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Old 04-28-2011, 10:47 AM   #1
Steven Lyle Jordan
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Where Did Things Go So Wrong?!?

After 5 years' attempting to sell my books, I've reached a crisis of confidence. My books aren't selling, the marketing I've tried hasn't worked, my books are turning up on pirate and torrent sites, suggesting that they're being noticed... but I'm losing my shirt!

I was finally pushed over the edge on Easter, when I received a Google alert that led to one of my books on a website I've never heard of, offering it for free to paid members.

The ebook market is, in my opinion, trashed. It's left me frustrated, distrusting, pessimistic and apathetic. I've lost all confidence that I can get this venture to turn around for me. I've actually got a finished book that I don't know what to do with, because I don't believe it will make me a dime. I'm this close to just deleting it and saving me the aggravation.

Nevertheless, my plight has caught the interest of a few good MR members (and some who are, let's say, not so sympathetic), and resulted in various and sundry bits of advice meant to show me a way out of the tunnel. (I am choosing to ignore the advice designed to lead me headlong into an oncoming train... but only just.)

In the interest of general edification (not to mention, getting the initial subthread out of the piracy thread to which I so wrongly attached it), I'd like to move the conversation here. I appreciate the efforts others have gone to, to try to help me out of my present malaise. I still haven't decided whether or not it makes sense for me to continue this ebook experiment gone wrong. But I am willing to discuss it.

I think I'll also quote a bit from the other thread, just to avoid treading on the same ground as in the past.
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Old 04-28-2011, 10:53 AM   #2
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Starting with:
Quote:
Originally Posted by NVash View Post
Well Im glad to see you back and find out that you didnt just flip out and leave. Never mind your stance on piracy, the whole topic has been beaten to death here. That old horse cant catch a break it seems. But Im wondering, what do you think of your own work? Do you think you should advertise some more or do I have no idea what Im talking about?
I believe my work has quality... if I didn't, I wouldn't sell it. I would like to advertise more, but I don't have a budget for it; I've tried select advertising with what I had (Facebook, convention programs), but it went nowhere.

My aim, in spending time on sites like this and others, was to have word of mouth accomplish a lot of my advertising. But that, too, never took off... I never got a "buzz" going from any online presence.

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Originally Posted by Hellmark View Post
Try doing simple things, such as having links it in your signature. Also, every now and again, you can get promocodes for google adwords. I know right now if you goto https://services.google.com/fb/forms/yourbusiness/ you can sign up for $75 worth and they periodically send you more. Plus maybe run a sale or promo. One thing that seems to work is to put the first book in a series on sale for like 99 cents, or even free, to get people hooked.
Haven't tried adwords yet... the rest I have tried.

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Originally Posted by Worldwalker View Post
And that is your problem in a nutshell: no one's noticed until now.

Even Stonetools couldn't argue that piracy was somehow keeping people from noticing your lack of accessibility.

Take me for an example: I do not pirate ebooks. I buy science fiction. I read science fiction. I buy ebooks by self-published writers. Every last one of them totally, completely, 100% legitimate. And I couldn't bring the name of your book (books?) to mind right now to save my life.

There's your problem.

As for your book sales funding your retirement, I'd like to direct you to some comments by Eric Flint. Aside from the sales of his own books, note what he says regarding books in general: The average paperback sells 15,000 copies, of which 80% are in the first three months.

Look at that number again: 15,000 books. That is for books that are in bookstores, sitting on the "new books" display, etc., that someone can find out about just by walking into the store. And that's paper books, books that anyone can read, not just the people with the knowledge and equipment to search them out and read them. If we assume that your ebook sells 10% as many copies as the average paper book -- all else aside, the market penetration of ebook readers and the visibility of pbooks in large chain bookstores are both major factors -- we're talking 1,500 books. If you make a profit of $2.00 per book, that's $3,000. You're not going to fund much of a retirement out of three grand.

