Quiet Times

I wasn’t planning on updating my sales figures for “The Adventures of Whatley Tupper” beyond this point, but several people have asked me to continue.  I guess we all like to compare.  I’m not going to be as regular with it, and I’m not going to update my spreadsheet everyday–that was just getting annoying–but I will, from time to time, update my total sales.  I must say, since the burst of sales in the first half of November, from my Amazon 99 cent sale and ending with the KindleBoards Book of the Day sponsorship, things have been very, very, very quiet.  Like, 2 sales in the last week quiet.  Like, the quietest week I’ve had since publishing, quiet.  Now, that’s some quiet.

I noticed after my Kindle Nation Daily sponsorship spike that sales really flattened out, so perhaps this is related.  I’m not sure.  I guess, I have no idea where most of my sales for Whatley Tupper come from anymore.  I don’t believe anything really comes from forums, like KindleBoards or MobileReads, the people at those sites have seen my books already.  I don’t know how people stumble upon my books and buy one.  I presume through reading a blog review, some word of mouth.  Whatever it is, there’s no much happening.  But, I fine with it for now.  These are quiet times.  I’m still hoping for a few blog reviews before Christmas, and I have another KND sponsorship for Whatley in early January.  So, I know things will look up in the future.

Or, I hope things will look up in the future.

The Trap of Self-Promotion

I was inspired by a comment left to one of my posts about a month ago, about how author self-promotion is a myth.  It’s been something I’ve been thinking about quite a lot ever since, and it’s encouraged me to work harder.

To explain…

I wrote my first novel in 5 weeks when in was 22 years old in 1998.  I made it up as I went.  It had several titles, eventually I went with “El Presidente.”  It was more of a test to see if I could actually write a novel–I tried starting one when I was in high school, but I couldn’t put together a story on paper that was intricate enough to warrant 50 000+ words.  After that first novel though, I wrote another one in 4 weeks that same summer.   It was called “Well Past Midnight.”  This one, I thought was going to it.  It would be published.  After all, how many people actually write novels?  And good ones, at that?!

Of course, it never got published.  It wasn’t good, but more importantly, I didn’t have a clue about how to get a book published.  But I was young, I was full of ideas, I could type quickly, and kept working.  The next year, I finished my third novel in three months–a long, drawn out process, I thought at the time–a science fiction novel, “How the World Ends.”  This one, I really focused on the editing, revising five, six, seven times.  This was unheard of for me.  All told, I spent a year on it, and felt that this might be my masterpiece.  I’d already accepted that my last couple novels were crap.  This was it.  I’d learned how to submit to publishers, I thought.  And of course, nothing happened.  So, I spend a year and a half on my next novel, “Decaf,” and that seems like a really long time.  Surely, this will be the one.

I wrote my fifth novel a year later, “The Affluentials,” but it took me nearly a year to write the draft, then a year to edit it.  I felt that this had a better chance at getting published.  It wasn’t science fiction.  It was about a man who worked in an office.  And I’d never once worked in an office.  So, unsurprisingly, it was never published.

I started to get the point.   It wasn’t easy to get published.  My next novel, I spent a year writing the draft, and a couple of years editing it.  “The Importance of Being Keegan,” it was called.  I still like the title.  The book, not so much.  Tried getting it published, no luck.  I’d realized that writing is a long, drawn out process.  There was no need in rushing things.  If was ever going to be published, it would be one something that I had really taken my time with.  I used to write every day, every other day, but soon I was writing once a week, maybe once a month.  I’d start a new draft and give up on it.  I had many false-starts after this.   I didn’t want to write for the sake of writing.  I wanted to write something I felt strongly about.  And so, I stopped writing.  I always thought of stories, but I didn’t write.

In this same time, I worked on and off on “The Adventures of Whatley Tupper,” with my friend, Daniel Pitts.  We emailed back and forth, but it was leisurely.  Again, there was no rush.  This book would probably never be published, so why hurry?  This book took three years of writing, two years of editing.  Five years to pen 100 000 words between two people.  Hardly efficient.

Things changed slightly with when I wrote the draft of “The Year We Finally Solved Everything” in the first half of 2008.  It came to be faster than any book in years.  But I still couldn’t publish it.  I had more bites than ever before, including some fantastic editorial advice from Arsenal Pulp Press, but no contracts.  I wasn’t surprised, it was just a fact.

So, when I learned how easy it was to self-publish, suddenly everything was up to me.  I could release anything I wanted.  I could blame no one else.  I started with “The Adventures of Whatley Tupper” because it seemed like an easier sell.   I would spend hours a day online, trying to find ways to promote it.  I became obsessed with checking sales reports, checking forums, checking my inbox, checking Amazon discussions, checking, checking, checking.  Excited when my sales count would tick up.  When someone expressed some interest in my book.

But I wasn’t writing, and that’s what I need to be doing.  After years of not expecting to get published, I forgot how to write each and every day.  But, if there ever was a time to write for the sake of writing, this would be it.  Now, I know that I will be able to publish my next book.  The only question is, will it be any good?  Well, I won’t know until I write it.  And so, I need to keep writing.   I need to find that spark, that energy I had when I was 22–not because I was young, because I’m still young–because I was oblivious to the hurdles that faced me.  There are no hurdles anymore.

