I was taking a break from reality the other day and playing an online computer game (Mechwarrior Online, if you must know). In the process I was talking to a couple of people that I’d never met before. The topic quickly came up asking me if I was a writer (my handle in the game is ‘BooksbyJason’). That led to: what do you write. The next question was what name I wrote under. So I shared my name. And that’s when it happened.
This complete stranger from parts unknown (he was somewhere in the continental US, I think) said, “Hey, I’ve heard of you. One of my friends recommended your books to me.”
I sat there on the couch with my laptop in my lap and stared at the screen. I looked up at my wife but she was engrossed in a television show and missed it. I went back to the conversation and continued to briefly talk books before the lasers and autocannons started flying and our robots were getting shot out from under us. All in all, it was a good game. And yes, I regularly get my butt kicked in that game. Or any online game these days – I don’t have time to practice and get good. That and I don’t have the reflexes of a thirteen year old anymore. Or an eighteen year old. Or twenty five. Or thirty. Or… well, you get the point.
I even had a decent sales day that day, selling over sixty books. The next day that same guy emailed me asking what book I’d recommend as a starter. That’s a tough question and it required a very long email in response. I saved it though, because I get asked that fairly often. In fact, I’m going to post it as a blog sometime soon. Ironically enough, another person on a message board from the same game ran into me in the game the next day and said he’d read my profile and checked me out. He was impressed with all the books and good reviews / comments on them. Back to back confirmation, how cool is that?
But a clap on the back doesn’t pay the bills, and that became apparent when yesterday turned out to be my worst sales day since early 2012. Not sure what the deal is with that, but I really hope it doesn’t happen again! My response is to keep writing like crazy and get as much going as I can. My books are languishing a bit at the moment while I’m helping my wife with her new paranormal romance serial novel (Claimed by the Beast). We’re on part four of many (5, 6, or 7) right now, but I may take a break from helping and work on a new Voidhawk or Vitalis book next.
But back to the original point – my minor celebrity moment tickled my all night and into the next day. Very cool stuff, I have to say, but like I mentioned above, praise and recognition doesn’t pay the bills. Remember that, my writing friends. Hard work and dedication is what it takes to succeed and make a change.
I spent a week in Florida recently in a hotel on Daytona beach. Beautiful hotel, beautiful ocean, beautiful beach. You get the idea. Anyhow, I was blessed with some waves coming in from some mild storms that happened a few days and happened to see several people surfing on them. I was clueless as to how to surf, but I decided I want to learn how someday. The rest of this post, however, has nothing to do with the ocean or with surfboards or the ocean, for that matter.
It’s really about the changing tides writers must deal with when it comes to book sales. And by writers I mean me – I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’d wager other people have similar experiences. Right now, for me, the ocean of book sales is calm. Calm, by the way, is not always a good thing. By calm I mean very little movement, or maybe only the little swells best used by someone with a boogie board.
Back in February my books started taking off. I’d already grown disillusioned with KDP select so I wasn’t using it much at all. Instead I just focused on writing and releasing books. My daily sales grew at a rate that astonished and thrilled me! I climbed from 30 books a day to 50 and then by the time March was in full swing I was nearing 100. April saw my sales climbing to 200 on a daily basis, and in May I’m not sure I had a single day under 200, with many breaking 300. I was in the zone and loving it! Now it’s June, and suddenly things have changed. I say suddenly because it’s been just like that. Over the last week my sales have tanked. I was amazed (in a good way) to see I still broke 100 yesterday.
So WTF happened? I’m still writing and releasing more books as rapidly as my fingers and editors will allow, yet the sales have dropped. This is interfering with my kids college plans, not to mention my own desire to write full time. Can I blame Amazon for tweaking their algorithms yet again? My guess is that there is something along those lines behind the drop in sales. Frankly, I can’t imagine anything else causing a drop so severe. I could shake my fist at Amazon and beg them to bring back the old formula, but I might as well stand and curse at the ocean for a still day.
As a creative and driven guy, it’s easy to see that wallowing in self-pity isn’t going to fix the problem. Action begets action! The answer then is to push forward. I’ve been fortunate to have experienced the successes that I have thus far. I’ve sold thousands of books (and given away tens of thousands), but I desire to sell hundreds of thousands more. Sure, maybe I’m greedy, but I’m a very thankful kind of greedy!
