So, not shockingly given how much better this giveaway did than the others, I am actually seeing some benefits after having switched back to paid: I'm #19 on the science fiction: series paid bestseller list, which just barely puts me on that all-important front page.
I've also dropped the price to 99 cents, for two reasons. Reason number 1: I still plan to make the book free. Reason number 2: People have suggested that, if you do have a good response to your free days, dropping the price can keep the momentum going.
My previous experiment with the 99-cent price point was a bust, but this time around (when I have more reviews and better placement on the bestseller lists), it's working like a charm--I haven't gone through the old sales reports to do an exact count, but in all likelihood I've sold more copies of Trang today than I did in 2011 and 2012 combined. Of course it's impossible for me to know if I'm really making more money this way than if I'd kept the price up and took the higher royalty, but since I'm planning to make Trang free anyway, I'm OK with making 35 cents a sale if it keeps the book on the front page.
So that's all very nice for me. But I think it points to some larger lessons for all indie writers, which I shall patronizingly spell out in a numbered list because I've got a really big head right now:
1. Prepare. A lot of the stuff I did, like backmatter links, targeting the cover and description, getting into the right Amazon categories, and getting reviews did NOT pay off immediately. Clearly, it was still worth doing, because it's paying off now. (OK, it's not paying off in a financial sense yet--I still have a long way to go before I break even. But you have to crawl before you can run, and the momentum is definitely in the right direction.)
2. Experiment. Do we need to go over how much money I've wasted on marketing that did not work? It's embarrassing when that happens, and if you're me and you know you don't know much about marketing, it makes you feel like this is something you'll never really get a handle on. But if I hadn't been persistent with BookBub (and it took two tries), I wouldn't have had such a successful giveaway. And I doubt that I wouldn't have gotten into BookBub in the first place without all the work I did earlier to get reviews, have a good description, have a targeted cover, etc.
3. Believe. Recently Edward Robertson did a post on giveaways in which he says, Oh, you should be getting thousands of downloads. Which, I didn't before. But the important caveat there is that if you get your book on one of the free book sites you should get thousands of downloads. And you know, once I did, I did.
It can be hard to hear stuff by people who are better established and are saying things like, Oh, just get your book on Pixel of Ink (can't, sorry); or, Just make your book 99 cents (didn't work); or, Don't market. They're trying to be helpful, but when what works for them doesn't work for you--or doesn't work to a level that they would deem acceptable--it can make you feel like a big old loser who has written a crap book.
But there are still differences in the playing field, even on Amazon, even with e-books. Someone with a 20-year career as a novelist behind them is simply going to have an easier time finding readers. Amazon is going to help you a lot more if you've sold 20,000 copies than if you've sold 20.
It's hard starting from zero. But it doesn't mean you wrote a bad book. It doesn't that your book lacks potential. It just means that...it's hard starting from zero. True in any career.
4. Persist. Always the bottom line for writers, right? You can't win if you don't play.