I sold an ebook today 2


I sold an ebook today

I sold an ebook today. Just the one. For seventy-nine pee. Woo… ahhm, hoo.

Okay, hear me out. I spent eight years chiselling that mother from a lump of granite called my life. When I released it in November 2012 it was the culmination of a lifetime’s ambition. Ever since I first learned to read I’ve been a devourer of books. In my day job I’ve been writing marketing copy for the best part of twenty years. I have an MA in Creative Writing. I was proud to have finally nailed a proper book, a collection of fine poetry and short stories. A book that if I achieve nothing else in life my son might one day look back and say hey, you know what, my dad did that.

Like most writers who’ve published an ebook, I’m learning fast. The first thing I’ve learned is this. Writing a book is the easy part. Unlike their printed brethren which bask in a publisher’s marketing and have a tangible, browsable life on the shelves, an ebook is a stone thrown into a vast and fathomless ocean. Within seconds it sinks out of sight, submerged beneath the millions of other ebooks gushing out every day. And there it will stay for all of time, at the bottom of the sea. The Titanic of books. If nobody knows it’s there, nobody is going to search for it. If nobody searches for it, nobody will ever know it’s there. Basically, unless you’re already a famous author, actress, sports star, or reformed murderer, you’re screwed. You could say it was a real eureka moment I had. Ohhhhhhhhhhh shit.

It was at this point that the words of all the epublishing experts I’d read started beeping and flashing somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind. All that stuff about how crucial social media was going to be, that I’d need to ‘build a platform’ first, ‘gain some traction’, ‘grow my profile’, ‘write a sequel’, ‘leverage the virality of the internet’, and all those other buzz phrases. I’d set up my blog and Twitter page, but so had everyone else. There seemed to be a million author blogs and Twitter accounts, all shouting louder than me, posting and tweeting a billion times an hour, 24/7, 365. Somehow I’d hoped I’d just put my book out there and the whole world would magically know it was there and flock to buy it. Nothing had prepared me for the booming silences, the zero sum of interest, the utter invisibility of half my life’s work, in the days and weeks that followed.

As I sat there over Christmas watching my Amazon and Smashwords stats flat-lining, I realised this was going to be much harder than I thought. As one does in times of crisis, I began doubting everything about the book. The quality of the writing. The choice of subject matter. I especially worried that the title (Sex on the Brain: Poems and Stories for Men), and the cover image (of a woman’s midriff in sexy lingerie) might have shot me in the metatarsal. Had I in fact alienated the very readers I hoped would buy it?

The cover image had been chosen not without a little irony.To a casual browser I have to admit it did shout erotica. And there’s a lot of that about. Dreadful, vacuous erotica, so formulaic it depresses the hell out of me. Let me say straight out that my book is not erotica. I have nothing against erotica. There are some really good erotic authors out there, writing some inventive and thought-provoking stuff, but they are in the minority. The majority are bandwagon-jumpers, pumping out salacious garbage to make a fast buck. When E. L. James wrote Fifty Shades of Grey it may not have been a contender for the Booker Prize but it was competently written, had a semblance of a story and characters who weren’t just a collection of body parts. When you compare Fifty Shades to the oceans, the waterfalls, the torrents of cheap trashy imitations it seems to have spawned, it’s practically a candidate for the Nobel.

One of my main goals as a writer is to try and make people laugh. I’m not saying that’s the only goal of fiction, or even the most important one. But god knows the world is a grim enough place. There are worse things a person can do than put a smile on someone’s face. Good fiction should stimulate the mind and the laughter gene, not just the genitals.

But here I am, three months in, still struggling to raise the book from the depths of the ocean floor. Finally I’ve had to swallow my pencil and start tweeting. Hesitantly, haltingly, and posting blog posts like this one. It all seems so painfully slow. What I’m learning, in baby steps, is that to be a writer in the 21st Century is like at no other time in history. The internet has changed the publishing landscape forever. No longer is it sufficient to be a great writer. Nowadays one must be a great self-publicist too, a great marketer, tweeter, blogger, poster. An egotistical attention seeker.  Many of these attributes don’t sit comfortably with the writer. In previous centuries all we had to care about was our craft. We let our books do the talking. But the rules have changed. And anyone just starting out had better get used to it. Multi-tasking is the new writing.

