Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Trying to stay realistic in a difficult self-publishing journey

Zechariah 4:10

So, at church on Sunday we heard the last message from the summer At the Movies series. That's kind of what it sounds like. The pastor takes popular movies and shows clips providing Biblical lessons three or four times throughout. This week's movie was Rocky, something I hadn't seen in years but want to rewatch now.

Rocky. Obviously an underdog story. The first verse that the pastor shared was all about that. It was Zechariah 4:10:

"Do not despise these small beginnings,
for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin ..."

I've been thinking about this whole self-publishing/author-publisher thing I've been doing. It's slow and can be incredibly frustrating at times. I feel like I have written good books. I've told good stories. They are just having a hard time finding an audience for some reason. I did some math late last year. I think I've sold roughly 200 books since I started this in 2011. By itself, 200 isn't a small number. But in comparison to what others have sold it's nothing. I sell a book a month. Maybe two. It can get discouraging.

Organic discoverability is impossible
I try to tell myself a couple of things when it gets depressing checking sales and not seeing anything added to my ledger. First thing is there are over a million ebooks at Amazon. If anyone walked into a room and more than a million books were spread across the floor, what's the chance they'd pick up my book? Less than slim. But if I'm not doing anything to get my book in front of the people who might like it then that's exactly what I'm hoping will happen. I've run a few promotions for Chasing Filthy Lucre to varying degrees of success. And, again, success here is a relative term. I've got another promo ready to run this week. I'm hoping that will gain me a little visibility and jump start sales, at least modestly.

But hoping that people will just find my book isn't going to happen. And, as weird as that sounds, that helps me to handle the slow sales. Other than a tweet once a week or so, I'm not pushing the books so I can't really expect them to be found. There's just too much competition for eyeballs.

Most books don't have a long tail
The second thing I tell myself is that most books don't have that classic long tail of sales. Chart them, and most books sell a lot at the beginning and then the graph quickly falls off. Most of my sales of Chasing Filthy Lucre came in the first six months or so. Then things began to drop off and quickly reached the levels they are at now. So, again, it's a little unrealistic to expect sales to spike again. Could they pick up? Sure. But I'm not going to suddenly become a best seller, and I don't want that. Lie. I don't expect that, but I want it. I welcome it. But chances are much better than not it won't happen.

All of this sounds a bit like excuse making. I prefer to think that it's being realistic. It's me trying to temper that small part in the back of my brain that is always hopeful I'll see a handful of sales the next time I check my reports at all the sites I've books posted.

But I'm going to try and remember Zechariah 4:10 from here on out. "Do not despise small beginnings, for the Lord rejoice to see the work begin ..." And, looking at all the stuff I have planned and want to write, I have definitely just begun.