Selling or Not Selling? That Is the Question

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Friday, April 10, 2020. Two eBook sales yesterday! After fantasizing about what it would be like to sell more than one print book or eBook in a single day it happened! I’m not ashamed to admit that it’s all very thrilling, my microscopic sales and really almost shocking – I spent an hour or so trying to assimilate the idea that somehow two people, somewhere in the world, purchased Time Crime yesterday and that in the first nine days of April I’ve sold four copies!

Who and where are these readers? It’s not straightforward to glean sales data from Amazon or Ingramspark. When I sell from my Amazon ads, for example, the data appears within that system but when I don’t, as for the two eBook sales yesterday, sales only appear in the “Reports” section of my KDP account. EBook sales don’t appear in my Amazon Author Central info, for instance, only print book sales, which seems crazy. And print sales don’t appear until they’re shipped, which means not until after they’re printed and shipped while the eBooks appear immediately. For Ingramspark I have to run reports. It’s all a bit convoluted and frustratingly disparate regarding the level of detail available across Amazon’s and Ingramspark’s variously quirky sources of sales information. That a hardcover sale on Amazon will show up in my Author Central data and on Ingramspark but not on my KDP account paid sales data is impossibly frustrating. And Barnes and Noble? Ugh, they’re lousy for authors. Besides not allowing for an author page I can’t track any of my sales through them – I have to rely on Ingramspark and they won’t indicate where in hell the book was sold (B&N, a bookstore, what have you) or when unless I run a report and then more reports to drill down to the exact day. For print sales on Amazon I get geographical data – the metropolitan area where the hardcover or paperback was sold but not the eBook only if it’s a large enough metropolitan thereby tracked by the tracking system the Amazon accesses for their data). Ack, just trying to explain this has me turned around.

I just want to know exactly when, from what retailer (and where that retailer is located) and from what city the order originated. Amazon print orders can be cancelled up until a certain period, after all, and bookstores buy at the 55% discount and may return unsold copies and it all makes me crazy. I just want to get a picture of who my readers are, of who is buying and ostensibly reading and in the best case enjoying or otherwise liking Time Crime. Or, heaven forbid, not liking it. Which brings me to reviews: the more sales I get the greater chance of finally getting reviews, be it Amazon or B&N or Goodreads or what have you. So that four sales within ten days means I’ve got an incredible opportunity for a review or two all of a sudden. Then I think, trying to discern the nature of my buyers/readers if they really are new, unrelated, unconnected, raw buyers who stumbled across my amazon ads or came across the book by way of a search of some type or perhaps were referred to the book by word of mouth. Or even if one or two of the handful of folks who received a business card and maybe were holding off finally got around to buying. I don’t know and it sucks that I can’t find out!

That yesterday’s eBooks weren’t sold by way of my Amazon ads is curious – how indeed did these folks find out about the book if it wasn’t by word of mouth? Or perhaps they’d indeed clicked on the ad, saved the book to a list then purchased it later? Would it still show up as an ad campaign purchase or get recorded as something other? Argh. Maybe a reader will email someday. Maybe I’ll get reviews. Reviews scare the hell out of me, of course. It must be nice to have enough sales and enough reviews to not sweat the details of either. If you’ve sold your 12,500 books in a year and have fifty or a hundred reviews then at that point a review begins to mean very little in terms of sales impact, at least I would think. When I look at a book, for instance, if it has more than twenty reviews or so with a four star average then I don’t need to read more than one or two, and like everyone else I usually check out a negative review or two, verify that one or two positive reviews seem legitimately engaged and relevant and intelligent and then make my decision based mostly on my glancing through the “Look Inside.”

What’s driving this April burst of sales action? I dare say it’s the sale price that Amazon posted for the hardcover – a ten dollar savings is significant to say the least – but the paperback I sold wasn’t on sale and the eBook, while 5% off on B&N is not on sale at Amazon where I apparently sold them. It’s all weirdly mysterious, ugh! And am I selling anything based on the book’s appearance in Locus Magazine this month or by way of the gratis copies I mailed out? Did some of those who received a copy spread the word? Oh, how I wish I knew!

