With all the recent health drama going on, I completely forgot that on 4 September was the one-year anniversary of Shizzle, Inc (Isa Maxwell Escapades Book 1) hitting the Kindle “shelves.” My brain is slowly returning to its usual programming after I finally heard the three sweetest words in the English language – “it was benign.” While I’m facing several more weeks of tough recovery – I still can’t stand up straight or walk for more than a few minutes at a time – it’s nothing compared to the agony of anticipation and anxiety.
I’ve been a published author for just over a year. How crazy. I have a bottle of champagne in my fridge, which will pop as soon as I’m off the cocktail of painkillers. Too bad I can’t have a sip right now, because I do have quite a few reasons to celebrate. I transitioned from a decade of dreaming about being a published author to having two books self-published. I took a massive five months off work to pursue this writing dream. I started #ComedyBookWeek and saw the inaugural event soar with 117 participating titles. I have made lots and lots of connections with other authors, have learned from them, and shared my experiences in turn.
Speaking of experiences, few things compare to the joy ride of getting your first book published. The high of seeing it on Amazon. The low of pathetic sales. The high of doing something about the low sales, be that paid advertising or trick after marketing trick. The low of realizing this is one of the worst ROIs you’ve ever had. The high of the first 5-star review. The low of the first (and second, and third) 1-star review. It doesn’t end, and it doesn’t get old, and eventually you learn to accept it for what it is. The learning curve is very steep in that first year, and I have learned lots, namely:
- I have improved as a writer as I continued to work on the second novel, so it’s been difficult (but necessary) to let go of the first book and stop trying to fix it. I did hire the fourth (!) editor to clean out Australianisms, but will not worry about it again. I will move on and write more, because Ana’s opus is yet unwritten.
- I have learned A TON about marketing a book. From cover design to launching, to which paid advertising sites work, and which don’t. If you haven’t seen my Super-Duper List of Book Advertising Sites, check it now. It may save you a few bucks. I haven’t hit NY Times list yet, but while Shizzle, Inc sold 12 copies in it’s first week, Indiot sold over 100 in the same amount of time.
- Speaking of sales, Shizzle, Inc sold a total of about 800 copies in its first 8 months, at $3.99, then $2.99, and finally $0.99. Its permafree now and thousands of free copies have been downloaded (I wish I kept a better eye on the numbers, as I can only look back at the last 90 days). It was hard work to push these sales along – I have not made my money back on all of my paid advertising experiments, and even the free downloads have withered down to nothing over the last few weeks, without ads. Just for fun, here are the last month’s charts: Shizzle, Inc free downloads …and Indiot paid sales
- Going permafree was a difficult, but exciting decision, and one I still stand by. No, it’s not helping to pay back the investment, but Shizzle, Inc now has 73 reviews, and I am inching my way towards that elusive BookBub promo. Indiot is not doing too shabby, either, with 12 reviews in its first two months of existence.
- Speaking of reviews, I’ve learned to accept them as they are. At first, the 1-star reviews hurt so much that I’d even written A Simple Guide to Overcoming 1-star Review Grief. Now I just make sure that I read those bad reviews only once. The 5-star reviews, however, I read again and again. Kid you not, some of the early positive reviews I’ve read at least twenty times, and will undoubtedly read again. They have been a healing balm and a fuel to keep me going.
- I’ve learned that moving a book in a brick-and-mortar store is practically impossible. It was a thrill to see my book on a bookstore shelf and then into the bookstore’s front window, but I sold just two copies that way. From now on, I will concentrate on electronic book sales, until one of the big publishing houses offers to take this chore off my hands.
- Social media. Oh, boy, what have I not tried with social media? I went wide, and now there are dead accounts on just about every platform. My main lesson there was not to spread myself thin and to concentrate on just a couple of venues, which are this blog and Twitter for me. I did learn a lot about Goodreads, but Found Instagram and Facebook to be too much of a chore with little return.
This was an intense year, and I could probably go indefinitely with the dot-points, but I think the most important thing is that I’m still here and still kicking, despite now being well aware of the realities of self-publishing. It’s difficult, it’s often discouraging, expensive, time-consuming, and confusing. Good thing that it’s also liberating, empowering, educating, and inspiring. I’ve been a self-published author for one year, which is both a long time and not nearly long enough to count any chickens yet. I like to play this game sometimes, where the future me has something to say in terms of advice or encouragement. I’d like to think that Ana 2020 would thank me for not giving up on this dream the way I gave up on sculpture or breeding rare fish (okay, that one was a doozy).
Happy Birthday, Shizzle, Inc. I’m so glad to have you in my life.