Since Tara Sparling and I published our post on using paid ads to promote your book yesterday, I’ve been reading the comments left on our blogs. At first, I was surprised by how many authors feel lost when it comes to ads. How many point out that there are no hard data about ads. It’s like we’re in uncharted waters.
Then, I realized they’re right. Too few of us have been willing to share their results with others, helping them avoid potential pitfalls and showing them safe waters.
As Tara so eloquently put it,
This is worse than standing in a betting shop, five minutes before a race. You have money in your pocket, but a limited amount of time in which to select a guaranteed winner, and the odds are not in your favour.
Well, this sucks. It could be the cough syrup talking (I’m down with a stupid cold), but it drives me mad. We’re in this together. Why are we not helping each other out more?
I can think of two possible reasons for this. I find both of them bogus.
Don’t be shy, give it a try
We read in the media the wonderful examples of successful authors like Hugh Howey or even J.K. Rowling. Well, there’s a reason why these people are on papers: they’re the exception to the rule! If all self-published authors benchmarked themselves against Amanda Hockings, nobody would ever have realistic expectations.
As a result, asking how many books we’ve sold this month is a taboo question. I hate taboos, so here’s my data: I sell between 100 and 300 books each month, plus whatever hand-to-hand sales I make, depending on how much I advertise. If I don’t advertise at all, I may sell as low as 30 books online. And when I started out, months would go by without a single sale.
I’m sure these numbers will rise with time, as I publish more books. You see, what the media seldom report, is that even Howey had to work over a decade to reach his current status. Which is, I’ve found, the case with pretty much every other “overnight success” discovered by the media: it takes years, perhaps even decades, to become an overnight success!
I’m tired of people feeling like failures because they are only selling a dozen book each month. Even worse, they give up after publishing only a book or two. Well, here’s the truth: On average, traditionally-published books sell about 100 copies. Not annually – ever! These are books published by publishers with bookstore clout, dedicated marketing teams and years of experience. So, with some 6,500 books published daily, I think you’re pretty awesome even if you’ve only sold a handful of books! You are a star, and should be celebrated accordingly – not judged because you haven’t got a private jet!
It’s not a zero-sum game
The second possible reason is a mistaken fear of losing out. The fear that, sharing our successes and failures will result in someone else getting rich. Well, I agree it’s a competitive world, but there are enough readers out there for all of us. With every new author, even more readers are born.
This is the side of the infamous “tsunami of crap” that no one seems to grasp. I’m reminded me of the gloomy predictions I periodically read about the end of the Internet being at hand, because so many people use it. Well, guess what? The people using it also bring their own resources into the web. As a result, the Internet is still growing. The same is true of books.
You don’t believe me? Then ask yourself: When were you reading more: before or after you started writing? And we’re not the only ones. Since I started writing, my wife, parents and a bunch of friends interested in my books started reading more, too.
So, never think of this as a zero-sum game! We all win and we all lose together – your loss is not my gain. If you lose, so do I. Conversely, if you win, so do I. This is particularly true of Indie authors. If a reader picks an Indie book and loves it, they will pick another – possibly yours. If, however, they hate it, your book will be reduced to “just another Indie book.” They won’t glance at it twice.
The only thing we achieve by hiding our data and refusing to help out others, is to hinder each other’s efforts. There’s another side, too: I have placed ads that covered their cost, and ads that haven’t. Wouldn’t you want to reward those businessmen that try to gather quality readers? This will only create a virtuous circle that will help us all.
My call to arms
I hope some day to make a living out of my writing, but could be years away from that. Until I do, I am sharing every move I make and everything I find out. We’re all going through uncharted waters. The least we can do is help each other. I’m not one for a soap box, but I believe this is a worthy cause.
If you wish to help me, please send me your precious data. Where did you advertise, how much did it cost you and how many books did you sell as a result?
I’m particularly interested in your failures. I promise, I’m the last person to judge. I’ve run promos that resulted in zero sales. I paid $50 for the privilege of having my banner on the main page of Amazon’s Kindle forum – a banner that resulted in no sales whatsoever. Isn’t it equally important to know of my failures, so you can spend your limited budget wisely?
I will use this data to inform you of the best ways to invest your precious, limited advertising budgets. Also, I promise to share my own sales and ad results with you.
You may think that it matters little if you spent $10 on BKnights and sold 5 copies. Yet, this is exactly the kind of data we need. This blog alone is followed by over 1,000 people. With your help, we can reach thousands more – just share, reblog and share some more.
So, please share with me below your results. Share this post with your friends and on social media. Let’s help each other navigate these treacherous waters and make sure we don’t spend another dime in vain!