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POINT OF VIEW: Riding the Rocket

I was gonna use the Dr. Strangelove rocket scene, but I was afraid no one would get it. LOL…

So I had a BookBub for “The Stark Divide” last week.

BookBub, for those who don’t know, is a daily email service that sends out specials (usually free or 99¢) to a huge list of potential readers/buyers. When you get one, it can mean a big, if temporary, boost in sales.

How big? Potentially a thousand books or more in a single day, all sent to Amazon. Numbers that make the ‘zon stand up and take notice.

I was ready and waiting for the start of mine. I only told a few people, and even then, I was warned to be vague about the date.

Early Friday morning, I took a baseline snapshot of my starting rank, as you do:

362,154

Then I waited. Naomi warned me not to just sit there and refresh my Amazon book page, but I’m an author. What do you think I’m gonna do?

Refresh, refresh, refresh.

For first few hours, not much happened. “The Stark Divide” moved up the charts a little, but not much farther than I’d gotten my other books on my own efforts. By 9:38 it was at:

30,922

I tried to focus on other things. I tried to get some regular work done. I even managed to complete a thing or two.

Refresh, refresh, refresh.

Then at 12:57, just before lunch, the rocket engine roared to life:

262

Not only that, but it had topped the Amazon LGBT sci fi chart, and books two and three were also in the top five:

I was like “holy crap” – I had hoped this whole “put the first two on sale” thing would work, but I wasn’t sure. I had been disappointed by writerly hopes before.

Not one to rest on my laurels, I’d also been promoting it across Facebook and Twitter. I kept it up as the number rose. Then at 2:46, another jump:

163

That’s #163 of ALL BOOKS FOR SALE ON AMAZON.

My hands got clammy. Sweat beaded my brow as the book climbed. I tried to do other things in between promotion, but my heart wasn’t in it. Then at 4:39 PM:

111

It dawned on me that I had a real chance of cracking the top 100 list. But I needed more sales. I was like a junkie looking for his next fix. Where could I score a few more readers?

I practically ran over to Bookbub and bought an add to add additional sales to keep it moving, and I sent out a plea to my mailing list – if you can, buy this book now! Please – my ride depends on it.

Of course, I offered them a little treat if they did. Just because you’re a junkie doesn’t mean you have to a thoughtless one.

By 6:40 PM, I did it. I cracked the top 100:

76

And I hit another milestone – #1 book in hard sci fi. Overall. Ahead of William Gibson, Ernest Cline (Ready Player One) and Andy Weir (The Martian):

Holy fuck.

And then the whole authory second-guessing internal critic thing set in.

How many was I really selling? Maybe it’s not as many as I hoped. Amazon has fooled me before.

What happens next?

Will this really change anything? Or is this just a one day sugar high before I am plunged back into the realms of small author obscurity?

Plus, whispered my inner critic – “those other authors have been on the charts for days, weeks, months. So your one-day artificially-induced rocket ride doesn’t really “count,” does it?”

At 8:38 the ride reached its apex, though I wouldn’t know that for sure until the next morning.:

64

And then overnight it starts trending down.

I’d pulled out all the stops. I helped push this thing as far up the charts as I could. And it was been amazing and exhausting. The next morning, I was hit by the hang-over, the after-the drug post-sugar-high crash.

It was over.

As of this morning, three days later, the book is at:

758

Which is still about 3,000 higher than I have ever been before, so hey, there’s that. This thing has long coattails. Contrails?

I now have had a few days to reflect on the wild rocket ride, and here’s what I have come up with.

My friends are teasing me about how I am a big name author now, how my success will go to my head. There’s a little envy there, for sure – several of them have as much as admitted it – and that’s okay. I know firsthand how you can be both absolutely thrilled for a friend’s success and at the same time wish it was happening for you.

But I don’t think there’s much danger of me getting a swelled head from this. I am well aware of why it happened, and what it took to make it happen.

We live in a world where book sales, especially on the ‘zon, are tightly controlled, and it usually takes a specific series of events and actions to make a book break out.

My rocket ride was not the result of organic word of mouth, of folks finding me and passing my book along to others, as much as I might wish that were so. Instead, it resulted from a big company putting it out to its huge pool of readers, the sheer number of them ensuring a large number of purchases on a single day.

That said, I am hugely grateful for this opportunity, and hopeful for what it may portend.

I won’t know how many books were sold until December at the earliest, when the publisher gets their sales data from Amazon. But I do know that thanks to BookBub and Naomi Grant, my books are now in the hands of many readers who had probably never heard of me before, and that thanks to the amazing efforts of my cover designer, Aaron Anderson, my editor Gus Li, and my own writing, they are good books with an appealing cover and few (if any) errors.

They’re like seeds in people’s TBR piles that will hopefully take root and help my fanbase grow.

I also know that many of those readers picked up the other two books in the series – both made huge leaps up the charts, to 2,500 and 10,000 respectively – and I hope those readers in particular will read the whole trilogy and become even more hooked into my work. And maybe want more of it in the future.

Few people get this chance. It didn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s in part the result of the years of work I’ve put into this vocation, along with a bit of skill and a whole lot of luck.

I wouldn’t be doing this without Mark, my husband, a beautiful man who has been my tireless advocate, pushing me to keep going, celebrating my success, and consoling me during my many trials as an author.

I wouldn’t be here without my existing fans – the many who helped me boost this thing Friday, and the ones who showed up on Saturday to a reading at Capital Books in downtown Sacramento, when they could have been doing any of a thousand other things instead.

My friend Paul, one of my most devoted fans who has literally bought everything I have written, was there with his husband Ron. Talking to Paul, seeing him so excited about a small gift I brought him, helped bring me back down to earth, reminding me why I do this whole writing thing.

It’s not for the accolades, which are often few and far between.

It’s not for the rocket rides, which when they come are amazing but ultimately leave me exhausted and uncertain of the long-term outcome.

It’s for the folks like Paul – the fans who truly love what I do.

So will this rocket ride make a difference in the long run? I hope so, but it’s way too soon to tell.

But in the meantime, Paul, this one’s dedicated to you.

To my writing friends – have you done a BookBub? How did it go? What were the long-term effects, if any?