Saturday, July 02, 2011

How I Sold Somewhat Less Than 1 Million eBooks (and you can, too)


I’ve been agonizing for some time over this blog.  It has always been the bastard cousin to my “real” blog, but I have grown fond of it and made the decision to bring it with me into this new Blog Empire.  But its purpose still confuses me.  Time to get back to basics:
This blog (I’m not preaching to the choir here, I’m preaching to myself) is about what is going on in my life in terms of writing (hence the title).  But that, alone, brings with it a conundrum—when the writing is going well, I generally do not have the time to update this blog, and when the writing is not going well, I not only don’t feel like updating this blog, but an update would not be in my best interests.  Over this past week, seeing the count of “Days Since Last Post” ratcheting up (Do I really keep track of stuff like that?  Oh, boy, do I.) I composed no less than three separate blog posts for The Life of Writing, but each one of them turned out too whinny and/or defeatist, so I trashed them.
The other problem with this blog is the style.  Whenever I open a document, MS Word defaults to “Normal” and I default to “Humorous Personal Essay.”  This is something I have been doing for so long that I don’t know how to do anything else.  (HINT: I wrote my first, published humorous essay on a typewriter—you’ve probably seen one in a museum—and I was taught to end my articles and stories, not with “The End,” but with – 30 –, which harkens back to the days of the telegraph.)  This was the main reason I resisted the Blogsphere for so long; my posts were not blog updates (“Got up late, had eggs for breakfast”) they were well thought out, well constructed, 800-1000 word articles double-spaced on one side of 8 ½ x 11 inch white bond paper.  (I eventually relented, but blogs had grown up by then; nobody posts crap like “Got up late, had eggs for breakfast” on a blog anymore.  That’s what Twitter is for.)
But my point is, The Life of Writing was never meant for that.  This was to be a place I could simply and honestly post accounts of where my writing life was taking me.  Dispatches from the front line; factual but not necessarily informative or entertaining.
So let’s get back to basics and the heart of what this blog is all about.  How is the writing going and, more specifically, how is The Great Experiment coming along?
More Postcards… was released as an eBook in mid-May.  Initial indicators were optimistic as my core fans and friends all bought copies and glowing reviews began coming in (one fan wrote to tell me she laughed so hard she wet herself; I just wish she would post that to Amazon).  The paperback arrived just at the end of May and several fans and friends had e-mailed me asking when it was coming out because they didn’t want the Kindle edition.  When the book became available, I wrote to each and every one of them telling them they could now buy a copy.  So, to me, June is the base month, the first full month of sales and the period after the honeymoon glow had faded and sales would represent how successful my marketing techniques had been.
So, thought further ado, here are the numbers for my base month:
Number of paperback copies sold via Amazon and Amazon UK (discounting the 5 my cousin bought):  Not. A. Single. One.
Number of eBooks sold in June via Amazon Kindle, Kindle UK and Smashwords:  Not. A. Single. One.
Now, it would be easy to become discouraged by this, but I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing.  First of all, I think it serves as a good object lesson to all those people thinking, “Hey, this eBook thing is a gold mine; slap a cover on some words, upload it to the web and watch the money roll in.”  Trust me, it won’t; not in a roll or even a trickle.
Secondly, as base numbers go, what could be better than zero?  There is no way to go but up.  (Unless, of course, some of the people who bought the eBook return them and send me into negative number; now that would be depressing.)
I would like to go deeper into my analysis, discuss why I think this has happened and what I am planning to do about it but I’m over my 800-word limit, and editors get cranky if you take up too many column inches, so I’ll have to leave all of that for next time.
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