Thursday, January 24, 2013

My surprise best seller. Don't ever give up on a story

This is a reprint of a post I did on my website last year.

I have three legacy published books. The Lost Village, The Haunting of Sam Cabot, and The Holocaust Opera. Those who read my blog and keep up with my writing activities know by now that I’m sorry I ever went with a publisher. That’s not news but it is truer now and more relevant than ever. There is a post on this blog about how to make money publishing short stories on Amazon. If you haven’t read it you should. Here’s the link. There are other posts relevant to the independent author as well. And if you are an independent writer and you're not familiar with Joe Konrath's blog you need to be.
What I want to talk about today is a little novelette I wrote nearly fifteen years ago entitled The Hero of Elm Street. Now I’m primarily a horror writer. The Hero of Elm Street is not a horror story. It's a light-hearted little ghost story about love, loss and the power of hope. Not generally my style, but because of my grandmother Luella, who meant a lot to me and was my greatest influence, the story has always been dear to my heart.
Back in the dark ages before kindle and nook and self-publishing (now known as independent publishing.) I sent that little story out to nearly every literary magazine in the country. I didn’t hear back from most of them. I did hear from Yankee. They said they liked it but felt it wasn’t right for them at the time. Yeah, we’ve all heard that before. So I buried the story and pretty much forgot about it.
Well, a year ago I decided to include The Hero of Elm Street in my collection, Servants of Darkness. I knew that it might get lost or overlooked in a collection of primarily dark tales. And I was right. Even though the collection has been selling reasonably well, I haven’t heard many people comment on that individual story.
So, on a whim I decided to put it out as a stand-alone story. I commissioned a cover and a little trailer and published it on Amazon. It sold some copies but nothing to write home about. So then I got the bright idea to include it as part of Amazon’s KDP Select Project and offer it for free for five days. KDP Select allows Prime members to borrow books, but the books also remain for sale. The only caveat: authors who sign up must agree to go exclusive with Amazon for a period of ninety days. I didn’t care. The story wasn’t doing much anyway. What did I have to lose?
250 copies were downloaded in the first three days of the promo and I thought, well, good try but that's that. Then something amazing happened. Within the next twenty-four hours the story exploded as more than ten thousand copies were downloaded. I was stunned. I started receiving messages and mail and reviews, most saying how much they were moved by the story and thanking me for publishing it. I couldn’t believe it.
It was all very nice but I figured after the free promo ended that would be it. I was wrong. It continued to sell at an alarming rate. And some of my other titles started taking off. I don't know what happened. I didn't do anything different with this story. It's a mystery to me, but a good mystery.
I see now, a week later that it’s slowing down some but still selling briskly. I couldn’t be happier. The point of this post is to encourage writers to never give up on a story. You don’t know what’s going to turn the reading audience on. And when you're faced with an opportunity to put your work in front of a bigger audience, do it.
Don’t ever give up on a story.
The blog you just read was published on Jan 22nd of this year. As of this date, April 3rd,  my little story has sold nearly nine thousand copies. That's quite a feat for a short story and at $1.99 a pop that's a a considerable chunk of change. Some of my other short stories are doing good as well and I'm hoping my new novel Apocalypse Island will find readers.
Publishing short stories in magazines and anthologies is good for the writer's spirit, but there isn't much money in it. There hasn't been in a very long time. Now with the advent of devices like kindle and nook it seems that readers are rediscovering short stories and this has got to be good for both writers and readers.
Mark Edward Hall

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