Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Blogstory - Are You Reading?

In some ways I am sorry I ever started writing serials.

I have a great time doing it. And though it may not show in the episodes themselves (which have to be posted on deadline, ready or not), I have grown a lot as a writer while writing these.

And my blog has never had as many subscribers and visitors as it has since I started publishing serial stories. I've nearly doubled my traffic.

I didn't expect to make money, though I hoped that there would be some indirect benefit.  I didn't expect lots of comments and interaction because I know that readers don't comment nearly as much as writers do -- and writers don't tend to comment on fiction as much as on posts about writing.

So the Blogstory Experiment has been a success.

And yet....

Since I've been doing the serial, my sales have completely dropped off.  Since the beginning of June, I have sold.... TWO books at Amazon.  Two.

Seriously, two books.

I've sold three at Barnes and Noble, and an unknown quantity -- possibly none -- at Apple and the smaller stores that Smashwords distributes to.

I did expect a drop in sales this year for several reasons.  One is because it's the slow time of year.  Also, I have been expecting a little shakeout in indie publishing about now -- just the natural cycle of business.  I also expected a drop in sales because I have seriously cut back blogging and most internet interaction in order to write. 

But the third, and more important reason I expected a drop in sales is the very reason I cut back on blogging to write: If you don't write and publish more books regularly, your career stalls.  And no amount of blogging and marketing can overcome that kind of stall when it happens. You can delay it, but you can't stop it.

Due to a number of things -- everything from the death of my father to the Bright Shiny Things of indie publishing -- my writing production slowed considerably over the past couple of years, and then when the Vortex of Crap hit me this winter and spring, my writing for publication slowed to a complete and utter stop.

But that's okay, crap happens, and there is a buffer of time between when your writing is interrupted and when you have an actual stall in your career/sales.  The engine starts making funny noises but if you give it a little gas, things pick right up again.  That's why I cut back on blogging to write -- to prevent that stall.

But I couldn't get up to speed fast enough to prevent the stall. It has happened.  Any momentum I already had is gone now.

And I have to blame, in part, the serial.

It's incredibly rewarding, in terms of personal fulfillment, and all that.  But it's a very time consuming kind of writing, and it's hampering my ability to make a living.  And as far as I can tell, it has not actually earned anything itself to make up for that. (One donation, maybe two or three books sales.)

So I have to stop and ask: are all those visitors I see in the stats really reading this, or are they mostly servers and spam bots, and I'm actually only writing this for the three or four people who have commented?

And if there are other people, silently but diligently reading the way the stats indicate.... are any of those people actually fans?  Is it worth a $5 Paypal donation or the purchase of a $3 book? Is it even worth a comment?

If so, here are the links:

The Case of the Misplaced Hero: In most ebook formats at Smashwords, plus Amazon's Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Diesel, Apple iBookstore.
Now also at Amazon's international stores: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Or donate via Paypal

Regardless of the answer, I have to make some decisions.

What I really want to do is just cut back to posting the story once a week.  But if there isn't really an audience, I need to move this to my journal and concentrate on my mercenary writing.

See you in the funny papers.


Jen Busick said...

I don't read the serial -- don't have time -- but I did buy a copy of The Misplaced Hero after finding the link on your site.

I've added your blog to my feedly, which means I'm following it regularly now, although it doesn't make it easy to comment. I had to click through to do that.

David Michael said...

I released a new novel in January, and another this month. The first one didn't stop a near-cratering from happening in April & May. The second hasn't done anything for June, so far.

Now...this could just be the old Summer Slump...except summer doesn't *usually* start in April. Does it?

Anyway, just thought I'd share that you're not the only indie writing off-beat material wondering, "Where did my sales go?"

I have another novel due for release about the end of summer.

With every new release, I find myself hoping, "OK. Maybe *this* one will do it..." :-)


The Daring Novelist said...

I could do more to make people more interested in the story, but the current resounding lack of interest tells me that it's not worth it.

I may pick up the serial later on (but if I do, I'll have already written the whole story).

I'll be posting thoughtful stuff for the Sunday updates. I might rejoin ROW80 -- which will mean Wednesday updates as well.

But other than that, I think I'll focus on Twitter for my online interaction.

The Daring Novelist said...

David --

Like I said, I expected the slow down. The problem is that the serial is interfering with my ability to set up for next year. My ability to do anything else.

I can't commit time to this any more.

David Michael said...

I expected the summer slump. Just not starting in April. And worse than last year. Especially after such a good December and year-over-year improvements January through March.

It has been ... less than pleasant.

But, yeah, I can relate. I have to wonder how much of an impact spending last year mostly focused on my "day job" had. I only released one new novel last year, plus a few very old shorts, and all of that happening in the summer months (so far, the shorts have outsold the novel; even worse: the new releases this year don't seem to have helped much either).

And then there is almost-two-year-old whirlwind of toddlerness... But that's a totally different thing. =)

You put a lot of work into something that you like--and think other people like--but the return on investment sometimes seems very slow in showing up. Or just never shows up. It makes you start questioning your choices and trying to figure out "whither hence?" With no clear winners (and nothing you really want to give up), the choice isn't easy.


Kyra said...

I've been reading (though I got behind in the rush of getting a new book out last week), and I also bought Misplaced Hero and Man Who Did Too Much (partly because of the serial and partly because of the breakfast challenge blog posts you did.

I post my novels serial-style, a chapter at a time, on my site right after I release them, but that's mostly advertising for a book that's already available to buy (and for a handful of friends who wouldn't be able to buy it). I don't know how effective it really is, but I'm just a little baby beginner and still building my audience one person at a time.

Unknown said...

I'm reading the serial and have purchased a few books on Amazon over the past year or two. I'm really looking forward to the sequel to "The Man Who Did Too Much" BTW.

I've been purchasing a lot of ebooks the past few months and one of the things that has struck me is how poor the editing often is. The stories aren't always well structured either. In short, supply is way up right now while quality is down.

I suspect one of the keys to success is somehow differentiating oneself from the massive wave of mediocrity.

The Daring Novelist said...

Yeah, toddlers and day jobs -- a deadly combination to a writer. But hang in there. The reward IS slow. And it always has been, but now at least you get to hold your rights and can revive things later when you have more time and energy.

Yeah, you've been a support. I don't think serials are a bad idea. As a matter of fact, I love them. I think the major down side to them is that you create a commitment... and the commitment can become a problem.

I do expect to come back to this story -- whether as a continued serial, or back to my original concept as a serial-inspired novel series.

The Daring Novelist said...


Nice to hear from you, and glad you've enjoyed my work. The fact that you are looking forward to another George and Karla book is one of the reasons for this post: priorities.

Your thought about differentiating yourself from the crowd is an interesting subject: it's a truism... and yet it's also more complicated than that.

Writers aren't in competition, because books are not commodities (the way, say toothpaste is), and it's always been a mistake for writers to see it that way. And ironically, the nature of the new paradigm -- an infinite number of books being published -- makes the idea of differentiating and standing out actually less effective. (Sort of like having an infinite number of voices screaming for attention.)

My problem is consistency. If a reader likes one of my books, there is no place for that reader to go to find a trove of others just like it. That has always been the biggest key to success. (And why the best publicity for a book is another book -- but it has to be a similar book.)

I brought my sales up not because I am at a loss for what to do or why it happened -- I know exactly what happened and what I need to do. The same thing I've needed to do for some time.

I brought it up because it highlights that I need to get down to business. I can't afford to be screwing around with things that are just for fun, if they A) take up too much time and energy and B) don't actually make money or gain fans.