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On "selling" like hotcakes

On Friday night, I was hanging out at a friend’s place and decided to hop on his wifi and check on sales of Twenty-Somewhere at Amazon. The count was 13, as it had been for a few days. Disappointing, but okay.

Twenty minutes later I went home, got on my laptop, read emails, checked sales again. (Yes, it’s addicting.) Now the count was 113. I laughed.

“What’s so funny?” Andy asked.

100 sales in 20 min? Yeah right. “There’s some sort of crazy error on Amazon,” I said.

I refreshed the page, expecting the error to be corrected. Instead: 145.

Blink blink. What on earth is going on?

Turns out Amazon made Twenty-Somewhere free. See, they have a price-match policy, and I had set Twenty-Somewhere to be free on iTunes for the months of Sept and Oct. I knew it was a risk that Amazon would catch on, but 6 weeks had passed without their noticing, so I thought I was home-free.

Apparently not.

As I saw my sales climbing by the hundreds — or my downloads, really, since it was free and thus I was no longer earning royalties — I began to panic. What does this mean? How long should I let this go on? What if everyone hates it? What if this gets me blacklisted from any agent? What if what if what if?

Not wanting to (over)react too soon, I took a shower. I read some threads on the Writer’s Cafe forum of KindleBoards.com. I thought.

And I remembered that Twenty-Somewhere has always been my lab rat. An experiment in writing for fun, then in New Adult fiction, then in epublishing. Now in pricing. Sure, I hadn’t planned this new investigation, but that didn’t mean I had to cancel it. Why not ride it out for the rest of the month and see what happens?

So that’s what I’m going to do.

So far about 9,000 over 10,000 copies have been downloaded in less than 48 hours, putting Twenty-Somewhere at #9 on the Kindle Free list. To me that’s… staggering. Of course many of those downloads will never translate into actual reads. As a Kindle owner, I know there are “freebie hoarders,” and my story will sit forever in their Amazon Cloud.

But what if just 1% of those people read it? And what if some of them like it? And what if some of them come here to learn more about me and my writing?

(Or, in my fantasy, what if a Hollywood producer reads it and wants to make it a TV show?)

Who knows. Maybe absolutely nothing will come of this. That’s okay too. It’s a learning experience, and that’s what I want to do: learn. Adapt. Be open to possibilities and opportunities.

I expect it will be a month before I even begin to understand the effects of this. I’ll do my best to relate any findings here. In the meantime, I’ll still be finishing up my YA manuscript and then querying agents. With my birthday and Christmas both coming up soon, you can probably guess what’s on my wishlist.

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Writerly Wednesday

By popular request, I will use the alliterative title, but I make no promises about the regularity of this feature!

  • Amazon announced the 6 finalists (3 general fiction, 3 Young Adult fiction) for their 2009-2010 Breakthrough Novel Awards. Go check out the excerpts (which you can download free in PDF format) and vote! Support writers! Enjoy stories!
  • In squee!-worthy news, HarperTeen posted an excerpt of Kiersten White’ss forthcoming debut (Sept 2010) Paranormalcy:“Just as he reached for my neck, I tased him. I was there to bag and tag, not to kill. Besides, if I had to carry separate weapons for every paranormal I took out, I’d be dragging around a full luggage set. Tasers are a one size-fits-all paranormal butt-kicking option. Mine’s pink with rhinestones. Tasey and I have had a lot of good times together.”

    Full excerpt here!
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A few fictional Asians

Yesterday, Crossing by Andrew Xia Fukuda became available for purchase. Andrew is another writer and blog-friend I met through the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards, and in fact his book is being published via AmazonEncore as a result of his participation in that contest.

Now, I didn’t subject Andrew to an interview like I did Todd, but the Q&A on Crossing‘s Amazon page is what got me interested in his book. I highly recommend checking that out.

Verdict? Crossing took me by surprise. I wanted to read it because of my Chinese heritage, and because of how the Virginia Tech incident affected me, but somehow I wasn’t expecting the book’s emotional depth. Furthermore, the mystery element made it a very compelling read, and certain passages struck me with their literary beauty. Like any book, Crossing won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I certainly enjoyed it.

Of course, I had to laugh when Andrew mentioned (in the Q&A) how most immigrant books feature “clichéd scenes of family meals, flowery mother-daughter relationships, and cathartic returns to the motherland.” Because that’s sort of the book The Good Daughters was. (TGD = my first ever completed novel, currently shelved but slated to be rewritten.) Well, okay, TGD’s mother-daughter relationship wasn’t flowery, and no one went back to the motherland, but it did feature more “typical” or expected elements. (Hence why it needs to be rewritten.)