And I'm being generous in my estimates there. Very, very generous. There probably aren't 1,500 people who have even noticed that your book exists, let alone who thought it was something they wanted to read. The economics of ebooks are not in your favor. Writing is not, except for a rare few, a lucrative profession. Unless you are one of a small handful of writers, you can't make a living (or even a good retirement nest egg) from writing. For every famous Dan Brown there are thousands of eternal unknowns.

I'll say again: J.K. Rowling's problem may be piracy (if a multi-billionaire has problems). Your problem is not being J.K. Rowling.

I have some more bad news for you regarding pirate sites, torrents, etc., that have your book listed: They have your book because either a) someone (probably someone who bought it) gave it to them, or b) because they sucked it off some other website. People who download it from those sites do so because it was packed in with a bunch of other books, and the one they really wanted "Twilight", but they had to take the whole zip of 1,000 books to get it. They're not going to read it; it's just clutter. It's baggage. They're not costing you sales because they're not reading your book. They're reading the three books in that torrent that they wanted, and maybe one or two others whose authors they recognize, but you're not any of them. Even the pirates aren't reading your book.

That's what you have to fix.

Edit: I want to add this link: http://www.baens-universe.com/articl...ics_of_Writing

And I want to point specifically to this passage:

In fact, it’s not even close. Most published authors derive only incidental income from their writing...

That's not me. That's not Stonetools. That's Eric Flint, a guy who ought to know.
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Originally Posted by GreenMonkey View Post
Yup. I've heard the same from a few other sci-fi and fantasy writers I like - that most people can't make an income on writing full time.

It's been argued by a few that as a writing virtual nobody, you are actually BETTER OFF for being torrented - because that gets your name and your work out there... which, as a not-Stephen-King writer, you need much more than anything else - to be known. If even a couple of people buy one of your books later because they read your book as the result of someone else giving it to them or something, you're doing better than you would have otherwise.

I don't know for sure if this is really true - but it has the ring of truth to me.
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Originally Posted by hidari View Post
Writing for a living is a luxury not a right. And people expecting to make a semi-living or living off of it are delusional....That said. I like that Indie authors like Steven and their ilk on MR and about are trying to self-publish sans DRM. Have bought a book of Steven's and would recommend him.
I wish I could say the last 3 quotes were inspiring...
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Old 04-28-2011, 10:55 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by cfrizz View Post
The other factor to "making it" as an author is prolificy. J.K. Rowling produced a new book every year from 1997-2000, since then once every 2 years. Fern Michaels has written over sixty books, many of them New York Times bestsellers since the 1970s, that's basically 1 or more books every year since she started! I just looked at a "selected" bunch of books from Harold Robbins. It has 35 books in it starting in 1948. That woman who just got a contract from St. Martins Press who became famous for self publishing put out something like 8 books in a year on Amazon!

If you want to be noticed & make money, it's clear that you have to write prolifically (with a subject that people want to read) & stay in the public eye.

If you think you are going to make it with one book every 6 years, or whatever, then you are going to get a real harsh reality check.
I have 6 books and 4 free short story sets on my website at the moment. Altogether I've written over a dozen novels, the rest of which have not been added to the new site until I give them a fresh proofing pass (if I get round to it). How's that?

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Originally Posted by mr ploppy View Post
I'm not sure if it's on the list or not, but I'm thinking of using a text to speech program to "read" something and then turn that into a Youtube video. Pirate sites are also a good free way of reaching readers that you wouldn't otherwise reach. You must have something you don't really care if people read for free? There's also similar free ebook sites for non-pirates, but you would be better off targetting both types of consumer.

You would probably do better reducing some of your prices on Amazon too, they are quite high for an unknown writer. I don't read SF anymore, but if I did you would be competing with people I've heard of and charging more than they do isn't the best way to do that.
I wouldn't consider $3 "quite high," even for an unknown writer.
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Old 04-28-2011, 10:59 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Anke Wehner View Post
If you aren't planning to add a pricetag to the short stories, I'd recommend making them available at other sites where people look for free reads. (I saw one of of those at Smashwords, but not the others... they might be useful to draw people to you added shortly after a novel for sale, if you go back to submitting books there.)
Mr ploppy started a thread in the authors section of the forum to collect such websites: http://www.mobileread.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=129753

There are plenty of people who look for free books (including short stories), and if someone comes across a free read by you (with a website link at the end and/or on the copyright page), they might go and buy the novels you offer for sale. It's more or less how four indie authors got me to follow their work.

