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  • Writer's pictureBill

Selling the Old Novel and Writing the New Novel

Updated: May 3, 2021

These days I find myself alternating between working to complete a first draft of DiBene, the second book in the Eli Kurz MD, NICU series. and marketing the first book in the series, Baby Doe, published March 1, which you can buy here on Kindle for ten bucks, (or sixteen dollars for the trade paperback).

This blog purports to be helpful to those working on their first novel.

Here's what I learned about marketing this week.

First. To get book reviews on Amazon, you have to ask. Then for many but not all, you have to ask again, And those you ask may be legitimately hesitant. For example, they don't want to offend, yet they don't want to gush just because you may be a friend. But I've learned that a good goal is 50 Amazon reviews. That's more friends than most of us have, so some reviews, good and bad, must come from strangers, who for some reason have actually read the book and been sufficiently motivated to write a review. There is a consensus that Amazon reviews are essential, but not sufficient for book sales.

Second. Ads help. I'm not worrying about Amazon ads, because that's something that Wheatmark Publishing has particular expertise in and do for me. I've found that Facebook ads can markedly boost a response to notifications of blog posts. But this week,.. Eureka. I discovered that FB, for those of us with a "page," offers us a site called FB Business Suite that has all sorts of easy to understand goodies on it for making and launching ads, along with all sorts of ways of seeing the effects of the ads.

Third, I remain enamoured with Wheatmark (a hybrid publisher), Scrivener, and Wix (a classy web page outfit). One of the neatest things Wheatmark offers is graphics of where in the world there are readers of the blog, how they found it, etc.

Fourth. The only way I know if Baby Doe is selling is by following the status of its ranking in three categories: medical fiction; all books; and historical fiction. Wheatmark gives me quarterly sales reports. There are a number of ways to estimate your sales from the sales rank that Amazon prints on your book pages (separate for ebook and paperback, but not for those publishing on Kindle Direct Publishing that has its own dashboard). The simplest estimate of sales that I've found from the web (courtesy of author, Edward W. Robertson) is 100,000/Amazon sales rank = copies sold per day. Today Baby Doe's Kindle book's rank is roughly 217000, therefore 100000/217000 = 0.46. EWR says the estimate doesn't work too well at the high or low end of sales and is generally a bit conservative so one can tack on 10-20%, so by that estimate Baby Doe is selling almost one copy/day. This website <> gives a similar estimate.

Fifth, I've known for some time what I don't yet know in my bones about writing, but I'm learning there's a lot I don't know that I need to know about marketing. For example, the use of Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing vs. or in addition to, publishing a paperback and an ebook on Amazon. Can one do both? And if so, why not? Also I'm learning my way around Goodreads giveaways. Also I've poked at the thousands of books, videos, and for-pay teaching apps for marketing books. About one million new book titles appear in the US per year. And millions more available from prior years, so it's hard to get the attention of anyone out there.

When all that gets overwhelming, frustrating, or confusing, it's fun to go back to writing. Here's a first draft of the first chapter in DiBene, which follows the life of Dr. Eli Kurz, who has a cameo role in Baby Doe. In DiBene, Eli's the main character. He's about ten years older, and not much wiser.


a novel

Chapter One

Verweile doch, sie sind so schoen. Faust had bet the devil that none of the world’s blandishments would ever cause Faust unironic joy. But with these words, Faust lost the bet--Hold on, wait a minute, it’s so beautiful.

July, 1994 in Boston. The week before my decline and fall, I'd said Verweile doch…several times. The first when I received a call from the study section secretary at NIH, saying my grant had received a score of 138, clearly fundable back in those days. I called Lisa and convinced her to take the next day off, July 4, to celebrate. I’d said the words that day at lunch, with Lisa in the Gardner museum where she worked, just down Louis Pasteur Avenue from Harvard Medical School.

After lunch, I’d said the words as Lisa guided me through the exhibitions in Gardner palazzo, and we stared at a painting by Chardin, a bowl of fruit sitting on a wooden kitchen table. A fly lit on the still life. We watched until it buzzed off, disappointed.

I’d said the words again when I pulled Lisa by the larger more spectacular canvases of grand battles and seascapes, though an empty frame, Rembrandt's Christ in the Storm on Lake Galilee, had been stolen along with other invaluable paintings years ago.

That night, on the riverbank of the Charles, the orchestra romped, and fireworks sizzled into the sky making us jump. Lisa’s head fell back, her face up, illuminated by the brilliant reds, blues, and blinding whites of the explosions. Plumes and sprays with a smell of sulfur and ozone drifted over all of us on the lawn far from the front of the shell where the tiny conductor gesticulated grandly. The gut resonating booms of the fireworks that were reflected on the river beside us, synchronized with the blasts of the orchestra. Lisa winced at the explosions and grinned and laughed at the light. The crowd moaned as each starburst surpassed the previous one. We poked each other, pointed up, and rolled on our backs on 0ur rough blanket.


“‘Blown Away,’ Eli.”

“Lookit that one.”

We'd kissed, as happy as we'd ever be. I'd felt at the right place for the first time in my life. Verweile doch...!

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