I’ll skip the chase. Here’s the formula:

Size of audience * visibility / competition = sales

If you already know what all of this means, well, you likely don’t need the formula. If not read on.

When we begin, and this is true for any business, we look for certainty. We want to know what will make things sell, so that we can be successful, make a living, get rich, and hire SpaceX to fly us to the Moon.

This translates into rules.

Show don’t tell. Use evocative description. Cut out all adverbs. None of these rules will guarantee you success. But neither will the ones that say “write what you want”.

Think of business rules as probabilities. What is the probability that your audience will tolerate you telling rather than showing? What is the likelihood that they will want you to shower your prose with adverbs?

That doesn’t mean that there is no audience for your Christian BDSM Star Trek/My Little Pony bestiality crossover. It just means that the size of your audience will be a lot smaller.

Which brings us back to the formula:

Size of audience * visibility

If you have a huge audience, some of them will find you even if your visibility is small. But if you have a tiny audience, you’d better have either a huge visibility (think super-stardom, or saturating all venues) or be very, very adept at finding your audience and becoming visible to them.

And then there’s the competition. Even if your audience is huge, and your visibility is good, you can still lack sales because your audience has a smorgasbord of options.

Competition dilutes visibility. More choices mean less resources for you, whether those resources are money or reader time. This is the reason why advertising has become de rigueur for ebooks – ten years ago, when competition was low, you could make serious money with no other incentive than a free first in series book. Today, there are thousands and you need something more.

Which brings us back to the formula for a final time:

Size of audience * visibility / competition = sales

Think back to your middle grade math classes. The larger the denominator, the smaller the result. But as the denominator approaches zero, the results approach infinity.

So maybe, just maybe, it might be time to start dressing up your ponies in black leather…

Luck and Persistence!