Wednesday, November 18, 2015
November got off to a good start in terms of book sales. The first two days of the month were well above average, and I had high hopes that things would continue in that fashion the rest of the way.
But, as they say in the financial services industry, past performance is no guarantee of future results. On the third day of the month, sales dropped to below average, and on the fourth day, I sold no books at all.
A day without sales is not unheard of. I’m in the early stages of self-publishing my mystery novels, and while I haven’t been at it long, I’ve been doing it long enough to know that sales are random and fluctuate wildly. The day with no sales simply offset one of the two good days at the beginning, and there was nothing to worry about.
Until, that is, the day of bupkis was followed by another (not unusual), then another (more unusual), then another (quite unusual).
The Skunk on the Couch
Athletes are familiar with slumps. Sports fans can readily call to mind a ball player who suddenly couldn’t hit or a basketball hotshot who suddenly couldn’t make a wide-open shot. It’s in the nature of the game. The athletes, however, can at least practice more, work on their technique, and try to pull themselves out of it.
My book sales, however, are entirely outside my control. People buy when they do for all sorts of reasons, and with no apparent pattern. My wife thinks it’s all random; I think there’s an algorithm somewhere and I just haven’t found it. But no matter what the reason, I can’t control it.
I tried to influence the sales with tweets and other social media. No luck. I had an ad running on television. El Zippo. After days of being skunked, I began to think of the skunk as a personal entity. In my mind, the sales chart was a once-pristine retail outlet purveying my books, now transformed by a skunk on the couch, scaring the customers away.
Beer and Potato Chips
As sale-less day followed sale-less day, and my morale began to droop like a mustache in a Georgia summer, I found myself elaborating on the skunk fantasy. I pictured Skunk lying back on the couch, feet up on the coffee table, watching daytime soaps while swilling beer and eating countless sacks of potato chips. Then I began to envision him inviting his no-account relations over and trashing the room altogether.
Even my wife was saying I needed to sell a book and get this thing over with.
It was getting so bad I asked someone I know to buy a book, just to see if my sales were being properly recorded by Amazon. The sale showed up promptly and told me that Amazon wasn’t the problem.
The slump lasted eight wretched, nerve-wracking days, and then, like a heat wave broken by a rainstorm, it was over. On the ninth day, I returned home after my Rotary Club meeting, went to my sales report, and found that in the time I’d been gone, I’d sold two and a half times the normal daily volume of books. Just like that!
This slump was at the far edge of the bell-shaped curve (if not off it altogether), and I’ll probably have no idea why it happened. That’s all right; I don’t have to know. I just don’t want to go through it again any time soon.