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On Bookselling: Distraction

This year I’ve missed a lot of blog posts. I missed some because I was so busy with school work. I missed some because I was so miserably sick. And I missed some because I was so frantic finishing up novels or promoting them to an oblivious public. I’ve had lots of good reasons to miss blog posts.

Last week I missed two. I gave you a pretty little story about my recent sickness (and mentioned that I was well), and then I promised two posts on the topic of selling your self-published books. And then I went silent. Those two posts are still coming, but I didn’t get around to writing them last week. And this time it was for a very bad reason.

I got distracted.

That’s it. Simple as that. The internet distracted me.

And it wasn’t even brilliant webcomics or hilarious cat videos or astonishingly addictive flash games that drew me away. It was a column of numbers that changed every few hours. I had a particular tab open, and every few minutes (sometimes seconds), whatever else I was supposed to be doing, I would click over to that tab and hit Refresh just to see if the numbers had changed.

Well…one number really. It was the number of copies of Taming Fire that I’d sold so far this month. It entranced me. As it climbed from one to two to three digits, it captivated me. It controlled my every waking moment. I couldn’t think about anything but, “How’s my book doing now?”

That’s a common problem for newly self-published authors. The sales reports and rankings really do update in real-time (or something very close to it), so it’s easy to see, minute-by-minute, whether or not you’ve sold any more copies.

But, then, I’m not a newly self-published author. I went through all this with Gods Tomorrow last October. And then I got over it. I quickly learned that the numbers really don’t change that quickly. You can drive yourself crazy checking to see if you’ve made another sale, and it’s irrationally disappointing to learn that the answer is no.

So I got over it. Probably by November, and it hasn’t been a problem since then. For several months I was only checking once a day (if that). When we released Courtney’s Colors of Deception it took off to a faster start than any of my books had for a while, so I got back into checking a couple times a day.

So why did I fall back into that trap with Taming Fire?

Because Taming Fire sold. And how! When I went back to that page a few minutes later to refresh and see if I’d sold any more books, chances were good I actually had!

Our company’s long-term goal is to average 50 sales per title per day. That means Gods Tomorrow should be selling two books an hour, and Ghost Targets: Expectation should be selling two books an hour, and Colors of Deception and Taming Fire and everything else we release.

But as I said, that’s long-term. We have to build an audience. We have to establish ourselves and get our names out there. We’ve been planing for 10 years and hoping for 3-5, to get our books selling 50 copies a day.

Yesterday Taming Fire sold 105 copies.

To my slight embarrassment it was mentioned on Twitter and Google+ last night that, during our weekly open-house work session for the Consortium, I was having a hard time getting any work done because I was too busy dancing.

This is why. As you can see in the picture up top, I’m currently rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in the industry. It’s a hell of a feeling.

And it’s utterly baffling. We certainly planned to build to these sales numbers (that’s the whole point), and every now and then we’d discuss the possibility of lightning bolts — of Tycho at Penny Arcade mentioning my book and setting off a landslide, or Radiohead hearing about our public domain principles and throwing a bunch of money at our cause — but there don’t seem to have been any lightning bolts.

I certainly haven’t done any brilliant marketing to sell these books. Carlos and I cooked up a pretty clever gimmick back in June, but the fact of the matter is that this trend was already in motion before we even got to implement that. Really everything I’ve done for Taming Fire I’ve also done for the last two books we released (after learning about it with Gods Tomorrow).

It’s chance. It’s luck. Luck will always play a role in publishing. But there are some other factors I think contributed. I’ll talk about those some on Thursday, and then on Friday we can finally follow up on a little promise Joshua made back when he graced us with some guest posts. So come back Thursday and I’ll tell you how digital bookselling works.

Well…I will if I can tear myself away from those numbers.

One Response to “On Bookselling: Distraction”

  1. Anna Gilliland says:

    Congrats on the sales! The distraction is totally understandable. I look forward to reading your next articles.