The Most Powerful Tool in Your Arsenal
I see a lot of disheartened writers, from trad pubbed to indie, bemoaning a lack of sales, a lack of visibility, a lack of support from other writers.
I've been very lucky in the past few years but that wasn't always the case. I've had ups and downs over my "career," and significantly more downs than ups.
My wife reminds me, when I occasionally feel down on myself, about my first year of publishing when I was excited that I was able to sell 150 FREE copies of my debut collection. That was potentially 150 people who would read something I wrote. Four years later legendary horror author Jack Ketchum (winner of the Bram Stoker Award for The Girl Next Door) happened to read that same collection and said some nice things about it, for which I will be eternally grateful.
Even after that I had periods where I sold next to nothing. Managing to score some Bookbub Featured Deals helped, and I maximized those boosts as well as I could. I'm also very active on social media, and not just to sell books. I think that is helpful. I enjoy interacting with other writers and readers - and I like to think that shows.
It wasn't until I released GHOSTLAND at the end of 2019 that I started to think I could actually do well at this. By then I'd already been writing for 28 years. The core concept of Ghostland seemed to hit many of the notes horror readers appreciate. I wrote it, in a way, as a love letter to the horror genre. I knew it was my one shot to do the concept right (basically Jurassic Park meets Thirteen Ghosts), and I rewrote it many times in many incarnations to be certain it was the best I could make it.
There were books I thought would be surefire successes that fizzled. There were times when I thought I was fooling myself. When I thought I should quit. But quitting is the only surefire way to fail. (Aside from dying, I suppose, but even then you could theoretically become a posthumous success, like John Kennedy Toole, Steig Larsson, Plath, Poe, etc.) So I kept writing. Because I love it. I love everything about it, from coming up with fun and original concepts, to the writing itself, the rewriting, the editing, even the jacket copy.
I've been incredibly blessed, especially recently with WOOM's late-blooming success. And I'm fully aware that at least 50% of that is down to luck.
Yes, there is a glut of fiction out there. There are countless options, and more added every day, while even less people are reading. Meaning, yes, your books are drops in the ocean. You can do things to maximize your chances of success (commission great cover art, edit your books in a professional manner, put out the best writing you can, with a killer concept, a workable marketing strategy, and family and friends cheering you on), but ultimately what sells books is word of mouth. Without word of mouth, your book remains a drop in that ocean.
That's the most powerful tool in a writer's arsenal, and for the most part it's something you have little to no control over, beyond that first marketing push.
Writing is a tough gig. Don't make it harder by whining on social media about low sales or no one supporting you. Sure, you'll get a few sympathy likes and downloads, but more people will remember that and choose not to buy your stuff in the future. Support others and they'll support you (or they won't, and you'll soon discover which authors are just in it for themselves). Learn about marketing techniques and use them to your advantage. Be friendly. Appreciate the readers you have and more will follow.
But most of all, keep writing!