I’m flying in a helicopter over the ocean as a passenger. There’s an island ahead, a barren, rocky one that’s far from civilization. We fly lower and are just about to pass by when I spot groups of people standing on hills and at the edges of cliffs, waving desperately to us. I realize that they’re stranded and I ask the pilot to land so we can help them.
I get out of the helicopter. There are hundreds of people on this island and I talk to them for a while. I learn that they’re survivors from a plane crash who landed here on a raft some time ago. These people are all on the brink of starvation, and they’ve been barely surviving here for a long, long time. I tell them that I’ll get them off this island or at least get them some food, but that I’ll have to go for help.
I get back into the helicopter and we fly over the ocean again. I spot some cruise ships and we radio them for help, asking them to head to that remote island and find those starving people. However, they refuse. I’m upset, because if the ships would just go over there and notice those dying people, everything would be okay…
Of course, I knew this was all a dream when I woke up this morning, but I couldn’t let go of it. I lay in bed for a while, thinking about it, wondering what the whole thing meant.
And then it hit me. That island and those half-starved people is my writing career. Those cruise ships are the goal I’ve been struggling to reach for four years now: sell enough books to be able to write full-time. My failed efforts to get those ships to help are all my efforts to gain some traction and get somewhere.
I’ll begin by saying that I released Tempest in September of 2010. I have to date released 9 novels, one short story and one novella while working a full time job. I have one complete series under my and two more going that I’m in the process of finishing.
And yet, for the past three and a half years, I’ve sold only a few books per day, total. It’s never changed or gotten better even though I’ve released more books. There are some books that I sell only one copy of per month, and several others (such as Frostbite and Ancient) that have sold only 5 or 6 copies per month. Sure, I’ve had rare days where my total sales were in the double digits, but they were gone as fast as they came. And I had a day a few weeks ago where I sold 24 books, but that was due to a huge sale that I ran where I got Tempest featured on several websites. That, too, was gone was fast as it came.
I made a lot of mistakes in the past that largely caused this to happen. When I first started, I waited a year to release the second book of the Destroyers series. Those who did buy the first book had lost interest and moved on by then, so I didn’t gain any traction with that release. I started out with an awful cover. While I did use beta readers and critique groups back then (and still do!) I didn’t use a professional editor like I do now. While I got mostly good reviews, my overall average wasn’t as high as many other young adult fantasy and paranormal books, making it harder to compete with them. And since Amazon.com promotes new releases more than older books, this was a lost opportunity to jump up the charts. And if nobody sees the first book of the series, nobody sees the sequels, either.
I’ve noticed that most young adult books that do well on Amazon (sell dozens or more copies per day) have an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. Tempest has an average of 4.0. Twisted has 4.1 and 2:20 is sitting at 3.7 (largely due to a review from someone who didn’t know it was a young adult book.) A rating of 4.0 is barely enough for most of the good advertising sites to even consider taking your book, but not enough to compete. It’s not enough for Amazon’s search engine to put my titles anywhere high in the search results. This means that no matter what I do now, I will never reach that cruise ship.
Unless I go for the nuclear option and start over.
That is, to take everything off sale and then re-publish all of my books. One by one. From scratch.
Yes, it’s drastic and risky. I’m pretty much going by my gut here. I’ll lose sales temporarily, but re-publishing everything and not making the dumb mistakes I made before will give me the second chance that I won’t be able to get back any other way. I have tried everything up to this point. I’ve tried getting more reviews. I’ve tried playing with my Amazon descriptions and categories. I’ve tried advertising, getting better covers and even hiring a publicist. Nothing’s worked.
Plus, it’s my hope that I will get better rating averages this time and be able to release every two months instead of every year, which should help me gain some traction. I know what I’m doing now. And don’t worry – none of the stories will be different, so there’s no need to buy a book you’ve already read! Twisted will probably be back up within a week or two, followed by Torn, which I am still planning to release soon. I will continue to send out the Destroyers E-Zine and four free short stories per year. And those of you who signed up to get Torn and 11:39 for free will still get your freebies once they’re released.
I will admit that I’m a little bit nervous about doing this, but overall I feel pretty good about this decision. It’s certainly not as scary as spending the next ten years working fifty hours per week, coming home exhausted each night and and checking my book sales to see that I’ve sold one or two books…or nothing.