You Never Know When Promo Seeds Will Blossom

I am in a wistful mood this morning. Perhaps it’s the soft summer rain. Maybe its the Joe Dassin tune on my record player. Most likely it’s last tentacles of the wine I drank last night still wrapped lovingly around my frontal lobe.

Whatever the cause, I’m going to take advantage of this faux-nostalgia and peer back through the mists of time, all the way to April 2011. If you keep with me until the end, there may even be a moral to the story.

At the start of April, the only people who had read my writing were a handful of friends and a group of overworked literary agents’ interns. The only person who had been subjected to my musings on the publishing industry was my ever-patient better half.

In that month, I decided to self-publish some short stories and see what happened. I also decided to start this blog to document my progress, and spout off.

I had no idea whether either would be read by anyone – after all I was just another unpublished, unknown, no-name writer, throwing his stories into the self-publishing soup, and adding to trillion-high pile of webpages.

Lo and behold, I have readers! At some point yesterday, I sold my 200th e-book. That’s in about six weeks. At some point today, this blog will have had 15,000 views since the start of April. Last week alone I had 2,267 views, which is astonishing.

I would like to thank everyone who has purchased one of my books, who has rated them on Amazon, Smashwords, or Goodreads, or who has helped to promote them in any way.

I would also like to thank the readers of this blog for sharing posts on Facebook and Twitter, but most importantly for contributing to a healthy discussion in the comments.

From the start, I was keen to generate a dialogue. And, not counting the ads for Viagra and business proposals from Nigerian princes (which are for my own personal use only), we have had over 1,200 comments.

The discussion after Saturday’s article “Self-Publishing Myth #1: You Will Never Make Any Money” was especially vigorous, and is still continuing this morning. You should check out the comments.

June has been a tough month for all indies. Amazon’s Sunshine Deals (where they discounted 600 Big 6 bestsellers to between $0.99 and $2.99) just killed my sales. By the time it kicked in fully a few days into the month, my sales had more than halved.

Thankfully, that ended on the 15th, and sales have been gradually picking up since then, culminating in Sunday being my best day outside of a new release.

I’m sure that part of that was down to a somewhat accidental four-pronged promotional push this weekend. First, I was contacted by a stranger who let me know that she had read If You Go Into The Woods, enjoyed it, and reviewed it.

That same book was featured on this blog along with a short interview. That was quickly followed by this review by a UK book blogger, who gave it five stars.

However, the best part was waking up on Sunday morning to this wonderfully lyrical review. It’s by far the nicest review I have ever received. In fact, it’s probably the nicest review I will ever receive. If I had the money, I would take out a page in the New York Time and print the whole thing. Here’s a snippet:

“I heartily recommend this masterful piece of work to any and all that thoroughly enjoy the art of the word, and especially to those that have a special place in their hearts for short stories, as I believe this to be a fabulous exponent of the genre.”

I would like to thank all of these bloggers from the bottom of my heart for featuring and reviewing my book. Without you guys, getting the word out about our books would be almost impossible.

While If You Go Into The Woods was making a run on Amazon, Transfection was making moves elsewhere, and is currently the #1 Science Fiction Short Story on Smashwords.

The reasons for this surge are less clear. While I’m aware that one kind blogger purchased some copies for a giveaway, that only accounts for a portion of the sales.

All of this is especially heartening because I have been doing far less promo this month while I prepare Let’s Get Digital for release (remember the Golden Rule: writing always comes first).

I guess the moral of the story, and the point of this post, is that you never know when your promo efforts are going to bear fruit. All of the above bloggers (aside from the surprise reviewer) were contacted in mid-May.

There is an old adage that half the money you spend on advertising is wasted but the problem is you never know which half. I think with social media the percentage which is effective is more like 10%.

I see it like a farmer scattering a mystery bag of seeds in a wide open field. You don’t know which ones will take, and which will get eaten by birds. And you never know when they will blossom.

