The reasoning was sound; the results short lived. My friends came through, and I sold some 70 copies. For one night–no, two hours–my book was ranked in the top 1,000, or 100 or something. And then sales stopped, my ranking plummeted, and that was that.
But ah! The delights that have followed. Crude Sunlight followed the Grind Show in August, debuting with a grand 10 sales that month. GS had continued to sell at an anemic pace, moving anywhere from 30 to 40 copies. Yet I remained undeterred. I gave up on Amazon rank gimmicks and focused on what I knew best: writing books.
In November I launched Throne, and in December I put it up for Amazon Prime’s free promotion. Some of you may recall the madness that resulted. Throne was downloaded some 25,000 times in the span of five days, and I nearly had a panic attack walking home one night from work.
I thought: this is it! Riches and glory are mine! I promptly put my other two novels up for promotion, but the results were not the same. I moved half as many copies in January, and half as many again in Feb. Come March, my sales were as paltry as they had been in November.
What had happened? Where had it all gone wrong? I acknowledge that I am not yet properly engaged with Social Media. I simply don’t Tweet, I update Facebook infrequently, and blog very little. Was that my Achilles heal? My books received rave reviews and crushing attacks, but for the most part were well received. It wasn’t the quality. What, then?
I released One by One in March, and it began to sell strongly. Nothing as astounding as Throne had done in December, but in the 100’s each month. Slowly my sales have begun to creep back up, with last month moving a very solid amount.
Self-publishing has not been the experience I anticipated. To be honest, I expected word of mouth to pick up and for my sales to continuously grow. Perhaps not exponentially, but always in the right direction. Instead there have been dizzying heights and desolate moments of dejection. I have read truly wonderful words of appreciation, and caustic critiques that have literally left me sitting at my computer stunned. I’ve had the inexpressible pleasure of sharing my stories with strangers, and knowing that literally tens of thousands of people have downloaded my novels, while many thousands of others have purchased them. This, my friends, has been my touchstone, the magic that I always go back to no matter what happens. People are reading my books, and that, when I have the presence of mind to pull back from worrying, is all that really matters.
I’ve made money too. I’ll be honest – if your average book offer from major publisher is around $7,000, then the last 12 months have seen me make a good amount more than that. However, that has been for four novels. How does one judge? What is ‘good’ and what is ‘insufficient’? I’m going to say that I’m absolutely pleased with how sales have gone, and send out thanks to the readers who have decided to risk their money on one of my books.
What have I learned? That the Amazon algorithm is a fickle servant. It can associate you with bestsellers one day and pour gold into your coffers and then send you spiraling back into obscurity and leave you parched for one sale. You can seek to manipulate it, but so will everybody else. In the end, I’ve decided that my best approach is to simply write more novels, and to write as best I can. To continue self-publishing, and working on my reputation as an author so that one day people go to Amazon not to find a Stephen King novel and accidentally discovering one of my own, but rather to deliberately to search me out, and see if I have published anything new.
It’s a strange world out there. Half the time I feel as if I’m fumbling in the dark. Many of the negative reviews have at time undermined my confidence, and the positive ones given me ephemeral feelings of delight. A month of good sales does wonders for my mood, and a week of stagnation can leave me dispirited. The only solution is to detach from all these numbers. To close down those browser windows and look once more upon the blank page of yet another Word document. To dream a dream, to seek to tell a tale, to search for the best language so as to convey the most honest of feelings, and hope to enthrall a reader for but the span of a night.
My friends, thank you for accompanying me this far. I truly feel, much like the self-publishing industry, that I am just getting started. What this next year will bring I cannot guess, but one thing I guarantee: I’m going to keep on writing.