Sunday, January 26, 2014

Why "The Goldfinch" Means Poor Book Sales for Me and Other Indie Authors

Early last December I was going through a batch of unopened emails when I found one from Book Gorilla, advertising The Goldfinch on sale for only $1.69. I immediately clicked on the link because I had been eagerly awaiting the chance to read Donna Tartt's latest - I was one of many who adored The Secret History when it first came out. (Although I wasn't crazy about Little Friend.)

Anyway, luckily for me, it was still on sale and I downloaded it with glee. Later that evening I was talking to a friend who had just put the kindle app on her new iPad. "So show me how to download your book," she said. And I happily steered her towards The Holdout on Amazon, where she bought it for $2.99.

Then I told her about how I had bought The Goldfinch that morning for only $1.69, and she bought that too. And she said, "So I just spent more for your book than I did for a national bestseller?" I laughed because she was teasing me, but I couldn't stop thinking about the comment nonetheless.

How can I possibly compete? Sure, The Goldfinch is now $7.49, but on any given day you'll be able to find SOME bestseller for an astonishingly cheap price. And then there are the hundreds of free books out there. Why would anyone pay $2.99 to buy a book by an author they don't know?

It turns out that they wouldn't. My sales have flat-lined. Completely. Two and half years ago I was selling up to 60 copies a day of Following My Toes. Yes, it was at 99 cents, and I'll go into why I raised the prices of my books in a minute. But I knew that sort of winning streak couldn't last.

And it didn't. Even still, a year ago at this time I would sell several copies a week of each of my books, and when I released November Surprise it enjoyed a mild sales boon, benefiting from my promotions and blog tours.

Fast-forward a year, to when I released The Holdout. In my own, nonobjective opinion, it is my best and most marketable book so far. And I have really, really tried to market it. I've done promotion after promotion. I've done two blog tours, so far. I emailed book bloggers and Amazon reviewers and solicited reviews myself. And I've gotten a great response (read the latest reviews on kirkus and novel escapes) but none of it has translated into sales. None of my books are selling at all anymore, and as I watch my sales rankings plummet it's hard to keep my spirits up.

Maybe I'm the only author out there who is experiencing this frustration, but I'd be surprised if I was. I finished The Goldfinch last night, and after 800 pages I was moved and grateful for having read it. Tartt is a true talent and I'd love to be able to write an ending like she did, with such depth and description. But I can only keep trying.

Because in the end, the only remedy to the frustration of poor book sales is to write more books. I can't control how many people like and/or buy my books, but I can plan my next book and pin my hopes on that. And if nothing else, the several dozen readers who have heard of me will hopefully download it and enjoy my next realease. That's very, very cool when it happens.

As for why I don't just sell all my books at 99 cents anymore - I found that it doesn't necessarily help with sales, and if they're always that low, then I can't advertise on a lot of sites that only promote books that are on sale. So I have to keep at least some of my books at $2.99 so I can reduce the price occasionally, and advertise the sale when I do.

My other plan for alleviating my nobody's-buying-my-books angst is to get to all the other books on my kindle that I haven't read yet. There's a ton, and I've decided not to download any more until I read some in my electronic TBR pile. I realize the irony in this, because like a lot of other people, I'll be contributing to the huge supply/poor demand ebook market and its inevitable evolution over the past few years. But I'm going to report back on what I think of these books, and I plan to alternate between mainstream and indie published books. So my next read will be by an indie author, although I haven't decided which one yet.

And maybe by the time I'm ready to start downloading books again, my books will be selling again too.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Cruzing to the Future and Haunted by the Past (and by a bathroom ghost)

There's a new post on November Surprises blog. To read about Jack's bathroom ghost and Lucy's Ted Cruz coloring book, click here.