Ten-Thousand Dreams

My youthful dreams of 1968 eventually materialized into written goals and I never gave up.  To me, giving up means failure.

In fact, every journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. For example, no one has reached the top of Mt. Everest in one leap. They climbed one step at a time—some fail, some die, but many have made it to the top.

On July 10, 2012, the book sales of The Concubine Saga (both novels) reached 10,000 copies (combined sales of hardcover, paperback, and e-books). In the publishing industry, “Fiction is considered successful if it sells 5,000 copies. … A nonfiction book is deemed successful when it reaches 7,500 copies sold.” Source: Self-Publishing Resources.com

That is why I’m writing this post. I’m tooting my own horn. However, it wasn’t a slam dunk.

In December 2007 when I self-published the first-edition of my first novel with iUniverse, I had two goals—sell 500 copies by the end of December 2008, then keep promoting my work until reaching 3,000 copies sold with no time limit to achieve the second goal.

By the end of 2008 (my first year as an indie author), My Splendid Concubine had sold 221 copies so I FAILED to reach my first goal by 279 books that no one bought. It would take another year to reach 500.

In 2009, I left iUniverse and went independent with the 2nd edition of my first novel. By New Year’s Day of 2010, it had sold another 341 copies for a total of 562.

We seldom if ever hear about the reality of success in publishing from the media, which usually trumpets only the biggest success stories as if there are no failures and ignores the horde of authors that never make it.

To give an idea of how tough the publishing industry is, How Publishing Really Works.com says, “According to a 2004 article in Publishers Weekly, only 83 of more than 18,000 iUniverse titles published during that year sold at least 500 copies (that is less than one-half of one percent). … According to a Wall Street Journal article, 85% of its (Xlibris, another self-publishing company) books had sold fewer than 200 copies, and only around 3%—or 352 in all—had sold more than 500 copies.”

Then in 2009, Words of Every Type.com reported, “288,355 books traditionally published; 764,448 books self-published.” (in 2009)

If we use the half percent from iUniverse, that means more than 760,000 self-published books sold less than 500 copies. If we use the 3% from Xlibris, that number is 741,515.56 titles.

From publishing facts found at Dan Poynter’s ParaPublishing.com, we discover how difficult it is for any author, traditionally or indie published to achieve success in publishing.

My first and only book trailer – so far.

If the “the average book in America sells about 500 copies“, that means a few authors are selling many books while many authors are selling only a few. (Note: You may find more facts such as this one on Poynter’s site).

To promote my writing, starting in 2008, I was a guest on thirty-one radio talk shows, held several author events at brick and mortar bookstores, and have been on three virtual Internet book tours (the last one in June 2012). To achieve my promotional goals, I paid publicists to organize the major promotional campaigns. Then in 2010, I started to Blog and that was when my sales skyrocketed more than 1,000% selling more books a month than I did each of my first two years.

However, when I started in early 2008, I had no clue how my work would be received. Being a pessimist, I was ready for the worst. Then My Splendid Concubine earned honorable mentions in three literary contests; Our Hart earned recognition with five awards, and The Concubine Saga, where I combined the first two novels, has picked up another two honorable mentions.

In addition, the Midwest Book Review recently said, “The Concubine Saga is a strong pick for historical fiction collections, highly recommended.”

My work has also received a few short and mostly anonymous one-star reviews on Amazon. Here’s the first anonymous one that appeared May 2009: “As a great fan of Robert Hart’s, I was very eager to get my hands on this book. And what a huge disappointment it proved to be, for many reasons: 1. Robert Hart is portrayed as a man of limited intelligence. On page 32, in a conversation about his servant Guan-jiah, he is described as someone who “knew eunuchs were castrated men.” Yet a few sentences later he asks “Do you mean to tell me that Guan-jiah is a eunuch and without testicles?” – is there a eunuch with testicles? 2. Disregard of simple facts and sloppy editing – page 19, in a conversation taking place in Shanghai, prostitutes are said as having come from Kansu province, in the east. East of Shanghai, as a cursory glance on a map could attest, there is only sea. One of China’s most prominent dynasties, Tang dynasty, is spelt Tan. Almost every second sentence in the book starts with ‘Robert’. Vanity publishing at its best.” — by Voice of Reason

I’m going to frame that first one-star review and “hang” it.  If you are curious to discover all the reviews and awards covering years 2008 through July 2012, be my guest, visit The Concubine Saga and work your way through the years.

Maybe tomorrow readers will stop buying these novels. Maybe my next novel, Running with the Enemy, will flop and never come close to the average. However, no matter what happens, that will not stop this pessimist from setting new goals.

By 2020, I want to write and publish a total of nine more novels—that is my next goal and I have seven-and-a-half years or one novel every ten months to achieve it or get as close as possible.

In 1968, I completed my first book-length manuscript. Forty years later, I published my first novel.

If you want more examples of what it takes to set goals and work hard to make your dreams come true, read Michaela DePrince, dancing a dream and beating the odds and tell me if you do not get tears in your eyes.

Discover another role model for setting goals and achieving success by clicking on What do Dolly Parton, Whitney Houston and Jessica Sanchez have in common? For Jessica Sanchez to come in second on American Idol and land a recording contract, sixty-thousand other contestants had to lose.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.

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