Singled Out: Launch + One Month – Full Disclosure

singledout_kindle_656x1000pxA month ago my first novel, Singled Out, was published on Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats. Here’s how it’s gone since then…

I launched Singled Out on a largely unsuspecting world on 1st February 2015. Paperback and Kindle versions were priced at UK£8.49 and UK£2.99 (US$11.65 and US$4.60) respectively.

In the month since then, Singled Out has sold 66 copies, roughly 50% paperback and 50% Kindle e-book.

 I wasn’t sure what to expect and I’m not certain even now whether selling 66 copies of a debut self-published novel in the first four weeks is good, bad or indifferent.

One thing though; I believe I know – or know of – the majority of buyers. Many are friends and family, colleagues and clients, blogging buddies, neighbours, friends of friends and miscellaneous kind supporters and interested parties. To all of you, those I know, and those I don’t – I offer my deepest gratitude.

It’s been emotional

This last month I’ve been a bit all over the place. Other upsets and irritants have piled on top of what was always going to be an anxious time, fictionally speaking.

I’ve been surprised and touched, as several people I did not expect bought copies of Singled Out. I’ve also been overwhelmed by the kind words and largely positive feedback it’s received – both privately and through the first few 4-star and 5-star reviews which readers have been kind enough to post on Amazon and Goodreads.

But I’ve also felt as if I were sitting on the edge of a precipice, where one small nudge would send me toppling over.

A whisper of disillusionment

Like any debut author who has lately attempted to capture the interest of an agent and win that much sought-after representation, never mind the publishing deal, I can’t seem to escape the niggling whisper of disillusionment.

When it came to agent submissions, I tried, but I didn’t make the cut. I had hoped in vain that my novel was unique enough, well-written enough, compelling enough… And even though my rational brain understands the numbers game and the overwhelming odds against success, I cannot yet totally suppress my disappointment.

There are so many positives around taking ownership of your own destiny through self-publishing, and so many opportunities to capitalise upon. Things have changed and the agent/publishing deal route doesn’t have anything like as much to commend it as it used to. So why do I still feel like this?

I don’t know, but I do.

A sense of achievement

This is the other side of the scales. I do absolutely feel proud of my novel. I set out four years ago to see if I could perhaps, maybe pull together a half-decent piece of fiction. I didn’t know if I had enough imagination and creativity, or sufficient skill, for a novel-length story. I just wanted to give it a try. Four years and 90,000 words later, I had my answer.

The end result isn’t perfect – I’ve been learning all the way. But it’s a page-turning read (so say the reviews) and I am allowing myself to feel good about it. I was conscientious about the learning and the writing process and the many layers of editing; I love the cover design and I’m properly thrilled with the quality of the Createspace paperback. So there’s a satisfaction there, to temper the negatives, no doubt of it.

Stress, anxiety and fear – Gah!!

But here’s the stuff I didn’t expect – and it hit me like a bullet train. For the last month, I’ve felt spacey and nauseous. I’m waking a few times a night and seem unable to sleep beyond 5:00am. I’ve had back ache, neck ache, clusters of spots on my chin, palpitations and disturbed digestion.

Stress and anxiety symptoms; I know what they are, and I know they’ll pass sooner or later. They are the physical manifestation of my literary fears and worries… That people won’t buy my novel… that they will buy it but they won’t like it… that they’ll be bored by it… that they’ll be appalled by those odd moments that I’d intended to be gritty and edgy… that they’ll find a hundred typos… that I’ll only ever sell 66 copies… that it’s not good enough… that I’m not good enough… oh, and on, and on… Paranoia is a pathetic thing, isn’t it? Though I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this sense of my guts being reef-knotted and tugged upon, each day when I fail to resist the urge to check my CreateSpace reports, my KDP reports, my Amazon page, my Goodreads page, my Twitter feed, WordPress comments, Facebook page… Ugh.

What of the next 66 copies?

Sooner or later (more sooner than later, I fear) I’ll run out of ‘friendly’ buyers – by that, I mean those in my circle who will purchase a copy of Singled Out because they want to support and encourage the crazy author in their midst; or because they’re curious about the book I’ve been blamming on about these past four years. So it’s fair to assume the next 66 sales – and the 66 after that – may be a lot harder to come by.

I’m not yet sure what I’m going to do about those next 66 sales. I haven’t yet approached any independent reviewers. I’m going to continue playing in the blogosphere of course, but that’s because I enjoy it. Twitter taunts me – I don’t work it in the way that authors are urged to do, and I have to figure out where to go with this. I’m thinking about approaching some local bookshops, perhaps buying space at a local craft/artisan market, just to test the water. There’ll be a Goodreads promotion at some stage, maybe a campaign around holiday reading – I’d be stupid to let that opportunity pass me by, given the subject matter. There might be some paid-for advertising, but I’m not yet persuaded of its value.

