You might have noticed that my posts here for the past couple of weeks have leaned a little on the negative side. You might even say I've been a bit of an asshole. I'm not here to apologize, as my lack of sincerity with such a gesture would be transparent by the facts that a.) I haven't removed the potentially offending posts, and b.) I went so far as to link them in the previous sentences. But maybe you're wondering why I've come down with a case of the grumpy grumps.
What could possibly account for this consistent decline in sales? I've got a few theories, and they're probably all contributing factors.
1. My sales had been artificially inflated by the aftereffects of my last Kindle Countdown promotion, and now things are finally settling back down to normal. If that's true, then it's very good news. Historically, sales have tended to plummet back down to normal right after the promotion's end. The lag time I got from this one gives me high expectations for future promotions. It's been a year since I first blogged about my attempts to maximize the effect of these promotions, and I've learned a lot in that year. I'll talk more about that later.
2. I'm in my novel writing phase, rather than in my short story phase. That means I'm going through a long stretch of time where I'm not releasing anything new, and subsequently not enjoying those little new-release boosts every month or two. Novel writing time is a long and lonely road.
3. Maybe summer is just a shitty time for book sales in general. Times seem hard for everyone I've talked to. A couple of writers I know are planning to dump $500 on a course on how to sell more books which, to me, smells a lot like spending your whole paycheck on lottery tickets.
Writing is not a career for the fainthearted. There will be ups and downs.
What do you do when the forces of nature conspire against you? When the rain blinds you and the wind rips at your sails? When the waves throw your tiny literary vessel any which way they choose? When Poseidon himself seems hellbent on dragging you down to the depths of Davy Jones' Locker?
Do you give up? Do you, the captain, simply go down on the ship?
Fuck no! No one deserves to spend the rest of eternity among the sweaty undergarments in any of the lockers in The Monkees' secret undersea gym.
You batten down the poop deck and hoist the plank! You swab the hatches and walk the mainsail! You get your ass below deck, fire up the laptop, and get to writing your next book!
(Disclaimer: My metaphor is getting away from me. In the event of an actual nautical emergency, these are all probably terrible suggestions. I'm not a boat guy.)
"That's a fine bunch of flowery talk, Bob," you might say. "But is that all you've got for me? Write more books and hope for the best?"
As a matter of fact, it isn't. As I mentioned above, a little over a year ago, I wrote a blog post about a Kindle Countdown promotion I was getting ready to run, in which I tried to predict how my employed strategies would affect my sales. If you read the follow up post, you can see that, while my predictions weren't spot on, they were in the ballpark.
A year is a long time. I've run four or five more Kindle Countdown promotions since then, and I've learned a few things along the way. I've got another promotion coming up sometime next month, and while I'm only expecting a slightly above average short term boost (unless those Bookbub fuckers finally accept my submission, which they haven't done since last May... Otherwise, be on the lookout for another asshole-y blog post about them in the near future.), I'm expecting the long-term effects to blow all previous promotions out of the water.
So what's the secret Big Gun I'm looking to whip out for this upcoming promotion?
An unexpected bonus has been my books forming connections with John Scalzi's Redshirts, which I've been aware of for a while but haven't yet read. And I've even got a tenuous connection to Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, though only on audio.
So you can bet your ass that when I run my promo next month, I'll be dropping some coin on a Facebook ad targeted at fans of Cline and Scalzi, further solidifying my own books' association to theirs on Amazon, and maybe even sneaking some of my books onto the recommended lists for readers of other more famous people's books.
Judging by the modest success I had with the aforementioned leg-humping-a-more-famous-author strategy I toyed with before, I can't wait to see what happens when that strategy is ratcheted up to two authors, then amplified by the power of the Kindle Countdown.
I can't stress enough how important experimentation is when you're a self-published author. The freedom to experiment is the main advantage you have over the big publishing houses.
When times are hard, you need to be harder. Throwing money at snake oil salesmen for their secret formula for guaranteed bookselling success may not be the wisest option.
At least not until you've given a fair shot at all of the freely available advice out there.
In spite of what KDP Select's critics might say, the Kindle Countdown alone assures me that I'll never have to weather any storm for more than three months at a time.
And yeah, keep writing. It's a stormy sea out there, and more titles will contribute to a larger, more seaworthy vessel.