Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Self-Publishers: Taking the Long View

by Stella Atrium
5/15/12

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FairGirlI live in Old Town in Chicago, as I have mentioned in previous blogs.  We have a series of street fairs in the summer here, and I like to attend to watch the well-heeled residents. At one fair last summer a kiosk was set-up outside the entrance to the actual fair where bright-faced young people were giving away samples of a new energy drink in a red and black aluminum can with a twist top.  I carried my sample around for forty minutes so they couldn’t force another one on me when I passed again.

I was headed home at two in the afternoon when the fair was just going into full swing, and one of the young venders at the kiosk announced that they had sold out.  “We sold out,” she proclaimed, even though there was no cash drawer for receiving funds. “That other booth still has product, but ours is gone because we had the better-selling item.” I didn’t argue with her. It’s not good to discourage young people.

The booth she indicated was actually selling their drinks, at Chicago prices, street fair prices, and was stocked for the entire day, rather than with enough product to last only five hours.  artfair-booth

I turned the corner and passed some overfull trash bins, many holding unopened cans of red and black design.  I threw my unopened can on top.

Self-publishers can take a lesson from this incident. Best-selling is an abused term when talking about 99¢ items, or free items. Maybe more pieces moved out of the kiosk, but what profit was made?

You may argue that promotions are not about profit, but about branding. I would counter that a free sample is not the same as a purchase, and doesn’t imply that I will remember the product’s name, open it, or look for one later at the store. Branding didn’t happen.

Some entrepreneurs advise writers and self-publishers to work at providing the personal touch, spend hours on Twitter and Tumblr, solicit interviews on the websites of other writers, engage with giveaways at reading sites, join in blog tours, lower the prices for ebooks, and constantly reassess what works for your genre or your story. These advisors are the people who are making money – from writers – If we stop the rat race, they would have no audience.

bkstore top10Maybe in the old paradigm short-term sales pushed visibility of a new book. A flurry of reviews followed by a prime location in chain bookstores were coordinated with a print run that ensured enough copies to meet demand after the writer appeared on the Today Show.

Monthly sales were monitored by chain bookstores so that, if a book didn’t move in six weeks, copies were returned to the distributor.

The new era of ebooks changed that need for quarterly sales figures and lists of top ten sales numbers.  In ebook form, the item is not returned so bookstore inventory stays fresh. An ebook is published forever and can gain an audience by word-of-mouth, and by good reviews, over six months or eighteen months.

Or eighteen years.

The writer can reinforce her brand by publishing a second book in a series.  I learned on Reddit that some fans of fantasy (my genre) don’t pick up the first book of a trilogy until all three books are available.  That’s the long view. I’m not published to my fan base until Book III is in print.

HeartStone coverBut where’s the downside of taking the long view?  Book II of my Dolvia Saga titled HeartStone is due out in June 2012.  I paid for a Kirkus Review so some quality press accompanies the release, and a couple reviewers from GoodReads were kind enough to review ARC copies.

I’m considering RAISING the price of the ebook version to a level more in keeping with other writers in my cohort – equalizing the price for Book I and Book II at $6.99, similar to Lois MacMaster Bujold or Robin Hobb or Jacqueline Carey. After all, the paperback copy sells for $19.95.

What is lost if I take the long view? A lot of busywork to keep pace with the Smashwords crowd?


So… if you made it this far.  Please BUY NOW.  SufferStone: Book I of the Dolvia Saga is still priced in ebook version at $3.19 on Amazon.  BUY NOW at this 55% discounted price before June 2012. 
Starbucks drinks


Each ebook version of the Dolvia Saga is well worth $6.99, just like the fantasy novels of Bujold, Hobb and Carey are each worth the cover price. That’s equivalent to two cups of Starbucks coffee.  But today, you can BUY NOW at the discounted price of $3.19.


And you can claim that you’re in with the in-crowd.


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