I haven’t released a book this year, although I’m hoping to have Paying the Piper, the sequel to the award long-listed thriller Hamelin’s Child, out by the end of 2012. This year I’ve been writing, along with the usual round of online social interaction which appears to be an essential part of being an independent author. I don’t mind; I enjoy talking to people and while I’m not a big twitterer, I’ve made many new friends on facebook – readers, writers and others.
Does social media interaction increase sales? In March and April, Hamelin sales increased by a factor of 3 for no reason that I can find. It could be a review somewhere on a blog that I haven’t seen, or maybe word-of-mouth in a facebook forum I contribute to. I haven’t taken out any paid-for adverts or commissioned any reviews that I can recall, although it can take many months – sometimes years – for a review to appear. I’m not complaining; throughout 2012, I’ve had a steady monthly income from amazon.co.uk. US sales haven’t been as strong, but I’ve finally got myself sorted with a US tax number and amazon.com have acknowledged it and will no longer keep back 30% of my US sales against tax. I’ve sold a dozen or so ebooks on amazon.de and a few on amazon.fr, but I’ve yet to crack Spain and Italy and I suspect Japan and the newly-launched Brazil sites will remain forever a mystery!
What else have I learned? Not to mess with distribution. For all its faults, I believe smashwords remains the simplest and most stable route for UK authors to get into other ebook stores. I signed with another distributor for a while, one that could get me into places that smashwords couldn’t, and with promises of new markets; sadly it never developed and I’ve spent the past few months trying to get old editions removed from sites – it’s been a long and frustrating process and I’m still not there yet.
But as I said, I’ve been writing. With fans of Hamelin’s Child asking when the sequel was due out, I thought I ought to apply bum to seat and get on with it – procrastination is an activity with which I am overly familiar! And round about August, Paying the Piper suddenly got up and started walking. It’s a term often used by writers and editors – “does this story/plot have legs?”, meaning does it work, do you have enough material for a novel/short story, do you know where it’s going, is it worth continuing with? And Piper not only developed legs, it got up and positively sprinted down the road, with me frantically chasing it with a notebook and pen (all right, computer, but notebook fits the imagery much better, don’t you think?). So last summer and early autumn I was writing thousands of words a night, trying to keep up with Michael and Amanda as things got out of control. I love it when that happens – when I’m living with the story day and night, when I’m scribbling ideas and snatches of conversation in a notebook, or writing a short scene at work in my lunch-break. It’s what makes this writing lark worthwhile and when I produce my best work.
So 2012 has been good overall. In 2013, I hope to go back and finish another young adult fantasy that’s been clamouring for attention and then I might try something new with some new characters I met the other day….
Check out www.debbiebennett.co.uk where you can find out publication details for Paying the Piper, and links to my other books.