Something weird happened this weekend. And I’m not talking about my being attacked by an alien Elvis impersonator in a Gorilla suit. I’ll tell you kids that story some other time.
What happened was this: I was checking the sales numbers for my books in the Kindle store. (I know Bob Mayer says that doing this too often means you’re taking your eyes off the long road, but it’s all so shiny and new right now it’s hard to keep myself from checking at least once a day. And that’s okay because I’m pretty sure I’ll grow out of it, just like I grew out of compulsively checking my blog stats every fifteen minutes.) Anyway, the last time I checked I had sold exactly five of my new scifi/horror short story “Derelict.” But when I checked my numbers on Saturday night that number had shot up to twelve hundred.
I froke out.
I chicken danced right across the ceiling I was so excited. Unfortunately my feet got caught in the fan blades, and I thumped back down to reality. “Wait a moment,” I said to myself. “Did not a wise man once tell me that if something seems to good to be true it probably is? And further was not this wise man my father, who’s noble office I am preparing to celebrate on the morrow? Perhaps this warrants further investigation.”
And what do you know, good old dad was right. Because when I checked my Amazon page I saw that my ebook, which had been listed at the bargain-basement price of ninety-nine cents, had been marked down into the sub-basement of freebies.
At first I was angry. Because hey, this was my story and they were just giving it away? Without my permission?
And then I remembered another wise thing my dad once said: “Always read the fine print.” So I did. And lo and behold, I found out that Amazon has every right to take your story and mark it down to whatever price they feel like.
Gradually my anger faded and was replaced with a heaping dose of pragmatism. I learned two things that night, things that my fellow authors would do well to keep in mind especially if they plan to ever go the indie/guerilla/self/gorilla-publishing route.
1. Amazon is large and in charge.
Seriously people, the Kindle is it right now. I’m sure some of you out there love your Nooks, and for what it’s worth I don’t own either, but from my side of the equation I can tell you that I’m selling way more ebooks through Amazon than anywhere else.
Which means that Amazon can basically afford to do whatever they want to do and you’ve just got to sit there and take it. Sure you can go out and whine and moan about how big they are and how its not fair, but none of that really matters. You’re in the game, and these are the rules. Maybe they aren’t “fair” but that doesn’t give you the excuse to stop playing to win.
2. Free stuff is the best publicity ever.
I want to reiterate something I said at the beginning of the post. Before, my story was in the hands of a total of five people. At this point it’s in the hands of nearly two-thousand.
Now sure, some of those people only downloaded the story because it was free. Maybe they won’t ever even get around to reading it. But now I have two five-star reviews on that story, where before I had none. And the odds are good that if people like my writing, some of them will check out my other ebooks. And having my story move so many copies so fast has done wonders for it’s ranking.
So yeah, maybe I’m just being a Pollyanna here but I see some huge potential upsides to all of this in the long run. And it is a long run. So I’m gonna pace myself, and keep doing my best. Because, honest success doesn’t come overnight.
P.S. You really should go and check out Derelict if you haven’t done so already. You’ve got no excuses now, and I really think you’ll like it. If you do like it, maybe you would be inclined to write a review?