Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
Yesterday’s experiment in social shaming for personal gain was very interesting. I learned a lot. Not much that I learned will actually help me market my novel, but it’s good to learn things, I think. Don’t you?
To recap, I asked people who happened to land on the blog to buy my small story collection, Our Children Are Not Our Children for the supremely reasonable price of 99 cents. I did this because it hasn’t exactly been selling like Hot Pockets since its release in August: 6 copies at Amazon, as a matter of fact. So I set a goal of moving 6 copies yesterday to see if people might be inspired to help a guy out and double his publishing income. (I get 35 cents per copy!)
Of the 25 or so folks who popped by yesterday, 3 purchased the book.
At the risk of sounding bitchy, I’m delighted to have achieved a 50% success rate, which is probably inconceivable in the marketing world. On the other hand, what this little test reveals, or reinforces, is that the rampant availability of free ebooks has made 99 cents, or any price, really, too much. In fact, I’ve seen situations where prospective readers will turn down free downloads, probably because there are so many freebies available that they have to pick and choose or their e-readers will become unmanageably stuffed. Pretty tough for authors when even free doesn’t cut it.
But good news! Margaret Langstaff, a Florida writer and publisher, reports in the comments to yesterday’s post that her short story, “The Unbearable Lightness of Prunes,” has shot to #10 in the Literary Fiction category on Amazon, thanks to a giveaway promotion. That’s what 2000 downloads in 48 hours will do for you. Let’s hope that this translates into sales of her novels, which is the only reason we give this stuff away. Marketing 101.
But when someone asks me, Why do authors sell their work for so little?, then fails to pay 99 cents for Our Children, I know there’s no way to reach this kind of reader, who apparently doesn’t see the irony in that scenario.
The reason we have to sell our work for so little, or to give it away in the hopes that a paying readership might come of it, is that the marketplace has devalued the product. When so much is available for free, as in the music business, the only artists who can charge a fair price are those who already have a following, or those who are successfully hyped by traditional publishers (and even then it doesn’t mean that readers will pay the higher price). Self-publishers who try to charge more than, say, $4.99 are taking a huge risk. Yet, those who charge 99 cents or less risk making their work seem irrelevant. Quite the conundrum, eh?
I also learned, however, that there are people who put their money where their mouth is (mouths are?) and try to help. Thanks to Margaret Langstaff, Laura Stanfill, and Phillip McCollum, who stepped up to the plate and bought the book. Thanks to Marie Bailey, too, who has reviewed Our Children at Amazon and other sites, including her own blog, 1WriteWay, and who will be doing an author interview with me when Yesterday Road comes out in late October. It’s really gratifying to know that there are fellow travelers out there who get it and are willing to support their compadres, with enthusiasm, I might add.
As for reaching people who aren’t already friends of What The Hell? That’s going to be a tall order, folks.