Thursday, October 26, 2017

The journey toward paying the rent starts with a single sale

by Giselle Renarde

Sometimes I lose sight of what's really important.

It's very easy to be swayed by all sorts of factors, even when you're a strongheaded person. Greed is a communicable disease. If you surround yourself with people who always want more, more, more, you're bound to catch it.

Humility is a quality I greatly admire, but it's never been my strong suit. The thing about selling books for a living is that books don't cost a lot of money. Each individual sale doesn't bring in a ton of dough. If you make your living as a writer, as I do, you have to sell a lot of books to pay the rent. Each individual sale is a drop in the ocean.

It's taken a drastic downturn in book sales for me to realize what a huge compliment every single sale is.

I don't know why it's taken me so long to realize this. I don't buy a lot of books myself. I read every day, but I get my books from libraries. The last book I bought was Janet Mock's Redefining Realness. In Canadian dollars, it was just over $20. I'm a low income earner. I saved up to buy it. I love that book. It's outstanding. I held it in such high esteem that, when the audiobook came out, I encouraged my library system to purchase a copy. They did. Sweet did the same with her library system, and they purchased the audiobook too.

Buying Redefining Realness was important to me. It was an experience. I still read in print, but the first bookstore I went to didn't carry it.  Saving for the book, going out on multiple excursions to find it in the world, and then buying my own copy... this was all very meaningful to me.

That was one sale of one book for Janet Mock. It was a memorable experience for me. I cherish that my copy.
My copy of Redefining Realness, with my favourite sections flagged.
I'd never considered that, when readers buy my books, they might be having similar experiences--and if not similar experiences, at least similar feelings. There's so much hope and anticipation infused into a book purchase. Readers are really hoping to find what they're looking for inside your story. Your words matter to them.

It's hard for me to imagine readers holding my words in high esteem, because I don't hold myself in high esteem. When I think there are people out there, people like me, who don't earn a lot of money but they've saved up to buy a book I've written, I feel humbled. I take that as such a huge compliment.

And it's not just the spending money aspect. It's the spending time aspect, too. So many people are so busy, and there's so much entertainment out there in the world, and in here in our computers. There are so many ways to be entertained and amused. It blows me away that people spend their time with my words, with my work.

In order for me to pay my rent and put food on the table (and in my cats' bowls), I need to sell hundreds of books every month. If I only sold one, I'd be in trouble. I think that's why I lost sight of how incredibly important every single sale is. The journey toward paying the rent starts with a single sale.

I never used to feel particularly emotional about book sales. I do now, more and more. The fewer books I sell, the more I value each individual sale. Each reader. Each minute spent consuming my work.

I need readers. I need sales. Without them, I wouldn't have anything to eat. I wouldn't have a roof over my head. But I'd lost sight of two very important truths: each reader is a blessing; each sale is a compliment. I hope to hell I don't lose sight of that again.


  1. It's hard to stay humble and grateful when you're panicking about whether you can pay your bills.

    You are one of the only authors I know who actually supports herself (however modestly) with her writing. You really are an inspiration, especially because, no matter how many books you put out, they are always excellent.

  2. Very kind of you to say, Lisabet. I've been hanging out in writer circles where I'm the poor kid and watching the rich get richer hasn't hasn't helped my self-esteem. I'm not a big-time hustler but I'm not a hobbyist. I kind of don't know where I belong.

    1. I'm just as glad I don't know anything about those writer circles. I'd be very surprised if they concentrated on erotica, but I'm very often wrong. The only person I know pretty well at the moment who's making a good living at writing is doing non-fiction articles for adventure-oriented magazines, and gets to take paid trips for research. She dropped that job to write a kinky romance, has discovered how little books pay, and has high-tailed back to the magazine job.

  3. Every sale we make is a connection with others. If that person recommends our book to someone else, that's another connection. IMO the essence of life is in making connections. No wonder it's so rewarding.

    Plus, the idea of making your own way IN your own way is evidence of a self-sufficient person. When I left home at 18, I was able to do so by getting a job. The beauty in self-sufficiency is having the means to make most decisions for yourself.

  4. Giselle, I can’t imagine living on what I earn from my writing, so I am in awe that you can do it at all.

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