What I Learned Selling 12 Copies of My First Novel

Our family dinner table was my first platform—every dinner was all about sharing stories and jokes and points of view.

— Phoebe Waller-Bridge

In April of 2017, I self-published my first novel, Bill and Ty Get High.

I’d deleted three previous attempts at fiction. Bill and Ty Get High, while certainly not a perfect book, was at least complete.

I spent a week in Italy designing a basic cover and formatting the interior for print.

After a year and half of writing, editing, and designing, I hit publish and the book went live to the world.

I sold a dozen copies.

It wasn’t rejection. It wasn’t bad press.

It was the algorithm.

I was at the bottom, with no name recognition, no sales history, and no marketing.

I told myself it was okay. I had zero expectations for the book. My only goal was to learn the process from start to finish, and then move forward with future books.

But I never wanted to publish into the empty void again.

Enter the blog.

I’d been building websites and making money online since 2006, but I’d never invested the time or effort into a personal blog.

It was a mistake.

Way back in the late 2000’s there was a blogger named Ev Bogue who talked about augmented humanity.

The idea went something like this:

In the new digital world, we all have the ability to post, or upload, our thoughts to the Internet as a digital copy of our actual personalities, experiences, and lives in the real world.

And in return the digital world provides for our material needs, like when my book royalties pay for the food I eat and the roof over my head.

Basically, he was deconstructing the theory behind blogging.

You share your knowledge and ideas and people support your work.

Successful bloggers come in every shape, background, style, and subject. What they all have in common is blogging consistently over time.

I should have started a long time ago.

But as my readership continues to grow I’m building a platform to promote all of my future work.

Even a modest amount of book sales is enough to push a title from algorithm hell to healthy sales on Amazon, but without an audience it’s not going to happen.

Unlike sex, books don’t just sell themselves.

If you’re writing a book, making art, designing websites, or doing any sort of creative work you need to start a personal blog.

It’s brutally painful at first.

You write and publish and nobody reads.

Start small and grow big. Have fun. It’s the only way.

Sometimes I get blog envy.

I see the people who have been blogging for 10+ years and I’m jealous of their large readerships. I wish I could fast forward to their position.

But the only cure for blog envy is to write and post, one article at a time.

Piece by piece you stake your claim on the Internet, building your own little corner of the digital world that supports you and all of your projects for years to come.

It takes hard work. Months of writing. Maybe even years.

It’s worth it.

Where do you want to go?

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2 thoughts on “What I Learned Selling 12 Copies of My First Novel”

    • It’s so hard. Believe me, I still doubt myself every time I hit the publish button. The only choice is to keep going.

      Talent is natural, but process and creativity can be continuously improved.

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