On the release of the second episode of the podcast audiobook of Death by Cliché, Howard Tayler’s fans brought my server to its knees. For hours, you couldn’t get the page to come up, much less actually download the episode. I had over ten thousand downloads in those first few hours and my little server wasn’t enough to handle it.
At the time I was working for the web hosting company that hosted the site. They sold processing power, but not actual bandwidth. Fortunately when you work at a company like that, you know other employees with servers of their own. By the time episode three came out, I had two mirrors set up to take the stress off the server. It worked well. For the rest of the run of the podcast, every time I released an episode, my server would have about half the downloads and the mirrors would divide the other half between them.
Things went well for the next few podcasts, although I realized right away that I’d made a terrible mistake. Somewhere around episode 2, people started demanding a way to buy the finished book. I had none. Of all the financial mistakes I’ve made in my life, this was probably the worst. If I had been thinking, I would have had e-book and lulu print on demand versions of the book already sitting in my store. Want to find out how the audiobook ends? No sweat, just click here to buy. But I had nothing. Stupid.
I don’t know if what happened next was a mistake exactly, because I don’t see a way to have avoided it, but the next hitch came around Christmas when Carolyn went on vacation. I believe other family issues cropped up at the same time. Obviously, there was no reason for her to vacation-proof the podcast, she wasn’t making any money off it, after all. So when she left, there was nothing we could do but wait for the next episode to come.
A podcast has momentum. Once you take the anomaly of Howard’s stress test for episode 2 into account, my downloads had been steadily building throughout the release. If things had continued, I probably would have hit that critical 10,000 download mark where people start noticing just how popular your audiobook really is. But I didn’t. It was a month before we released that next episode.
In that month, I lost it all.
My downloads dropped to almost nothing. People had walked away from the book. I was at the halfway point and everything I’d done that far had just evaporated with the month off.
I spent the rest of the podcast rebuilding those numbers. In the end, I was close to the numbers I’d had before the break, maybe even a little above them, but I’ll never know for sure how big the book could have gotten if I hadn’t missed a week.
And possibly more critically, although I’d been building an ebook version, it became obvious I wasn’t going to finish it in time to capitalize on people wanting to know how the book would end. So when the podcast ended, it was over. There was very little left to do but note the numbers I did get and move them into my query letters.
It was over. For a second time.