Is fame. Become a celebrity and you are almost guaranteed to sell books – indeed you don’t even have to write them. That’s what ghost writers are for. Ah, I can hear you muttering, if I were rich and famous, I wouldn’t have to try to sell books. Which is true. And you might also be muttering, getting famous is harder than selling books. Now there you might be wrong. For we live in the age of social media. Anyone can become famous if you own a smartphone.
Of course it takes work. But fame in social media is obtainable, you just need to build a large enough audience. I know that some of you are already on YouTube, so let’s start with a YouTuber, Daniel Greene.
Greene talks about and reviews fantasy books. His channel currently has 463,000 subscribers. It has taken him six years and over 460 videos to reach that total, so I think it is safe to say that Daniel Green has put the time and effort to earn his fame. So how does that translate into book sales?
In March of 2021 he self published his first book – a fantasy novella, Breach of Peace. I don’t know his sales numbers, but it currently has 7,402 ratings and 1,458 reviews on GoodReads with a 3.58* rating, plus 2,209 on Amazon with a 4.2* rating. It is currently #333,589 in the Kindle Store, i.e. while it no doubt was a bestseller, it is selling only a few copies today. Compare that to the average debut author offering only a novella, and I think that you can attribute its success to his fame. This is especially evident when you look at his next book.
On October 29th he published the second book in the series, Rebel’s Creed. I gather that he decided to combine the next two novellas together into a novel based on his feedback for the first one. It has 1,215 ratings and 178 reviews with a 3.58* rating, and 458 ratings and a 4.3* rating on Amazon. Its current sales rank is 431,994. All of which suggests that fame can sell only so many books. While Greene’s first book was considered an okay first effort, it was clearly not strong enough to bring anywhere near all the readers of the first book along for the second. Still, 1,204 ratings on Goodreads is nothing to sneer at.
Now let’s look at a new Austrian fantasy author Stacy McEwan, who released her first book, Ledge: The Glacian Trilogy, Book 1 on 13 September 2022. It currently has 1,199 ratings on GoodReads with a 495 reviews and a 4.19* rating and 310 ratings on Amazon with a 4.5* rating. As of this writing the Kindle book is ranked 8,633 which my handy dandy sales estimator says that book is selling on Amazon.com at a rate of 30 books a day, 449 copies a month. The hardcover book is ranked 15,680 which translates to about 17 books a day, 256 a month. These numbers bounce around daily, and reflect the sales on Amazon in the US only. Amazon sales outside of the US and all bookshop sales are not included, and no doubt add significantly to the grand total.
So why have I chosen her? Well, I happened to watch an interview with her, which is the only reason why I am aware of her. But in this interview she told her story. She happens to be a TikTok star, a “Booktok” person, which I gather are people on TikTok who do whatever they do there around a book theme. She happens to be very good at it, and has some 321,500 followers. I’m not on TikTok, but what I gather is that she does short comedy skits about books. So, when she wrote her first fantasy novel, Ledge, and talked about it on TikTok, not only did several publishing companies request to see her story, but something like five agents offered to represent her.
Interestingly enough, she had planned to release her book as a self-published book. She had it all set to go, with a cover done and a release date set when these publishers and agents contacted her, and bid for her book. She had to cancel her publication and at the same time, let all the people that pre-ordered it know that it was going to be published by Angry Robot instead, at a different date.
Now, as it happens, I happen to know of another debut fantasy author, Shauna Lawless, from Ireland who published her first fantasy book just two weeks before McEwan did, on the 1st of September 2022. This book, The Children of Gods and Fighting Men, was also traditionally published, this time by the Head of Zeus. It is a historical fantasy set in Ireland. It currently has 189 ratings and 114 reviews on GoodReads with a 4.51* rating and on Amazon it has 26 global ratings with a 4.7* rating. As of this writing the ebook sits at #118,647 on Amazon.com which translates to 2 copies a day and 29 a month with the hardcover book selling at 4 copies a day, 54 books a month. Again, these numbers reflect only Amazon sales in the US. Amazon sales outside of the US and bookshop sales everywhere will add significantly to the total sales.
Both of these books were traditionally published, so sales are not directly comparable to self-published books. And as always, we are comparing apples to oranges when comparing the two books. Still, I think that it is clear that being famous on social media contributes significantly to sales. The numbers tell the tale: McEwan’s 1.199 GoodReads ratings to Lawless’s 189 (with a 2 week lead).
I also know of a booktuber, Bookborn, who’s husband, Zack Argyle’s self published debut fantasy series the first book which was published in March 2020 has sold petty well, with his first book having 624 ratings and 263 reviews with a 3.94*. Now, I really don’t know if it was even promoted on his wife’s YouTube channel, but all these people have Twitter accounts as well that can be used to get the word out to followers.
All in all, while it is quite obvious that fame will often lead to fortune, and books sales, it is perhaps less obvious that in this day of age, fame is not out of the reach of ordinary writers. It may well pay, especially if you are only starting your writing career, to develop social media channels to your potential readers.
Oh, and blogs are too 2012. They don’t make you famous. Just say’n.