It was a very interesting month, here.
I’ve had quite a few fellow authors contact me, looking for advice. I always feel unequal to this task, because it’s not as if I have a “grand strategy” of any kind. I can pontificate about my decisions and the reasoning behind them, but really, I’m experimenting (read: blundering) my way through this as much as the next guy. I think taking advantage of price is important. I think using limited free promotions is important. Most of all, I think writing a good book is important. Beyond that, I got nothin’. I still try to answer the best I can, and I definitely enjoy the contacts, because I like getting to know other people on the same journey as me.
It feels like people are starting to notice Alex – it was the #2 top-rated novel in Kindle Fiction (by customer review) for a long while in August. It was on the Kindle Horror bestseller list most of the month and was in the top 5,000 bestselling all month long (dropping to 6,000, rather abruptly, this morning… so, welcome to September, I guess : P). I’ve been getting new fans on Facebook at a faster rate, too – they’re not coming in like gangbusters, but 1 – 3 a week is pretty fast compared to the first few months.
I was also approached by a publisher in August who asked for a review copy of my book. I don’t want to go into detail, because there’s no guarantee anything will come of it, but suffice it to say this publisher has access to a market I don’t. Even if nothing does come of it, just receiving the request was pretty neat.
Finally, it was by far the most lucrative month I’ve had to date. My royalties more than doubled July’s, which was already far and away the most successful month I’d had. Weirdly, my paperback sales picked up in August too. I sold 37 paperbacks. Typically I sell fewer than 10.
So yeah, interesting month. Every time I sell a bunch of books or try to comprehend the number at the bottom of my royalty total I struggle to get my head around it. Obviously, whatever I’m doing, I want to keep doing, but the whole thing feels like this wild surge of luck: unpredictable, temperamental, and definitely not under my control.
Perpetuating that perception is the fact that I’ve started to see some more bad reviews. Most of them have been on Goodreads, but I also got a second 3-star review on Amazon, which I’m pretty sure is responsible for bumping me out of the #2 Kindle Fiction spot. The Goodreads ones have been pretty brutal, though. They’re demoralizing, of course, and it’s hard not to feel a little maligned. Once I got past the initial wave of pissiness, though, I was able to notice a pattern: most of the low reviews are complaining about tedium and repetition.
This is interesting, because most of my high reviews also touch on the pacing in the book: namely, that it grabbed them by the throat and wouldn’t let them go. That is what I was going for, though I’ll be the first to admit that even last November I was well aware that having a book where a guy wallows in his own self-misery inside his house for 100 pages or so doesn’t seem to jive, on face, with a fast-paced book. The tension isn’t supposed to ratchet up by making the main character do things; it’s supposed to ratchet up by making him experience things. I thought it worked. The vast majority of my readers thought it worked. But obviously it doesn’t work for everyone.
I’ve never been the kind of person to completely disregard negative feedback. Even when I bluster and decry, it settles into my brain and dares me to dig out the nuggets of truth, and there may be a few of those in these criticisms. Frankly, people who didn’t enjoy Alex should probably skip Rebecca, as its narrative is structured very similarly. But Children will be very different, and the pacing in that one should be less deserving of this criticism.
The trick, of course, is that I’m doing pretty damned well. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater because a few people didn’t “get” what I was going for is definitely not warranted. At the same time, though, there are books on Amazon that aren’t getting three star reviews. This tells me I can improve my process. So there’s a middle ground here, somewhere.
I’ll keep hunting for it.