From the Grounds Up: On Being Freshly Pressed

4 Apr
French Press: Public Domain Photo by Yongbin

French Press: Public Domain Photo by Yongbin

When I started blogging last August, I did it primarily because advice column after advice column said that having a blog was essential to the success of indie authors. I hadn’t done much to promote my first two releases, and the sales numbers showed it, especially with the first Ace Stubble novella, Dead Man’s Hand. So I thought, why not? I started the blog, built up the site, and diligently posted at least once a week.

I was new not only to blogging but also to WordPress and soon discovered the “Freshly Pressed” page and thought, That would be cool. Getting freshly pressed would drive a lot of viewers to my page, get a lot more people to look at my books. So in the back of my mind as I was creating posts, I’d wonderMaybe this one’ll get Freshly Pressed. And, of course, they wouldn’t.

Not that it soured in me on the blogging experience. After a while, I forgot about getting onto the Freshly Pressed list. I was having a good time blogging, had picked up a handful of followers, and generally enjoyed having this as an outlet for my non-fictional writing.

Not long ago, though, I began to question the effectiveness of blogging as a tool for indie writers. You can see my post on the subject here, but in a nutshell, I wondered  about the goals of the fiction writer/blogger in relation to the needs of blog readers. I reached the conclusion that blogging may not help me reach my goal of attracting more readers, but it is a valuable thing in and of itself and may help me function more as part of a community of bloggers/writers/readers.

So that was the mindset I had going into this week when I published a post examining the issue of random chance and how it affects a writer’s success. I wasn’t thinking about the possibility of it getting freshly pressed or drawing in more readers or anything else beyond just what it was–a blog post that might or might not connect with other people’s views on the subject of writing and publishing.

And that was the post that got freshly pressed. The first day it had something like 49 views. Pretty good for me. My highest day before that had been 63. But then the next day I started noticing I was getting a bunch of new followers. And then the comments started coming in. That’s weird, I thought. After about an hour of this, I decided to look at the Freshly Pressed page at WordPress, and there was my post looking back at me.

That day, I had 341 visitors and over 500 views. The next day, I had 450 visitors and over 700 views. The comments kept poring in, along with “likes” and new followers.  Based on the comments, the post hit a nerve; lots of writers and artists have felt the same way about random chance as it affects success and many thanked me for coming out and saying it.

But what about the bottom line? Did getting Freshly Pressed lead to a lot of book sales? That’s probably what all the writers-who-blog are wondering. The answer is…nope. My sales stayed about the same as they’d been the week before.

Disappointing? Not really. It’s the kind of thing I’ve gotten used to. There have been several times over the last year where I thought there was a chance for something “big” to happen with sales: having links for my books appear on the pages of The Colored Lens, a magazine I’ve been published in twice; having Take Back Tomorrow selected by a large book club on GoodReads (resulted in, I think, 1 sale); paying for advertising on a major indie book site (resulted in 0 sales), etc.

The thing I’m learning is that people don’t necessarily go online looking to discover new books. They’re going for information. Most of the people reading blogs are other bloggers, and most of the people reading blogs about writing are other writers, not readers or potential readers. Sure, writers read, but they’re finding new books the way they always have–mostly through word of mouth, the number one thing the “experts” claim will lead to a writer’s success. They’re not clicking Amazon links on the blogs of other writers; instead, they’re looking to pick up a few tips and tricks that other writers have used to generate sales in hopes of doing the same themselves.

At least that’s one possibility. The other is that my website sucks and people aren’t clicking on my links because I’m no good at making them want to. I still have a lot to learn.

If I’m going to look at the commercial outcome of getting Freshly Pressed, I’d have to say it was a failure. But I’m not looking at it that way. Instead, I’m looking at the fact that my book covers crossed the screens of some 800 people over a day and a half, and probably a few hundred more in the days to come. Some of those people may have bookmarked the page, or put my books in their “to read” lists. Most didn’t. Most probably aren’t into science fiction, or at least not the quirky little sub-genre that I’m occupying.

And that’s okay. Because in the end, I’ve learned, it’s not about sales. It’s not about screaming “Buy My Books!” as loud and as long and as often as I can. Instead, it’s about making connections. And I’ve connected with a lot of people over the last few days, people who see writing the same way I do even if they’re not into science fiction. I have three times as many followers today as I did on Monday. And I’m hoping they stick around. A few of them are bound to like science fiction, or have friends who do. But even if they don’t, that’s okay, too.

