Amazon has a program called KDP Select, where authors (like me) can sign up and have exposure to marketing they would not have otherwise had. The rules are, that the only place the ebook can be available is on Amazon. Given that I haven’t figured out other e platforms yet (learning those other platforms are on my to-do list) giving my books a three month period in KDP Select seemed to be worth the risk. During the 3 month period, your books can be borrowed, and each borrow gets paid from a pooled fund, and you get 5 free promotion days per period, per book.
I had no idea what to expect. This is a new business model. But, I’m trying to figure out book marketing. (I started to say, I’m trying to figure out how to be an author, but that’s not exactly true. This isn’t about writing. It’s about promoting your writing). So, with the first book with the first free promotion day, I had 1000 downloads. Of course, you are giving away your book for free, so there is no profit there. But I figured that the more people who knew about the books, the better. It’s a way to get your work out there. Subsequent free promotion days netted about 1200 and 1700. So, that’s pretty cool, right? Then I saw someone’s blog that gave a tip to run the free promotion at least 2 days in a row. I tried that with other books. The mystery went nowhere. I don’t know if it was a fluke or what. But, the romances were the ones that went large. If you can get to the Top 100 Amazon bestseller list, then the downloads really, really happen.
So, for promoting my fifth book in this program, I ran the free promotion 3 days. And got 10,500 free downloads. That blows my mind. That’s not passive as advertising would be. This is active. 10,500 people made the choice to get my book. Then, when they read it, maybe they tell their friends; maybe they look to see what else the same author has written, etc. So, I put my sixth book on the free promotion, and it had downloads, but didn’t quite perform as I wanted. So, I kept adding days, till all 5 of my free days were used up. Lesson learned: don’t schedule the free promotion days on a holiday weekend. Once the weekend was over, and once the visibility was huge, the downloads really happened. I ended up with 15,200 free downloads of the book.
That has GOT to translate to sales. I’m still trying to figure this out, and see what happens. In one way, it seems very strange to give away so many books that I have worked so hard for. But, no other promotional method has gotten me to such a visible place in such a short amount of time. If I had purchased advertising, that is people’s eyes sliding across the advertising–it’s passive. How many of them would stop and read and comprehend, or even click through? But actual downloads? When I add it up, I have had over 30,000 copies of my books downloaded for free. The number seems staggering. I’m both excited and scared. It’s great to have that many readers exposed to my work. It’s scary to think that that much of my work is out there being judged.
I’m one that has never had much problems with self-confidence. About three years ago, I had a crisis of self-confidence, and am still working my way out of it. But, all of a sudden, it seems like now I’m on the other side. I’m the one who is out there, being judged. As a creative person, can you ever really be prepared for what happens when you are visible and judged?
I became aware of this about the same time as the Oscars. What is it to be a celebrity and have everything you do be judged and vilified and criticized? Every thing you do, people are commenting on-as if they have a right to judge your personal life. Clothes, makeup, work, choices, family, even choice of restaurant ( XYZ celebrity ate at a restaurant owned by ____, therefore they must approve of _____’s politics, therefore I will never see one of XYZ celebrity’s movies again, because I don’t agree with ________) , type of dog to get (how dare they get a breed dog, they should have gotten a shelter dog–making any choice other than that is sacrilege), etc.
Well, now I’m the one who is being judged, and let me tell you–it sure made me stop judging celebrities so harshly.
I have some of those letter magnets on my refrigerator. On occasion, I rearrange them to spell different things. Right now, the front of my refrigerator says, “Put it out there.” That means: take this creative work that I’ve spent my whole life working for, and put it out in the world. Don’t get me wrong–I’ve been submitting and pitching and sending my work out to the world for a couple of decades now. I’ve pitched music where nothing else ever happens; I’ve had book manuscript rejections; stage play rejections; and acting rejections out the wazoo. A lot of times, you don’t even get the courtesy of a rejection. You just send the thing–whatever it is–out to the world, and never hear anything again.
It’s just that now…it seems to be the time in my life for all this stuff to come together and start working.
It should be fun. Sometimes it is. I’ve spent my whole life looking for validation for my creative work. I define myself by my creative life. I choose for this to be the most important thing in my life–to the exclusion of other things.
But, instead of being fun, it seems like there is this great unknown that is before me. What happens next? Am I on the right path? Am I making the right decisions? In those darker times, you wonder if you’re wasting your time, if you’ve wasted your life? I’ve started a couple of essays about that, but decided not to post them on my blog. I don’t want to be the person who is always writing “downer” things.
