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POINT OF VIEW: Off in Another Direction

Crossroads - Pixabay

So here I go again.

I’ve tried so many paths on the way to becoming a successful author that I feel like I oughta be a trail guide:

  • I tried the traditional publisher path, selling my stories to four or five small-to-midsize publishing houses.
  • I’ve tried the hybrid route, where some of my books are sold through “trad” publishing and some are independently published.
  • I’ve tried the fully self-pubbed option.
  • I’ve gone narrow with Amazon and Kindle Unlimited
  • I’ve gone wide with B&N, Kobo, Apple and Google Play, and even wider through bookstores and libraries via Ingram Spark.
  • And I’ve tried to land an agent to help me get a big publisher. In the next coupla weeks I will pass 200 agent rejections on the first book in my current WIP, and that’s on top of the 140 I got for the last one. They say there’s an agent out there for everyone, but I have my doubts.

My most recent thing was to put out something new every month, on the same day of the month, so my readers started to expect it. Apparently if you’re an author and your name isn’t J. Scott Coatsworth, Amazon’s algorithm rewards you for this with higher sales. Instead, my per release sales seem to have declined over time.

Needless to say, it’s often the case that the tried and true strategies that work for others fail to work for me.

Case in point – last year I wrote a series of 10,000 word short stories. They were great stuff, and I was really proud of them. I shopped them around the SFF short story circuit.

Fair warning to my writer friends out there. 10k is a hard length to sell. Only a handful of magazines take that length, and they are extremely picky about them.

Flash forward to last month. I had this great new story, Prolepsis, to put out on my own now that it had been soundly rejected by the publishing world.

When I first started selling my short stories on Amazon and KU, I would regularly (and fairly easily) sell 50-150 copies, and usually crack the top 10,000 on Amazon.

So for Prolepsis, I spent a few hours tracking down the right cover background, a few more making a cover that was just what I wanted for the story, and then some more time formatting the book, uploading it to Amazon, and then adding it to QueeRomance Ink, Liminal Ficiton, Other Worlds Ink and my own website.

Further time was invested in prepping the posts for launch day, but when yesterday rolled around, I was excited and ready to go.

I rolled out social media posts across FB, Instagram, and Twitter. I bought a $40 BookBub ad and created the art for it. I shouted it from the rooftops.

So what was the net result?

About $10 in total royalties for 29 copies sold, and a top Amazon rank of 20,527. Oh, and I’m actually $30 in the hole because of that bookbub ad, which had a paltry 1.14% click through rate.

This is one of those “Why do I do this?” moments. It’s like pushing against the wind. Multiply the time and frustration around this release by a new one every month, and what do you get?

A tired and cranky author.

But to frame it more positively, let’s call this a “What’s my next move?” moment. I’m nothing if not optimistic, and when life knocks me on my ass, I get back up again and push ahead.

A few months back, I went wide – I started distributing my books in many more places (not just via Amazon). The initial results were good – I sold more paperbacks via Ingram than I did eBooks everywhere else.

These latest results only confirm that decision. So starting in January, I’m dropping the once-a-month thing and concentrating on my longer works, audio releases, and the like, whenever they are ready. I’ll still release some new shorts, but only in collections, not as individual tales. It’s just way too much work for too few sales.

This should also give me a little more time to work on my new novels and their pending release.

It’s frustrating, but it’s a bit of a relief too. I spend so much of my time shilling for these monthly releases, and it’s such a letdown every time one of them fails to go anywhere. It takes its toll on my confidence in myself and my abilities as a writer. So I’m letting it go.

I feel good about it. I think. It’s a new path to try, at the very least, and maybe this one will finally lead me where I want to go.

To my writer friends, how do you decide when it’s time to change course, and how do you find your new one?

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