Updated: Jun 29, 2022
We all know the struggle, right? You've spent weeks, months, even years writing your book; plunged countless hours of blood, sweat, and tears into each and every word, and then when you finally hit the publish button...crickets. So, why do your family and friends find it so difficult to buy your book, and why is that not such a bad thing?
Don't Take It Personal
Easier said than done, right? But if you take a step back and really think about it, there are some very good reasons why it shouldn't feel bad not to have family and friends buy your book, and better still, it might even be helping you in the long run. How, I hear you ask? Keep reading to discover some startling truths, and how I managed to publish almost a dozen book before telling those close to me about what I was doing.
1. Your Success is Someone's Nightmare
I remember back before I finally awoke to the fact time was passing me by, when my dream to publish a book felt like the hardest thing ever. Back then, I was one of those people who would often say, "Yup, one day I'm going to write a book." And did I? Eventually yes, but that came after my awakening. Back before that moment, I was the classic "gonna", I was "gonna do this" and "gonna do that", but never did. I kept pushing my dream of writing a book further and further into the background. Life, it seemed, had other ideas for me. Or did it?
It wasn't until my 47th birthday that I finally woke up, realizing I wasn't getting any younger. In just a few more years, I would turn fifty, and somehow that very prospect was what woke me up. I had been pushing my dream aside for more than thirty years, coming up with all sorts of excuses on why it was never the right time. Life was slipping me by and I was too blind to see the reality of that prospect.
The day of my 47th birthday was the same day I began to take action, making a silent oath to the book Gods, that by the time I turned fifty, I wouldn't just have one published book, but two. It was a promise which both frightened and excited me at the same time. Was I really going to finally pursue this dream of mine?
"How the hell are you going to write a book," the first person said to me, a colleague at work. "There's no money in it," said another. Not only did people not support me, they tried to talk me out of it. Even more surprising, they would come up and ask me how I was going, and at the time, I thought they were quietly hopeful for my success.
The sad reality soon became clear, as my first book came out about three months later. They were scared, frightened to see me succeed. Why? Because each of them had their own dreams, most which had never come to fruition. Seeing me pursue my own passion somehow scared them so bad, that soon they became nothing more than a distant memory, actively avoiding me. A couple bought the book, yes, but while one did applaud my effort, I could see what me releasing that book had done to the rest.
Did that first book sell enough copies to make me rich? Far from it. I think I sold a total of five books, and because of it, sent a lot of my so-called friends into the proverbial mountains. I honestly thought my dream was done, finished, tried and failed.
I really believe that what I did next, not only saved my author career and a few friendships, but also launched me into an entirely new direction. You see, I'm not one to give up so easily and I had a promise to keep. Instead of giving up, I changed direction and launched a pen name, something entirely unrelated to me. I didn't tell a soul and began to write in a completely different genre. And the rest, as they say, is history. Doing things alone meant I could focus on my dream, and not on how my actions would affect someone else. By the time I turned fifty, I had published not two, but more than twenty books, far surpassing my initial goal. As for the friends and family? I didn't share my new venture until I was a dozen books into my journey, far too late for anybody to dissuade me.
2. Don't Anger the Algorithm Gods
Book platforms are far from the way traditional bricks-and-mortar books operate. Rather than offering endless shelves brimming with books for you to randomly peruse, platforms like Amazon, Kobo, Google Books, and more, share one distinct commonality. They are all essentially just complicated search engines.
The secret to cracking them is another article entirely, but in short, adding specific keywords to your Amazon listing, or into your blurb, has a way of waking up the engine Gods to start sharing your book to the masses. The problem is, sometimes these Gods can get a little confused.
It's not uncommon to shout the successful launch of your book from every rooftop available, and hope to hit the bestseller lists the world over. Friends and family seem like the best choice when it comes to adding some extra sales and many authors have been known to track down each and every member to convince them to buy. But are they your ideal reader, and more importantly, how will they affect your algorithms?