One great thing about the way self-publishing works today is that the author is under relatively little financial pressure. Gone are the days when our garages would be piled to the ceiling with boxes of our treasured novels, a burdensome investment which must be sold for any profit to be realised. So I’ll be taking a steady-as-she-goes approach to marketing Singled Out, balancing these activities alongside my other work and the growing impetus I feel – heaven help me – to start writing the sequel.

One thing I’m certain of, and I’ve blogged it before here, is that I want to enjoy the marketing and promotion of Singled Out and that means not putting myself under undue pressure. So how long will it be before I see the next 66 sales?  I can’t rightly say, but if I make it in less than a month, I’ll let you know!

*  *  * 

Guess what! Singled Out is available to purchase on these and all other regional Amazon sites:

31 thoughts on “Singled Out: Launch + One Month – Full Disclosure

  1. Very rare to find such an honest appraisal about the aftermath of publishing a book. And this is a must read for anyone who’s ever considered self publishing. Sales must always be a worry, but the openness with which you describe how it has affected you emotionally and physically is so helpful.

    Sales figures always seem a closely guarded secret, hence no wonder you can’t judge your own 66. I wish a swift flight from the nest for your next 66, and the next, and the next. May the book soar.

    1. Yes, those numbers often seem to be a big secret – which is exactly why I decided to publish mine. I honestly don’t know if I should be proud of them, or dismayed by them – but I’m settling for somewhere in-between.

      As for the emotional side of things, I’m certain all new writers go through something like this. Publishing a book brings out the child in you, the one that wants to be noticed, liked and praised. The adult knows life isn’t quite like that, that many books sink without trace, that you can’t please ‘all the people’ and so on – hence those pesky prickles and palpitations.

  2. It’s a wonderful, horrible process publishing your first book. We’ve both spoken already about the numbers and yours seem very similar to mine when I launched Second Chance. The hard part, as you’ve already said, is how to branch out from purchases from people you know (whether via social media or real life) to a wider audience.
    You’ve written a great book, which puts you in a good position to develop your audience. Your numbers might continue at the same rate but realistically they’ll take a dip, as your early adopters tail off. It will also take a while for the reviews to come through but again, this is normal.
    The best thing you can do now is to decide for yourself what you are going to do next and then do it, rather than let the situation drift. Whether you decide to promote your book (while having fun), or to throw yourself into your next book, or a little of both; taking control of the situation will make you feel much happier about the future.

    1. As always, Dylan, you come with wise words, good sense and pragmatism – and I thank you. I am indeed expecting a tailing-off of orders in the short term at least, and there are decisions to be made over next moves, marketing or otherwise. I confess my enthusiasm leans firmly in the direction of writing my next.

  3. I’ve read over and over that selling 100 copies over the course of a self published book’s first year is considered a good thing. So, congratulations, you are already half way there and its only been a month!

    That being said, you are wise to ready yourself for a drop off unless you have a second book ready in the wings to publish six months from now.

    Goodreads giveaways are a nice way to get some added eyes on your novel. Twitter isn’t nearly as scary as it might seem provided you do your homework on what to do and not do with it. In my experience, paid ads (unless linked to a limited time book promotion) really aren’t worth the cost unless you have more titles to your name.

    Thanks again for sharing!

    1. Yes, I’ve read that ‘100 copies’ comment a few times too. But one always hopes to be the lucky author that blows those ‘typical’ stats out of the water! Still, I’m realistic in my expectations and sadly I don’t have the second book waiting in the wings. Ideas only, in my head, at this stage. 🙂

      I like the idea of a Goodreads giveaway, but I’m very tentative about Twitter and averse to the ‘mass follow’ approach recommended by so many. I feel a blog post coming on… maybe, ‘I’m allergic to Twitter’!

      1. I refuse to follow the mass follow approach. I use Twitter purely to help make connections, as a news source, and for a few good laughs.

        To me – Twitter follows are dates. Blog follows are committed relationship. Book Sales are anniversary presents. I tend to be selective. Perhaps my sales suffer, but my relationships are stronger.

        1. I’m relieved I’m not the only one to reject the ‘mass follow’ approach. I’ve yet to establish the best approach for me, but I know it’s not that!

  4. Is the nervousness you feel after publishing your book commensurate with all of the nausea leading up to publishing? That’s what I want to know. I was expecting there to be relief from the pressure/anxiety/self-doubt for at least a few heartbeats afterward.

    1. Oh dear. I would say you attain a whole new level of anxiety that requires to be managed. It’s made worse by all those stats, reports and sales figures which you can check up on a thousand times a day, if you’re feeling in a really masochistic mood!

  5. Don’t worry about your next 66 sales. My book declined in popularity after that initial push as well, but it’s still selling a few copies a week. The answer to it all is to keep writing more books. More books means more publicity which means more sales.

