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? 

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leah_beth's picture
leah_beth from New Jersey - now in Charleston, SC is reading five different books at once. December 27, 2012 - 1:47pm

:) Thank you here, too, Rob! :)

And to contribute to the conversation: nope, haven't been paid yet. First quarter of 2013, perhaps? I would love to sell a story, too, but haven't yet. We shall see.

Congrats, though, on your story!! So exciting!

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated December 27, 2012 - 2:02pm

Maybe you should have held off on the free direct thing till you have a few self published works up so they would have generated some impulse buys.

Did all those give aways help your author rating on Amazon?

AM Gray's picture
AM Gray from Australia is reading The Book of Blood and Shadow, by Robin Wasserman December 27, 2012 - 3:17pm

I know what you mean... I get tweets from people that are the same damn quote from their book or the same glowing review or just all links to their book all the time. Ewww... It's boring and one dimensional. If you held a conversation like that, the other person would get up and walk away. But that's probably becasue we think twitter is a conversation and they think it is a free advertisment. Personally I avoid ads.

Guy Kawasaki said that he crowdsourced his novel to 4m people, then asked 1100 to post an Amazon review and got 145 of them, 44 of which were five stars.

And don't forget, people might have grabbed it when it was free, knowing that it was for a limited time and will read it later. And then review. Cross fingers.

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this December 27, 2012 - 6:11pm

@Leah, thanks!

@Dwayne, it would absolutely work if I have other stuff for sale. I think the free promotion works better for that kind of thing. But, the novella is all I got right now. 

As for the ratings--I don't know? The free books don't affect your sales rankings, so no? 

@AM, fingers are crossed! Thanks for sharing. 

ERG's picture
ERG January 1, 2013 - 3:41pm

I published my novel God Bless the Dead last year on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Createspace pBook.  Initially, I put the book out on KDP exclusive but chose to maintain it's list price rather than utilizing the give-away days as you did.  I dropped the KDP after the initial contract period to put the book on as many platforms as possible (with the exception of Smashwords, for reasons that require another post).

I must admit I chose this approach as a matter of principle rather than practicality.  Certainly every blog site and "expert" advises the opposite approach.  In my completely unsupported opinion, my work is worth your investment, both financially and through the time spent reading it.  I depend almost exclusively on word of mouth as my vehicle for adverstising.  If the work is good enough, $7.99 isn't too high a hurdle for someone who's been told that they should read my book.

The challenge for you and I and every Indie author is not the price; the problem is death by obscurity.  Currently, there is great prejudice amongst the standard modes of discovery/review against Indie authors.  Sites such as yours, Goodreads, Popcorn Reads, etc. are helping, but at present there is no good method for quality writing to rise above the din of mediocrity and be noticed.  We live and write in hope.  Best of luck in the new year.