The Pendulum of Hope and Despair

There are days when you feel you can conquer the world with nothing but your good intentions and willpower. Other days, you could have the world’s collective might at your fingertips and think, ‘Oh, what’s the point?’

As a writer, especially a self-published writer who is struggling to raise his head above the quagmire of anonymity, its fair to say that you experience the swinging of this pendulum more than the average joe. Its also fair to say that I’m teetering on the edge of desperate depression . . . again. The heady wonder of receiving update emails from the distributor that another copy of your book has been sold has quickly been replaced by the despair of an empty inbox. The high of receiving my first good review has been replaced by the anxiety of waiting for a second review . . . any review. Add to this the pressure that this foray into self-publishing could make or break my future publishing career and you begin to see why self-published authors have such frazzled nerves and bouts of anxiety. But, I’m betting that every newly published author shares this black cloud of watching the slow progress of books shifting. Actually, its probably worse for newly published authors because their target sales will need to be substantially higher to make their future works bankable for a publisher.

These days I seem to spend more time self-promoting than I do writing. But the frustrating thing is that despite the time and money spent on marketing, you never see that quick turnover result. One example of this is an advert I placed on the Goodreads website. I invested an initial $30 just over a month ago with a cost worked out at a per-click rate. According to today’s report 178,832 people have seen the advert. Now if the purpose of advertising is just brand awareness, even at a subconscious level, then the investment has more than paid off. But how does that translate to actual traffic to my Goodread’s book page? Well, 106 people have clicked on the advert and followed through to The Changeling King page. So, really, only 106 people have paid attention to the add out of 178, 832 people, that’s like 0.06%. But then 106 people learning about my book is still worth $30. Here’s the crunch though – how many people have added my book to their t0-read list . . . 9 people. Suddenly that doesn’t seem all that much right? But then I’ve still got $13 dollars of my $30 budget still available, and if all 9 people go on to purchase the book, that will make me a return of $22.50, providing they haven’t taken advantage of one of my promotional offers. So in the end, I’m breaking even on cost, but 9 more readers, especially Goodreads readers who are likely to rate and possibly review my book too, may lead to more people learning about the book and possibly deciding to buy it. So I ask you, are the returns worth the investment in advertising?

What’s really bought on this bout of melancholy? I’ve sold 32 books (some of which were free promotional copies) to date, in just over two months. If I continue to sell an average of 16 books a month, its 192 books a year, which means it will take me 5 years to sell 1000 copies. I.e. Not Good. My target is to sell at least 1000 copies by the book’s first anniversary, i.e. 84 books a month. If I want a traditional publisher to sit up and take notice, then multiply those numbers by 10. Its difficult but not impossible. A couple of self-published ebook authors have sold 1,000,000 copies in a year. How they have managed this I do not know for certain, but they claim having a number of titles available at the same time (the multiplier effect) is the foundation of their success. They also cite a number of other activities, most of which I’m already engaged in, i.e. website, regular blogging, social media and forums. Maybe I need to spend more time and effort doing this? But then whose going to do the writing?

Here’s another question; by just focusing on an ebook product, am I missing out on people who haven’t jumped on the digital wagon yet? Many industry experts claim that people who buy books on a regular basis are migrating to ebooks. I have to admit, I’m reading and buying a lot more books now on my Kindle app then I have bought and read print books in the past. 18 months ago I was in the ‘ebooks are evil’ camp. Now I’m in the ‘ebooks are the future’ camp. Yes, I miss the feel of a physical book in my hands, but I’m sure the trees are happier for it, and to be honest, I get the same buzz of reading a good book on my tablet and phone, as I do from a print book. Its always been about the story/plot for me. But if the analyst are wrong, and they do get it wrong occasionally, then perhaps I’m missing out on a still viable market of readers. So perhaps, one consideration would be to publish a print version of the book too? I’ve played with the idea in my head, but my instinct tells me that self-publishing a print book would be more harmful to my future chances of being taken on by a traditional publisher then just having ebooks floating around.

One thing is for certain. The vital link between success and failure for me is you. Yes you. You are the one who will have considered buying or already have bought my book. You are the one who will decide whether to review my book or not. You are the one who can tell your family and friends and your social media buddies about this struggling author who tells a gripping and inspiring yarn. So here we are. Decision time.

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About noorajahangir

Author of the Changeling King and Adventures of Some Kid. Writer of fantasy and sf fiction.

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