisher. Some small presses that do
print runs as opposed to POD may only do two or three thousand books
and are going to be tickled if they sell quickly and they have to
reprint. For one of the big six presses they are going to consider a
book that doesn’t sell over 25,000 as not being a success. Everybody
else falls somewhere on a scale in between.
Books that get advances, that
advance is an indicator of what the publisher is expecting the book to
do. People who sell through their advance in a reasonable time and
start earning royalties are exceeding the publisher’s expectations. POD
(print on demand) presses are set up on models that allow them to start
earning money as soon as the modest set up charges are recouped. Some
don’t start paying royalties until that charge is recouped causing that
to happen faster while others pay royalties from the very first book.
But let’s talk about what it
means to “be credibly published.” We tend to judge how successful an
author is by the size of the publishing house that they have published
with. That is generally a pretty reliable factor, but I don’t believe
the type of publishing or the size of the publisher is what makes an
author “credibly published.” It is about sales.
You could go with one of the big
six houses and not sell any books and be a major failure. “The Shack”
started out as self published but sold a ton of books and was a success
even before a bigger house picked it up. The difference between the
success of these two is sales, that’s how we keep score.
have a friend who has a half dozen self-pubbed books. They have a very
high price tag on them, but for years he has made a living off their
sales. He sells ONLY LOCALLY at various tourist locations but his main
gig is at the outdoor drama “Texas.” He makes a significant income, has
done so for years, and I think would have to be considered credibly
published by anybody’s standards.
In my opinion, someone who does
not sell more than a few hundred books is selling to family and friends
and maybe selling a few at book signings. Regardless of the size
publisher they are published with, they are not impressing anybody.
publishers do have different expectations and
our goal needs to be to exceed those expectations, whatever they are.
But the bottom line is “does an author’s sales reach a level that will
cause industry professionals to consider them as ‘credibly published.’
So in light of these comments,
how do we know how successful our efforts are? A successful author
sells well up in the thousands, no matter what their situation is, but
what we really want is for industry professionals to be able to look at
our publishing credits and at the very least feel they are adequate.
Who am I kidding? What we really
want is to end up on the New York Times bestseller list. There is no
question then whatsoever then.