My plan, in case you haven’t figured it out, is to weather the storm. Keep writing and publishing. Perhaps I’ll stay in becalmed waters, but the more material I have available, the more people it will reach and the more word will spread. It might be slow, but it beats climbing out of the surf altogether. Long term success in this field, I believe, comes from perseverance and in having a large library for readers to choose from. I’m branching out into different genres and trying many different things, all geared at broadening my offerings. It may not be a big help, but I guarantee it’s not going to hurt me. And at the end of the day, every book sold is a exactly that, a book sold.
So my fellow writers, take heart if you don’t see things taking off as you’d like them too. You may never ride a massive wave, but as long as you keep trying you should have some level of success that makes it worth it. And for my readers – thank you so very much for reading and enjoying what I’ve done thus far. Take heart from this that I will continue to write and continue the stories you’ve loved, as well as attempt to introduce you to new stories and new characters that are also deserving of your love.
And my apologies for the excessive use of oceanic metaphors and allusions. No dolphins or other marine life were harmed in the creation of this blog post.
To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.
But clearly, I suck at giving advice (otherwise you wouldn’t have read this far). For this brave enough to continue, here’s the reason for this unusual blog post: a Twitter friend who shall remain nameless, opined that they have been growing restless with their life. Oh, they’re not thinking of trying a different life or anything crazy, just tired of the daily grind and wanting to reach out for their dreams.
For the record, I don’t consider myself qualified in this area to offer up much of an opinion. When it comes to many things computer or IT related then yes, I’m one of many experts in the field capable of offering up reliable opinions. The same applies with weightlifting, personal training, and nutrition. The problem is that there are many experts in such fields, and even among those of us who have proven results to back their claims up our opinions vary. So advice is just that, somebody else’s opinion. In some things it can be more useful than others (e.g. which TV is better vs. which sofa is more comfortable).
Now back to the Twitter dilemma. I was accused of being one of those people who is following my dreams. That made me smile and filled me with a touch of warm fuzziness (not the moldy kind either). Then I thought more about the things I do and I had to chuckle. Who dreams of working the equivalent of four jobs, going to grad school, maintaining a happy family, and training for an obsessive and demanding hobby that can easily lead to personal injury? Not me! I dream of being successful and able to relax a bit, so I work my ass off in the process of getting there. What is the definition of successful to me? Being relatively bill free with a stable and comfortable income, along with a similarly stable and comfortable home / family life. And doing all of that with a day job that does not intrude unnecessarily on the fragile tranquility of the rest of it. And to have laser vision.
Okay, I made the last part up.
Seriously though, my books are slowly inching up every month in sales. Although at their present climb it may be a decade or more before I’m able to consider it a retirement income, let alone FU money. I’m constantly trying new things though, from launching other backlisted stories under a pen name (part of that experiment is not letting anyone know the identity of said pen name, so you won’t hear it from me) to trying to game the rankings system at Amazon a bit. As a matter of fact, for anybody still reading this if you want to help a brother out and use the social networking tool of your choice to post about Voidhawk, Wanted, and New Beginnings / Vitalis being a series written by yours truly, I’d be terribly grateful. Of course if it’s easier to just go and buy the books that’s a great substitute as well. Did I mention how useful reader reviews are on the Amazon page?
Okay, enough pandering from me, back to my troubled friend. They want a change, and seeing punks like me pushing for my dreams even with the heavy load I’ve got going on they think it might be possible, they just aren’t sure what it is to do or what they want. Changing careers or going after a new degree is no decision to take lightly. I’d considered continuing school myself after my MBA – and get this, for either something in the medical or pharmacology field. Yeah, crazy. I’m pretty sure I’m over that now.
My advice is to figure out what’s missing or wrong. I’ve gone through some overwhelming personal changes in my life and I’ve seen a few others do that as well (including my amazing wife). It’s definitely not an easy road, but with perseverance it can be very rewarding. The only thing that is certain is that 100% of ventures not attempted will fail. The tricky part, as I’ve discovered, is making sure that any new project is not undertaken at the expense of existing facets of life. Easier said than done, eh? That’s where communication comes in, as well as having a decent support network.
Lacking that, it’s time for more drastic changes. After all, who wants to be surrounded by people that don’t understand you or aren’t supporting of you?