Columns > Published on December 27th, 2012

Adventures in Self-Publishing Part 5: The Virtue of Patience, And Also Money

I got my first check from Amazon!

It was for less than a hundred dollars. After taxes, it's not enough for a hard night of drinking. I do not care. I got paid cash money for a thing I made up in my head. That's tough to beat.

Funny thing is, it was a little anti-climactic. Earlier in the day I got paid for a short story that got picked up for an anthology. That was my first ever payment for a piece of fiction. I had already worked myself into a frenzy by the time I got that notification from Amazon, so I was all like, "Whatever, no big deal." 

Kidding. I was thrilled, again. It's exceedingly gratifying to get paid for writing fiction. There's a very nice feeling of validation that comes along with that first payment.

The important thing here is I'm on course for my life goal of buying a lakehouse, somewhere in upstate New York. Once I do that, you will never see me again...

Patience is a virtue, not always easy

It's exceedingly gratifying to get paid for writing fiction. There's a very nice feeling of validation that comes along with that first payment.

I woke up the other day to find a very nice review of the novella from fellow zombie-writer Leah Rhyne. That's another thing that feels pretty great—that a stranger would stumble across it, and then care enough to write about it. And not in a "let's take the piss out of this guy" way.

So while that was a big win, I've gone a month without getting any new reviews on Amazon. Not one! And it was pretty surprising. As I explained last month, I enrolled in the Amazon KDP program, which means the novella is available in the lending library, and I can give it away for free for up to five days, as a promotional tool. 

I marked it down to $0.00 for two days, to see what would happen. I ended up giving away 796 copies, which I figured it would be good for a couple of new reviews. And that's good, because the more reviews you have, the more the search algorithms work in your favor and you get more attention... but, nope. 

Initially, I was annoyed. That's a whole lot of people who now had my novella for free, and what did I have to show for it? 

I brought it up during the last episode of our podcast, which featured special guest Craig Clevenger. The topic was: Should writers work for free? I shared my frustration, and Craig pointed out that it's not all about the immediate payoff—just as important is audience-building. The long game. 

It was helpful to hear. Patience is a virtue, said someone, once. Probably a writer. I'm going to put my head down and get back to chipping away. But I'm also going to be happy that there are a whole bunch of people out there who may very well be enjoying my book, and hey, that's pretty damn cool. 

Flogging oneself

A few weeks back I asked about reviews—whether it was bad form to ask people to review your work (with the understanding that people are not obligated to do it, or give a hyperbolic five-star review). Now I'm wondering: When it comes to social media, how much promotion is too much. 

I try not to overdo it. To the point where I can't remember the last time I reminded my Facebook or Twitter followers that, hey, if they're interested, I got myself a fancy digital novella on sale. I'm always afraid of being a pest. 

Some people are obviously not concerned about that. I've seen people with Twitter accounts that are nothing but a long string of buying links. Then there are the people who send you unsolicited messages asking you to buy their work. (I block those people—if you want to talk about writing, let's talk, don't spam me.)

So, I've been going at the social media promotion with a pretty light hand. I could definitely step it up (and since it's just after Christmas and a lot of people will be rocking shiny new eReaders, I probably should.)

I'm curious to know what you think, dear readers. When it comes to promotion, how much is too much? At what point do you tune out or block people? More than that, what grabs your attention? A personal touch? A joke? A song and dance routine? Let's discuss. 

Sales tally: 

  • Amazon (paid): 65 (up 4 from last month)
  • Amazon (borrowed): 4
  • Amazon (free): 796
  • Barnes & Noble: 15
  • Kobo: 0

Discussion Time

  • Ever get paid for a piece of fiction? Tell us about it! What was it, and how did it feel? 
  • When it comes to social media, what grabs you? 

About the author

Rob Hart is the class director at LitReactor. His latest novel, The Paradox Hotel, will be released on Feb. 22 by Ballantine. He also wrote The Warehouse, which sold in more than 20 languages and was optioned for film by Ron Howard. Other titles include the Ash McKenna crime series, the short story collection Take-Out, and Scott Free with James Patterson. Find more at www.robwhart.com

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