• Satya Robyn
  • Yesterday - a best-seller. Today - a nobody.
Yesterday - a best-seller. Today - a nobody.
Written by
Satya Robyn
April 2012
Written by
Satya Robyn
April 2012

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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  • Celine Keating

    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.  

  • Satya Robyn

    Thanks Edith. Lovely to see you here.

  • Edith O Nuallain

    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!!

  • Satya Robyn

    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.

  • Satya Robyn

    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!

  • Cindy Vine

    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!

  • Maria Ross

    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!

  • Maria Ross

    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 :-)

  • Satya Robyn

    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... 

  • Satya Robyn

    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 : ) 

  • Cindy Vine

    Your post definitely resonated with me, you get all the downloads on your free promotion days then it tapers off considerably.  What I have found is that the sales of my non-KDP Select titles have gone down quite a bit.  I am wondering if people are so busy downloading all the free promotion titles that they no longer need to buy books as much as before?

  • Maria Ross

    Fiona, how much did I love this post?! Thank you for saying the things we all wonder and think to ourselves.

    I just published my seocnd book, Rebooting My Brain, which is a humorous and heartfelt memoir about surviving a brain aneurysm. My last book was done through a small press, but this one? I went alone. I'm a branding and marketing consultant and realized there was nothing my publisher could do for me that I might not do myself (it would be different if they had the distribution muscle and reach of a big publishing house, but they do not)

    I joined KDP Select and did my first free day last week. There were 11,000+ downloads (I'm about to post another marketing post here on She Writes that includes this program). I did have a brief thought of "OMG, what if that had been 11,000+ PAID downloads?!" But then I went back to my mission with this book: to inspire and to educate about brain injury. And I got lots of comments on Twitter and my FB page about how people had downloaded the book and loved it, since they were dealing with brain injury in their own lives or families in some way, shape of form.

    I hold on to those emails and comments. That's something worth way more to me than $2.99 could ever replace.

    I think if we hold on to the reasons why we wrote the book in the first place, we'll quickly see we have succeeded beyond our wildest expectations.

    PS - Lest anyone think I don't track the dollars at all, the free day led to lots of paid downloads in the days following. The more buzz you can build, the more it can carry over to paid sales!

  • Satya Robyn

    Thank you Michelle. Yes, I love how I return to these lessons over & over again : ) Enjoy meeting Joe.

  • Lovely post, Fiona as others have said. Sometimes the very immediacy of what can be constantly checked, validated, and updated (i.e. sales) takes us spinning out of the moment. We can never control what we get, but only what we give--an old spiritual saying. You've given us this wonderful work and can trust that the right readers will find it, tell others and they will buy it and support you in new and unexpected ways. It's now on my list to purchase!

  • Satya Robyn

    Thanks Samantha will have a look.

  • I ususally rarely comment outside of my group but I saw this title and wanted to pass something on to you. I am glad that you are feeling better but the problem with writers is that we are not marketers. However there is a man who worked as a marketer first and since he didnt want to wait around to get published, came at his writing like a marketer and guess what? He is rich from writing and is constantly on the New York Best Seller lists and hes not THAT good of a writer which he admits himself! It is a MUST READ for every writer, no matter how you publish because lets face it even the houses arent helping much with marketing these days. This will answer your questions and give you a firm grasp on the how to on all of it! I just read it last week and started just one of the steps and already expanded my following, not with other writers either but actual readers! My blog more than doubled in followers and my klout score doubled almost overnight! What is the best thought is FINALLY UNDERSTANDING on HOW to do all this and feeling in control! I NEVER recommend anything unless I have used it and it works!

    How I sold 1 million ebooks in 5 months by John Locke

    Its like 2.99 on kindle and worth far far more, this is not spam-I am the creator of the group Blooming Late and my goal is to get us writers in control of our own industry now that publishing has come into our own hands! When I read this I felt like I had just read the secret to our entire industry!  Hope it helps you! And I was just telling my own group about this book when I saw your title which made me sad for you, I dont believe in coincidences, do you?