Part of this journey is terrifying. You’re betting your whole life that you were born to do this impossible thing. You believe you were sent to this sweet Earth to achieve this goal that most people try and fail.
You, yourself try and fail and readjust and try and don’t succeed and try and try again. Is that a sign that you’re wasting your time? Or, do you keep on keeping on?
A man who was very dear to me said something once, and I remember it to this day. I thought that I loved music as much as a human could possibly love music. But then I met him and became involved with him, and discovered that he, somehow, loved music more than I. I told him I was trying to make it as a songwriter/publisher, and I’d been at it for 15 years or 30 years, however long you defined the counting. (I’d been pitching music for 15 years, but been a musician for 30 years, etc). He said, “Then you’ll make it.” I questioned what he meant. He said that if I had been at this for 15 or 30 years, and I hadn’t quit yet, then I wouldn’t quit. I’d keep going till I made it.
I can’t quit. Quitting is not an option to me. I need this as much as I need oxygen.
Still, it’s scary out there. Working to achieve success in three fields, when making it in one is almost impossible. How do you define success? If success equals money, then I’m still working (and working and working!!). If success is visibility and accomplishment, then maybe I’m there??? Each step on this ladder of success, we celebrate. My support system is solid and so strong. The people in my life who have seen me through this journey (you know who you are!!!), are my rocks. I need them so much. They are the ones who make me step back and go, “Yeah, this is soooo cool”.
I’ve worked several movies (volunteering my time for free–hoping to get noticed), but still, I’ve worked with a number of Oscar winning actors (literally worked with–five feet away, with the camera pointed at us, front and center). I’ve had my music recorded by one of the best female singers out there. I’ve performed on stage for hundreds of people and had them in the palm of my hand. I’m listed in IMDB (that was a huge accomplishment that I soooo wanted to achieve). I’ve been on best seller lists (the free bestseller list on Amazon, but still, that counts, right?) I’ve walked a red carpet when my movie was nominated for an award. I’ve had people quote my own writing back to me. I’ve had friends and strangers ask for my autograph. I’ve had actors and musicians cold-pitch to me–as if I was the one with power (usually I’m the one cold pitching to everyone else).
You go out and do these things and on occasion, magic happens. Then you take out those memories and live them again, during those dark days, and you hope that the best is still yet to come. I had an acting job on a TV series (again, unpaid, but when I go to these things, I get to be around people like me). No one paid me any attention. I was first up on set, to do my acting. It was hard: chroma-key, solo acting, but it will be edited together to have a whole crowd. You are restricted on your range of movement; you have no one to act against or react with. The director is feeding you lines, so you’ve got to stay in character. All during the setup time, I was quietly there, not rehearsing my lines out loud, just contained. No one paid me the slightest bit of attention. I was a nobody. Then I went on set. I did my first line (this was a comedy). The director called “Cut!” Everyone in the place burst out laughing. One camera woman was doubled over with silent laughter, waiting for the cut. I did my second line. Same reaction. By then, people were coming into the set to see what was going on. By the third line, the director was telling me how he wanted it. The first AD said, “You leave this woman alone!” ( In other words–the AD wanted me to do my thing as I’d rehearsed it). I slayed them again. When I was finished with my work, and came off set, every single person in the place grouped around me. The director said, literally said, “I want to know every free moment you have for the next six weeks!” So, in that short space of time, I had gone from _nobody_ to the one that everyone wanted to be around full power. I was a somebody. I was THE somebody on that set. It was such a heady feeling to have wowed them.
So, during those dark times, when life is scary and you question your sanity, I take out memories like those and tell myself, “Yes, there’s something there. It’s working. It may be slow in coming, but it’s there.”
When life is blah, and you’re scared and alone; when life keeps dealing you hit after hit, challenge after challenge; when putting one foot in front of the other seems like the most difficult thing you’ll do today, you hope that the bright spot on the horizon is a glint of sunlight, and not a train coming down the tracks to knock you down.
But, every time I go through one of these loops, I come back to the same place I started–the place that says, “I WAS BORN TO DO THIS!” Gut feelings that strong are not to be ignored. I can handle it when the instinct is that strong. It’s when it takes a little break and goes away for a few days that I start to panic. Then everything comes online again, and I take yet another step forward.
What lies next on the horizon? Is this the year the big break happens? When I look at these book free downloads, and realize over 30,000 people have acquired my books, I keep saying, “At least something is happening.”
I wish for you all to have peace and have love, and I hope that all of your own dreams come true.