Friday, November 03, 2006

Success is Relative

An author, happily brandishing his royalty statement, yesterday.

I guess if you are Nick Hornby or J K Rowling you are used to selling books. And lots of them.

I'm not. I've published three novels and each of them has been what the US publishing industry used to call a 'slooooooooooow seller'. i.e. they sold like old pants.

As far as I can tell, my first novel sold about 200 copies. The next one was a big leap forward - to about 2000 copies. In the light of this I confidently expected my third novel, The Cheek Perforation Dance, to ship 20,000 copies or more.

It sold about 1500. This despite having rather pleasant reviews - even some deeply enthusiastic ones.

What this means financially is that I have never 'earned out'. That is to say: I have never earned back the advance on royalties given to me by the publishers, when they first bought the book. Put it still another way - my books have always made a loss.

This piercingly disappointing status was once brought home to me, in graphic fashion, when I actually received a royalty cheque for one of my novels. Opening the cheque feverishly, I discovered the cheque was written out for the princely sum of £0.00p. Yes, nought pounds, nought nought pence.

Presumably the computer at the publishing house had got too confused by an author who actually made zero money, so had decided to send me a cheque nonetheless.


But anyway, all this is now in the past. Because, the other day, I got another royalty cheque. And this time it wasn't for zip dollars or nul euros or a negative amount of yen, it was for a decent if not yacht-justifying four figure sum.

And this was because, in turn, my memoirs had sold about 18,000 copies in the UK and associated territories.

I have finally earned out! I've made it into profit! And what's more, I've made it into profit on just the 'hardback' edition - the mass market paperback edition is still to come, when, with a bit of luck, I should really mop up the monetary gravy, as every book I sell from now on is pure profit.


I just wanted to get this off my chest. Sorry. I guess that cheque for £0.00p got to me more than I admit. But now I can lay the ghost of abject failure.

At least for now.

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