Once upon a time, in a land filled with books, two authors-each with one book out-met for tea.
“I bet I can sell more books than you this year,” said Mr. Hare. “I know a secret to selling millions.”
Ms. Tortoise looked up from her crumpet and smiled. “Do you now? Well, we shall see.”
And so they raced.
Mr. Hare threw everything he had into selling his one book. He enrolled in KDP Select and dashed through sales like lightning. “Aha,” he said, ” I’ve found the secret to fame. Ms. Tortoise doesn’t stand a chance.”
And so he continued giving his book away for free, and spamming his Twitter and Facebook friends to BUY BUY BUY.
When he read an article that one author had found fame through book bloggers, he compiled a list and shot off a generic email to all of them, begging for reviews.
A few trickled in, but he didn’t care. He kept spamming and pushing and using every trick in the book to get ahead.
When his sales started to drop and his techniques didn’t work, he begged friends and relatives to leave him reviews.
“But I haven’t read your book,” said his cousin Murray (because doesn’t everyone have a cousin named Murray?)
“Doesn’t matter,” said Mr. Hare, “Just make something up and put a 5 star on it.”
He got a few that way, but when the masses of readers who downloaded his book for free realized he hadn’t used an editor, they started leaving bad reviews, complaining about typos and weak prose.
In a desperate act to increase his sales, he dropped the price of his book to 99 cents and kept pushing, spending money left and right to sell his book any way he could.
Meanwhile, Ms. Tortoise chose the slow and steady path. Sure, she enjoyed some success with KDP Select, but she knew it wouldn’t last. None of these quick and easy things do. So, she chose to focus on her writing.
She read books on writing and outlined her next novel. She strengthened her prose and hired the best cover artists and editors to work with her. And she published another novel that year.
Of course, she didn’t give up on marketing, but she stayed focused and consistent. She blogged about interesting topics and tweeted meaningfully. She contacted book bloggers one by one and read their sites. She created relationships with them and generated some very promising, genuine reviews.
When her second novel came out, the sales poured in from fans of her first novel and new fans who saw she had more than one book out.
She didn’t price her books at 99 cents, but still, people bought them.
While she hadn’t sold as many books as Mr. Hare early on, by the end of the year, Mr. Hare’s sales had stalled, while Ms. Tortoise was growing at a steady pace.
At the end of the twelve months, they met for tea again and compared their results.
“Well, I sold twice as many books as you in the first two months,” said Mr. Hare with his chest puffed up.
“That’s wonderful Mr. Hare. I’m pleased for you,” said Ms. Tortoise.
Mr. Hare drummed his fingers on the table impatiently. “Come on, how many did you sell?”
“Granted, my early sales were not as high, but I sold my book at $3.99 and my second book at $5.99 and by mid to late year, I enjoyed steady sales.”
She showed Mr. Hare her royalty check for the year and his face fell. While he’d sold more books early on, Ms. Tortoise had made much more money.
They finished their tea and parted ways. Ms. Tortoise needed to get home, as she was editing her third book.
Mr. Hare hadn’t written a new word all year and didn’t know what he would do next.
The Moral of the Story
Doesn’t this bring you back to childhood? Now before anyone starts a flaming fire war, I’m not criticizing anyone for joining KDP or for pricing their books at 99 cents. I’ve done both at various times, for promotional reasons.
There’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of tools to give us a boost in sales. I enjoyed some great success with KDP in the early days and I’m glad I did. I’m also glad I kept writing and that I kept my books priced to increase perceived value unless it was on sale.
The moral of this story is that there is no magic bullet to success in publishing. What worked last year-or last month-for one, or even a handful of authors, isn’t likely to work for us now.
Our first job is to keep writing-to create a stellar catalogue of well-written, professionally edited books that will attract new readers.
If you need to make x amount of money each month on your writing, is it easier to sell one book 2,000 times or five books at 1/5th that amount?
And if you want to make a living, is it easier to do that at 99 cents or $3.99/$4.99/$5.99. If you’ve invested time and money into making your book the highest quality it can be, then you can charge a reasonable price for it. People will pay.
But you have to be patient. Success isn’t instant-even when it looks instant for some. Amanda Hocking had something like seven to ten books out in rapid order before she started making real money. (I don’t remember the exact amount, but she had a lot!)
So if you want to win at this publishing game, then keep writing. Yes, do due diligence in marketing-brand yourself, get your book out there, work to stay in the public consciousness through social media, blogging, etc. But above all, WRITE!
It’s not overnight, but slow and steady really does win the race and as we build our catalogue, develop relationships with our fans and work to create a professional persona on and offline, the sales will come.
So remember this the next time you’re about to have a panic attack because your ranking on Amazon dropped. You’ve got to keep moving forward, one word at a time. Don’t give up, but don’t get so wrapped up in the game that you lose sight of the work.