How do you know if your book is going to sell? You don’t.
One fail-safe rule of publishing books is that no one knows if a book will succeed or fail.
Publishing has always been a gamble, and major publishers have never found a way of knowing if they are onto a winner or not.
The only firm fact is that most books fail.
The risks in traditional publishing are offset by publishers by spreading the risk, or gamble, across a portfolio of titles and hoping for a few successes.
In an article by Digital Book World regarding reader analytics and data, there is a paragraph which encapsulates how high-risk book publishing really is.
The fundamental function of a publisher is to make a decision on what to publish (curation). Like a venture capitalist, a publisher has to select among many competing and worthy prospects to select those that have the highest probability of delivering an economic return. Few books earn back their advances, and a publisher’s success and survival rely on a few outsized winners. This is as true for venture capitalists as it is for book publishers, record label executives, indie filmmakers and Hollywood moguls.
It is well-known that Harry Potter was rejected many times before finding a publisher, and that Fifty Shades of Grey found its initial success through blogging and social media and not through a publisher.
Fifty Shades of Grey, in fact, created a new business model for traditional publishing by which it waits for self-publishing titles to succeed and then seeks to contract the authors.
In a way, this is letting social media and the Internet do the hard work of sorting through the slush pile.
By whatever means, though, no one has found a formula that ensures that a book will succeed.
For self-publishers, the chances of any one particular book succeeding are very slim.
However, like traditional publishing, the chances of success increase by the number of titles published. Relying on one book for success is a long-shot, but the odds get better if an author has published ten titles.
But, even if these ten books fail, self-publishers have a distinct advantage.
They have the ability to modify, improve or change these books, by editing and re-writing, changing the covers and the titles, and then rebranding them as new books. It is even possible to change author name.
Using a pen name, or names, is a very useful means of writing in different genres and trying to find new readers.
From a marketing perspective, by using pen names, it can give an author the opportunity to have a range of products, which are suited to different market niches.
Just as major publishers spread the risk by publishing a lot of titles, self-publishers have the same possibility, admittedly, on a smaller scale.
However, the same principle applies. The more books you publish, the better your chances are of success.