As the sun sets on 2015, it also sees the last hours of December’s Kindle First, a month-long marketing drive offering Prime members a choice of six novels prior to their release by Amazon’s full service publishing arm (Thomas & Mercer, Little A, Montlake, 47 North, and others on view here). Little A’s contribution was Grave of Hummingbirds.
I mentioned in a previous post how honored I felt to have had my novel chosen. I also said I was nervous, and it turns out I had every reason, and no reason, to feel that way.
Within a couple of days, Grave leapt from nowhere in the rankings to no. 4 of the top 100, and over the next few weeks jumped around, managing to stay above 55 for the duration. It was a no. 1 best seller in 3 categories throughout, and I was amazed to discover that I had an author ranking, sometimes nestled between David Foster Wallace, Isabel Allende, and Lauren Groff.
Exciting, right? Hard not to get carried away and float into the ether on a cloud of euphoria.
Call me loopy, but the rankings meant far less to me than the way the book was received. It has always been my hope, as a writer, to touch a reader, alter a perception, share a vision, and what mattered was achieving some success in doing that. I didn’t have to please everyone, but I cared that Grave meant something to someone.
I was prepared for one and two star reviews, and I knew that the volume of people downloading the book (35,000 in the first two weeks of the promotion) would mean they’d come quickly, from people who mostly gravitated toward genre fiction and who might find my writing, and story, strange.
Come they did, thick and fast. As the days drifted by in what has felt like the longest month ever, my novel took a beating. I pored over the reviews, searching for feedback that made sense, that would make me a better writer, that would up my game for the next book. And I confirmed what I’d believed all along: reading is a very personal, subjective experience, and taking every negative review to heart would disable my ability and desire to write.
On a commercial level, because the exposure was so immediate and far reaching, I was able to measure (in my haphazard way) the impact of negative / mediocre reviews on whether people were continuing to download the book. Staying in the top 50 was nothing to sneeze at, and Grave’s performance overall has given me reason to hope that the book will fly, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that yes, people do read reviews when deciding whether or not to buy a book. And that’s ok.
All in all, it’s been a valuable experience, one I feel blessed to have had. It’s the dream, and in many ways still feels miraculous. I keep a tight rein on expectations and hopes; they’re easily dashed and the publishing arena is not for the delicate ego. At times it feels as precarious as the world of ballet.
I’ve kept some screenshots for posterity, but I know, as the clock ticks toward a new year, 2016 will be about the work.
Wishing you all a Happy New Year. Thank you for your support, and may 2016 fulfill at least a few of your dreams.