  6. I would think 66 copies your first month is very good, and it’s great you have a decently priced paperback, so that makes up a good number of your sales. And I suspect everything you’ve felt since releasing your book is the same thing all authors feel. I know I did. My book is over two years out now, so naturally sales have dropped to a trickle. But one thing I’ve found to help maintain some sales is a Goodreads ad. It’s the only ad I pay for, and it doesn’t end up being too much because you only pay if someone clicks. Every few days I see new readers have added my book to their to-read list. Of course, that doesn’t mean they’ll buy it and read it, but they might, and I suspect some of the sales I have are from that.

    Of course, Goodreads readers can be tough reviewers, and when we advertise our book on it, we’re inviting a whole array of reviews. I’ve had some great ones from strangers, and I’ve had some bad ones. But that’s how it goes with all books, and a range of reviews can give a book legitimacy. Just something to consider if you’re looking for a different approach.

    1. It’s really interesting to get your view on Goodreads, especially the advertising side. I thought I would do a paperback giveaway in the weeks leading up to the summer holiday season. As for reviews, I’ve noticed they tend to be much more comprehensive than most on Amazon – but that’s indicative of a lively, engaged community. I’ll hold my breath for that first 1-star review!

  7. My dear wonderful and gifted lady please, please, please, stop beating the living hell out of yourself over your great accomplishment in the writing world. You dear lady have done more then most in their lifetime could imagine doing. Do not allow the number 66 to say more to you than job well done. There will indeed be many more numbers to come and I k now this because I have read most of what you have written on wordpress and have done nothing less then marvel at your ability to make words paint the most interesting, beautiful and meaningful brilliance. Everything of this nature takes its time to grow and develop. It will only get better and you will indeed sell more copies in numbers that surely will please you greatly. My wife and I are putting the finish to what we are reading now and then on to Singled Out. I will give you my review in all honesty. But in my minds eye I can already see nothing short of success. Take a deep breath my lady and enjoy what you have done as a writer. All things change, and for you, it will be the best. How could it not be?

    1. Oh, Bill… as always, your words are so kind and generous. I guess if you love to write as I do, you always hope that readers will find and enjoy your words. The publishing industry is so radically changed from the one that people like me once dreamed of being a part of, that we’re all having to adjust our expectations. I’m simply delighted that people – even just 66 of them so far (plus the few sharers I know about) seem to be taking pleasure in my story. I am, of course, very keen to hear your views. Singled Out is a very different beast from a chippy little blog though!

  8. There’s no easy way, Julie, to send out your work to the world.
    On my Friday reading, I came across this guest post on Jane Friedman’s blog by Ricardo Fayet about book marketing which has some interesting things to say – not least “you don’t have to blog you don’t have to tweet”. I agree with most of what RF says – it’s about looking for what you’re comfortable doing and doing it well – focus rather splatter.
    Find that small pool of readers who will find something for them in your book instead of the whole reading market, which is huge. Once these readers are hooked they will spread the word and it will ripple across that pool and into the lake.
    And keep writing.

    1. You’re right, there’s no easy way, and whilst I enjoy blogging, I am averse to many of the mass-attack approaches, and particularly to the idea that one needs to follow and have thousands of followers on Twitter… most of whom are busily ignoring one another. As a marketer to technology and other companies for many years, I understand the ‘traction’ principles and I like the idea of those quirkier and more inventive one-off campaigns. The article was very interesting. I’m heartened as I realise I’m not entirely alone in rejecting the approaches that some of the more strident author/entrepreneurs keep pushing.

      Always the best way to sell your first book… is to write your second!

  9. Thank you my dear. I guess I only know one thing when it comes to selling something one has written and it is this. Selling your book is like a wheelbarrow, if you don’t push it it does not go. I have a friend who owns a winery. He has been in the business for a mere four years and is now one of the biggest sites in our area. He has his product in over 100 liquor stores in our state. He pushed the wheelbarrow. He also knows a great many people from his wine experience, and they too have helped him push. Carry on luv.

    1. I know all about pushing that wheelbarrow… I’ve been freelance for 13 years, pushing my own wheelbarrow all over the place, grateful everywhere for contacts, connections and supportive friends and colleagues. In this regard at least, marketing a book is no different. I remain deeply humbled by the amount of support and positive encouragement I’ve been received.

  10. Jools, I have written a piece about my grandson I would like you to look at for me. Titled: MY grandson one awesome guy. Please let me know what you think. Thank you Bill

    1. I read your piece this morning, Bill, and I’ve been contemplating your words ever since, and how to respond. I’m going to email you, if that’s ok.

    1. Dannie, I’m so delighted to hear this – I hope you continue to enjoy the story, right to the end. Thanks so much for letting me know. 🙂

  11. More than two people have bought your book every day – that is definitely good! If even just 10% of those people mention it to someone else and half of them buy a copy, you’ve got a small snowball building.

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