Monday, 21 January 2013

The Big Bump

The Great Flatlining Phenomenon
In March 2012 I plunged—well, more like tiptoed warily—into the world of indie publishing after vacillating for a year or two. I started with short stories and a novella that I published on the Kindle for a friend, an erotica short on behalf of another friend, and a couple literary-type short stories of my own, written under a pen name. I did not have great expectations, and these were fulfilled with single-digit sales every month for the next six months or so. In September 2012 I added a few more short stories and novellas in different genres, generating sales that approached double digits over the next two months. In November a new release started selling right out of the gate, racking up 16 sales in one day and zooming up the rankings.

I became an addict of the KDP report, watching in wonder as the figures crept up, sometimes in multiples, every couple of hours. The lead title was selling 44-54 copies per week up to the middle December, with the overall trend showing an increase every week. I was hoping for bigger and better things over the holidays as experienced indie authors could not stop talking about Christmas 2011 when they had seen unprecedented sales. We were all waiting for The Big Bump.

The optimist in me rubbed its hands in anticipation of the seemingly inevitable windfall. Hadn't I—well, my press—not sold close to 300 stories in 6 weeks? Having gone from single to double and then triple digit sales, wasn't it reasonable to expect that four-digit sales were in the cards?

The other part of me, the part that knew from bitter experience that expecting the worst is a good way to stay sane in the publishing industry, raised an eyebrow and expected nothing. For that part of me, every sale was (and still is) a miracle, and there was no guarantee there would ever be another. I'm glad this part of me held the other at bay, jeered at it as it made grandiose plans to finally quit my part time job and be, yanno, a full time writer/publisher.

On or around December 18, sales fell to a couple a day, and between the day before Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, nothing sold. Not one copy. Of anything. In any genre.

The battle-weary, scarred and stoic part of me got on with life. There was a novella waiting to be completed, another to be edited for an author with the press, cover images to be found and covers to be mocked up and sent off to the artist.

The excitable, optimistic part of me tore its hair out and banged its head against the keyboard as the fallout from The Great Flatlining Sales Phenomenon of December 2012 made its way across the interwebs, consuming discussion boards, industry blogs, comment threads and private e-mails. Theories were rife: Amazon had changed its infamous algorithm once again! The US economy was to blame! The KDP Select program with its immense wasteland of free e-books had destroyed the industry! The Great Cull of indie books had begun!

Three days after Christmas, sales began to trickle in again. 2 on the 27th. 3 on the 28th. 4 on the 29th. My stoic half is back at work writing, editing, designing covers, researching, and, for the very first time, compiling exceedingly modest royalty statements for the authors who threw in their lot with me and my micropress.

It's business as usual around Lianeland. The optimistic part of me is still sulking, but coming around. It's sitting there in front of the laptop with the stoic half, putting behind it the excitement of The Big Bump That Wasn't—and not a moment too soon. We have work to do.

Happy New Year!

Liane Spicer