This game is about patience and luck as much as it is about hard work and talent. Don’t be downhearted if your sales are slow to take off, or if you have a dip. Remember, the one activity which is guaranteed not to increase your sales is checking your sales.

Keep getting the word out and keep submitting to book bloggers. But most importantly, keep writing.

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time he spends outside. He writes fiction under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

26 Replies to “You Never Know When Promo Seeds Will Blossom”

  1. I’m so happy for you! I have to say that your blog and presence on the web has been a wonderful thing for me too. You are a cool head among a lot of hysteria in the business. I honestly believe with your talent alone you’d probably do just fine, but I’m glad to reap the benefits of this blog as the world gets to know who you are.


  2. Good thoughts to keep everything in perspective. And congrats on the milestones recently reached as well.

  3. Inspiring, as always. David. Your blogs lift me and give me hope – and the incentive to keep at it, keep my nose to the grindstone and persevere.

    I hope your sales continue to rise and more power to your elbow in saying what needs to be said in this new self-publishing world.


    1. Thanks Trafalgar,

      You know The Bee Gees had an album called “Trafalgar”. I bought it in the hope that it would be some kind of concept album about Admiral Nelson, but what I got was even better. It’s completely deranged. “Lion in Winter” tops the lot.


  4. David, you are a very engaging writer and I’ve enjoyed your posts since I found you. This little post is so inspirational. Thank you for that. I laughed out loud at the one activity that is guaranteed to not to increase your sales is checking your sales. So, that’s what has been going on! :< }

    1. Thanks Kathy.

      Everybody does it. I certainly do, but I’m nowhere near as bad as I was in that first week. I think I had the page open constantly and was just hitting “refresh” every few minutes. I probably could have written a new short story in the time I wasted. I certainly could have sent my book out to 20 reviewers in the time I wasted. If I have access to a stat, I will check it constantly unless I train myself not to. Hell, if I had access to a stat which showed me how much time I wasted checking stats, I would check that too – all the time. I just need to keep reminding myself that it’s destructive, counter-productive, and a complete waste of time. I’m not very disciplined, so this is something that needs constant work. That, and keeping out of trouble.


  5. I just really like the picture of the gentleman holding the dove.

    And I’m extremely happy to see things are going well for you and look forward to your continued success. 😉

  6. You make an interesting point. I agree with everything you say, but I have a hard time making myself do what I know I ought to. I sat down this weekend and wrote out a marketing plan that focuses on the things I enjoy doing anyway for promotion and lets me off the hook for things that I don’t like that probably won’t pan out for me. I’ve sold dozens of copies via Twitter (which I love), but I’ve had questionable results from the few guest posts I’ve written (which I’m not especially good at).

    I made a schedule for the summer which I hope to stick to that accounts for everything I need to do in an ideal day (writing, blogging, and promoting), but should also leave time for things I enjoy like art and family time that aren’t directly linked to my writing career. What I’m hoping is that by following my schedule I get everything accomplished without feeling like I’m depriving myself of anything. It’ll be interesting to see how that works out for me, sales-wise.

    1. The thing is, you don’t HAVE to do everything. Your goal is to reach your readers. Personally, I think doing a little of everything is a good approach until you find what works for you and what helps you. Some people don’t bother with some parts and they do just fine. I wouldn’t stress about forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to. Experiment, for sure, but if it doesn’t suit you, then don’t worry about it. I thought I would hate Twitter, but I actually enjoy it. That really surprised me. There was some other stuff I thought I would enjoy that didn’t work out that way. That’s okay too, you can always make up somewhere else.

  7. And all this time I thought I was the only one furtively checking my sales on Amazon! It’s nice to know that other people have a similar OCD – checking sales, stats, rankings, etc. – makes me feel a little better and I’ll think of you when I do it at my scheduled times: Monday and Friday evening.

  8. You can definitely see your enthusiasm in the work you write.
    The sector hopes for even more passionate writers like you who
    aren’t afraid to say how they believe. All the time go
    after your heart.

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