I just rechecked my Amazon USA “Debut Author” campaign and it showed three orders versus two but before I got too carried away thinking I’d sold another copy I did the math on the sales dollars – it indicated a $9.99 eBook which made me suspicious – did the runaround with the data sources on Amazon and I’ve verified it was just a reporting delay on the ad campaign because the report I ran shows:

  • 1 x hardcover at the sale price of $21.17, sold April 1
  • 1 x paperback at $17.99, sold April 5
  • 1 x eBook at $9.99, sold April 9

So my initial thrill at thinking I sold another eBook today was dashed but data delay, argh! It makes me wonder what folks do who sell any quantity of books? Does the data detail mean anything to them or do they just check the numbers once a day or once a week or whenever and just thing in larger terms? Weekly, monthly, annual terms, for instance? I don’t know. Here I am, meanwhile, trying to enjoy being a newbie, happily allowing myself to get entirely carried away with outlandish enthusiasm over miniscule sales numbers. Why not? Because I can’t help thinking, oh no, now people will hate it and I’ll never sell another copy. Or, oh boy, people will like it, word will spread, reviews will boost sales and I’ll enjoy the rich get richer (metaphorically) effect of sales generating more sales. And then I just try to enjoy the idea that I’ve cracked the seal, as it were, regarding the curse of total obscurity, of that first sale then the first sale for each format then the first sale in consecutive months then consecutive weeks then, yippee, more than one sale in a single day! Look at what’s happened already, all these little milestones being checked off the list! Just two days ago I was lamenting dropping into oblivion again and fantasizing about what it must be like to sell more than one copy in a day and damned if it didn’t happen the very next day! I have $49.15 in sales from my US “Debut Author” campaign which is dangerously close to my first $50.

Now, given that I know I sold two eBooks yesterday and that one of them was from an ad click, where did the other one come from? Well, if there’s a way to find out I don’t know what it is. But I did run a search term report that shows the ad-driven eBook from yesterday came by way of a search for “science fiction and philosophy” so I replaced a keyword that didn’t seem to be doing anything with that one and updated it, eBook only. I’m afraid to do the paperback update because it takes so much longer for the update to process that I’m worried folks can’t buy the book while it’s happening, but then again perhaps an update status doesn’t prevent a sale? How could it for those folks who are always selling copies? I don’t know, hell, I’m just trying to tweak things and also not mess things up at the same time. You win wars with information and I can see why.

“Writer’s block results from too much head. Cut off your head. Pegasus, poetry, was born of Medusa when her head was cut off. You have to be reckless when writing. Be as crazy as your conscience allows.”

— Joseph Campbell, A Joseph Campbell Companion, (p. 270)

I only now discovered this comment from J.C. (I’ve merely previously glanced at the content of the Companion online) via jcf.org, but it describes exactly the creative attitude that I’ve long ascribed to; namely, that of craziness. Which corresponds directly to what I’ve always termed jazziness. My writing, that is, either jazzes me or it doesn’t and when it does inevitably it’s because I’m surrendering to crazy ideas. Crazy to me, that is, because I’m routinely out-crazied by many folks. So that I fear my work just isn’t interesting enough, that it doesn’t push hard enough, far enough and with enough vibrant gusto and zeal to really be a compelling read. But I do what I can. What is crazy? The yogis have their Crazy Wisdom. But short of enlightenment being crazy creatively is the happily unhinged condition in which those ideas that you won’t fully allow or shy away from or think about but adjudicate against pursuing further, let alone on the page, let alone for the consumption of others are given voice. Write them down. Run with them. An improvement to the plot of TC4 struck me this morning and I found myself barely catching it, allowing myself to almost disregard it or discard it as incidental. It was inspired, as many things are for many of us, by this morning’s setting gibbous moon. It might be crap. But it makes me feel good thinking about it so I know that it isn’t complete crap, that it has value as verified by its crazy jazz factor. Kids do this stuff with ease. But a kid mostly isn’t capable of bringing to useful fruition an idea – kids freely create and destroy or discard their creations willy nilly and that’s fine but sometimes they’re worth keeping. I won’t reveal the plot for TC4 here – it must germinate and be nurtured in the manuscript! But for two years or so I’ve been unhappy with the plot, though I managed the first fifty pages of the manuscript without directly referencing it. NOW, I can feel good about moving forward with it! So much to do:

  • Editing TC2
  • Awaiting a response from Findaway Voices
  • Journal-blogging
  • Screwing with my Amazon advertising
  • Screwing with my book keywords
  • Jamming employment duties into my week starting next week

Meanwhile, an example of craziness by way of a man whom those who only follow his music may find, well, crazy. And good for him! https://www.facebook.com/100000181177250/videos/3429444193738253/

DOP1 (2010-11) VINTAGE POST:

Patience of a Saint?

