Is Anyone Listening When I’m Not Here?

What would happen if you threw a party and no one came?

Do you ever feel like that in our world of indie writing and publishing? We continuously talk and promote our books through Twitter, Facebook and other sites. We talk about these things all the time on this site. Hell, I am one of the biggest proponents of social media. In fact, I earn the majority of my non-writing income now from helping companies set up and maintain social media sites and campaigns.

How necessary is it?

Sometimes you want to unplug. Get away from it all. Problem is, when I try to do that, this superconducting magnet called my iPhone or computer pulls me back. It’s tough during down time to get away from it all, at least for me.

So recently, powers out-of-my-control forced me from engaging in the majority of my online interaction. I just moved the family up the coast to Merritt Island, FL, right next to Cocoa Beach, you know, I Dream of Jeannie land? The Internet was supposed to be working the day we arrived. Ten days later, still no Internet.

This wasn’t the, “Ah, I’m on vacation,” type of no Internet, this was an out-of-my-control no-access type of no Internet. You know what? It was liberating—except for the fact that I earn my income through the Internet! My phone blew up trying to manage several social media campaigns for my clients. But, as for my own personal book marketing and social media interacting, I went to a complete zero (Just ask the fellow IUer’s here, they’ll tell ya.)

So, here’s what happened … nothing. I don’t mean that nothing happened in book sales, oh, that continued like usual. The Card managed to hang around in the Top 25 on the Kindle Bestseller list for its category; the paperback version sold better than it had in a while.

Go figure.

I guess this proves that all the time we waste promoting our stuff is worthless. Either that, or we hit a critical mass where the book takes on a life of its own. People who are buying my book actually want it! Amazing.

To test this theory, I took it a step further. I’ve always been a big fan of the “free” book day concept. Every time I’ve engaged in that marketing initiative, I’ve had great returns and I get a bump from that for a week or two after—more sales and ride higher in the rankings.

This time, I put the book up for free and didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t Tweet, post, blog or subscribe to all the usual freebie sites. Guess what happened.

Nothing. Beyond a few downloads that occurred, not out of line with the daily sales that I see, there was no great run on The Card. So—there goes that theory. My book sells fine when people have to pay money for it and I’m not pimping it, but for free, it does basically nothing when I don’t mention a peep about it.

Wish I had an analysis that made sense, but I don’t. Just offering up another insight into this crazy indie writing and publishing world in which we exist. In the end, I threw a party and no one came. Which makes us question whom the thousands of people are that take free downloads of our books when we pimp them through “free” sites. Are they readers or just people who like free stuff?

Author: Jim Devitt

Jim Devitt’s debut YA novel, The Card, hit #1 in three separate categories on the Kindle Bestseller list in early January and was a finalist in the Guys Can Read Indie Author Contest this past summer. Devitt currently lives in Miami, FL with his wife Melissa and their children. Learn more about Jim at his blog and his Amazon author page.

14 thoughts on “Is Anyone Listening When I’m Not Here?”

  1. Hi Jim, I was wondering today what would happen if I took a little hiatus from the networking. Sometimes I am so worn out, writing anything at all seems impossible.On a couple of occasions I have noticed a drop on my blog when I haven’t posted anything new, but it can turn around in a New York minute I don’t think there is a formula or a reason maybe we are just afraid they will forget us if we aren’t ever present. Congratulations for keeping your book up in the ranks.

    1. I agree with you, it can turn on a New York minute. That’s why I don’t mind pulling away a for a few days anymore. Thanks.

  2. I’m hoping the internet doesn’t mind if I give it a little less attention as I try to finish my next book. There’s only so many hours in a day (sorry for the cliche).

  3. I hear you, Jim. I’m pretty sure many of the folks who downloaded my books on their free days were more interested in “free!” than in my books. And it does make you wonder how much social networking helps sales.

  4. Interesting post, Jim. I had a similar occurrence when we got back to Mexico this fall and I noticed a definite drop in sales during the period I was not on social media.

  5. I have a terrific book. Ask anyone who’s read it. I have poor marketing skills, if any. Ergo I have few sales, except for what I can get face-to-face. But I have given a few e-books away, and I have picked up a heckuva lot of contacts in the author/writer/publisher world. I’ve been working hard on the online/social media aspects of getting known, and have learned a lot in the past four months. Sales? Not so much. Ego-massage? Quite a lot. And i’ve learned that it is just as much fun to read other peoples’ books and post reviews as it is to write my own books. I will have two more out by the end of January at the latest; perhaps their sales will help promote my original story. So–social media–is it worth the time? Absolutely.

    1. It’s definitely worth the time, used wisely. Best of luck with you two books coming out in January!

  6. It does seem like so many people are having their individual parties and the whole world is invited, so free books and author contact don’t feel that special any more. It makes me wonder if we’re too accessible. Maybe what people really want is to be excluded. The better it looks from the outside, the more they’ll want to tell the world when they get invited.

    1. What a great concept! Exclusion rather than inclusion. Now we just have to get enough people to realize that they are excluded.

      1. I’m thinking an #IU Twitter party where we all get online at the same time and talk to each other as though we have a lot of fabulous inside jokes. It worked for the cool kids in high school.

  7. I do think the free thing is people largely collecting books they might never buy, and it if they do read it on their free list of 400 or so books, and they like it, they MAY review it. Cynical, I know, but my thinking is when there’s a glut in the market, why pay first if you can go free first? And then free may sit there for a long time unless there’s some kind of spark to read it. So for now I’m still trying out pricing, I will do a month or so Christmas special on the 8 books I do have on Kindle and elsewhere. I do a bit of the social stuff, but it takes so much away from the writing and then as you say, what works? The big question. So I’m balancing all ends and just keep writing.

  8. I’m thinking an #IU Twitter party where we all show up at the same time and talk to each other about nothing, but in a way that makes it sound like a series of fabulous inside jokes. It worked for the cool kids in high school.

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