Before I started publishing independently, I felt very alone in my endeavors. I don’t feel so alone anymore. Not being able to sell a book when I felt isolated was terribly depressing. Not selling many books when I’ve got this many people along for the ride anyway…that’s not so bad.

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15 Responses to “From the Grounds Up: On Being Freshly Pressed”

  1. Matilda Aya April 4, 2013 at 9:33 am #

    🙂 Thanks for being so open to sharing it.

  2. Brian D. Meeks (@ExtremelyAvg) April 4, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    I enjoyed your article, but I wasn’t familiar with the term “freshly pressed”. What does that mean?

    • richardlevesqueauthor April 4, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

      Basically it’s WordPress’s way of showcasing a blog that they think others would enjoy. Sometimes it seems kind of random what gets selected to be Freshly Pressed, but the posts are pretty prominently displayed, so it guarantees a lot of traffic to the blog.

  3. mattblackwellmetro April 4, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    Great to hear that you got more followers from the Freshly Pressed! Even if that doesn’t translate directly to book sales, it’s a great psychological boost – which can then spur you on in other ways. I think you’re right that WordPress is not really a commercial tool, and maybe best for us all to keep that in mind.

  4. authorsawilliams April 4, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I couldn’t agree more – while new to the blogging thing, I think I long ago (read: months ago) realized that most of the advice indie authors see about marketing themselves online doesn’t generate immediate sales results even if one follows it very closely. You’re absolutely right that it’s more about community and not feeling so alone in the endeavor.

    • richardlevesqueauthor April 4, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

      Thanks for the confirmation. It’s a slow climb but I still think it’s worth the effort.

  5. gwalshwhiteside April 4, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    I found your Blog the other day as a newbie on here, I wanted to gain a little insight, there has been no better time in history to be a writer I feel it’s possibly the worst too, as everybody who can string a sentence together is at it!
    I thought of your blog on Random chance when I was reading something else too and the conclusion I came to is yes, there is a case for luck and random chance, a not what you know but who you know element, but without the hard work of actually writing and getting it out there all efforts will be forever consigned to dusty attics and hard drives, you make your own luck by hard work and perseverance and a little creative thinking.
    I’m sure yours is about to pay off, it begins with your new followers who will spread the word!
    Good luck and you have a new follower in me! 🙂

    • richardlevesqueauthor April 4, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

      Thanks! I really appreciate the support. You’re right, of course. No luck will come without some hard work first.

  6. Jaye's Brain April 4, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    I read your blog the other day, purchased a book, something i really haven’t done yet, and then come back to see that entry freshly pressed. Yay for you! Enjoy it and display your banner proudly! I’m looking forward to reading it, and I can’t really put my finger on what tipped me into going from lurker to purchaser. I’ll leave a review on amazon when i finish, because I know that feedback is appreciated. Good luck!

    • richardlevesqueauthor April 4, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

      Thanks a lot! I really appreciate that. It’s always interesting to connect with people who’ve made that leap. I’ll look forward to hearing what you think about.

  7. nzumel April 5, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    Congratulations! My Freshly Pressed experience came the same way (and in fact, that’s how I found your blog, because you Liked that post). In my case, I got many new followers, and the readership went up — for a while. I post sporadically, and about a lot of different subjects; the Freshly Pressed post was not on one of my “typical” subjects, at all. So eventually, my stats went to just a touch higher than they had been before.

    I’m sure that’s not everyone’s experience, though. Your blog definitely has a theme, and you post regularly, so I’m betting that you will get a decent boost in readership from this. Hurray!

  8. R Mehrotra April 11, 2013 at 3:58 am #

    Great post. You hit the nail on the head. The isolation is what is most daunting about the whole process. Being part of a community and sharing experiences makes all the difference. Do you wish though, sometimes, that you didn’t have to do it?

    • richardlevesqueauthor April 14, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

      The fantasy of the published writer has always been that he/she just writes and sends it off to an editor who takes care of everything else–including promotion. If that was ever true, it’s not anymore. Yes, I’d rather just be able to write, but at the same time I have to say I’ve really enjoyed making connections with readers. I do wish the networking thing wasn’t an absolute necessity, as it takes time away from writing, but it beats digging ditches.

  9. Tristan Thomas October 16, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    Found your page via Google while trying to see how I can get my own website on the freshly pressed page. WordPress.com has come a very long way. When I first started selfhosting I looked down on the community but it has grown so much and now I have a great deal of respect for you all. I’m rambling now lol

    It would be great to get on the freshly pressed page, but with most things if you stay true to your love for doing something, all will follow in time. Hard work pays off and it’ll happen when you least expect it.

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