We are almost at the end of 2011; a year that has seen many new ebook reading devices, new services by ebook sellers, more schools and libraries opening up the possibilities of ebooks, and a lot of activity in general in the ebook world.
This was also my worst sales year ever. Even with my two most highly-acclaimed books becoming available this year and last. It seems I haven’t been able to work out a way to encourage sales of my ebooks, nor have I been able to find affordable advertising outlets. I haven’t made enough in the last year to take my wife out for a single decent dinner.
This has left me, understandably, without an incentive to write. I even have a few excellent story ideas, some continuations of existing books, and some brand new concepts. None of which do I feel like writing now. I mean… why? If no one’s going to buy them, why should I waste hundreds, maybe thousands of hours writing them? So they’ve sat—and I’ve sat—at a loss for what to do with my time and effort.
Fortunately, I eventually came out of my malaise, and was able to look at the situation clearly: Why am I not selling; is it my product, or my ability to sell it? First, I am satisfied that I can write a good book, based on objective comments and a few awards I’ve garnered over the years. I make a serious effort to produce my ebooks in quality, both in formatting and editing. I don’t think product quality is the issue.
What about my ability to sell? Well, to put it simply, it’s dismal. I am not a salesman, and I don’t have an advertising budget. That leaves me with low- or no-cost promotion and advertising, an arena dominated by hordes of other independent authors (and a few professionals). Unfortunately, I haven’t managed to develop a sales or promotions method that will allow my work to rise to the top of the boiling cauldron that is the independent ebook market. Obviously, sales and promotion is the issue.
And complicating all of the above is the market. Presently, and despite the opportunities for independent authors to sell their wares, the ebook industry is still dominated by the major publishers. They have the prior relationships with major ebook markets like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and they have the advertising dollars to make sure their books appear on website front pages and Kindle and Nook screens. They are the ones whose books turn up in Top 20 lists in major news outlets, and they are the ones whose authors turn up on the daily talk shows. In short, the supposed “pro-indie” market is still overshadowed by the publishing castle—that “boiling cauldron” of indie writers has, unbeknownst to most of us, been shifted down into the castle’s catacombs while the few famous authors cavort in the courtyard for the masses. If I can’t rise above that, reach the courtyard, and convince the masses to give me a shot, all of that writing effort is for nothing.
So, this clear picture has forced me into a decision: I have decided to put any future writing projects on indefinite hold, until I figure out a way to break out of the sales and PR dungeon to sell my books. For the foreseeable future, all of my effort will be put into sales and promotion, and only when I begin to make noticeable progress in that area will I write again.
Where will I start? I have no idea. I’ve tried numerous methods to get noticed and encourage sales, none of which have worked at all. This blog is essentially talking to myself, as essentially no one else is reading it. Establishing my regular presence on a number of discussion boards and groups hasn’t brought me new customers; promotional tags in mass “Tell us about your book!” threads have resulted in zero sales; submitting my books to sites for reviews has been fruitless. At this point, short of doing something so impressive that I spontaneously go viral, I’m not likely to break out through the free promo avenues at my disposal.
About all that’s left is spending money on advertising. But the kind of money that would be required to guarantee sales and profits over and above the advertising budget… well, I’ll put it this way: If I had that kind of money, I wouldn’t need to sell books.
So, I’m at an impasse at the moment. I’m not prepared to give up just yet, but I don’t know what my next move is yet, either. My mission, should I choose to accept it, is to get to the courtyard, and in a presentable-enough condition to get the masses to look my way and approve.
If that doesn’t work, then… as a famous inmate once said, “There’s only one way out of here… feet first…”