It also seems like you have one series of three books. Reducing the price of the first only to 99 cents might be worth a try. 99 cents is very much an impulse buy, and might work as a hook to pull in readers, hoping they'll buy the rest of the series. (It's the pricing strategy I've seen used on Amanda Hocking's books, for example. Just to show I'm not pulling it out of thin air. )
I've tried spreading links to the free stories around, but they rarely stay up for long. Other sites where I'd like to mention them don't allow advertising. I'm always having trouble finding places to leave links or books.
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Old 04-28-2011, 11:00 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by ApK View Post
I agree. Making the first book in a series free, or extra cheap, has hooked me several times already, and in fact, books obtained like that have filled my reading time for the past weeks, within the SF genre alone.

The Hal Spacejock series was that way for bit, as is The Softwire, and also many of the series represented in the Baen free library.
Free is of course wonderful, and I'm willing to spend a bit more on subsequent books if I enjoyed a 'free gift', but 99 cents seems to be the magic "why-the-heck-not" price.

You might want to try it, even if only for a limited promotional time.
You say you're making nothing on them now, what have you got to lose?

I'd buy one.

ApK
I hear this so often: Just give some away for free... that'll solve all your problems... but I've had free material available forever.

Lowering prices... I've tried that, over a year ago, and saw no increased sales from it.

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Old 04-28-2011, 11:02 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by mr ploppy View Post
They're £2.20 on Amazon UK, whereas a lot of writers I am already familiar with are £1.71. I know it's not much of a difference, but new writers are always a gamble. Reducing the price of one of them might bring in new people and become an advert for the others. (I'm assuming you have sample chapters of each book at the end of them?)

Or you could find other writers in the same genre and put out a free short story collection, then you would all be sharing each others' readers.
As I've had free material out since my first day, I have yet to see any proof that free giveaways lead to any significant amount of sales.

I realize, of course, that since my genre is SF, I am seriously being handicapped by a fickle and supposedly dying breed.
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Old 04-28-2011, 11:08 AM   #7
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I posted on the other thread.

Suggestions: Get other SF publications (on or offline) to review a copy and put it in their magazine/blog to get a more specialist audience. Even team up with other SF writers to either review each others books (and put the reviews on their sites) or include a synopsis of the book in the back of one of their publications. Again, targeting the audience.

You might also want to consider redoing your cover art/layout to appeal more to those who browse Amazon primarily by cover. For example, your name down the side seems unprofessional.

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Old 04-28-2011, 11:13 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Steven Lyle Jordan View Post
I realize, of course, that since my genre is SF, I am seriously being handicapped by a fickle and supposedly dying breed.
And it doesn't help that your lobbying for an oppressive, controlling police state ruling the internet with an iron fist is 100% the opposite of the future the vast majority of science fiction readers dream of. I wouldn't touch your books-- even for free-- because I find your ideas repulsive.
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Old 04-28-2011, 11:14 AM   #9
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I'm going to be honest with you, Steven, because I empathize with you for the hard work you've put in and because you genuinely seem to be asking for help. There are two reasons why I, speaking for myself as a paying reader, have not purchased your books.

1) I don't really read scifi. Very occasionally, a specific novel will catch my eye, but for the most part, I really don't read scifi. That's not your fault, but it does mean you are very unlikely to get my business.

2) I think it was a mistake for you to get so involved with some of the political-type threads such as the one on piracy. It honestly does affect your on-line image. I don't think by any means that every person has to agree with my opinion in order to be worthy of my business. But I do think that in some of your posts expressing them, you have come across as very hostile and complaining, and I just can't imagine having to spend 300 pages with the persona that comes across in some of those posts. I think you might benefit from thinking a little more about what kind of image as a professional you want to portray, and maybe keep some of your opinions as Joe Average Poster separate from that.
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Old 04-28-2011, 11:16 AM   #10
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Steven,
In another thread I asked if you had tried paper publishing and your answer was that the earth needs the trees more than paper, or something of the sort.

