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Since I have a few minutes,  I will look inside one of your books.
 

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Have you taken a look at other books in your categories to see what they're doing? How does your cover measure up? Are you around the same length for a similar price? What's the hook that sets your book apart from other books in your genre?

In my experience the route to success is all about studying the success of other people who've already done what you're trying to achieve.
 

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was that graph for "christmas past"?  do books with christmas in the title sell well when it's not christmas season?
 
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You have to be able to point to a similar example of a book of the same length, genre, price point, released at the same time, with the same amount promotion. If you can find that book, then you might need to work on either getting another one up just like it, or editing for quality, or advertising.

If you can't find that book, there's no point in even starting the conversation.
 

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OwenAdams said:
It's time for me to admit I have absolutely no idea where I'm going wrong. I knew week by week I wasn't getting sales often. I ascribed it to short fiction not selling well, or not being focused on my blog, or not knowing enough people, or... well anything. And it's got to the stage where I really doubt my ability to do this as a hobby, let alone a career. I just don't know where I'm going wrong, and I don't even know where to start making it go right, and I've been doing this for three years now.
I can only guess that five titles in three years (i.e., not enough paths into your publishing world), the covers, and the blurbs contribute to what might be holding you back. None of the covers are branded to a genre or to you as a writer and none of them reflect a genre other than maybe an octopus theme (except Time Trial which looks sorta sci-fi). None of the covers state what the title is--a collection of stories, a short story, a novel, whatever.
 

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Well your first book just got a jump in rank.  Now don't freak when you see a return.    I clicked the wrong button on Amazon.
Oh your books open at the introduction.
I think I know why you aren't selling.  You are not writing short stories.  You are writing flash fiction.   
Now this is just my personal opinion but your introduction made me NOT want to read your stories.
Show me you can write then tell me about yourself.   
Had I read that introduction without seeing it here, I would have assumed "oh great,  another guy that probably didn't even have the book proofread but heard somewhere he could make a fortune writing".

Readers are getting pickier and playing the self published card too early will cost you sales. 
Most of us have been burned too many times. 

I hope this helps.  Clean up your introduction and don't say a thing about knowing what kind of person I am. 
You are getting special treatment because I am procrastinating cleaning the kitchen.
 

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I checked out "Christmas Past."

I love the name "Timewasters." It's just an awesome title for a series.

You have a really cool concept, but I'm turned off almost immediately by the comma splice in the first sentence of your blurb. If I were browsing Amazon and saw this as a reader, I would skip it on that basis alone.

There are a lot of minor but distracting grammatical errors in your "look inside," and I had to get past the first two paragraphs before the story really grabbed me. Keep in mind that you have moments to get your readers' attention. It can be difficult to do that if you start with a scenic description. The first bit of dialogue, however, really captures my interest. I think that's your real starting point. You can work in description later.

"Time Trial" is in the same universe, yes? Are they supposed to be read in a particular order? It's difficult to tell, and that may also be turning readers off.

Please don't think I'm bashing you because of this post. It might seem critical, but I really think this is an interesting concept. With some editing, I think you'd have a good chance of selling more copies. I really think there's a great, captivating story here -- you just need to polish it to make it shine.
 

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1 Timewasters: Christmas Past 18pg
2 Two Cephalopods Walk Into A Bar 77pg
3 Octopus Returns: A Sting in the Tale 38pg
4 The Octopus of Suspense 33pg
5 Timewasters: Time Trial 27pg

Just saying, I throw away fish bigger than these.  Do you have plans to write longer works? Do any of these tie into each other, or are they all standalone stories?

Short fiction often sells when bundled.  Have you thought of making  a collection?
 

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Short fiction in general sells less at a lower volume than novels. That doesn't mean that short fiction never sells, because there are a few authors here who get decent sales with short fiction. But the overall sales volume is lower.

Another thing that's hampering you is that you only have five short stories available and they all seem to be standalones (unless the octopus stories are a series). Short fiction is very much a numbers game, which means that you need to publish a lot of them, preferably in the same genre and series, before you see your sales go up. I didn't see a significant sales increase until I had published about 25 stories and novelettes. I got my second significant sales bump when I hit 60. Having a series really helps as well, provided the series is popular.

Your covers aren't actually all that bad, but you need stronger branding. If the octopus books are a series, you should clearly brand them as such by using the same fonts, same or similar layout and similar graphics. I'd also consider publishing an omnibus edition for readers who prefer longer collections. And even if your books are all standalones, it still helps if you go for a similar look across your catalogue for branding purposes.   
 

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Lottie said:
You have a really cool concept, but I'm turned off almost immediately by the comma splice in the first sentence of your blurb. If I were browsing Amazon and saw this as a reader, I would skip it on that basis alone.
Comma splices are overrated. In informal speech there is a case to be made for them. They also constitute just one of the tiny factors contributing to the "big language divide" between the USA and the UK. We consider them less of a sacrilege here.
 

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MyraScott said:
1 Timewasters: Christmas Past 18pg
2 Two Cephalopods Walk Into A Bar 77pg
3 Octopus Returns: A Sting in the Tale 38pg
4 The Octopus of Suspense 33pg
5 Timewasters: Time Trial 27pg

Just saying, I throw away fish bigger than these. Do you have plans to write longer works? Do any of these tie into each other, or are they all standalone stories?