OK, this was rather long-winded and off-topic, but these last few weeks, I’ve written more than I have in years.  And, more importantly, I feel good about what I’m writing.  Whenever I feel tempted to check out KindleBoards, I think I should write instead.  Hell, there’s only so much self-congratulating one man needs to read.

There’s no better promotion than someone reading your book, thinking it’s great, and telling someone else–whether in person or online somehow.  The more books an author has, the more this will happen.

KindleBoards Book of the Day

I sent in my first request for a KindleBoards Book of the Day some 12 hours after it was announced on the forum (in early October), and the first day available was today, November 14th.  It cost $35.00 (USD).

A couple of weeks later, I put in an order for another Book of the Day ad, this time for “The Year We Finally Solved Everything.”  I was hoping there would be something available in January.  The nearest available date was April 20th.

And that was more than 3 weeks ago.  I can’t imagine how far into the future they are now booked for.  As well, KindleBoards now offers banners space for sale ($40 a day).  These could be an interesting idea–you design them yourself and can make them quite eye catching, especially if you’re a graphic designer wannabe.  People on the forums seem to be really appreciative, and it is great for indie authors to have more avenues to advertise.

But I think it’s overpriced.

Today, I sold only 4 copies of “The Adventures of Whatley Tupper.”  I never expected this promotion to pay for itself, but compared to the success I’ve had at Kindle Nation Daily, DailyCheapReads and the Amazon Customer Discussions, I would have hoped for more.  I think the problem is that people (including me) don’t really look or click on banner ads.  People ignore them.  There are too many ads on too many websites as it is already.

Now, counting daily sales can be a little dangerous.  Firstly, I don’t know how many people downloaded samples and may choose to purchase at a later date.  Secondly, advertising is not about the instant sale.  It’s exposure, and so having an ad does help in this respect (although, then I’d think the banner ad would be more beneficial for this).

But, this isn’t my first attempt at paid promotion, so I have some reason to be disappointed.   Not that I think $35 is a lot of money for an ad.  But, considering the price of Kindle Nation Daily sponsorships ($80 USD with which I generated almost 20 times the sales), I think a more reasonable price would be $20.  Maybe post two or three ads a day.  Once a website starts having ads, I don’t think there’s much of a difference between having 1-2 and 3-4.

That said, these ads are clearly very popular, so perhaps other people have had better luck with it.   And on a final note, I’m noticing more and more websites and blogs with advertisements, and I’m a little wary of how quickly this is happening.  The more ads on the sites, the less powerful they become.  Hopefully prices stay constant.

Sorry, KindleBoards.

(almost) Twelfth Week in Review

This week, I put “The Adventures of Whatley Tupper” on sale for 99 cents from Monday to Wednesday, and advertised this by starting a customer discussion on the Amazon site encouraging authors to post messages detailing any books that are temporarily on sale for 99 cents.  It turned out to be a pretty good idea, as the discussion gained a lot of customer interest (at least in the first few days).  Long story short, I had my best week in sales since my KND sponsorship, although most of those sales were at 99 cents, so the royalties take a hit.  But, in terms of just getting some copies out, I’m very pleased with the results.  Hopefully some people write a review or two, and hopefully it leads to more interest in my other book.

(As a side note, I began that Amazon discussion to promote the fact that “The Year We Finally Solved Everything” is on sale for the entire month for 99 cents.  But Whatley Tupper still outsold The Year… by a ratio of 3 to 1.  I always thought a choose your own adventure for adults would be an easier sell than a dramatic piece, and now I’m certain of it.)

Tomorrow, Whatley Tupper is the KindleBoards Book of the Day, so I’ll post an updated sales graph on Monday evening.  Honestly, I don’t suspect it will be worth the $35 price tag.  I don’t really think many people impulse buy books from ‘click-me’ ads.  But, hopefully I’m wrong.  My goal: 10 sales on Sunday.  I’d need about 17 to break even.

Ninth Week in Review

The updated graphs:

On Wednesday I had an interview go online at mustmutter, although I don’t know what effect that had.  Honestly, I haven’t noticed much of a difference in terms of sales from interviews, although the fact that they become part of the public realm online and can be stumbled on at any time by anyone is useful.  Blog reviews are more useful, and I’m still waiting on a couple more.

I’ve recently been informed that on Wednesday my book will be featured at Daily Cheap Reads, which I’m hoping will lead to a nice boost right before the end of the month.  I’ll put up a post about that on Thursday.

I mentioned in a previous post that I feel that I’m running out of ways to promote “The Adventures of Whatley Tupper,” and after reading a comment from someone on this blog, I’ve decided to release my new book much sooner than I’d originally planned.  I’m not going to detail the sales of “The Year We Finally Solved Everything,” but I’m curious to see what ‘cross-pollinating’ effects having two books out will have, if any.

And next week I’ll post my thoughts on what worked and what didn’t in my second month.

The Year We Finally Solved Everything (pre-release)

Just what the hell is a pre-release?  Well, it’s when an author feels 98% confident about his book and impatiently wants to get some free/cheap copies out while his wife does one last read-through to look for any remaining typos.  So, this is my pre-release of “The Year We Finally Solved Everything”.

I’m just trying to get as many copies out as I can right now before I do any proper promotion, hoping that the same blogs that reviewed “Whatley Tupper” will be willing to review this.  So, it’s free at Smashwords right now and only 99 cents at Amazon.  If you’re interested, click here.