Somewhat predictably, one of the first questions out of anyone’s mouths when I emerge from my self-inflicted solitude is ‘How’s the book going?’ This is a far more complicated question than I can comfortably answer in the one or two sentences they’re probably looking for, so I usually mumble something along the lines of ‘not bad’ and move the conversation onto some other topic, while staring at their faces wondering if they bought the book or not.
But, now that we’re a month into me being a proper writer who can point to the book on his shelf with his own name on it, I thought it would make sense to take stock of exactly where I am, and inflict it on you, dear reader.
So, how’s the book going? Well... not bad.
Not brilliant, not terrible, kind of exactly where I thought it would be. I’ve been inside the top 10,000 ebooks on Amazon. I’ve been in the top 25 of a sub-genre. I’ve even managed the top 1000 apocalyptic print books. I’ve got sales, they’re multiplying, and that’s electrifying. But that’s only half the story. I’ve gone long spells within the month with no sales, I’m getting tumbleweeds over at iBooks, and I’ve scarcely covered 20% of the costs of the book. Not only that, but I’ve developed a crippling addiction to refreshing sales pages, even when they only update every 24 hours.
My strategy is very much a long term one. Strategies should be long term, really, otherwise they’re just random decisions like eating all the cheese in the fridge with your fingers. Mama didn’t raise no fool. I don’t plan on doing any paid marketing on Blood on the Motorway until the full trilogy is out, and I don’t expect I’ll be turning a profit on any book any time soon. I hope that within five years I’ll be able to see a modest and regular additional income from being a writer, with a view that, maybe, one day, I’ll be able to take it full time. This is how I’ve planned my writing career form the moment I decided to go indie, and is the reason why I’ve kept my costs as restricted as I can. It’s why I’ve decided to put my books into all the various retailers, rather than go exclusive to Amazon and get all the benefits that entails. After all, if this is a five-year plan, why wait to try and build an audience on the other stores?
And yet… I would be lying if there wasn’t a significant part of me, incredibly proud of the book, that hadn't fervently and secretly hoped that I might be one of those rare cases you hear about, the Andy Weir or Hugh Howey types who stumble into an audience like a bear into a beehive, swiping fistfuls of honey and never getting stung. I knew that it wouldn’t happen, but when you’re doing something like this, you can’t help but dream.
That hasn’t happened, obviously. I had a decent opening few days, and the sales have trickled in over the subsequent weeks. As I said, I check my sales at least once a day, sometimes several times, and whenever the counter ticks up with a new sale I get an endorphin rush that just about offsets the disproportionately crushing low that comes whenever there isn’t one. The book has garnered eight 5-star reviews on Amazon UK, and the feedback has been great, so far.
There’s been a few disappointments, most notably when I managed to secure a promotion as a ‘hot new book’ on Kobo’s global store, which I thought might get a bit of attention, but which has gained me a solitary extra sale. Still, that’s one more reader, and one which doesn’t come from my immediate circle.
Therein lies the real problem for me – getting the book noticed. With the exception of my sales on Kobo, I’m pretty sure that every single sale comes from people I know, either those close to me, or the people who I know who live inside the big scary box that is the internet. The challenge for me is in how to break out of that group, and reach the seven billion plus people who I don’t know personally. I reckon all of them would like the book. They should all buy it.
The way to get attention, obviously, is advertising, but I’m of the opinion that it doesn’t make sense to go down that road until I A) have some money, and B) I have a full trilogy to flog. The other route would be to take my books exclusive to Amazon so that I can take advantage of Kindle Unlimited. As much as I’d love to get in on that action, I’m still fairly certain that it’d be the long-term wrong move. It’s very tempting though. As a full time Spotify enthusiast I’d be a hypocrite to be against subscription services, after all, and I told you mama didn’t raise no fool. In fact, I am in one, Scribd. Total borrows in Scribd so far? Zero.
So, back to the original question. How’s the book going? It’s going fine. It’s exactly where it should be. I just need to remind myself of that every time I go for the refresh button on my sales pages.
But Paul, I hear you crying from inside the internet, what can I do to make this all better for you, you poor soul? Well, you could buy the book. Or you could pre-order Welcome to Discovery Park. If you’ve already done that then you could leave a review where you bought the book and on GoodReads if you read it and liked it. And if you’ve done that, then you’re already one of my favourite people already, and the only thing you could do from there is tell all the people. Tell the people in the street. Tell the old lady on the bus. Tell your local MP, unless that MP is a total bastard, because we wouldn’t want them enjoying it, would we?