The Phoenix of February

I know all of you are wondering how my January went.

And the answer is: not terrible, but not great.

I mean, I had plenty to do. Project S² is well underway. And January marked some great progress for it.

My finances and social life all saw material increases. I kept busy, on various projects. And I emerged a stronger, smarter, more capable author than when the month started.

But there was a fly in January’s ointment: my book sales tapered off. And for a short time, I was distressed.

Was the Honeymoon Period Over?

“Honeymoon”, by Midjourney

My book, Advent 9, released on October 19th last year. And it’s only natural for sales to slow down after a while. As January rolled in, I asked myself, “Is this as far as I can go right now?”

Now, I knew full well that I could reinvigorate the sales of Advent 9 simply by publishing another book. When Project S² launches (hopefully before the end of this year), Advent 9 will start getting attention again. The book marketing cycle is well documented across authors of any genre.

Still, I began to wonder if there wasn’t anything I could do to help my poor struggling book. Even my Amazon Ads weren’t being served as often. And, as a way of trying to improve the ad-serving process, I tried something truly radical.

I Created Book-Selling Software

Upon discovering that Amazon Ads have an API (which is like a special hookup that a user can connect their own software to) I created my own control panel for serving ads on Amazon.

The details are somewhat long and complicated, so I condensed the most important information into a video:

This software is designed to increase the efficiency of Amazon Ads by a few orders of magnitude. And it did improve my results in January…but not to the levels that I wanted.

Where had I gone wrong? Is it just a fact of life that a first book is going to languish until the next book is published? Will tricks to improve ad efficiency only work for established authors? Had everyone in the world simply stopped buying books or even clicking book ads? For the longest time, it seemed like the answer would elude me for as long as it took to publish more books.

But the answer was much simpler than I expected.

January Is Dead! Long Live February!

I kept my ad-management software running, just for the savings it generated. I tried coaxing it into spending more, in the hopes of generating more clicks, but often I simply couldn’t get more ads served, no matter how high I placed bids on potential clicks that never materialized.

At least I saved some money.

But a few days into February, the ads started to generate sales again. Some here, some there. Never much. And I thought, “Gee, I’m having a little bit of luck.”

I celebrated that luck with the same modesty it showed me.

However, this past week saw me attend LtUE: Life, the Universe, and Everything. This science fiction symposium serves the state of Utah and is beloved by many authors across the intermountain west. And not only did the convention net me quite a few sales (I moved half of my remaining physical inventory), but I noticed a drastic uptick in my Amazon sales during this period.

Were people at the convention buying my book online? No, the sales came largely from my Amazon ads. Most people at the symposium wanted a physical book and paid for the privilege. Only a few reported buying the digital or audio versions to my face.

Before long, I began to suspect the truth, but it was only confirmed to me after the convention’s last-day banquet started. I was lucky enough to be seated next to Joe Monson, who currently is Kickstarting a horror anthology (check it out). Having run a Kickstarter myself, we had much to discuss.

And when I mentioned the curious case of my ads suddenly blossoming, and their previous down time, he said to me,

“That’s just January. The entire month is a graveyard for sales.”

“The Dollar’s Grave”, by Midjourney

And, of course, I knew this was the case for other industries, like movies and video games. And I long suspected that the same applied to books, but my ego wouldn’t let me believe that the January slump wasn’t somehow my fault. The only way to alleviate that guilt was to write and code my way out of it.

Which, in a sense, made the whole ordeal worth it.

The Rising Tide

February has been good to me, and because I spent the downtime in January building software that can sell my books during hard times, I can now use that same software during good times.

And that is going to make me a force to be reckoned with.

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