Publishers like books that have legs, books that sell themselves through that good witch WordOfMouth, but it was always the same old story – how could they know if a book had legs if they wouldn’t take it for a walk? Publishing, like any career move, had its own version of “must have experience to get hired but can’t get experience unless you get hired.” This is one manhole cover that the ebook revolution has pried open just a crack. Now you can find out for yourself if your book has any legs, but it isn’t a straight shot. There remain forces beyond one’s control. Over the course of the past year or so, I have discovered a thing or two about the legs a few of my own books have.
Let’s call them very short legs, dwarf legs if you like, legs not long enough to attract wolf whistles but legs enough to stagger on down the lane. Fellow book-leg-seekers might find some notes about this journey to be of interest.
To begin with, there’s Amazon Kindle – one thing within my control was actually putting the books there. Some things outside of my control were setting the price I wanted (free), setting the categories I wanted (well, I set them, but they ended up somewhere else), and random promotions. Two of my books have experienced these random promotions now – the same two twice: Snapdragon Alley and Zombie Nights, last October and last week were both marked down to FREE from 99 cents, and the results were sweet. More than 5,000 downloads combined. More than 170,000 bestseller slots climbed (I know, it’s absurd, they will fall just as rapidly down).
Snapdragon Alley ended up in the Top 10 FREE in the unlikely category of “Young Adult – Spine-Chilling Horror’, although there is nothing really spine-chilling about it. Young Adult, yes, but pretty much Sci-Fi or ‘Unexplained Phenomena’ if you like.
Zombie Nights ended up in the Top 10 FREE of ‘Occult’. Again, what’s so occult? It’s an oddball take on the zombie thing, told from the point of view of a rather incompetent undead guy.
I’m of course happy that Amazon gave them away for a week – I give them away all the time on both Smashwords and Feedbooks, where they’ve both been downloaded a lot, and I already knew about their legs from those places – reviews have been mixed, ‘stars’ have been average, ‘favorites’ have been rare. But Amazon is the real big deal, is it not? If you can make it there …
But the Amazon experience confirmed that these books do not have much in the way of legs. I know this because Snapdragon Alley is book one of a trilogy and the other two books are 99 cents each. You would think that people who enjoyed book one for free might plop down a buck for the next one. Some did. 20 in fact so far (more in the UK than in the US), out of the total of around 3000. That’s like, woah, where’s my calculator? 1 in every 150? If you think our prices are low, wait till you check out our popularity!
Okay, so not much in the way of legs. But 20 new readers who liked them in one week!!! That is an increase of a zillion percent over nothing, which is where my books were before this whole ebook thing really took off.
The most inspirational thing I ever heard came from my friend Cynthia, who said, of gardening tomatoes: one tomato is great, anything more is abundance.