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Launching Your Book Off Right

How to improve your work's chances in that big, cruel world.

Sarah Hoyt


December 7, 2013 - 10:00 am
Indie publishing is still a strange world and sometimes we're not absolutely sure what works and what fails to work -- or why.

Indie publishing is still a strange world and sometimes we’re not absolutely sure what works and what fails to work — or why.

Most of the time there really is no answer. I’ve now put out – indie – a couple dozen short stories, a few collections and half a dozen novels. Nothing – nothing – in the world can explain what sells and what doesn’t.  If someone can come up with a good formula to explain it, the person will become a millionaire overnight.

The surprises are not just in the negative.  My son, Robert Hoyt, has now made enough money off a trunk short story  — Bite One, which features vampire shopping carts, (yes, you DID read that right.  Vampire shopping carts.  Yes, I AM the sane one in this family) — to rival some of the traditional publisher advances for novels.  Most of the sales are to England, and every time we think that surely everyone with an e-reader in Great Britain owns a copy of this story, it starts selling again.

I also have a friend whose fifth indie-released novel, after a year and a half of being out and available, suddenly made eight thousand dollars (just about) and then went back to selling in the hundreds of dollars.

I think most of the reason for that is that the ebook market is so wide and so widely distributed that there is no way of guessing it, and also because the main form of promotion that works is word of mouth, it all depends on your breaking into “pockets” of people who will like the story.

I’m not sure, for instance, what it is with Robert’s story, except that it must be a joke we don’t get yet.

Of course no author ever complains of unexpected sales. They might be as puzzled as I am about the continuing sales of Magician’s Throne and Dragon’s Blood – two minor, early short stories that, in retrospect, are incredibly flawed – but they won’t complain.

However, if you have ten or twenty short stories, or novels, or whatever it is you produce out there, and you’re selling maybe a copy a month, you’re going to worry. And if you keep working and working and the sales don’t improve, I imagine the experience will be as deadening as what I went through with traditional publishing in the “bad old days.”

Which is why I’m going to give you some tips that should help improve your ability to sell.

Mind you, this isn’t guaranteed.  I – of course – do all of this, and yet, sometimes things don’t sell that I expect to sell, and things sell that leave me baffled. (Of course, I do all of this now, I haven’t gone back to fix the early stuff.)

However, if you follow these things they should improve your sales. They seem to improve mine.

First, and most important and I can’t repeat this enough: the best way to improve the sales of any one story is to have more than one story out there.

Look, remember what I said about the market being so huge and the only effective way of promoting your book being word of mouth?

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Thanks for this article, Sarah. I write non-fiction, but can already see ways to apply your advice to my situation.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
-- Back when I was doing only traditional publishing, or as I call it non-Baen publishing (since of all my traditional publishers Baen is the only one I continue to work with because they aren’t like the others) the process often resembled taking your infant and feeding him to the volcano god. --

Bless you, Sarah, that gave me the biggest belly laugh I've had in decades. And all your subsequent points strike me as inarguable.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Okay, sinus? Gargle with warm water, spit, repeat. Do this for about twenty minutes. You don't really need salt water, unless you like it, at the first few times. The first few spits clear out the obvious gunk. Then the less obvious gunk starts sliding down into the now clear area. Then you gargle and spit that out. Over about twenty to thirty minutes of this you can clear out most of your sinuses' back end, and clear out your ears. You can even clear out the plug of bacteria that's driving all the infection- you'll see it- it'll look like an egg yolk or a green pencil eraser, or something memorably bacterial and revolting. It just takes time.

And, second, if you know it's something bacterial-ish, a shot of three drops of oregano oil swirled in a shot glass of water kills strep bacteria on contact. it tastes like rat poison, it blisters skin if it's not diluted, but it works. It works nigh instantly, too. So, if in two days it hasn't helped, stop. Like, don't keep going- you might be enabling something viral. But if it's bacterial- it works.

I read it in a checkout stand magazine, tried it against strep- worked wonders. I also took too much, and sweated oregano for a day and had a weeping lesion on my skin for a few days- really, three drops, not ten or twenty- and I was breathing oregano fumes for 24 hours- which cleared up my lungs- but I didn't get strep, which my husband and son had already been diagnosed with- and had wiped out the budget for the month buying antibiotics.

The husband now uses it more than me, the kids use it, my world-travelling friend packs a bottle and uses it prophylactically- he says these are the first years of his life where he didn't get intestinal distress in third world countries--my dad uses it- and there's now a hospital where the office staff and doctors use it- but prescribe antibiotics to the people who come in with strep throat.

IOW- get better soon. You sound miserable. I'm looking forward to your many articles, since I've really liked your articles up to this point.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Write what people want to read.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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