Every Word You Write is a Seed
One thing that prevents a lot of authors from taking that first step at publication is the idea that their publication has to be perfect, and they end up second guessing themselves into never publishing anything at all. Yet for most authors with a large catalogue of books, there are probably at least one or two (from early in their career) that cause them to cringe a little bit whenever they think of them. But that’s okay, because no words are ever wasted. Each publication builds on the last and grows you into a better and stronger writer. Truth is, you never really know which of your stories is going to connect with audiences. Take it from Ginger, who has a great example of how a throwaway erotic parody once netted him 1000 unexpected sales…
If there’s one thing I love to hear, it’s the sound of Book Report going ‘ca-ching’ across my speakers. It means I made a sale!
(In fact, that’s just one of the many reasons why I prefer keeping track of my sales and page-reads through that 3rd-party app rather than rely on the KDP Dashboard.)
However, last Autumn, I started to receive a lot of unexpected ca-chings – and they were coming from a most unexpected place – the sudden surge in sales of a 30-page ‘erotic parody’ I’d penned years earlier under my old penname, written to be a (don’t laugh) steamy version of Minecraft.
I’ve actually removed that book from sale now, because it was attracting the sort of attention I didn’t want to bring to my author career – but for a few glorious weeks, I sold over 1,000 copies of a throwaway erotic short I’d penned years earlier (which had sold a grand total of 5 copies in the years in between.)
What the hell was going on?
In the end, it was my 12-year-old son who found out for me. Some Minecraft YouTubers had randomly discovered this book years after I’d published it and made an entire video about it! And not just any YouTubers (according to my son, who is the expert on this kind of thing.) It was Saltydkdan who has 300,000+ subscribers and even one of those mythical ‘Verified’ ticks after his name.
Today, the video has amassed nearly 1,000,000 million views – but for me, that translated to a completely random, unexpected, astonishing 1,000 sales and Kindle Unlimited read throughs right out of the block (no pun intended.)
The book had been priced at 99c, and was only 30 pages long, so this sudden windfall didn’t allow me to buy a castle in France or anything like that, but it did teach me a very important rule:
Everything you write and publish is a seed.
If you go through the ordeal of writing, editing, publishing and finally selling a self-published book, that’s an achievement in and of itself. Good for you. Simply by doing that, you’ve achieved more than a 100 people who keep musing: “Oh, I could write a book…”
But if you’re not where you want to be in your writing career right now, or you’re facing an uphill struggle selling your books, remember that mighty oaks emerge from tiny acorns, and it takes a few decades before they’re tall enough to block out the sun.
Every book you write and publish is like planting a seed – and each one will grow just that little bit bigger than the one before. Once you’ve got a book out there – published, and available – it’s like a stake in the ground declaring: I was here!
And someday, those tiny seeds might bear plentiful fruit – and I’m not just talking about Minecraft-sized fruit.
Sure, one of your earlier books might suddenly become YouTube famous and explode into a bunch of sales – but more likely what will happen is that you’ll finally release a book that hits, and then all those seeds which had lain forgotten for so long will have their own chance to blossom in the sunlight now reflected off them.
I noticed it when I published the first couple of thrillers under my own name, rather than a penname. All the books I’d written previously – including my first novel, which I’d previously boasted about never having sold a single copy – become viable, interesting, and desirable products in the eyes of your new fans.
Every book that you write and publish which isn’t an instantaneous success still helps build a foundation for your writing career; and the more successful you get, the more all that effort will finally bear fruit.
It’s something worth remembering – and it’s an interesting example of how our perennial advice to ‘write every day’ really makes sense in a practical way, as well as in forming a powerful writing habit. What you create – everything you create – has value; but nobody except the author of the Great Narrative knows when that value will be realized.
That being said – when my ‘erotic Minecraft parody’ finally hit the limelight, I shut it down fast. The thrill of making dozens of daily sales was tempered by the knowledge that I didn’t want to be known as ‘the Minecraft guy’ when people were talking about my writing. This book very clearly stated FOR ADULTS ONLY and was ‘erotic dungeoned’ on Amazon – but as the father of three kids, it suddenly felt kind of uncomfortable to have it out there.
I also had ambitious plans for my novel series, and this sudden attention was a reminder to put away childish things (even if they paid my beer money for a month.)
That, too, turned out to be an oddly education experience. I remember who I was back then – back when I wrote that stupid, 30-page story. I’d been a young and hungry self-published writer chasing trends and hoping to land the next, big ‘gimmick’ like Chuck Tingle had done (the Huge-award nominated author of the literary masterpiece Pounded in the Butt by my own Butt.)
Back then, I’d have probably wet my pants at the thought of making 1,000 sales! Of having nearly a million people watch a video about my dumb book!
But I’m not that person any more. I’m twelve books into a series that I want to pitch to Netflix and Amazon as ‘Fast and Furious meets Fifty Shades of Grey.’ My ambitions and goals have totally eclipsed those of the writer I’d been when I’d thought of the idea of a steamy Minecraft story.
I got better – and you will, too. Stick at this writing game long enough, and you’ll find yourself achieving things you’d only once dreamed about with your writing; and yet you’ll still be unsatisfied because you’d discovered that you’re capable of yet greater things.
As writers, we tell stories – and stories are journeys. Just keep that in mind, because as writers we’re on a story ourselves; and it has the potential to be no less exciting than your fictional one.
A thoroughly good read. Thank you Ginger! I’m going to write some novella length pieces using a zany character I’ve fallen for. Put them up for 99 cents. Have some fun, instead of slogging through novel lengths stories, which require far too much plotting and angst.
Loved the “beer money for a month.” For me, it would be these yummy chocolate-covered pecans from Fresh Thyme.
I find that the more I write, the easier it is for words to flow onto the page. So it doesn’t matter whether I’m writing a comment on a blog post like this one, or a chapter in my crime thriller.
Keep writing is what I tell the members of the guild where I serve as president. Write something. And then write something else.