Well, I think you should consider paper publishing. There's a huge market of people who don't have/don't like ebook readers. I've read "Chasing the light" and I certainly think it is "publication quality" to say the least. You may make some money there and become known to a wider public, which may, in turn, boost your ebook sales in the future.

And the Earth will not be noticeably worse.

Good luck
Pablo

PS1: Do create a signature with a link to your books
PS2: You are not a failed indie author. If you were, you wouldn't find your books in pirate sites.
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Old 04-28-2011, 11:20 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by ficbot View Post
But I do think that in some of your posts expressing them, you have come across as very hostile and complaining, and I just can't imagine having to spend 300 pages with the persona that comes across in some of those posts.
What I remember most when I think of SLJ is his posts a couple of years back where he makes it very clear that he is in it only for the money, doesn't expect his work to be worth remembering even a few years from now, and plans to pound out a few books a year (not quotes, but not a distortion of the content of the messages.) Why the hell would anyone want to read books by someone who thinks like that?

Edit-- did a bit of googling, and-- more than many other possible examples, this is the post that insured that I'll never read any of SLJ's books.

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Old 04-28-2011, 11:22 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Steven Lyle Jordan View Post
I hear this so often: Just give some away for free... that'll solve all your problems... but I've had free material available forever.
But only on your own website? Your website is for people who have already discovered you, it's useless for finding new readers. Mine gets about 40 visitors a week spending an average of 3 minutes per visit. I'm guessing they are just there for that week's new chapter, but they will all be people who found me somewhere else. Before I started putting them on pirate and other free read sites I didn't get any visitors at all. My blog gets a few more visitors, but some of the things they search for to find it are pretty weird (and mostly unprintable here).

I don't really care about money, what you never had you don't miss. But before you can make money from an audience you need to have an audience. I would suggest you find that audience before you worry about how much you can make from them. And I certainly wouldn't spend money on advertising or anything else until you were making enough to cover those costs.
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Old 04-28-2011, 11:27 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by ficbot View Post
2) I think it was a mistake for you to get so involved with some of the political-type threads such as the one on piracy...
Image can be a difficult thing. Do you give people actual opinions when they ask for them? Or do you just smile a big, toothy smile and utter popular platitudes, just before shoving your books back under their noses?

I don't like to hide behind false personas and false names on the web, the way so many others do. I don't live in a police state, where uttering something against the current administration is likely to have me locked up the next day. I'm proud of who I am, and I believe my opinions have merit.

So my becoming a syncophant when online is personally frustrating to me, and does not encourage me to participate in such forums where my real opinions are not valued, or even entertained. If I do adapt such a persona... you won't be seeing much of me around here, or anywhere else online.

(And yes, I'm sure that pleases a number of MR members no end.)
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Old 04-28-2011, 11:27 AM   #14
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My opinion? Suck it up, buttercup.

You are correct. Your work has merit and value. You will eventually become better recognized if you keep at it and don't let the naysayers get you down. Your craft certainly has room for improvement. What author can say otherwise? So keep at it and be patient. Your best work is ahead of you.

You are working through a transition in publishing, a paradigm shift. Piracy is depressing but self-publication is easier than ever. As inspiration, check out some of the non-fiction Cory Doctorow writes about the situation (though I suspect you already have).

So I think the best advice to anyone feeling as you do is to keep putting one foot in front of the other, metaphorically speaking. "Suck it up" expresses that so eloquently, lol.

Oh, also good luck and best wishes.
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Old 04-28-2011, 11:27 AM   #15
Steven Lyle Jordan
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Originally Posted by mr ploppy View Post
And I certainly wouldn't spend money on advertising or anything else until you were making enough to cover those costs.
And therein lies a major problem.
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