Okay, so I’m not breathing very well yet. Even after killing it with the slam dunk from “Ask FSIS,” the USDA-EIAO representative, whom I’m going to refer to as “Dijon,” is blocking me. At least that’s the jist from the FIRST phone call he made to me today, saying “I got a phone call today and (the Frontline Supervisor’s Supervisor) will not be calling you and you still need to support the Letter of Guaranty (for black pepper).” Total and complete A-Hole, and more importantly, an IDIOT. Not because he may be getting shit from his own higher-ups about salmonella in pepper, which I’ve already agreed is a concern (though between me and you it’s statistically irrelevant), but because he can’t fucking communicate. I told his boss, let’s call him “T,” that Dijon doesn’t seem to have his act together, to speak plainly. His boss said, “You can speak plainly.” We proceeded to blah, blah, blah and I actually got what I wanted, sort of because I think I’m fucking done with “support” but T gave me a list of questions they want answered and agreed with the Policy folks (the Ask FSIS folks) about me not being required to provide COAs. So, since I smelled compromise, I submitted, per request, my voluntary salmonella sampling procedure and I asked the spice folks for yet more info per the exact wording of the USDA. Gads. What hell and blood. I walked home today from the kitchen after another shitty day and was just brooding and contemplating ugliness. Questioning why this fucker and these fuckers are in my life and blocking me from greatness and making me fucking physically ill. Like I told Angie, T kept telling me they have people “getting sick” and I wanted to tell him that this whole process was making ME sick, how about THAT?

Anyway, now I have to wait for the spice folks to respond and hope they give me what I need for the USDA. At one point in the conversation with T I tried a different tactic, which is to say submission. I agreed to comply with the (bullshit) request for analytical and suggested that I indeed would mail any and all documentation that the spice company could possibly generate in terms of sampling info and analytical for each days “lots” (of bulk spice deliveries to the spice vendors). Funny, I think Tee almost instantly envisioned the MOUNTAIN of paperwork that would arrive, daily, at his door, or maybe the BILLION, MASSIVE, SYSTEM-CHOKING emails of indecipherable analytical bullshit every day in his inbox.

I keep emphasizing that I understand the hazard of salmonella. But I’m not the fucking regulatory agency nor do I do enforcement for them or the FDA. Fuck. Then there’s this recent Lm problem in cantaloupe that killed thirteen older people (median age = seventy-fucking-four). O.k that’s sad, but WHAT THE FUCK? First, it’s only thirteen people in the whole fucking U.S. – a statistically irrelevant number. Second, they were old, infirm, weak or fucked up and would’ve probably died from a strong breeze blowing. That may sound mean, but if we worried about risk statistics like that then none of us would leave the house, let alone eat. I’ll shut up about it. In the end today, Dijon calls me back, asks if I talked to his boss and says if I get that info (I assume he’s talking about the questions T sent me) then we can schedule another site visit. Holy thor and almighty hell. I’m still moving I guess, albeit at the pace of plate tectonics. I must prepare for the greatness to come. And this topic is getting boring as all hell. I won’t include all the email bullshit except the following:

“Keith, just to make certain I understand your process, this is what I am hearing. You want to produce a ready to eat headcheese product and add ingredients after lethality. 

“As the Policy Development Division has stated, you do not have to provide a certificate of analysis for each lot. What you must do is provide supporting documentation for all decisions made in your hazard analysis. When you make the decision in your hazard analysis that biological hazards are not reasonably likely to occur for the post lethality addition of ingredients, FSIS will be asking you for the documentation that supports that decision. You asked me what regulation I was following and I stated 417.5 (a) (1).

“I also stated that recent product recalls where ingredients are added post lethality are the reason that FSIS has taken its current position.

“The issue with the current letter of guarantee is that there is only generic information included. Yes, the letter does state the ingredients are subjected to ethylene oxide or steam. The problem is that there is no definitive information to determine that the ingredients are microbiologically safe nor what items this letter is intended to cover. That letter does not support any decision about the microbial condition of the spice received. Some questions you could ask your spice supplier are;

“What documentation can you provide to establish the safety of the ingredients?

“What are the steam and ethylene oxide treatments and are they validated?

“Does the supplier test each lot?

“What does the supplier test for?

“Is that an accredited testing protocol?

“How do they define statistically significant testing protocol?

“Does that protocol include each lot?

“Is each lot tested?

“What becomes of a positive lot?

