Saturday, May 3, 2014

How Much Does the World Value You?

Doing things on your own can be a difficult and humbling process.  Such is the case for me and my first self-published book.  Below is a screenshot of book sales over the past 90 days:

Sorry if that's tough to read.  The x-axis goes from February 2 to May 3, 2014.  The y-axis has a maximum of 5.   All told, I think I have sold about 60 copies of my $0.99 book since I first published it in mid-December 2013.  At $0.35 cents profit per book, that's a little over $20 profit for my efforts. That doesn't quite cover the cost of beer while I was writing it.

Now, please don't misunderstand me, I had no illusions of grandeur here.  (Ridiculously distant daydreams, maybe, but illusions, no.)  I published it myself.  My attempts at marketing have been a few posts to LinkedIn, emails to friends and co-workers, and the occasional line-dropping in conversations at the office and elsewhere ("Hey, have you heard I published a book?").  In the grand scheme of things, my marketing efforts have been pathetic.  I'm an engineer, not a advertising specialist, and these kinds of things really don't come naturally to me.

But it's kind of humbling: if you told all your friends and all your contacts and all your acquaintances to buy / support / spend money on you, could you still put food on the table?  In my case, the effort required of friends was: 1. Have an e-reader of some type and be willing to by an e-book, and 2. Spend $0.99 on me.

I was surprised at the number of people who said, "Nope, I don't have an e-reader" and/or "I don't do e-books."  Wow.  With a few notable exceptions -- like when I'm doing research and want to write notes in the margins or highlight things to come back to -- I really prefer e-books for their portability.

But to take this to a more general level, society is quick to celebrate and remember the victories and NOT the vast majority of failures.  The Kindle Direct Publishing Newsletter is just such a vehicle.  To read their monthly newsletter of people extolling the virtues of KDP and how they have been able to "sell more books than they ever thought possible..."  The sentiment and the rhetoric are as addictive as crack.  The managers of KDP know it, and man, are they good at selling it.

And of course, it's all hogwash.  There are only 14 people in the "Kindle Million Club."  Almost half of all startups fail within 3 years.  (another similar source)  The overwhelming majority of participants never win the lottery, and it's only the winners that are celebrated.  Perhaps that's why we take a perverse pleasure in reading about those who won, and then lost, everything.

The deck is stacked.  People fail every day, probably far more than we realize.  But it's a blessing that the human brain tends to hold on to those slim chances of victory and persevere, even when the odds are overwhelmingly against us.  For, if we didn't try, the world would be a much more boring place.

So treasure and value the successes that you do have ... and keep trying.  Statistically, you can't miss every time.


  1. Funny, I recently put up Conspiratorial as an ebook and am finding exactly the same thing: the marketing side is probably its own project, arguably as important as the writing. Somehow I figured if I set the the story in D.C., everyone in D.C. would want to read it. Seemed logical at the time.

  2. Wow, Robert, that looks quite impressive ... I'm tempted. Back bars of DC? Who can resist?

    In all seriousness, who or what did your layout and images in the book? I have been stymied by Amazon's publishing format, and getting images to show correctly.

  3. Plenty of people can resist, trust me.

    I created the images, a mix of mixed media and altered physical items. Nick Bantock meets Conan Doyle, or something. (Actually, that's a good idea)

    Layout is fairly simple. All of the images are on a distinct page. One of the things I'm troubled by, with regards to web pages and ebooks, is the inability to control how the reader sees things. Because you can alter font size you can't really control ebook layout. Ah well.

    The rest of the layout is just basic formatting. I actually did it in OpenOffice and exported to a .doc, I think.

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