During this holiday season, when many folks are looking back on what has transpired throughout the year, I thought it would be appropriate to share one way, in particular, that God has blessed me and my family. Though it’s not even close to being the most important blessing, it’s fun to think about the amazing journey He has led me through, and the others He has in store for each one of us.
It was an exciting time in late 2010, when I received the proof copy of The Awakened: A Wandering Stars Novel. Just to hold the official version of something I’d spent years creating was a thrilling experience. The next few months were spent obsessively checking my sales report to see if anyone would bother to read something I wrote. By the end of last year, I’d sold 48 copies, almost exclusively to friends and family. It wasn't exactly the wider audience I was hoping for, but I was still pleased.
2011 started slow. After selling only 8 copies in the first four months, the practical voice in my head began to tell me, “This writing thing has been fun, but now it’s time think about going back to school and focusing on your career.” Meanwhile, the side of me that prefers to think about less-practical things—the dreamer—whispered, “What about ebooks? Those are becoming popular.”
So, I started doing some reading. Then I began formatting The Awakened as an ebook. In April, I released my novel for this new platform. But after a couple weeks, it seemed that my writing was destined for the same outcome, regardless of format—to sell a few copies here and there. Again, the practical voice reminded me that I wasn't getting any younger.
But then I read a few success stories of ebook authors and I saw a common perspective among them. I’ll try to summarize that message here:
In a world flooded with products competing for our attention, why should anyone pay money for your book? Who are you? How do readers know that their money won’t be wasted? There is a threshold that a reader must cross when deciding to buy a book. For an established author, readers know what they are going to get and how much they are going to spend for that entertainment. For an unknown author, they don’t. So, the threshold has to be really low. Extremely low. FREE, if possible. You have to have something to give away so that people can get a taste for what to expect from you.
That’s when the light bulb went on! Though The Awakened was written as one novel, I wrote it in three parts. Each part wasn't exactly a stand-alone story, but it might still work. And the thought of giving the first part away for free—well, I wasn't exactly selling tons of books anyway. So, I gave it a shot.
By mid-May, I had electronic versions of Book One, Book Two, and Book Three for sale through Smashwords and Amazon. It took a little while to get Book One listed for free, as this wasn't a standard option for Amazon. But it was for Smashwords, and Amazon will price-match with competitors. So, I sent Amazon the link to the free version of Book One at Smashwords.
Then I waited.
A few days later, I woke up early on a weekend morning and checked my Amazon page for Book One. To my surprise, it was ranked at #1 in the Epic Fantasy genre for free ebooks. Confused, I checked my downloads/sales report. Instead of the single-digits I expected, I saw thousands of downloads.
And that’s when I started to get excited.
Since that day, Book One has remained at, or near, the top of the free Fantasy bestseller list on Amazon. And the visibility offered by this position has led to sales of Book Two and Book Three, as well as the full version in both print and ebook editions.
As of yesterday, the total number of downloads and sales for all versions of the Awakened, in all countries where they are available, was 120,887!
While the vast majority are free downloads of Book One, it is still mind-blowing to think that over a hundred thousand people throughout the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, are Spain, are holding some version of my novel. And now, readers are actually writing to me, telling me how much they enjoyed the story and can't wait to read its continuation.
While this would only be considered a modest success by some authors, I feel truly blessed!
I would like to thank everyone who has supported this “hobby” of mine. 2012 is going to be a fun year! My goal is to release two of the four prequels to The Awakened, and my hope is that they will be even more entertaining.
…see you next year.