The average book sells 3000 copies in its lifetime
Lots of great books make tiddly squat for their authors, lots of crap books make them millions. Is it 4/5 star reviews on Amazon or Goodreads recommendations that you are after? A review in the South China Morning Post, perhaps? Is it sales, good and proper (1300 copies of a fiction hardback or 7500 copies of a paperback a week to get onto the ST best seller list)? Is it how much money you’re making? Or is it just seeing your book on a bookseller’s shelf, even if no one is buying it. Or maybe you just wanted to produce a memoir covered in a nice design as a present for your aunt Mabel?
After three novels published by obscure outfits and a fourth soon to be produced by another (a year each of hard graft, I can tell you), and precious little in the way of sales, my metric for success is simply how long I can stay in the game.
After a period of improving your skills, learning your craft, taking advice and feedback positively on the chin with each book, you learn how to plot your way out of a cardboard box, but that is not enough, I’m afraid. Your manuscript needs a hook, a reason that it should be read, something new, different, to catch the imagination, to grip the likely reader: a new angle, an intriguing voice, a clever premise, a killer twist.
Remember, even if you find an agent that likes your book, there is no guarantee that she will achieve a deal for you with a publisher. Even if you got a publisher’s deal, there is no guarantee that anyone will read it.
The average agent by the way is female, white, late twenties/thirties, privately schooled and Oxbridge classics most probably, middle class and likely a member of the liberal elite living in Metropolitan London – they are the ones choosing what the great British public reads nowadays (and by the British public, I mean the 80% of readers and book buyers who are female, middle class and probably white).
I would love to hear other peoples’ views – feel free to post comments.