Wednesday, August 5, 2015

It’s Official – I’ve Disappeared by Alison Henderson

Have you seen the ad with Mindy Kaling where she wanders around, wondering if she’s become invisible because no one seems to notice her? Finally, she interrupts a pick-up basketball game, only to discover she isn’t invisible—it just feels that way. I’m feeling a bit like Mindy these days.

For the first time in the five years I’ve been published, as far as I can determine, I haven’t sold a single book during the past thirty days. Two KU readers finished reading UNWRITTEN RULES, so I will receive a (tiny) royalty check from Amazon for July, but my KDP sales line is flat as yesterday’s lefse (a pancake to you non-Norwegians). According to Novelrank, no one worldwide has bought a copy of any of my three small-press published books in the past month, either. It’s possible I’ve sold something through another outlet, but I won’t know until figures become available from my publisher in a couple of months. Since the vast majority of my sales have always come through Amazon, I don’t spend much time worrying about other retailers.

Since I’m a writer and inclined to dissect feelings, I have to ask myself how I feel about this. Not too bad, as it happens. It’s odd, weird in fact, but not bad. Especially since I know the causes.
  1.    I haven’t had a book out in almost two years. This is the primary reason I’ve dropped off readers’ radar screens.
  2.   As a result of #1, I haven’t done any real promo in ages. I’m still active on social media just being me, but it doesn’t feel right to continue promoting an old title.
  3.   Many writers, especially indies, have proclaimed that the debut of Amazon’s new subscription service Kindle Unlimited has sounded a death knell for their sales. I’m not sure that’s true for me. For a long time, I had a 50/50 balance between sales and KLL borrows. My sales slump coincided with the arrival of KU, but I think #1 is more to blame.

Some writers are quick to ascribe declining sales to any convenient outside force. I’ve read that sales are slow in the summer because people are on vacation. (Wouldn’t they want to buy a book or two to take along to the beach?) Others say sales drop in November and December because of the holidays. (What about books given as gifts?) Now Kindle Unlimited is the bogeyman. It’s always the fault of someone or something else.

I blame no one for my sales situation but myself. You read a lot of baloney on the Internet, but some of the marketing advice is actually sound. In order stay in readers’ minds, you need to publish frequently. Two books a year is good; three is better. Stay active on social media. Market yourself and your platform (though not necessarily your books) regularly. Collect email addresses. Send out newsletters. Yada, yada, yada. We’ve heard it over and over—probably because it’s true.

I’ve failed on nearly every count and take full responsibility for the result. I’m the poster child for Anti-Marketing. I have valid reasons for not publishing a book last year, but even at my most productive, I’ll probably never write more than one book a year. Again, a matter of personal choice and life balance. I hate marketing with a passion and, as a result, will never be any good at it. I’ll never do a Facebook launch party because I can’t imagine spending several hours online posting pictures of fancy dresses and nearly-naked male models and giving out prizes. I know it works, but it’s not me.

There was a time I would have embraced the stress of tight deadlines for the potential rewards of a successful writing career. That time has passed. I’ve come to accept that I’ll never be a best-selling author. I’m simply unwilling and/or unable to do what it takes. I still love the creative process of writing and have stories I want to tell. Hopefully, people will enjoy reading them—maybe not as many people as I’d like, but I’m grateful for each one.

That being said, I’m thrilled to have a new book coming out later this year. I’m close enough to finishing to say that with certainty. I love the stories in SMALL TOWN CHRISTMAS TALES and will do my best to get the word out so others can enjoy them. I plan to dedicate this book to my sister writers at The Roses of Prose, who inspired it. Thank you for your support along the way!



Leah St. James said...

Yay for new books, Alison! I can't wait to read your stories.

My sales/marketing woes are very similar to yours. I haven't released a new book since November of...uh...maybe 2013? (I don't remember!)

When it comes to "success," I think we need to look at our overall goals--what we want to accomplish with our writing--to decide if and when we've achieved it. You're wise to understand your goals and how they fit in with your life.

