In May 2014 when I was deep into marketing and promoting Perceval’s Secret, I wrote about success in a blog post entitled “What does ‘commercial success’ mean to you?” It’s been almost 2 years since I self-published that novel. Has it been a success? What about commercial success? Am I happy with where it is today? Do I still agree with what I wrote before?
Sales: The novel has not sold on Kobo International. I am thinking of taking it off that website, except it is an international website. Have the international Amazon sites been selling my novel? Not really. Only in English language countries. There have been minimal sales at Amazon US and B&N.com. Overall sales have been disappointing. Commercial success? No. I knew that it would be a major challenge. It’s my first novel. I’m not a household name. It takes a professional publicity campaign to get the kind of attention a first novelist needs to be a commercial success. I didn’t have the money to buy that kind of publicity.
Marketing/Promotion: I used AuthorBuzz for some promotion during the Summer 2014. While this campaign obtained some attention in the form of “clicks,” it didn’t translate into sales. I managed to secure book reviews in publications of groups of which I’m a member, and there were positive reviews at Amazon and at a couple blogs. I did a major mailing myself to 11 national American orchestras. I also created a public Facebook page. I promoted the book on Twitter. I continue to promote the book on Facebook, Twitter, and handing out postcards of the novel when the opportunity arises.
I had planned to do a major promotion push the first 6 six months of 2015, but major illness derailed that plan. As a result, I lost precious momentum. If I wasn’t working on promotion, there was none. This is an issue for writers who self-publish, unless they have the money to hire a publicist or marketer. I continue to seek out free promotion opportunities, especially online. If I’m honest with myself, I’d conclude that I’m not happy with the level of sales, with the marketing and promotion. I am also in considerable debt still because of production, publishing and promotion costs I incurred in 2014.
I now view success in two ways: commercial and personal. Commercial success is about sales. While Perceval’s Secret has not sold as well as I needed for it to sell, it did sell, and it did garner reviews at Amazon, all either “good” or “excellent.” What I need to do is build on this.
In terms of personal success, I’ve done better. First of all, I completed my first novel, worked with a professional editor and finished a publishable manuscript. Second, I worked with service providers to have a front cover for my e-book, to convert the manuscript into the two e-book formats, and then to secure ISBNs and copyright registration. Third, I published my novel as an e-book, selling it at Amazon, B&N.com, and Kobo International. I completed a marketing and promotion campaign during the summer of 2014. Now when people ask me if I’m published, I can say yes, and yes, the novel has sold. I continue to write fiction as well as promote my first novel. That is success.
Of course, I’ve also published nonfiction for the last two years, and I’ve been writing here since September 2007. I’ve been a published writer long before I published the novel. I consider that an important achievement even if other people don’t see it as I do because I’m not making money hand over fist. I think it’s important for writers to understand the difference between commercial success and personal success. I also believe that writers need to proceed with their eyes wide open, knowing that commercial success depends on elements they cannot control, only work hard to influence.
My goals for the Perceval series? I’d like to publish Perceval’s Secret as a paperback. I will do the revision/rewriting work necessary for Perceval’s Shadow, the second novel. I want to publish the second novel also, after putting it through a rigorous editing by a professional editor. And finally, I want to finish the last three novels in the Perceval series and publish them also. I’ve learned a lot from publishing Perceval’s Secret, but the weak commercial success is not stopping me from continuing to write.