I am a published author with Dutton and HarperCollins. I was very, very fortunate to sell three books in four years, with the last sale happening in 2002.I have good news and bad news.
My books did okay---made a couple of lists, etc and sold in the high single/ low double digits, but with numbers like that I'm still looking for my breakout book, huh?
Since 2002, however, I've sold precisely---nada. I've circulated three really terrific books to some very nice rejections, a couple revision requests, etc.
So, my question is: after three books of middling sales and five years of no contracts, am I done?
The bad news is that high single / low double digit sales (ie, between 9,000-12,000) are not middling sales. They're ok if you mean your books sold that many in their first years, perhaps.
A publisher prints what they hope they can sell in a single year—or, ideally, less. Some first printings will take longer than a year to sell completely, and we expect that. But every month stock we don't need in that month sits in our warehouse, we're wasting storage money on it. The stock in the warehouse should be stock in demand.
Compare your first print runs to your first 12 month's sales. Selling 10,000 copies of a 12,500 print run is fine. Selling 5,000 copies is not.
The good news is that you're not done until you're done. Your past books may not help you sell new ones, and you may need to try other publishers. But there's no reason to give up. Publishers will be more impressed with you, in fact, if you roll with these punches. If a past book just didn't grab the market, shrug your shoulders and keep loving the book yourself. Don't mourn or recriminate or whine.
You'll have plenty more chances because you're in the business for the long haul, right? You're a career writer, right? A professional. We like working with those.