This book that is the opposite of fail
This tells me a story.
I like looking at my sales data, but at the same time I try not to judge my books—or myself—harshly by it. A few years ago I decided to set a minimum earnings goal for each of my books, and even then, that I would not consider a book a failure or success based on how fast they met that goal.
Because when I get down to it, each book has a different purpose, and it doesn’t surprise me if they achieve things differently. On their own time.
Fairy Tale Fail was my first self-published book, first book of mine on Amazon, and thankfully I did not go through with any panicked/regretful thoughts of deleting it and starting over. That means I have data on it from its very beginning, until today.
This post is not a story about sales or money. Fairy Tale Fail met its minimum a long time ago. There is already a permanently-free version on Wattpad, a tradpub print version that got wide distribution in the Philippines, it’s in libraries in cities I’ve never even visited, a filmmaker friend has “dibs” on an adaptation. It met various measures of success years ago.
I tend to talk about this book the least by now because thematically I’ve moved on to other things, and its very linear, by-the-numbers 3-act structure, slow-burn romance isn’t necessarily what I write anymore. But seeing how this book performs out there in the world reminds me that:
1. a book that was important to me then will be important to someone today
2. “a new generation of readers” is not just about age but about readiness, and every year more people of all ages are ready to read Filipinos, telling stories our way
3. it’s good to revisit and update a book and give readers a reason to discover it again (new cover, new epilogue, new scene)
4. new books bring activity to the older ones
When people ask me for publishing advice it’s almost always about how to sell more, and I understand that. So here’s an answer: who are the people who read books like yours? Who might need to read it but isn’t yet? Find them, sell to them, or give them access to the story because you may want to earn their trust first before they decide to buy.
Sometimes I tell an author this and their reply is, “OK then—tell me who my audience is and who I should be selling to. Tell me who needs this book.” And I might not often answer because this is not something that should come from me (an outsider to the author’s process), although I also understand that some people want to be told they’re doing something right (or wrong). So here’s another quick answer, in case it applies: if you wrote the book for you, then you’re the target reader, aren’t you? What kinds of books do you buy and read? What would make you read a book like yours? Where should it be, how would you even find out? If you do not buy books like yours, what do you need to change in how you read or how you publish?
When I asked myself this, I ended up changing my entire reading lifestyle. I couldn’t be asking people to read indie and support Filipino authors, if my platform and time and budget did not reflect the same. It’s a process, but becoming the reader who helps create an environment where your own work can thrive leads you to all the places and people who support that thing you do. Being in touch with all of this makes it easier for us to write things that matter to us and the audience we chose. Because we are that audience too.
The story of book data for me isn’t just about money, but also about the value of time and attention. If you have access to any kind of data about your book, what story did it just tell you?