Congratulations on the new release!

Diane Burton said...

Alison, Leah is right. You decide your goals. I've tried to release 2 books a year. That's pushing it. I've noticed the longer between books, the fewer the sales. When a new book comes out, the sales rise. I guess that makes sense.

I'm looking forward to your Christmas stories. Love the cover!

Christine DePetrillo said...

Looking forward to your Christmas tale, Alison.

Marketing is the worst. I've often said that writing the book is the easiest part. Selling it is torture. And it's hard to stay on people's radar. I read somewhere recently that to keep yourself in the reader realm, you need to publish something every 30 days! Like, what? How is that even possible? Sure, I could toss something out there that quickly, but it would be a steaming pile of poo. And don't get me wrong, I see readers buying poo. Lots of it. I just don't get it sometimes.

Good luck with your holiday release!

Jannine Gallant said...

On Chris's comment, might I add, steaming piles of "Gray" poo. Okay, I'll withdraw my catty claws...

Staying on the radar of readers is nearly impossible. I had the awesome BookBub deal get my name out there, followed by a new release in the same series. The 3rd book started to get pre-orders. I even quadrupled sales on my indie books as a result. But that was last month. My rankings are starting to rise...slowly but steadily. I'm feeling a little panicked. What can I do to stay on that reader radar? I asked to have book 3's release date moved up--and was told no. So, now what? I think you're dead on correct. Getting that next book out is the key to maintaining sales. But unless we want to sell poo--gray or otherwise--I don't know how we can keep up those levels.

Best of luck with STCT, Alison. Send it to me to edit whenever you have it ready!

Alison Henderson said...

Thanks, Leah. I've spent a lot of time since I retired 2 1/2 years ago thinking about my goals and what's really important to me. Learning to understand and accept yourself is one of the true (and only?) joys of aging. It isn't always easy to have different priorities when you're constantly bombarded with the message of "sell, sell, sell", but I'm trying.

Alison Henderson said...

Diane, I came to the same conclusion - my results, sorry as they are, do make sense. I showed the cover of the new book to OG and his response was "cute!" I think that pretty much matches the tone of the stories, so I'm happy.

Alison Henderson said...

Chris, I'm amazed at the lengths to which some authors go to stay in the public eye, how much work they put into it. I probably would, too, if I treated writing like a full-time job and put in the hours I used to spend in the office. I'm lucky enough not to have to do that so I have to accept the result of my choice. As for the piles of poo - I couldn't bring myself to do that. I just couldn't. But it is frustrating that other do and succeed with it.

Alison Henderson said...

Jannine, I'm so happy for your success with your Book Bub promotion and your new series, but it is discouraging to hear how ephemeral that success can be in today's publishing environment. You work like a demon! I don't know what more you could possibly do to sustain sales momentum.

Ashantay said...

I don't market extensively, but have noticed that as I release more titles, my sales appear to be steady. Not fabulous but not terrible, either. I've heard an author needs five titles out for readers to take them seriously. I've just reached that mark and hope the adage proves itself with more books sold! Meanwhile, I keep writing for those folks who've told me the enjoy my product. That's my real reward.

Liz Flaherty said...

I'm there with you, Alison, and as lucrative as indie seems to be for many people, I find the additional promo horrifying. Of course, I haven't done all that well with my small publisher stuff, either.

Can't wait for your Christmas book.

Alison Henderson said...

Ashantay, I'm glad to hear five might be the magic number! I have three full length novels, one novella, and soon a collection of short stories. A couple more long books might take me to a tipping point of sorts. I'm not concerned about the money, but like you, I get my satisfaction from readers enjoying my work.

Alison Henderson said...

Liz, promo is indeed horrifying, and I seem to become a more confirmed introvert with each passing day. Maybe I just have less patience with trying to be something I'm not. One of the main reasons I went indie with my last book was that I couldn't see an upside to splitting the royalties if I had to do all the promo by myself anyway. It's been my most successful book to date, but I know I should have published two more in the series to maximize the results. Oh, well...