All right. Things have finished falling out after my first Amazon sale, and overall, I’m still happy.
I was correct. Those “sales” on noverank in the first days definitely seemed to be false positives, caused by the rate of fall, not by actual new sales. Or rather it might be more accurate to say they were corrections, adding in books moved during the countdown sale after the fact.
Tuesday my rank stopped dropping. Wednesday, I had a small number of sales, Thursday and Friday, that doubled. It dropped over the weekend again. It seems to have leveled with my rank right around 25k.
I think I’m going to be happy about that. I know that this is something many writers struggle with. Hell, lots of people struggle with it in general, and I don’t want this to turn into a statement on psychology or depression or disappointment or unrealistic expectations. We all have arrows in our quiver we can use when dealing with the business. Two arrows I am very glad to have are these:
1) I can find joy in a bad review, as long as they are not all bad.
2) I can reset my expectations and choose to be happy with something.
Don’t get me wrong, these are not bad numbers for a first book from a small publisher. I don’t have a whole lot of bragging contests with other writers, but I expect they are better than average. The publisher seems pleased. My acquisitions editor, who sees all the numbers from books he’s acquired, says I sold more copies in my first month than some books sell in their lifetime. I’m pretty sure at this point I’ve passed more sales than your average literary novel (though I won’t have firm confirmation of that for more than a month.) These numbers aren’t bad.
But I hang out with people like Dan Wells and Brandon Sanderson. Larry Correia gave me my cover quote. I know what really good numbers look like. It would be easy to fall into the trap of hating myself because my first book wasn’t a runaway success.
But I’ve been in the business long enough to learn to manage expectations. I know to add “In its first four months” to that statement about being a runaway success. I know that many people don’t buy first books from authors until their second books are out.
I’m a terrible salesman. I might have mentioned it. But the best thing I learned in a sale training seminar was to give yourself downtime. One salesman said that when something bad happened to him, he’d give him ten minutes. Ten minutes to be mad, or depressed, or to despair. Then he’s back on. It’s not a skill everyone has. Brain chemistry is tricky. Some people can’t stop despression. Some can’t let themselve fall into that trap or they’ll never get out. But I can do it and it’s a coping mechanism I’ve learned over years of disappointments and successess.
When I get a bad critique at writer’s group, I give up writing for good on the drive home. I let myself do that. I know that I’ll come to terms with the problem by the time I pull into my driveway and I’ll give myself permission to become a writer again. If it’s a bad problem and it take a long time, well, I have a long drive.
When my mother had cancer, that was the worst, because I had no one I could be weak in front of. So I would take my down time in the middle of the night, when she was asleep, when I could cry or rail and despair and no one could see.
When a relationship doesn’t work out, I spend downtime proportional to the length of the relationship. When I get a bad review I roll with the punch and then laugh about it.
This blog post has turned into something else.
Which is funny, because as I said, I’m pretty sure the sales are above average. But I still needed to take my downtime and I think I’ve hit something here that needs to be said.
I can’t help you find your coping mechanisms. Some people can never let themselves read reviews. Some people can never let themselves check sales numbers. Your first book, your first sale, will be a learning experience. I’m lucky in that I’ve had oh so many RPG books out and I’ve learned what tools I have and what tools I don’t.
You’re going to make mistakes learning what tools you have and do things that destroy you. Make sure it’s only temporary. You’re going to need friends and family to get you through. You’re going to need to learn who you are and how you cope. When you do something that really messes you up, don’t do that again. That’s not your tool. Find another. Learn your limitations.
There isn’t a writer alive that doesn’t have to deal with disappointment. You think Andy Weir isn’t terrified about what’s going to happen with whatever book he writes AFTER The Martian? You think JK Rowling was delighted with the sales of her first detective novel, before her identity “leaked” to the public? You think Brandon Sanderson didn’t have books where he said, “Well, that wasn’t well-received.”
My disappointment with my first countdown sale was inevitable. I knew it was inevitable. I have big hopes. The odds against my first sale meeting them were astronomical. I knew that going in and I was ready. Understand that. Prepare for that.
Being a successful writer is about being successful. It’s about being unsuccessful successfully. Almost no one wins the first try, and those that do will fail later. Everyone fails. Let’s say that again.
The trick is to fail up.
Not that this was a failure. I’m happy with it. But I could have turned it into a disaster in my mind. And that’s the other lesson. Don’t turn wins into losses. Don’t compare yourself to others in ways that aren’t healthy. Figure out the method that works for you and own it.
Don’t just fail up. Succeed up.
Now I sound like a self-help book. So I’ll stop.
[Originally posted at: http://www.robertjdefendi.com/main/2016/9/21/your-first-amazon-sale-one-week-later-your-first-published-novel-part-28]
The next installment awaits...Slouching Towards Amazon: LTUE Post Mortem