I've always loved the idea of science, but I've never been good at doing anything with it. The only science fair project I can recall putting together was a little dude made out of paperclips who was supposed to "dance" when you waved electrodes around his wee metal arms and legs. I tried to power it with a corroded old lantern battery I found in the garage, so the guy did a lot of dangling and not so much (O.K., no) dancing. (I didn't bother testing the battery before the science fair. What can I say? I was in sixth grade. And I was dumb.) Maybe science is too left brain for a dreamy right-brainer like myself. Or is logic a right brain thing? I can't remember.
SEE WHAT I MEAN!!! Albert Einstein I am not. (Though I am rocking some great bushy hair these days. There the similarities end.)
Still, I've been conducting a lot of experiments over the last two years. But not the kind that require a lab coat and a secret facility full of rhesus monkeys. (I have a lab coat and a secret facility full of rhesus monkeys, of course, but those are just for fun.)
My question: Is it possible to sell enough self-published ebooks to avoid starvation?
My hypothesis: Yes.
My conclusion: Uhh, I dunno...but I think I just heard my stomach growl.
In other words, selling ebooks is a tough racket. Which is why I recently put a new twist on one of my experiments. I offered Cadaver in Chief free for three days. And it paid off handsomely...in data, if not dollars. I learned a lot. For instance:
People are wonderful, and I love you all! If a lot of folks hadn't been retweeting and sharing up a storm on Twitter and Facebook, the giveaway would have been a complete failure. Fortunately, dozens of friends helped spread the word, and the result was phenomenal. More than 1,800 people downloaded Cadaver in Chief the first day it was free! The book made it to #126 on the Amazon Free Books list! Unfortunately --
Momentum is a bitch. Fewer than 400 people downloaded the book the second day. The third day the tally was about the same. This was not what I expected. The higher the book went up the charts, I thought, the more it would be noticed. And the more it was noticed, the more it would be downloaded. But not so. My friends and I got the ball rolling the first day with a lot of shilling, but then we stopped...and the ball stopped, too. Because --
Shilling works. This is not a lesson I wanted to learn. I don't like tweeting and retweeting the same sales pitch all day. I don't like hitting people over the head with it on Facebook and in e-newsletters and on my blog. So I backed off. And, surprise surprise, I stopped getting the same results. It turns out there's a reason some writers make like Billy Mays 24/7, relentlessly hawking and hawking and hawking. Hawking and hawking and hawking pays.
Does that mean Ron Popeil and the ShamWow! guy are my new role models? No. I'm still me. Dreamy, unpractical, right brainy (or left brainy) me. I managed to reach almost 2,500 new readers through the Cadaver in Chief giveaway, and that wouldn't have happened without a lot of good will and good friends. So I'm not going to piss those blessings away with a never-ending self-promotion blitz. If that means I have to change my hypothesis above from "Yes" to "No"...well, so be it. I yam what I yam.
But hey -- the experiments aren't over yet. There's still the biggest lesson of all to mull over. The one I've been thinking about for a long, long time now.
Give the people what they want.