Monday, 18 June 2018

Simultaneously My Best & Worst Weekend as an #IndieAuthor

When I put my latest books, Witch’s Blood, Books 1 & 2, up for pre-order, it was mainly to ensure that all the retailers would have the books ready for download on the same day. I distribute to iBooks, B&N Nook Store, Kobo and a number of other e-book stores through Smashwords, and directly with Amazon Kindle, and the various shops start listing the books on different days, which isn’t ideal. With pre-order, I knew every retailer would have the books ready at the same time, so I decided to list them as pre-orders and didn’t have a long pre-release period. So that was that.

I had a decent cover for Book 1 and a good blurb, and this new urban fantasy series is a follow-up to my paranormal vampire fantasy series, the Poison Blood Series, so I knew it had a audience. I hoped it would do well, and unlike when I published the Poison Blood books, this time I have an iPhone, so I knew that I would be able to see how it fares in the iBooks charts. When the Poison Blood books took iBooks (and the Nook Store) by storm back in 2012 and 2013, the self-publishing boom years, I had no access to iBooks, so I had to use App Annie to see how those books were doing. And they were doing really well. But the highest ranking that Poison Blood, Book 1 achieved was number 8 (if I recall correctly) in the US iBooks chart. Which isn’t bad if I think about it: vampire books were really popular back then and it was a saturated market, and with a simple DIY cover, I think the book overachieved somewhat. It definitely exceeded my expectations. My expectations for WB1 weren’t too high or too low, but I definitely didn’t think this witch book would surpass the highest ranking of my vampire book.

WB1 and WB2 came out on Tuesday, 12th June, but I didn’t get around to checking the iBooks charts until around 11am on the 14th. I didn’t expect to find it in the top 100 of its category (genre), the Free Sci-Fi & Fantasy category, but I hoped it would be in the top 200. I found it in the top 20! At no.12 to be precise. Yay. It was the happiest day for me, the author. (The happiest day for me, the person, was December 3, 2017, when my son was born).

The first thing I did after taking a screenshot of the chart, was log-out of iBooks and look for the “create new Apple ID” link so that I could select US as my location to check out the US iBooks chart. My books tend to do better in the US than in the UK, so I was really excited to see where WB1 had charted. Unfortunately, it turned out that I couldn’t check the international markets anymore. I think this happened because of the iOS 11.3 update; there doesn’t seem to be a way of creating new Apple IDs anymore. If anyone reading this knows how to check overseas iBooks charts, please comment below and let me know. Thanks!

Anyway, I checked the UK chart every now and then, and before I knew it, it was almost 6am the following day (15th June) and Witch’s Blood, Book 1 was no.4 in the Free Sci-Fi & Fantasy (SFF) category! And in the top 100 of the overall Free iBooks chart. Amazing. It was a great start to the day, and the best thing to happen to me, the author.

Throughout the course of the day, it dropped to no.6, but stayed there overnight. I went to bed with a smile on my face. The next day was a Saturday, and WB1 held on to the no.6 position all morning. Saturdays are for going out, seeing family and friends, watching a movie, doing the weekly shopping, keeping the kids entertained. Not the time for checking out what books are available in the SFF category on iBooks. I’d anticipated a drop in downloads over the weekend. What I wasn’t prepared for was the best weekend of my indie author career to morph into the worst weekend of my indie author career.

Around lunch time on Saturday, I opened my iBooks app to check my book’s ranking. And I couldn’t find it. It wasn’t at no.6 anymore. Or no.7, 8, or 9. It wasn’t in the top 20, or 30. Darn it, it wasn’t even in the top 100. By the time I scrolled down to no.150, I realised that something had gone wrong. Really wrong. My book couldn’t have dropped so much. And it hadn’t. It hadn’t dropped in the rankings. No. It had been removed from the SFF category page altogether?!?! It was still in the overall Free chart, at around the same position it had been in during the morning, so I knew it wasn’t a drop in downloads that had led to its absence from the SFF chart. The book could still be searched for by name, was still on my author page, it even still had ‘Paranormal’ listed as its ‘Category’ on its book page (see screenshot of the book page below), it just wasn’t in the category page that it belonged to.

It was such a random thing to happen, especially considering it was the book’s first weekend since release. Such an unlucky and unfair thing to happen, during a time that the book was doing well. Being in the top 10 of its category meant that every single customer looking for a free book in the SFF category would have seen my book because the top 20 books are on the first page. This visibility would have boosted downloads, and helped keep it in the top 10. It could have climbed higher in the chart, but if not, it had a really good chance of sticking around in the top 10 for a good amount of time. It was the newest book in the top 10. But for some reason, iBooks had taken it out of its rightful category, and as a result, people looking for a book like mine couldn’t see it anymore. It ruined my day, ruined my book’s chances of climbing to the no.1 spot, and led to a decline in downloads.

I spiralled into a dark, dark mood. It was too good to be true. Just my luck. I should have known that something would trip me up. There have always been obstacles for me to overcome in my publishing journey, especially when things start to be looking up. So unfair. Why did they do this, why?

With a sinking heart, I emailed my distributor Smashwords, knowing that their office was closed for the weekend. Knowing that this issue wouldn’t be resolved until Monday at the earliest. I tweeted @iBooks and found an email address on their Instagram page and emailed them, but I was certain that they wouldn’t see my messages until Monday. I’d have to endure this for the whole weekend.

By Sunday evening, WB1 had dropped out of the top 100 of the Free iBooks chart and looked to be on its way to dropping further overnight. After all, readers searching for free books will not always scroll beyond the first 50-70 books, and they are most likely to search by category because they know what books they like and what books they feel like reading at the moment. So, how did I go to sleep on Sunday night? With a heavy sigh and an anxious mind. Would Smashwords be able to get iBooks to rectify the situation, how long would it take, and would my book ever make it back in the top 10 of the Sci-Fi & Fantasy category? Would I be starting from scratch?

Part 2

Thank you for reading this post. If you're interested in my debut novel, Chasing Pavements (Soulmates Saga, Book 1) click here to learn more about it.

Like all my other books, it's also available on:
iBooks   |   B&N Nook   |   Kobo |   Smashwords 

Book Details
Length: 110,000 words
Genre: Contemporary Romance / Clean Romance / Diverse Romance / Interracial Romance / Romantic Drama / Women’s Fiction

Mood: Inspirational / Feel Good / Coming of Age / Dark
Content: Sexy but No explicit sex scenes / No erotica
Audience: New Adult & College / Adult / Female Readers

Recommended for: Readers that enjoy romance novels with serious issues and characters with depth. This is a story about life, love, friendship, family, music, art, destiny and soul mates.

And the first two books in my teen urban fantasy/YA paranormal romance series, the Poison Blood series, can be downloaded for free via:

Amazon US|  Amazon UK|   iBooks US UK   |   B&N Nook Store   |   Smashwords

PB1 Book Details
Length: 29,000 words
GenreYA Paranormal Romance / Teen Vampire Romance / Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy / Teen & YA Urban Fantasy / Young Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy / Supernatural Romance / Fantasy Romance / Sparkling Vampires
Mood: Dark / Humorous / Coming of age
Content: No violence / No explicit sex scenes / No erotica
Audience: Teen / Young Adult / New Adult / Adult
Recommended for: Readers that love all things related to the Chosen One, vampires, slayers and witches!

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