Imagine for a moment, that your book is a thriller, a graphic and brutal psychological telling of serial killers. Getting your friends and family to buy your book might sound like a great idea, but if only half of them buy, and they are all actually keen romance readers, how would that affect things? The algorithms would notice this sudden influx of romance readers buying your book and may decide that your book does in fact appeal more to romance readers. Soon, other romance readers decide to take a chance because your book keeps popping up in their feeds, and before you know it, things turn south. Negative reviews begin to roll in because the readers found a book recommended to them wasn't what they thought, thriller readers aren't seeing your book because it's not being shown to them, and you're left sitting
in the corner curled up into a fetal position, crying your eyes out because nothing seems to be working.
Algorithms are a sensitive bunch and treating them right from the very beginning will benefit you in many ways. Lining up all of your proverbial ducks in a row from the start will ensure you the best chance of success. Having an on-point, genre specific book cover, an awe-inspiring blurb to grab a reader's attention, and a polished preview to dazzle your future fans are all ways to ensure you nurture your algorithms.
3. Plan to Plan Your Plan
Right from the very beginning of my writing dream, I knew that what I wanted above all else, was to have a book published; a book which would sell the world over and show readers just how good my writing was. And for 30+ years, writing that one book was the only part of the dream I recognized, because I was lacking a key aspect of my dream.
Ask yourself this question. Why do I want to write a book? It seems pretty straightforward, yes. But when you dive a little deeper, you'll quickly see that more questions come up, questions which will take you down different paths entirely.
For me, I wanted to write a horror story, to follow in the footsteps of my idol, Stephen King. And yet, my first book wasn't horror, not even close. Even when I regrouped under a new pen name, my first book wasn't even (technically) fiction, but something else entirely. And that was because I had a chance to sit down and ask myself some fundamental questions.
Why am I writing?
What do I want to write?
Where do I want my writing to take me?
The answer to the first question was pretty obvious to me. I've always wanted to write, to offer readers what I myself had been enjoying for decades, which were stories written by incredibly gifted authors.
The second question was one I revisited time and time again, to zero in on what I had to offer. I've heard it said many times before, to write what you know. I think it was James Patterson who wrote those words. Well, I knew prisons, which is why my first series was a non-fiction insight into a world not many people will ever see. Prison Days ended up thirteen books strong and still growing, flanked by fictional offerings I added to keep myself entertained. Ask yourself the same question a year into your writing career and the answers may surprise you.
The third question is where things get interesting. For me, I wanted to sell enough books to give me the opportunity to write full time without needing to rely on a day job to get me through. Thankfully, I hit that point two years into this journey.
The thing is, not everybody is looking for financial freedom, or to even write full time. For some, the answer may be to just write a single book which they can share with family and friends. They may not be seeking to sell it to anybody. For others, it might be to get that one idea down on paper and share it with the world. If they make money from it, then they see it as a bonus.
For others still, it may be a financial decision, to find their stride in order to build a business, just like I have, and create a fan base of invested readers who crave the next release. Each book is a carefully-planned project, where every decision is based on the long-term viability of the finished product. And that's what your books will be, if you choose this direction.
Long-term authors will not care whether family and friends buy their books, because frankly, they may not be their ideal readers. For me, I write thrillers mostly, dark and graphic tales scary enough to curl toes. Those in my family who do read, are definitely not my target audience, hence why I never chase them to buy my books.
When you first make the decision to take your author career to the next level, plan, plan, and plan some more. Ask yourself the tough questions and really learn to understand what you want from your writing. While it might be a little tough in the beginning, the long-term benefits will definitely be worth it.
Starting anything new is always exciting and getting those first few words down is unbelievably thrilling. Your book has the power to take you in multiple directions and the quicker you know which path to follow, the faster you will let go of trying to get your family and friends to buy. Imagine how shocking it would be to write and publish a dozen books before anybody finds out. Or how about sharing a huge publishing offer which nobody knew you could even apply for.
The bottom line is, this author journey has the power to provide a multitude of results, including some which you may try to steer clear of. This article isn't written to try and talk you out of sharing your hard work with those you love. It's just one person's point of view from their own journey thus far. Feel free to share your own thoughts below and tell us how you managed to overcome your own hurdles and whether your family and friends did offer amazing support.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below on how you have of handled your own publishing dilemmas. Until next time, happy writing.