Authors’ Pandemic Sales and The Dubious Metric of “Necessities” Vs. “Luxuries”

Authors’ Pandemic Sales and The Dubious Metric of “Necessities” Vs. “Luxuries”

Considering everything going in the world, the past week was a pretty good one for me.

Almost a year after its initial publication, my novel Whizzers—which had flatlined in the Kindle store—suddenly spiked to #179,500.

When one of your babies jumps that much, it gets your attention. So the natural thing to do is celebrate by letting people know. Sometimes that gets others onboard, and sales spike higher.

Of course, you don’t always know who’s buying your books. But last week, a member of my extended family reached out to let me know she’d bought a copy of Whizzers.

In part, that may account for a second spike in sales, up to #70,297. That’s out of the 4M+ books in the entire Kindle store, a giant, heartwarming leap for a book that’s been available since July 2019.

 

Wait, Is This A Sales Pitch?

I’d forgive you if you questioned my motives for posting such trivia—in the middle of a global pandemic, police brutality protests, and, well…everything else happening right now. I get it. This could certainly be seen that way.

But as an author whose main focus is on character, and whose most recent novel focuses on spirituality and redemption, I have a different take. And that’s what today’s post is really all about.

In a time of fear, riots, political upheaval, and an exhausting fight against a deadly viral enemy, are books like mine just luxuries…or do they start to come closer to resembling necessities?

 

Trying to Make A Living

The other aspect of this discussion is that, like so many of us, my wife Sunny and I are fighting for our future, as she so eloquently puts it. Although I don’t make a living from my novels, I always feel that any royalty payment I earn from them is the “best” money I earn in any given month. Sure, it’s great to get a few pesos for my freelance projects, but those are always for someone else’s benefit. The novels are wholly my own. We don’t have kids, so the books truly are my babies.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out Whizzers, I’d encourage you to do so now when it could really help boost future sales. Visibility can lead to more visibility. If you’ve already read and loved it, maybe even reviewed it, please tell your colleagues and friends about the novel.

By the way, spike or no spike, Amazon won’t let me lower the Kindle price below the current $3.99 price point. I’d love to offer a free book—so if you download Whizzers between now and July 20th and send me a screen shot of the receipt, I’ll personally email you a copy of one of my other three novels. Your choice. That’s my gift to you, the reader. And, as always, thanks for spending some time with me.

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Spirituality in the Fictional World

Almost two years ago, I wrote a post called Talking About A Metaphysical Work where I tried to discuss spirituality in fiction. At least, that’s what I thought I was doing.

See, I had just published my fourth novel, Whizzers, and I knew I needed to promote it. I had a paid promotion going, a successful launch event#9 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases in Metaphysical & Visionary Fiction!but I had no idea what else to say about the novel.

To some degree, I was still under the spell of the book… that weird, almost underwater feeling we novelists get when we’re working on a piece of fiction. I’d written about 70% of the book over a period of six months, from late 2018 to early 2019. Follow that with a flurry of editing, proofing and promotional activity, and you can understand why I might have been a little brain dead.

 

Look Back In Contentment

Even before I finished Whizzers and put it out there for all the world to read, I felt a deep reluctance to discuss the novel in any kind of depth. In a late 2018 YouTube interview, I essentially said, “The more I talk about it, the worse I feel.”

Once the book was out, however, I quickly realized I wanted to talk about it—I just didn’t know what to say.

Although I’m proud of Whizzers, and have said more than once it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, the problem with talking about it is that it’s a book of a spiritual nature. I didn’t address this much in Talking About A Metaphysical Work, although that would have been the place to do so, if I’d only known how.

 

Content But Not Complacent

Like any serious novelist, I can see flaws in my published work that no one else would even consider. So although I can look back with contentment, I’d certainly never say I’m 100% satisfied with a finished book.

However, even as we approach the 2-year anniversary of the novel’s publication, I can still say I’m content with the results. Spirituality is a difficult topic to address in fiction. From readers who don’t believe in God to those who will be put off by views outside the mainstream, it’s obvious you can’t please everyone. And topics like meditation can bore even the most tolerant readers, no matter how interesting you try to make them.

But if I’ve learned anything over the past couple years, it’s that a writer has to follow his or her muse. Mine has taken me down some strange, hard-to-see roads. In fact, my upcoming works range from a historical novel in the mode of Thomas Hardy to a modern farce that has something in it to offend just about everyone!

And that’s just the way it goes.

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“Sahno offers a compelling vision of a community whose need for companionship and support in the face of life’s struggles is stirring.”

“The characters are deep, well thought out…”

“I read this novel in a few short days, drawn in by a believable plot and characters who seem to have walked out of real life.”

When it comes to discussing their own work, most authors opt for modesty. That’s as it should be. But every once in a while, you have to talk a bit about what you do well. (Or, in this case, quote a few Amazon reviewers.)

A while back, I posted a brief blog post about my ear for dialogue. I’m not inordinately proud of having it, as I didn’t purposely work toward such a goal. It’s natural for me, given my background and history.

Character, however, is another matter.

 

What A Character

I’ve always been drawn to character-driven novels, even those that eschew plot in favor of a surreal approach—think Burroughs, Selby, Brautigan, and so on. For me, characters are much more essential to a novel than the nuts and bolts of a plot, even in TV and movies.

I find it fascinating that recent developments in the current “Golden Age” of TV have largely sprung from The Sopranos, a character-driven series that often ignored complex plot devices in favor of great performances from compelling characters.

In my own work, I’ve gone to some extremes to develop characters that, in retrospect, strike me as pretty odd. One example that comes to mind is Miles of Files.

For that novel, I created three tiers of characters, an idea I’d adopted—okay, stolen—from a lesser-known Dickens novel, Dombey & Son. Primary characters, of course, were the main focus. The secondary characters were nearly as important, but served something of a different purpose. To a certain degree, the primary, struggling characters were pitted against mostly affluent secondary characters. And, as in Dombey & Son, the tertiary characters were commentators who passed on information about primary and secondary characters.

I wanted to be sure each character was unique and different enough from the others that the reader could easily identify them in a few lines each time they appeared. So I assigned Myers-Briggs personality types to every character in the book, then tried to let them guide me from that basis.

 

And Now For Something Completely Different

For my most recent novel, Whizzers, I had to get into characters in a much different manner than ever before. Some of them are actual historical figures—and, of course, all the usual legal disclaimers apply—but more importantly, many are real people from my own life.

The main character is a fictionalized version of yours truly, with some autobiographical elements not only from my own personality, but also from recollections of life experiences. I drew on the life experience of other people close to me as well. Suffice to say that most of the characters in this book are close to my heart, and some have lived there for many years.

Whizzers received the best reception of any of my novels, eventually reaching #9 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases in Metaphysical & Visionary Fiction. I think the relative success of the book is simply because the characters are so close to the bone, but maybe the subject matter did it. I can’t say I know for sure.

Whatever the case, now that I’m working on my next release, I’m just as interested in seeing what those characters will do. I always am.

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