“Keith, will you, as the receiving plant, perform any verification testing?

“These are some questions you can ask your supplier or another supplier.

“Thanks and good day, T”

O.k. we’ll see. I can tell you that I can see the high rode which is that Dijon, being a young and dumb newbie or guy-in-wrong-job might in fact share some things with me. Namely, that besides being in the wrong job, he might not have been properly trained or trained at all, and lacks confidence or whatever and is compensating, as best he can, by being a dickhead. Like maybe I’ve been a dickhead. But gosh, I really was on his side until he just dug his fucking heels in and started spouting nonsense and wouldn’t really LISTEN. But he’s another “gate-keeper” in my life, like so many difficult people before him, and I’m trying like HELL to apply E+R=O. If I can’t, or if I do and this dream still reaches a vanishing point, then I guess my heart will tell me that it’s time to quit, that it ‘ain’t right and I’ve fucked up again and gone and produced another fucking “fiasco.” My biophycomythology is really getting some mud on it. My personal myth is getting too fucking personal. Ouch.

Oh, and this week in the court has just been shitty. Not that I fucking care, because I’m so fucking done with the concept it hurts me to even get out there anymore. What a pointless exercise in futility. Jay and Sans Street went to the Detroit food truck event and, like I predicted, it was just like the home grown festival where everybody sold out of everything they had and folks would’ve eaten cigarette butts they were so eager to chow anything. But it doesn’t last. And it teaches you what you really need to know about what you want to do with your food cart life. Jay? He seems to want to pursue the festival crowd with a plan to serve what he calls “easy food” – just corn dogs and pork sandwiches so he doesn’t have to work more than a few days a week. Except the problem is there aren’t enough festivals to work a few days a week. You get one every other month. Unless you hit the real road and go national, driving the fuck around and getting into whatever festival that will take you in. Maybe Jay can do that. Me? NOT IF YOU PAID ME A MILLION DOLLARS A DAY OR THREATENED TO PULL MY EYES OUT. There is nothing you could do to get me jazzed about short-order hell on the road. Double-ugh. There’s not enough money in the world. What a short-term, fast food bullshit life. But Jay wants to keep his cart going, and maybe that life will do it for him. He doesn’t want me to hate him. I don’t. I just don’t want to hate MYSELF. So I’ll pursue what feels right to me. And try not to sling my bitchy opinions around so much; I need to stop voicing my fucking opinion. Everyone at the cart court deserves to have whatever they envision as success materialize for them.

I am concerned that hh will end up a “failure experience” as Canfield calls it.[1] Either because it’s indeed not meant to be and that it’s not my myth and I have it wrong somehow and I’ll have to start again, or that the hero’s journey can be so miserably difficult that it sucks the heart and joy right out of it all and kills the myth by way of difficulty. That sounds weak I know – we’re told and we read that “if you really want something…” But how can you be sure a failure experience isn’t the result of still being in biophycomythological schism – of not being aligned with being who you are? When I ask how can you know, I think I mean how can I be sure? – which is something a little different. I can’t be sure but I can know that it feels right in my heart. The details may be off, my aim may not be directly on target, but until I get more information – by taking action – I’ve got to have faith that my heart is pointed in the general direction so to speak. You just have to accept the answer, which so often can seem unpleasant; maybe because it means a lot more work is involved, or that you’ve indeed had a “failure experience” or two while living this thing out. Okay. So the food court dream – that vision-of-greatness – has vanished. I keep beating myself up for not “being into it” anymore; I’m fighting my decision to bail out and move on. Some of the carters want to stick with it for whatever reason – fear, ego, denial, who cares? None of them are doing well financially – none of the carts are sustainable businesses, but maybe they just want a hobby. Maybe they don’t know what else to do? Regardless, it’s none of my business what anyone else chooses to do in the court. I need to accept what others say they want and not judge them. After all, I’ve got plenty of my own problems and not just with money. I’m embarrassed to have failed – humiliated even – and I feel like others are judging me negatively for failing so quickly; I’m certainly judging myself. But I need to remember that I haven’t really failed so fucking quickly. I have a fucking plan. HH Headcheese is not over. I’ve failed in the food court to make money, but I’ve also succeeded in the food court with getting my food vision – my recipes and quality – across. So I need to not end hh prematurely. My heart says Keep chugging and if I don’t have any clear idea why – any clarity – I’m going to just keep stumbling and fumbling forward with faith….


[1] Jack Canfield, The Success Principles…, 162.