No Fanfare: Experiment Results

Although I don't have much time for blogging as I try to get caught up on projects before NaNoWriMo arrives in a couple weeks, I wanted to share some thoughts about my most recent release, No Fanfare. It's been on the market for about a month and a half now. It was experimental right from the start, even before I decided to publish it, and I might as well share some results even though the experiments were not rigorously constructed. As seems fitting for the "no fanfare" title, the story itself has had no significant response from readers and thus, in a sense, all of the experiments eventually failed. Read on to see what I mean.

The story first starting taking form as an experiment in using Dragon NaturallySpeaking in conjunction with Celtx (the old desktop software version, not the "cloud" service). That, too, was in preparation for NaNoWriMo... and the first NaNoWriMo that I did not win. In short, that initial experiment failed (along with my NaNo project that year). I like Celtx for script writing, but for writing a novel it's really not my tool of choice. I presume the cloud service is even less suitable. I've never used it, but their site no longer makes any reference to supporting novels as projects, so I assume they are focusing on their core mission. If you're a script writer, I highly recommend giving Celtx a look. As for Dragon... well, the version I have, combined with the (poor quality) audio hardware in my main desktop PC, did not allow enough accuracy to be productive. I would like to try a more recent version, though, and with a sound card that doesn't generate a high level of noise.

Another experiment was in the design of the cover. I'm not much of a cover artist, but I'm also not really in a position to hire one. (I do not trust the ultra-cheap options like getting a cover artist on Fiverr; it's not too hard to find stories of people who did that and ended up with a copyright-infringing cover design.) My typical covers are full designs with flat, horizontal text. The cover for No Fanfare is largely white space and the title is not horizontal and it has a pseudo-shadow at a different angle. When I was preparing to release the book, I had a mix of reactions about the cover, including some that were very positive. However, it's apparently not doing much good in bringing in buyers, since I've only sold one copy. (Naturally, there are other factors involved such as blurb, pricing, online sample, etc., but the cover plays a key role in getting people to even consider those other factors.)

Publishing a stand-alone story that is very short was another experimental aspect of releasing No Fanfare. It's under 2000 words, making it a very short story indeed. Prior to its release, my shortest stand-alone fiction work was Wolf Block, which is almost 10,000 words. Would people pay 99 cents for a very short story? Apparently not. Would they even borrow it to read for "free" (no added cost) through Kindle Unlimited? Apparently not.

The fact that it's available through Kindle Unlimited is another experiment. When Amazon announced in June that compensation for "borrows" through Kindle Unlimited would be paid per page read, I pulled all of my books out of Kindle Unlimited. At the time, I had no plans to put anything back into that Amazon-exclusive service. However, I eventually got curious enough to want to try it, without pulling any of my existing titles back from the other channels where they are available. I remembered that I had this story waiting for me to finish, so I chose it for my Kindle Unlimited experiment. So far, only one person (apparently in France) has borrowed it, earning me a whole nickel. This looks like a failure too, and it helps demonstrate that being in KDP Select (and thus Kindle Unlimited) is no silver bullet for being discovered and read.

Although I'm writing this a bit like a post-mortem, the book isn't dead (yet). The cover design, story length, and Kindle Unlimited "experiments" still have time to turn around. I plan to offer another free-download period and to promote that better than the last one, so maybe that will kick-start sales and/or KU borrows. I'm not holding my breath, though.

Photo credit: clarita on morgueFile.com. Used under license.