    God Bless, Samantha Stacia

  • Satya Robyn

    Velda - thank you. Yes, returning to a pleasure in the process has always been important to me. 

    Lynn - interesting to hear your experience - I've heard from a few others and I know this is what tends to happen! I'm thinking of sending some copies out for review next. Good luck with your book. Onwards...

     Anjuelle - it's lovely to have you as a member of our mindful writing community. And I'm touched that you've been able to use my article as a jumping off point and that you've found bookbaby, which I'm off to check out myself : ) Go well.  

  • Anjuelle Floyd

    That you are also a psychotherapist, I now understand the power behind this essay and why it resonated.

    "Yesterday--a best seller. Today--a nobody," is so appropriate for these times of the enormous shifts in tides in the writing and publishing industry.

    After reading the post, I immediately clicked over to your site, WritingOurWayHome and requested to join.

    I am now a member.

    I listed your blog post as the thread that guided me there.

    I then clicked over to my Amazon account and set up days to offer my books for free download.

    Doing that inspired me to do a Google search of publishing consultants, which landed me on website where I discovered bookbaby.comthat allows me to publish my works in 8 additional e-formats and receive 100% royalties at a pace I determine.

    I accomplished a small step in my entrepreneurial journey this afternoon, something I have not felt in quite some months.

    And it all began with reading your blog post which I have now Tweeted and added to my Facebook Page.

    Thanks so much for this heartfelt and honest sharing of your experience that so many of us can relate to if not routinely undergo ourselves.

    It truly brought me back to my center, my home ... myself.

  • Lynn Reynolds

    Fiona, I can very much relate to your experience. I gave away over 10,000 free books in one day, and although I did do a bit of steady business for a couple of weeks afterward, it has dropped off drastically since the free day. I'm trying to come up with some inexpensive ways to keep the buzz going, like offering a gift card as a prize to one lucky person who posts a review of the book on Amazon - hoping more reviews will encourage more downloads. But I don't know if that will work.  I think your experience is pretty common for fiction authors in today's market. Writing fiction is still a fun hobby, but I definitely don't recommend doing it in the hopes of putting food on the table!

  • Velda Brotherton

    I so enjoyed your post. Sometimes we need to step back away from all our avid desires to succeed at what we do and realize that the success is in the process not in the outcome. If we enjoy what we are doing, that in itself is success. Of course we want to sell our work, but to know so many people will read your book is so satisfying, I'm sure. Congratulations for such a fabulous giveaway, and may your sales continue.

  • Satya Robyn

    Thanks Cece. Celine - will do! Still slowly dropping today so I'm guessing that'll continue but you never know. I'm trying to remain simultaneously grateful for all I've sold so far and open to the possibility that it might continue and it might not. Thank you Jennifer : ) Stephanie - very privileged to have made it next to your writing table! And Sage will be pleased to hear that too. Chiara - yes, it's always helpful to go back to the intrinsic pleasure of writing, isn't it? And to remember those single readers who've been touched by what you've written. Here's to writing!

  • Chiara Wood

    Fiona, I hear ya!   My experience is similar.  Thanks!  Rather than spending any more energy on my slight disappointment in the sales of my first book, (I have yet to promote it, since it is written by my nom de plume, Savannah Aries, thinking that with the second I will have figured out exactly HOW !!! and bundle them...somehow) I am dedicating myself to publishing the second in this series (of Spicy...somewhat existential! romance) and remember why I began to write in the first place.  For the pure Pleasure of It!   

  • Thank you for posting.  I have written both your and Sage Cohen's words down on a 3 x 5 notecard, posting it next to my writing table.  And I will look for your book.




    Stephanie Renee dos Santos

  • Celine Keating

    Please keep us up to date -- fingers crossed that, thanks to your innovative approach and many people read your work, they'll spread the word.

  • CeCe Harbor

    Great reminder, Fiona. . . well said.