It's been about a year since I published my first book, so here are my thoughts on the past year so far....
First Few Months
When I started my quest into the literary world, I came in with reserved expectations. I thought maybe I'd sell a book or two a month and that's about it. And honestly, for the first few months, it was pretty much like that. Sales were slow. I think it was because I still had an old mindset and was banking on the paperback more than investing in the power of e-books. But during those few months, I noticed that of the few sales I had, it was mainly in e-books, so I decided that it was a new and growing market.
I would lie if I didn't say that the slow movement wasn't discouraging. Ever since I was a teenager, I wanted to publish a book. I thought writing it was the hard part, and that when I published it, someone, ANYONE, would take a stab at it, especially when it was priced at 2.99. Yeah, in reality, that's not the case. I didn't have many expectations, but I had some, and if I wanted to get the ball rolling, I had to have reality in check.
First things first, I needed to get book two out. Book 1 itself was already hard to market. The concept is a bit 'out there' and there are some things in the book that are pretty divisive for readers (multiple first person POV's, jumping timelines, repeating scenes from different POV's). The reviews pretty much point that out. I think the plot and the world I set up is imaginative, but it wouldn't really go anywhere if I didn't have more. The book itself is not a good stand alone novel because of the mechanisms I use, and I realize that.
Luckily for me, I had finished a lot of novel 2 by the time I published 1. A few months later, Volume 2: Horus was released with not much fan fare.
March and After
At that point, sales were still slow, and I realized one hard fact: the average person doesn't read that much, and if they do, they probably weren't interested in what you're writing. I couldn't rely on people I knew solely to spread the word and generate sales. I needed to branch outside of my circle. That was the only way to generate real buzz, to attract real readers
I started investing time and money into ads, attacking specific sites that catered to my target audience. I tried to maintain a resonable budget, always considering if the investment would return. My initial results were once again unfruitful. I felt like I was wasting time and money on frivilous endeavors. But through trial and error, I was able to find a method that worked somewhat. I took note of which ads were effective and which weren't. Over the course of the summer, I was able to grind it out to finally get what I desired: consistency. At that point, I was averaging a sale on Volume 2 a day, and Volume 1 downloads were flowing.
At that time, I was proud of what I was able to do. I grinded it out and worked hard for rewards that, though wasn't going to make me quit my job, was satisfying because I earned it. I've worked far harder on promotion than I ever did on writing.
Back to Decline
At this point, one year later, things are slowly leveling out. Sales on Volume 2 aren't consistent, and free downloads on Volume 1 are lessening. I'm hoping that at this point, I've garnered some fans of my series, and that they'll be interested in Volume 3. But I'm cautious on having high expectations. The higher they are, the more disappointed you will be.
The greatest struggle has always been attracting new readers and hoping they'll latch on to what you're writing. I'm a one man show, and sometimes I feel buried under self doubt. Is anyone actually reading my work? Am I wasting my time? I've learned the life of a writer is a constant struggle for self validation.
Overall, it's hard to rate whether I feel like my foray into writing has been successful. Some say that writing a novel is already successful enough, but I disagree. Perhaps it's the ambitious part of me that thinks any schmo can write a novel, but only good authors can write good novels.
Yet, what defines a good novel? Is it the sales? Is it the reviews? It's hard to say really. With the inconsistent sales, sometimes I end up second guessing myself. I think "if I was decent author, it would reflect in the numbers." But I guess at this point, I don't care. I feel my series has a good story in the end, and for those who have enjoyed it, whether it's a handful or hundreds, I will keep writing. I'm at the halfway point in my series, but I feel I'm just at the beginning.