Short fiction often sells when bundled. Have you thought of making a collection?
Maybe you do, but short stories are a legitimate form of writing, and should not be discouraged nor disparaged. Many people like reading them, and ,any enjoy writing them. I do, in both respects. Short stories are harder to sell, even in collections, sure, but they can sell.

To the OP: branding (cover and titles) help, as does effective blurbs and the absolute best writing you can do. Get the stories into the most categories that apply by using keywords.

Output is going to be the most important thing. Short stories shouldn't take you long to write, edit, cover and publish. One a week or every other week will build you a catalog, and bundling into relevant collections helps. If you plan to stick to short stories, try to get into some magazines, or into anthologies with writers who are more known than you. We have the second KU anthology coming up, and flash fiction (what you seem to be calling "little stories") is what we're looking for.

I don't know if you're in KU, but you should consider it. I wouldn't pull anything from other markets, but try it with new stories. It's only ninety days' commitment, and you could get some borrows which will a) get you known to readers and b) raise your rankings.
 

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OwenAdams said:
It's time for me to admit I have absolutely no idea where I'm going wrong. I knew week by week I wasn't getting sales often. I ascribed it to short fiction not selling well, or not being focused on my blog, or not knowing enough people, or... well anything. And it's got to the stage where I really doubt my ability to do this as a hobby, let alone a career. I just don't know where I'm going wrong, and I don't even know where to start making it go right, and I've been doing this for three years now.
Personally I don't think you're necessarily "going wrong" with anything, as far as your publishing efforts are concerned. The quantity of stories you've published is probably the weakest point in the way you've implemented your strategy, because I think the strongest card up a short fiction writer's sleeve is the principle of hooking a reader on the author's writing style, thus ensuring that each hooked reader will want to read everything done by the author. If you haven't built up a sizable catalog and you publish infrequently, you won't get that kind of necessary momentum going, and that momentum seems critical to a short fiction writer seeing a consistent amount of sales.

The reason I say you're not necessarily going wrong is because I think the problem might be more on the side of your own personal expectations of what kind of results you get out of it. Sales is a numbers game of course and with that we get to talk about odds. What increases your odds of selling? Knowing the market and serving the market definitely will increase your odds. As an author looking for sales you're much like a carpenter. Readers have specific things they are looking to have built in their imagination and your job if you want to be hired for it is to build that for them. The more what you build deviates from the standards of what a certain set of readers is looking to have built, the less likely it is that they will want to pay you for it, because it's not what they're looking for. If you've established that you will offer your services to a narrower set of readers, it takes more effort to locate them and it puts more pressure on your sales pitch. If sales is the primary motivation for writing, then it's necessary to look at every decision made in terms of it increasing or decreasing your odds of selling your work. ;)
 

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MyraScott said:
Short fiction often sells when bundled. Have you thought of making a collection?
Not a bad thought, I now have two collections out. I'll share numbers.

Something Nice was released in 2012 with ~23,000 words and around 80 pages. Total sales to date are ~170 (plus a couple of borrows).
Something Nicer was released last week with ~25,000 words and around 90 pages. Total sales so far are ~22 (plus a couple of borrows again), almost all in the UK.

I don't know what your sales expectations or needs are, so you'll have to work out if those are numbers that are attractive to you. I reprint my fiction after entering it for contests and anthologies, so anything I make from self-publishing is very much a bonus, and an exercise in consolidating my work to try and build a bit of a profile. The stories in Something Nicer have already earned me ~$200 in fees and prize money, everything from this point is gravy.
 

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Covers and length seem to be a big factor, though I like the Time Trial one. That's actually pretty cool.

As for a 'comma splice', I had no idea what one even was. After checking, I kinda don't see the issue..? Perhaps that makes me a grammar fool, but if it reads well, it reads well.
 

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Owen,
Do not take this wrong but those covers are horrible.  No way would I grab them.  I would want to know what the flash fiction was about.
 

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Keep thinking and I will keep answering.
 

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Matthew Stott said:
As for a 'comma splice', I had no idea what one even was. After checking, I kinda don't see the issue..? Perhaps that makes me a grammar fool, but if it reads well, it reads well.
A comma splice is something amateur 'grammaticists' (like the incompetents Strunk & White) like to jump on to prove they are authentic.
File it along with: don't use semicolons, don't use adverbs, don't end sentences with prepositions, etc.

It is a meaningless correction, as comma splices are routinely used by many well-known and well-respected authors.
If you think the writing is weak then find a realistic reason to critique it rather than falling back on grammatical cant.
 

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Flay Otters said:
A comma splice is something amateur 'grammaticists' (like the incompetents Strunk & White) like to jump on to prove they are authentic.
File it along with: don't use semicolons, don't use adverbs, don't end sentences with prepositions, etc.

It is a meaningless correction, as comma splices are routinely used by many well-known and well-respected authors.
If you think the writing is weak then find a realistic reason to critique it rather than falling back on grammatical cant.
I also gave them a critique on their writing itself. People have red-penned my own comma splices and beaten the habit out of me. Maybe spending so many years in school and grading countless papers has turned me into a pedant. I don't know.

I'm sorry if my post came off as snobbish. It wasn't my intention.
 

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Lottie said:
I also gave them a critique on their writing itself. People have red-penned my own comma splices and beaten the habit out of me. Maybe spending so many years in school and grading countless papers has turned me into a pedant. I don't know.

I'm sorry if my post came off as snobbish. It wasn't my intention.
You did indeed. And I do understand.
Apology accepted.
Now I hope you will forgive me for being such a tool.
There was no need for me to be so obnoxious.
 
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