There’s a word I hate to use, but there are times when it is necessary to convey the depth of my feeling. What have I learned from 18 months of self-publishing? Fucking nothing. And I’m fucking tired of trying to figure it out.
Back in the glory days, as in January 2013, I offered One Night in Bridgeport for free for Kindle readers for two days. Those glorious 48 hours resulted in over 6,000 people downloading the book. I still marvel at that number. 6,000 people were reading my book. 6,000 people were reading my book for free. What if I had priced it at .99? Would they still have downloaded it? If they had, I would have made $2,000 and still had 6,000 readers. Better yet, as soon as the free promotion ended, almost 400 people purchased it or borrowed it in the weeks that followed. Those few weeks were my most profitable as a writer.
I did that free download without promotion, without seeking out websites to promote my free offer. I put it out there for free and people snapped it up and sales followed. As I’ve written, since then well over 1,000 people have downloaded the book at the .99 price. I have over 1,500 readers of Bridgeport (actually adding the free downloaders, I have almost 8,000) and that feels damn good. Those readers have now produced 41 reviews. The last ten reviews, spread out over the last two months, have all been four or five star reviews from people I don’t know. That is huge to me. People who don’t me from Adam are liking what they read. Here’s the last one, posted to Amazon today:
A Legal thriller with stay up all night intrigue. Real life like situation. I hope Mark does more like this one.
While the reviewer is on a first name basis with me, I have absolutely no idea who he is. He gave me five stars. I love that.
After my failed experiment moving the book back up to $2.99 (which netted me a couple of sales and then nothing), then down to $1.99 (which netted me a couple of sales and then nothing),, I’ve moved Bridgeport back to .99. First 24 hours at that price again — four sales (let me change that — as I wrote this, another purchase — so that’s five). I think I’m not budging from .99 again on that novel.
So, I publish my second novel — Weed Therapy. A couple of dozen people buy the paperback ($9.95) or the Kindle download ($2.99). I run something at askDavid.com. I feature it on GoodKindles.net. I join a Facebook page for Authors and Readers and post about it there. I do a Goodreads giveaway. Sales fall … absolutely flat. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. So, unlike with Bridgeport, where I waited six months, I decided to push things.
I offered Weed Therapy as a free download for Kindle readers. For two days (just like with Bridgeport). Did I expect another 6,000+ downloads? No, although it would have been nice. But, I did expect something more than … drum roll … are you ready for this … 88. Yes, two days later, 88 people downloaded it for free. Compare those two numbers. 6,000+ versus 88. Let me add something to the calculation. Back in January, like I said, I did the free download for Bridgeport with no promotional efforts. I didn’t have anywhere near as many followers of this blog liking the post about the free download, a handful of whom reblogged it to their own blog. I hadn’t already featured the book on a number of different websites or FB. I just threw it out there for free for a couple of days to see what happened.
With Weed Therapy, I posted about it here — my legions of followers did their thing and helped spread the word. And … 88 people downloaded it for free.
I’m fucking baffled. Is it the time of the year (there are people who believe the summer is horrible for the book business — I’m not sold on that)? Is it the genre — everybody will read a legal thriller now and then, but how many people actually want to read something categorized as literary fiction? I don’t think either of those explanations make sense with such a huge drop off. Or maybe they do in combination — the time of the year added to the less appealing genre combined to produce a collective yawn from the reading masses. But still? 6,000 down to 88? The thing is, going back to the title of this post, I have no fucking idea and I’m monumentally frustrated at not being able to figure this out.
By education and profession, I’m an attorney. While most people may believe that the law is a black and white world, the reality is that the law is filled with shades of gray. But, even if it is a gray world, there is some logic and common sense that can be applied to guide analysis and reach conclusions. The law is frequently like a jigsaw puzzle — but one where you know you’re dealing with a 250-piece, 500-piece, or 1,000 piece puzzle. And all of those pieces are on the table for you to put together. You just need to know how they fit together.
This publishing business feels to me, at the moment, like a 1,000 piece puzzle where more than half of the pieces aren’t even on the table. How do you put a puzzle together when you don’t have all the pieces?
I know this.
1. Weed Therapy is dropping to .99 tomorrow. I’ve given up on the idea that people are willing to pay $2.99 for an e-book by somebody not a part of the traditional publishing system. And that sucks. Big time.
2. I’m going to be flooding the e-book world with volume. I still have a commitment to quality, but I’m going to be pushing long short stories, novellas, and novels out there. As many as I possibly can. I’ll rotate them through free, .99, 2.99 and all points in between. And see what happens. I’m going to do everything I can to figure out how to crack the code. Because there has to be a code. There has to be a way to get all 1,000 pieces of the puzzle on the table so I can put it together. There has to be.
3. If you follow this blog and you downloaded Weed Therapy and it had any value or quality for you, post a review on Amazon. I want to get 10 reviews on it with an average rating of at least 4.0 so I can see if ereadernewstoday will feature it. Can you do that for me? To be clear, if you don’t believe it’s worth four or five stars, I’m not asking you to be dishonest. But, if you think it’s worth that, post the review. Get me further along this path.