With a Personal Story…
I wrote a novel for fun back in January of 2014 called KILL GAME: A Cold Poker Gang Novel. It came out in Smith’s Monthly in March and then as a stand-alone novel in May of 2014. It sold very few copies, maybe three or four a month, maybe. (That’s what I have been told.)
Then in November my creative voice said “Write another.” I did, a book called COLD CALL: A Cold Poker Gang Novel. Again it was in Smith’s Monthly and out stand-alone a month or so later. Sold very few copies, maybe three or four a month. I did not care and paid no attention, as I suggested last night that writers do. I was having fun writing mysteries. I am not known as a mystery writer, but I do write them at times over the years. And I have written my share of thrillers as well.
Then in February of 2015, I wrote another one called CALLING DEAD: A Cold Poker Gang Novel. I had set orders that no one was to tell me how many copies any of my books sold, and I flat didn’t care. I was just having fun with the writing. And then another in October called BAD BEAT: A Cold Poker Gang Novel.
I never once told anyone on my blog about them, did no promotion, and thankfully no one told me how few copies they were selling. Again, just having fun with the writing.
I did three more in 2016 and two more in late 2017, one of which made it to Smith’s Monthly before the pause. So nine books out in the same series, no one knew about them, no promotion, no sales. And I didn’t care. All I cared about was the fun of the writing. They were amazingly fun to write.
But as Kris and I started the move to Las Vegas in early 2018, Gwyneth at WMG asked if they could promote that last book I wrote that hadn’t been published yet and I was so busy and so worried about Kris’s health, I no longer cared. I said, “Do what you want.”
To be honest, I flat had no time to think about it.
So Gwyneth did some smaller bookbub like promotions for a time on Kill Game, the first book in the series, then managed to get a Bookbub for the first book. They put it free in the mystery category even though up to that point I had hated free for just about anything I wrote. (I have changed that opinion some in the last four years.)
I was so busy, if they told me any of this at that time, I paid no attention.
I continued to pay no attention and one morning Kris wakes me up and says my book was #1 on Amazon. I asked what book, she told me Kill Game and that it was #1 in the free listings.
I said, “That and ten bucks will get you a coffee at Starbucks.”
And I went back to sleep. It was free. All that meant to me was that I was going to get a ton of bad reviews and I didn’t care about that.
Hours later it was still #1 and the second book was starting to sell (the advantage of writing 40,000 word novels. Readers can read them faster.)
I shrugged and still flat didn’t care. The next morning it was still #1 and now not only was the second book jumping up the paid charts, but the third book as well. And everyone at WMG seemed to be excited but me.
Since we had not promoted these books for a lot of years, mystery readers didn’t know the books and the series was even there. Didn’t know that Star Trek writer Dean Wesley Smith could even write mystery novels.
The next day, somewhere in the middle of the day, after an amazing run at #1, it fell to #2 on the free charts. (The timing on this is just from my faulty memory. Kris seems to think it stayed at #1 longer.) And Cold Poker Gang books #2 and #3 had both hit #1 in science fiction and both were up high overall on Amazon.
Amazon, being very smart, saw the trend and bundled up #4 through #9 to make it easier for readers to buy them all at once, and that bundle was selling like crazy.
And two months later, the money started coming in. From not only Amazon, but all the sites. Let me just say this, wow did we make a lot of money on that. And the surge of money lasted far longer than six months.
And all the Cold Poker Gang novels are still selling well, and we made over $10,000 on a new Cold Poker Gang novel Kickstarter. That novel just came out.
THANK HEAVENS I never paid attention or cared about how a book or a series was selling. I never cared that the books weren’t selling for years. My measuring stick was the fun in the writing. And if WMG had done that promotion on book three instead of book #9, it would have failed. The fact that I had nine books in the series done gave readers who liked the book something to buy next. (You know, magic bakery thinking.)
So that is a personal story of me practicing what I preached in last night’s blog.
If you go back through the first 50 issues of Smith’s Monthly, you will find lots and lots of novels I wrote in the last eight years that you have never heard of or heard of the series. But I wrote them for fun and we just published them. And that is what I am going to keep doing.
I understand that many beginning writers just can’t understand this kind of thinking. They are in too much of a hurry, especially with all the baby indie writers shouting how you must promote and spend thousands to publish a book. I say write for fun, put it out as inexpensively as you can, and have fun writing the next book.
You just never know when something will break and make you more money than you can imagine.