So in addition to enjoying Crossing as a story, I also appreciated how Andrew stepped away from a lot of the stereotypes. (But not all of them. And hey, some exist for a reason.) Andrew used Chinese culture to enhance Xing’s character, not to define him. Xing could have been a loner for any reason; he just happened to be Chinese.

Similarly, actress-writer-director Fay Ann Lee created Falling for Grace, a Chinese-American rom-com. Yes, that’s right: a Chinese-American romantic comedy. Hollywood liked the story but wanted Lee to change the main character to a white or Hispanic woman. Lee refused and put the movie out independently. It’s not 100% polished like the slick things we usually see on-screen, but it’s got a lot of raw truth in it, particularly in the scenes about Grace and her family. In fact, my favorite part (sorry, this is a teeny bit of a spoiler) is when Grace gives her brother some money for culinary school:

Ming: I’ll pay you back, I promise!
Grace: Just cook for me for the rest of my life.
Ming: … I’d rather pay you back.

Did that have to take place between Asian siblings? Of course not. But throughout the movie, their heritage is reflected in their interactions with each other and with their parents, and it makes those relationships feel rich, and real.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love (love LOVE) Amy Tan, and a lot of the more “typical” Asian American fiction that’s out there. (LOVE.) But I think it’s great that some writers and artists are exploring their heritage in other ways. We need to represent the whole spectrum of experiences, you know?

Andrew Xia Fukuda and Fay Ann Lee are doing that, and when I rewrite The Good Daughters, I plan to as well.

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A for effort?

Continuing with the Best of 2009 Challenge

December 21 Project. What did you start this year that you’re proud of?

Hmm. I’m waffling on how to define “project” here. Maybe I’ll just list “efforts” that I’m proud of. They are:

  • Using “waffling” in a blog post.
  • Using a lot of quotation marks in same post.
  • Making it to the quarterfinals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest. But I probably could have gotten farther had my manuscript really been ready, so that’s a little bittersweet…
  • Earning my first royalties by experimenting with Amazon’s Kindle publishing platform. A total of like $25, lol, but hey, getting paid to write is getting paid to write!
  • Realizing I would probably be better suited (and happier) writing for people in their teens and twenties. This doesn’t sound like an “effort,” but believe me, it wasn’t an easy thing to put away the notions I’d carried about my literary career for over 15 years.
  • Writing Twenty-Somewhere for fun — and then having it attract the attention of St. Martin’s Press! Completely unexpected and wonderful, even though its chances of getting published are about as good as my chances of… ending this sentence with something clever and amusing.
  • Reading all of Kiersten White’s blog archives. Well technically I’ve only read 60%, but at the rate I’ve been devouring her words, it will almost certainly be done before the end of the year. Or maybe even before I finish writing this post…

All right, maybe it hasn’t been such a good-for-nothing year. In fact, maybe it’s been a pretty decent one. But I’m hoping 2010 will be even better. At least in terms of “projects to be proud of,” and specifically for my writing career. I guess you’ll just have to check back in a year to see how I fare! ;)

But enough about me. Seriously. What projects (or “efforts”) from this past year are you proud of?

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  1. The Links page no longer shows URLs, but rather people’s names and then their site/blog title. Even though I also shrunk the font, I think this is much more readable.
  2. Amazon decided to not let people put Kindle books in their aStores anymore (if you don’t know what an aStore is, don’t worry about it) so I had to create an Author page instead. Don’t get me wrong: I’m very excited about my shiny new Amazon Author page! BUT. It’s not as attractive or easy to manage as the aStore was. Supposedly they are still working to populate all my “books,” but for now the bibliography is unfortunately incomplete.
  3. The buttons at the top of this site (just under the masthead) have changed to reflect #2.
  4. “The Eraser” has sold a couple copies! I’m still not sure how to market it (9 yr old protagonist, not a happy ending, but not a sad/scary story either…) but I’m glad people are reading it.
  5. I want this woman’s life! Okay, maybe just her 3-BOOK DEAL WITH HARPERTEEN. But, you know, details.
  6. I’m not really kidding. I want a 3-book deal.
  7. I put up the next set of episodes of Twenty-Somewhere. This means I only have 1 more set left. This means I must write new episodes!
  8. Word Count – Aug 18, 2009:

    Or somewhere thereabouts. It’s late, and I’m too tired to type up what I wrote today. But I am getting better at estimating the word count from my handwritten pages. And I finished a journal! I LOVE the feeling of using up one journal and starting the next. My new one has a cute cream-colored puppy on the cover, with the words, “Knuddel mich…” We’re guessing that means “Cuddle me”? (And no, not all my journals look like they belong to a 12-year-old girl.)

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