Coming Clean on My Experiment

Posted on 07/12/2012

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 Okay, I’m gonna come clean.

It’s been a year and my experiment is officially over.

I don’t know whether to call it a middling success or a somewhat failure, probably somewhere in the middle.

I originally started this project when the whole e-book thing was going crazy. People were becoming millionaires on amazon with .99 books left and right (or so the media would have you believe).

So I thought, why not get a piece of the pie? Why not indeed.

I had written a fantasy trilogy like 7 years ago and it never went anywhere. Too generic for the masses, I guess. But I really liked it, and it was my baby. It was the first ever book(s) I completed. I was quite proud and worked on the overall story for like 4 years before ever trying out to get mainstream publishing to take a look.

I sent the queries out (this is when most agents did nothing but paper queries) and I sent out more and more and more and more.

I got one bite.

One.

How about that. 

Guess it says something, but I’m not sure what.

So I thought I would put these three books up on amazon and see how they did. I literally had nothing to lose at this point.

Then I put them up on BN and on Smashwords too.  I only told one other person.  (You can see who that person is by looking at my one measly review on Amazon.com) And one other (she never wrote me a review, damn it! You’ll find you become obsessed with reviews!)

To be honest, I should have really edited them more (from a formatting perspective more than any other) but the content—the story—was still there. And for that I was deeply proud.  Only a few people I know have read the books, and so far, all of them found the story quite enjoyable.  Regardless, I wasn’t doing this for my own personal edification. I was doing it because I wanted to see just how my books would sell on the open market and how they would be received by folks I didn’t know. Would I get horrendous reviews? Would anyone even review them? What if they were a bodacious hit? What if word of mouth got them selling like hotcakes? Yeah, what if.

I created another person. A nom de plume if you will. I wanted a name that was short, to the point, and said something. After noodling it for a while, I came up with…ready for this? 

Alex Cannon.

How manly is that shit? I know right! So hardcore sounding. I didn’t want to publish them under my name for a few reasons.

1)      I really don’t write fantasy any more so wanted to keep this separate from my other stuff.

2)      I wanted to keep my own name clean for traditional publishing (but this doesn’t seem to matter any more)

3)      It was an experiment of starting out an entirely new persona selling books. If I had sold it under my own name, I would have sullied the results by already having a solid twitter following of people I enjoy communicating with.

So I created a web page (which I have not updated in months) a twitter feed (of course! Isn’t that where everyone sells their books!) and an email account to manage it all.

Then I decided to try and sell some books. I started tweeting about them all the time (that sells books, right?!?) and tried to keep up with a 4th twitter feed on my PC. Not easy and more time-consuming than I thought.  I kind of felt like I was doing this a little half-assed, but to be honest, it was all I could do, and not only that, that was part of the experiment. Could I sell books by tweeting and posting the books online? I didn’t create any fake accounts to balloon my data either, I just threw it out and waited.

So you’re probably wondering how I did.

Well, I’m not the next Amanda Hocking, that’s for sure.

I priced the books this way: On Smashwords, the first book is free. The second two are $2.99.  I figured I’d lure you in with a free book, and then make you pay if you really liked the story.  On Amazon and BN I made the first book .99 and the second two $2.99.

(and yes, before all you “self-publishing” “indie-publishing” people start writing me on how to price my books—don’t. I’m not interested at this point. I am done with the experiment. Oh! And for those people who say, “Change your prices up like every day!” I don’t have a clue how they do that, because Amazon and BN make you wait a few days before any changes to the book take place.)

On Smashwords, I had 391 gracious folks download a free preview of the 1st book. (Remember it was free.)  I had 50 people get the preview of the 2nd book and 6 people purchased. I had 62 people preview the 3rd book and 4 people purchased.

On Amazon, I am not sure exactly how many I sold. I wish amazon would give you the possibility of “all time sales” and not just this month-by-month excel spreadsheet you can download. Seems easy enough to do.  But  I did sell some. Probably about 50 books over the 2 years.

I actually once sold 11 books in a month. I was excited. Did you read that? I was excited about selling ELEVEN BOOKS IN ONE MONTH.  If that doesn’t say it all, I don’t know what does.

I don’t think I sold but one book on BN.com

But the funny thing, I still keep selling them. Maybe one or two a month. I am going to leave them up there just to see what happens. I mean, there’s no reason not to at this point.

So would I call this experiment a success? In terms of what I learned, yes. In terms of book sales, no.

It was fun pretending to be someone else for a while. It emboldens you. Makes you take chances.

What did it make me realize?

I think, more than anything, it made me realize I’m a half-asser. I get all excited about something up front, but when it comes time to keep-driving-and-driving, I start to peter off. Don’t get me wrong, I finish shit I start, but the energy just starts to fade after a while. Especially when, after 4 months I’d only sold like 7 books.  So I don’t know if I’d ever have the wherewithal to completely go the self-publishing route. It’s so much freaking work. (And yes, before you type, I know it’s a lot of work being traditionally published too!) 

It also made me realize that trying to sell books on twitter by just posting about your books is doomed to failure. People don’t want to follow someone who just tweets about their wares. They want to follow someone who is interesting and fun to interact with.

I came clean. It’s me! So go buy my books! Better yet, GO FRACKING REVIEW THEM 😀

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Posted in: Writing