I look forward to quarterly sales figures with a mixture of dread and anticipation. The news is either good or bad. It either validates and motivates me to continue, or sends me into a tailspin of self-doubt. When I first started my writing journey I said I didn’t care about sales, but it turns out that I do to some extent. Not because of the money—I’m rapidly learning you can’t get rich doing what I’m doing—but for the same reason we all count Facebook friends and twitter followers. It validates us, boosts our self-esteem. I love the thought of people reading what I write and yes, of being liked. I find I can handle bad reviews better than low sales because in the former case someone actually took time to read and review (and they are pretty clear about what they didn’t like) but in the latter you usually have no way of knowing why someone didn’t chose you.
In December 2012 I published a novella called ‘Inseparable’, and I was thrilled with the reception it received. It got generally good reviews and the sales, while not comparable with major authors, surpassed my expectations for a short novella in a limited genre, with no marketing and that was only available electronically. For a while I was sure that someone had mixed up the sales figures. Almost exactly a year later, I published the sequel ‘When Adam Kissed Me’. Now, sequels are tricky things and not everybody likes them: I didn’t write a sequel to cash in on the original’s success, but because I had more story to tell. Still, I had a guesstimate in my head that I could count on achieving 75% repeat readers. I thought that was a reasonable figure to account for those who either hated the first one or didn’t care about it enough to want to read a follow-up. I would hopefully make up those number by attracting new readers.
Sadly it was not to be. Now six months after its release, my sequel isn’t even at a quarter of the original sales, even with additional marketing this time. So my question is… why? Was it a conscious decision? Did I fail to make an impression? Was it poor marketing? Aside from some initial hurt feelings over the loss of potential readers, and the thought I may have disappointed some, I’m genuinely curious to know what happened so I can improve next time. Unfortunately, there is almost no way of ever finding out. As an author you tend to only hear from people who really enjoyed your work or hated it. They’re the ones who take the time to write the reviews (good and bad) or email you. But there is obviously a huge percentage of “in-betweeners” who don’t feedback. I guess I’m guilty of this myself as a reader. It’s them I need to reach.
Now that I’ve moped for a bit, I am trying to re-group and come up with a strategy for when my debut novel comes out early next year so the same thing doesn’t happen. If you have any simple marketing strategies or tips for winning readers back you’d like to share, please post a comment. I’d love to hear them.