September 24, 2015
So, I released my latest novella, Lightstorm, earlier this week, and while I’m patiently waiting for all of the distributors to get their versions of the story (Barnes & Noble is dead last as usual), I find myself obsessively checking my download stats for the e-book (when I’m not writing/updating the next story I have on my 2015 roster, The Evil Clone of Michael Keaton–more on that another time) to see if I’m pulling in any significantly weighted numbers. Every time I post a new e-book to Smashwords, which I admit is probably the best platform I have for getting obscure stories out to the public, stories I know the traditional publishers would never take a risk on (I’m pretty sure), I keep thinking, This is the one that will turn the tide. This is the one that the people will discover, share, and lead me to that coveted breakout status. And then I see the numbers on those low-count masses who actually view the book, and the much lower turnout (well, 10% isn’t that bad actually) who choose to download it, and I start wondering if my platform is just too dang small.
Note: As of now, I’ve got about 300 views and 40 downloads for Lightstorm since I released it four days ago. If you’re a stats hound like I am, this might be important info. If you just like a good story, then keep reading (or download Lightstorm from your favorite indie e-book retailer!).
This leads me to that philosophical question that has plagued man since the dawn of time, or at least since entertainment and business had first collided: How does one increase his platform when he’s just a fiction writer who’s got only characters and situations to write about, not important stuff like self-improvement and diet fads?
Well, the obvious answer is to write the kind of story that people want to share. But even that is a tricky beast because all art is subjective, right? I can write only those works that interest me as a reader. I could certainly write for an expanded audience if I wanted to, but I do so at the risk of neutering my feelings or convictions. Not always, of course. But the risk is there.
Take the Romance genre, for example. Big market! I can’t read it, much less write it. I just lost about 80% of the e-book market. Dang it.
But does this mean that readers of other genres shouldn’t find and enjoy the stuff I can read and write?
Tonight I was looking up sites like Reddit and Goodreads, and I kept thinking that these would be great platforms for finding out what people are actually interested in. I was also watching a video where the marketing expert swears by Facebook as the best social media resource that any person seeking promotion can use. I don’t know–I use Facebook, and the hardest job I have with it is convincing my friends to read something, anything. I mean, I’ve posted poems about mullets on there, and I’ve gotten mostly just the crickets chirping in response. Poetry about mullets! It doesn’t get better than that (more on that another time)! In short, I know that there are plenty of valuable resources on hand, but for the life of me I feel like a monkey when I use them. Maybe there’s a trick to it. Maybe it’s all entirely run by luck. Maybe developing a platform is nothing more than a catch-22: you need a platform to develop a platform. Actually, that sounds about right. You can’t fill your cup to the brim with coffee if you don’t have the cup or the coffee.
With that said, writing is still the greatest source of expression I have, and I get a kick out of doing it. But part of the thrill of expressing is knowing that somehow my message will get out and people will talk about it and my ideas might actually set interesting things into motion. Obviously, I haven’t done that yet, or this blog would be about something else. But I’m still hoping that one of these books (which can be explored along the right margin if you click any of their images) will find its audience, and that maybe that audience will begin exploring other books past, present, and future, and maybe that audience will even dare to sign into Goodreads and leave a review or start a discussion that would help me, as a writer, know if I should keep trying to hand these things off to the public or if I should just keep them to myself.
And a quick note to those who ever thought about writing a book but were afraid to start: Just do it anyway. I’m part of the heavy population of low sales / downloads rankings at the moment (trying hard to reverse that!), but I know that the only thing that guarantees me a dead readership is not to write anything. Seeing the numbers in my stats climb by even one download a day can be pretty exciting. Now if I can just convince the people who downloaded it to give some feedback. Ah, now that would be awesome.
P.S. I know this is kind of an introspective and whiny blog, but you know, stats! Had to write something if I’m to have more than just one post in September. Why not this?
Feel free to leave a comment if you want to discuss this topic further.