9.23.2011

Allison M. Dickson: Amazon Top Seller? For Real?

As of this writing, my short story Under the Scotch Broom has just topped 4000 downloads on Amazon since yesterday. It's also currently the #1 download in the Top 100 Science Fiction and just dropped to #2 in the Top 100 Free short stories (it had been #1). It's currently #49 overall in the Free category.

You might be asking how this happened, and you wouldn't be alone. I check my figures at Amazon every morning. Usually, the results aren't surprising. Sales are steady enough but painfully slow, and I admit freely that it's because I haven't put a whole lot into marketing myself. I'm terrible at it. But as I've always said, my sales are usually in proportion to the amount of effort I put into selling my own work.

Yesterday, however, something changed. When I logged into Kindle Direct, I noticed an increase in sales across all my titles. But none more so than for Under the Scotch Broom. For the first time ever, I was staring at a 4-digit number in the sales column. At that time, it was something like 2847. The number has been increasing steadily by the minute. In the 18 hours since I've made this discovery, people have downloaded over 1200 more copies, and the number is climbing by the minute.

But at first, I refused to believe it. I stared at that number for a few minutes, not reacting. I glanced back and forth between the number and the sales column. Number, sales column. Sales column, number. Clearly this was a mistake. Why this story? Why that many downloads? It just didn't make any sense.

Then I went to the product page and understood at least a little more. Amazon had marked my $.99 download to Free.

Now before you get all pissed off on my behalf, let me explain a few things.

1. Under the Scotch Broom has been a free title on Smashwords since July. I did that on purpose. I firmly believe in offering a free title as a means of self-promotion. And it's worked somewhat successfully. People have read the story and have positively reviewed it.

2. I wanted to offer the story free on Kindle as well, but Amazon does not as of yet allow authors to price their wares below $.99. The only caveat is that Amazon, per their Terms of Service, reserves the right to price your story to match the competition. So if it sees, for instance, that you have a story offered cheaper elsewhere online, it will adjust its prices to match or beat that price. At any rate, Amazon finally got the memo on Under the Scotch Broom, because it's now free. And that's when the downloads started happening.

Of course, this only explains why Under the Scotch Broom is free. What it doesn't explain is why so many people are downloading it at the rate they are (4030 as of the last refresh). There are hundreds if not thousands of free ebooks available on Amazon. Amazon is the largest bookseller in the world. I considered it a huge feat when I cracked the Top 25 on Smashwords during the Summer Sale, when my sales were a tenth of what I'm seeing here. My brain almost refuses to believe it.

There are a lot of possible avenues this could take me. My work on Amazon in general will be more visible. But I still want to know why! Why this story? Why now? Under the Scotch Broom was the first ebook I ever put up for sale. The cover isn't up to my current standards, and I'm sure the formatting isn't great either. It was originally intended to be an experiment in how to use Kindle Direct Publishing. I never really expected people would download the thing en masse, whether it was free or a buck. Aria is another free Smashwords title that Amazon could mark down any day now, so I'll be watching that one closely.

I'm expecting at any moment for the ride to stop, and that all of this will be revealed as an extended dream sequence fueled by painkillers following my gallbladder surgery earlier this week. And even if this is for real, is it possible that people will want to come and buy my other work if Under the Scotch Broom does it for them? I can only hope so, but I've learned to remain extremely cautious in my optimism. Maybe what will really happen is that everyone will see me for the hack I am and they'll all be avoiding my work from now on.

I can't escape the certainty that I'm not worthy. Just when I thought I was over my Impostor Syndrome, it rears its ugly head once again. I'm more afraid of success than I am of failure. Last night, I dreamed that everyone wrote horrible reviews about my work. There is a price that comes with increased visibility. It's the one where people will finally see you for the crackpot you truly are, or where after you've climbed high enough, people will start rooting for you to fall. For now at least, I can't hide behind the ocean of other hopefuls.

But enough of my paranoia. I'll just focus on the positive and let the rest play out on its own. For now, I'll keep repeating to myself that one MY stories made it as a Top Download on mother-freakin AMAZON (4059 downloads now)!

 I know, right?

1 comment:

  1. If I had a bouquet of red roses to cyber give you right NOW I'd do it. You deserve every single bit of this. It's about time that the collective readers of the world finally saw what they've been missing out on. You go. You're FLYING:)

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