Yesterday - a best-seller. Today - a nobody.

Fiona writes: Over the past few two days more than twenty thousand people have downloaded my new novel The Most Beautiful Thing. They were going like hotcakes. Every few seconds I could click on the downloads and see the figure go up by ten or twenty.

This morning, in the space of two hours, I have sold one.

The difference? £3.99 ($6.50). This is how much my book costs now. The book that took me two years of research, writing & re-writing. The book me & Kaspa started a publishing company to publish, and designed the cover for, and proofed over and over. The book about Joe, who I care very deeply about.

Of course, that's not the whole story.

My strategy was to ask my friends & supporters to download it for free. I hoped that if enough people did this, then it would start appearing in Amazon's free kindle charts. And it did. And once it got there, people I don't know started downloading it. By the second day, my book was #1 in the Amazon UK free kindle charts. It was being downloaded more often than any other free book in the whole country.

Let's be clear. Before this promotion, despite sparkling reviews and a pretty reasonably-sized existing platform, I was selling one or two copies a day. Without making my book free, the vast proportion of those twenty thousand people wouldn't have downloaded it, however brilliant it is. It's no good charging a decent price for our work if nobody is seeing it. I really had nothing to lose by doing what I did.

Or did I? I felt depressed this morning. Will I ever make any money? Was all that work contacting people & organising a Blogsplashfor nothing? Will we never be able to afford new carpets? I sat for a while and allowed myself to feel sad.

And then I stumbled across Seth Godin's piece on not expecting applause. And then I found exactly what I needed to read - a beautiful piece about longing by my dear friend Sage Cohen. "Sometimes, no matter how much we want something, it is not our time for manifesting," she says. And she speaks (as Rumi does in the poem accompanying her piece) of where we canfind the answer to our calls of longing. The answer is found in the heart of the call itself. "Maybe that ache is simply enough. We may or may not hear anything back. Still, we write."

Maybe some of those twenty thousand people will tell their friends about my book. Maybe they won't. That will become clearer over the next few weeks, and there's nothing I can do about it.

But whatever happens, we write. We live. With new carpets or without. With praise or without.

I have found my way back to gratitude, whatever happens next. There are the roses budding in the garden. There is this cup of cherry tea. There is my friend's new baby girl. There is this old-man cat, curled into a circle, his chest rising up and down as I watch him sleep. I send my love out to him. I don't need anything in return. The answer is already present in the sending.

POSTSCRIPT: I wrote this blog, and felt much better, and published it, and then in the next twenty minutes I sold ten novels in the UK. Since then it's been climbing the Amazon charts... It's a funny old world, isn't it? *smiling*

*

'Don't ignore me' by Colourless Rainbow via Creative Commons

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Tags: bestseller, popularity

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Comment by Celine Keating on June 8, 2012 at 8:06am

Does anyone know any statistics about whether those that download books for free - or for that matter, are recipients of giveaways - actually read them?  Because if a good percentage do, and then encourage others to become familiar with your work, that's a plus.  I've offered the ebook of my novel LAYLA for very little ($2.99) and haven't seen huge sales as a result - and the paperback is selling just as well. One or two big readers actually said that seeing that price makes them unlikely to buy the book - it's literary/commercial fiction - b/c they assume it's no good. Hard to know what to do.  

Comment by Satya Robyn on June 8, 2012 at 1:15am

Thanks Edith. Lovely to see you here.

Comment by Edith O Nuallain on June 7, 2012 at 2:50pm

Just wanted to let you know how much I loved your post. Your words take me back to the heart essence of why I write. Though I might like to fantasize occasionally about being published, I know that whether or not that ever happens, I will continue to write. I've been doing it long enough now to know that it is only through writing that I feel most alive, probably because writing ensures that I notice the moment just as it manifests here and now.Also , I really must get myself a kindle so i can read all these -books!!

Comment by Satya Robyn on May 11, 2012 at 12:30am

Hi Terri - thank you. Yes, this is what has sustained my writing over the past twenty-odd years, finding so much richness, learning & joy in the process, and all the rest just being gravy. Doesn't mean I'm not prone to forget that when the sales are going well! But it's always there to return to. Thanks for reading.

Comment by Satya Robyn on May 9, 2012 at 12:37am

Maria - I like that mantra - I might borrow it! And yes, I agree with your first paragraph - I don't expect 99% of these people would ever have paid money for my book, but we did benefit from the chart placing and a few reviews. 

Cindy - good luck!

Comment by Cindy Vine on May 8, 2012 at 12:27pm

We'll see what happens when I have my next free promotion on the 12th and 13th May for Survival Tips for the Suddenly Single!

Comment by Maria Ross on May 8, 2012 at 10:42am

To Cindy's point: Here is something I tell my business marketing clients. There are markets for everything which is why defining your ideal client (or book buyer) is so crucial. Are there people out there who will only download free eBooks? Sure. But I can name at least 50 of my friends and colleagues who gladly spend the money on a book to get great content. These are 2 different audiences: People that only download free eBooks would NEVER have bought your book in the first place, if what they value is price over content. It's about offering thr free download, letting certain people en masse get a taste and hoping a) they recommend and suggest the book to others who will buy it even when it's not offered for free and 2) that the online rankings of your book zoom up so that you are more visible to paying readers in the few days afterwards.

 

We should not mistake those that download free eBooks all the time as our target audience. We are simply leveraging this group to further our other goals with the book, including sales goals. In addition, there could be financial hardship reasons why they only download free eBooks, and I'm all about giving people access to content if they desire it - and it also doesn't mean they may not be influencers within a wider community.

 

Hope that helps! And Cindy, your experience is interesting in that your other titles should have seen some lift from the free download day as people discovered you. Very interesting....But keep sharing these expeiences, everyone, so we can learn from each other and test new tactics out!

Comment by Maria Ross on May 8, 2012 at 10:33am

Thanks Fiona for the kind words. Regarding your comment,  I have a mantra that I often include in my bio that I thought you'd enjoy: I believe creativity and cash flow are not mutually exclusive :-)

Comment by Satya Robyn on May 7, 2012 at 11:42pm

Cindy - I wonder... it's still a newly emerging market, I guess, and we'll see how things work out for authors in the longer term. I guess we can only work with the conditions we find ourselves in... 

Comment by Satya Robyn on May 7, 2012 at 11:41pm

Maria - good to hear about your experience (and congratulations on your book! it sounds truly inspirational) Yes, that feedback is so important. And yes, the dollars are also important! I do think it's possible to get both : ) 

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