I’ve had a couple of things up on Smashwords and Amazon for several months now, but I never really got serious about this whole publishing revolution until I decided to put Yseult up as an ebook. Ok, so I’ve written hyperfiction before (hyper-what?), but that was back in my former life, when I was concentrating more on literary criticism than fiction. My creative writing ideas at the time reflected the research topics I was writing about for my day job.
Ebooks now are a completely different animal than hyperfiction was back then. People who wrote hyperfiction were experimenting with new ways of telling a story; people who are publishing their works as ebooks are exploring new ways of trying to make a living as a writer. The hyperfiction crowd didn’t have to worry about that, since most of them were employed at universities, like I was. While I still find the narrative potential of hyperfiction fascinating, I think the developments going on right now in publishing much more far-reaching. Stories told in linked text fragments may yet become a more common way of telling a story, although even in the dark ages at the dawn of the World Wide Web when I was writing the stuff I had my doubts. But the authors now who are becoming successful with models outside of traditional publishing might well be at the forefront of a paradigm shift similar to that which eventually led to the medieval patronage system being almost completely abandoned. (It could be argued that vestiges still survive in various forms of “writers in residence.”)
But while it’s really cool to think of yourself as a revolutionary at the forefront of a paradigm shift, it comes with a big price tag.
Marketing and promotion.
The short stories and novellas I put up as ebooks last year were all previously published works, fiction I had already “earned out” on, and as a result, I was not too invested in sales numbers. I mentioned the ebooks here and there, and got a few sales here and there, and that was it.
I guess you could say I “earned out” on Yseult too, since I got a very respectable advance for the German translation, Flamme und Harfe. But I spent years on that book, and when I decided to bring it out as an ebook after I got the English rights back, I didn’t want it to sink like a stone. After all my effort writing it, it would definitely be worth some extra time marketing it, right?
Well, like usual, I underestimated what “extra time” would entail. Since I didn’t have a clue how to market ebooks, first I had to research marketing strategies. I signed up for Goodreads and LibraryThing and organized a giveaway. I wrote a bunch of sites that will review ebooks (not much luck until now). I announced Yseult everywhere I could except Twitter (although I did announce there when it went free for two days). I read more articles on ebook marketing. Lather, rinse, repeat, er, repent.
But it worked. I’m not going to be an ebook millionaire anytime soon, but during the first freebie promotion, Yseult had over 8500 downloads. After the promotion, while I was still spending a lot of time on marketing (but not tweeting “buy my book” I swear!), I was getting 20-30 sales per day, the high point being 38. But I wasn’t writing anymore.
I had some excellent suggestions on my blog last week how I might be able to balance writing and marketing, (thank you all!) and I tried to implement them, but I think my problem is that I’m still learning the whole marketing gig. I can’t do it in half an hour a day. I need to read blogs, try what’s worked for others, figure out what works for me. In the last week, while I was concentrating on writing rather than marketing, the sales of Yseult went down from over 20 a day to under 10.
So I have a new plan, given my lack of experience in promotion. Two days a week, I’ll concentrate exclusively on marketing, including researching how best to go about it and trying new strategies. The rest of the week, I get to work on writing projects: editing, writing new material, brainstorming, whatever needs to be done. At some point, I may be able to develop a daily routine of a few minutes a day (hah!) where marketing-related activities are concerned, but I don’t know my way around enough to be able to do that now.
I figure it’s better to be a zombie only two days a week than all the time. Maybe someday marketing won’t even involve turning into a zombie anymore!