When I embark on any big, new undertaking, I like to do a little bit of expectation management. Some of that is outward -- it's important to describe to your audience what the thing is you're about to do, so the people who won't enjoy it know they can safely ignore it, and so the people who will enjoy it know the intended tone and boundaries of your experience and start out on the right foot.
But it's just as important to look inside yourself and establish what your expected and desired outcomes are. If you don't set a benchmark for success or failure, you'll move your goalposts around so much that it becomes difficult to tell what's working and what isn't. And I consider it a mitzvah to tell you, too. There's a lot of speculation going on regarding sales and money, but very little hard public data about specific, real books and authors. And it's better for all of us who write or want to write to have a clear-eyed and brutally honest view of what to expect. So I'm here to share what I expect in sales for Revision and why.
I figure my baseline floor is about 300 copies; anything less than this would be a shocking and humiliating failure. This is based on my experience with the Lucy Smokeheart Kickstarter. Lucy had roughly 250 backers, and I've made a lot of new friends since then, some of whom are likely book buyers. So I squint my eyes and think 300 is what I'll get in vegetable sales: copies moved because people like me personally, because they want to support my work, or because they've liked past work enough to take a chance on this next one, not because they think they'll like this one.
My royalty rate should give me roughly $2.45 per ebook sold, so that means I'm expecting to walk away with no less than $735 in my pocket, unless something truly catastrophic happens. This is not money to sneeze at; that means a trip to a con, or groceries for a few weeks, or a few car payments. That's not bad, but it also works out to a lousy hourly, because I promise you I've spent more than 100 hours working on this book. Hell, I'll probably spend more time than that just promoting it.
So I'm hoping to do better than that. I'm hoping the book doesn't stay hidden, known only among the circle of people who already know and like me well enough; that it is recommended, that word is passed on, that people read it and actually like it. So the most-reasonable forecast for books sold if the book does well but still doesn't quite light the world on fire is, say, 1,000 to 2,000 copies. We'll call it 1,500 for our purposes, which would earn me $3,675. That's a family vacation to Disney world, several months of car payments, and -- perhaps dearest to my heart -- a number that qualifies for SFWA membership. Not bad! Nothing to live on, and the hourly is still extremely unfavorable, but... not bad.
And if it does catch on and sell like hotcakes, what then? Let's cast aside the illusion of Hugh Howey numbers, here, or JK Rowling figures. Let's not think about numbers in the millions; we're just trying to make a living, not a killing. In my dearest possible imaginings, the book sells, mmm, let's call it 30,000 copies. That would net me $73,500, a princely sum with which I could remodel my bathrooms, cruise the Mediterranean, buy an Apple Watch, and still have money left over to pay the mortgage. And wouldn't that be lovely?
It's not impossible I'd sell that much, but if it happens, it'll be the result of a lot of things I have little control over: luck in striking readers the right way at the right moment; word of mouth based on that good impression; and nothing more important coming along and devouring my potential audience and their pocket change in the few weeks the book will be top of mind.
But my work here is almost done. I've written the book. I'll spend the next few months telling people it's there to buy, if they're so inclined. And as for the rest of it... well, it's out of my hands now. So we'll see how my predictions pan out, and you can count on me to let you know how it goes.
And while I'm at it... if you want to preorder, the links are right there in the sidebar. Out May 5. Maybe you'll like it?