I know it’s going to be a long haul but look, my book’s out there. That’s a start. I wrote it, I published it. And I think it’s good. Nobody’s found it yet, but that’s okay, they will. In time. Hopefully posts like this will help, if only a tiny bit. Each small step gets you closer to your destination, right?

Wanna know something else? Today when I logged onto my Amazon account, instead of the big blank rows and empty columns I normally see, there was a big fat ONE in the sales column for this month.

I’d sold a book.

For seventy nine pee.

Someone had taken the time to have a peek inside, then bought it, with their own hard-earned. I didn’t know how they’d found me, who they were, or where they’d come from, but it felt as though someone had reached out and given me a big hug.

I tried to picture them with a conspiratorial smile on their face, lying on a sofa with a kindle propped on their knees, occasionally laughing aloud at the stories and poems I’d written. They might have been in Brazil for all I knew, Finland, Australia or the other side of the moon, I didn’t care. Young or old, male or female, it didn’t matter. All I knew was some blessed soul had liked my book enough to want their own copy, and that made me feel a foot taller for a whole day. That single moment epitomised for me the magic of why writers write, baring our innermost soul to millions of strangers, hoping our thought-seeds one day land on fertile soil and bear fruit, from where friends will spring up.

I sold an ebook today. Just the one. For seventy nine pee. In case you hadn’t realised, it was never about the money. My joy would have been the same had it been seventy nine million sales. That one tiny act of companionship probably meant more to me than the thousands of dollars every best-selling author made today. Would I swap places? I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t one day like to be a famous writer. A million adoring readers is better than one, right? But that doesn’t mean I feel any the less richer in the pleasure my one reader has given me, on this leaden-skied February day.

Right now I feel as if I will feast on this feeling all week. For months if necessary, knowing that my readers are out there. They just haven’t found me yet. But they will. And for every one of them that does, I’ll feel blessed, as though I have made a new friend. As Joe Konrath said in a recent inspirational blog post, “Good books will find their audience. Ebooks are forever, and that’s a long time. Keep at it.”

Now, I’d better get back to being a bad-ass writer, all this waxing lyrical is ruining my image.

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2 thoughts on “I sold an ebook today

  • Miss OMG

    Hey there!

    Although I am actually a humorist, I’m going to get serious with you. This article truly spoke to me! It was as though you crawled inside my brain and wrote the thoughts that have been running through my mind since I published my book, Looking for B.O.B. (BrightSide of Bull$#!+) Every Day.

    I could totally relate to the book being easier to write than all the marketing that goes behind selling it. And I have a background in Public Relations and Marketing! Very humbling, for sure. I, too, now wonder if my book’s title was too crass. But bloody hell, I censored it! Right? I say open it and give it a whirl.

    I think that you and I are actually more rare authors. I’m intrigued to read your book because I don’t know of anyone out there that writes like you…and I like that idea! I, on the other hand, write like the late great Erma Bombeck. Well, no one writes like her anymore, and the newer generations do not even know who she is to even understand the likening. So I get it.

    I also get the reference to the blog and Twitter and all the SM marketing tools expected to be used by today’s authors. It can be very overwhelming at times. But that’s when I remember a saying I heard awhile back, “Everybody has their Mt. Everest. Take small steps, and before you know it, you will be on the top of your mountain.”

    I wish you the best…and if you want to collaborate, I’m just a PM away!

    Best wishes,

    Michele “Miss OMG” Giacomini

    • Frank Post author

      Hey Michele

      Thanks for the great comment. Sounds like we’re coming from the same place as writers, ploughing a solitary furrow because selling out to trendy genres, whatever happens to be flavour of the year, really sucks.

      All we can do is write the stuff that’s in us, as good as we can. Take those small steps you talk about and who knows, one day. It would be nice to make a living out of it one day, but that seems to be a crap shoot. There’s some great writers who’ve never made a sou and plenty of rubbish ones who’ve sold millions. So I assume it’ll never happen, which frees me up to write what I like.

      Glad you like my stuff, I’ve not checked out yours yet but I’ll hop onto Amazon and have a look.

      Happy to stay in touch and I wish you all the best with your writing too.

      Cheers

      Frank