Feb 152012
 

Mike Oakes is a fellow Dead Robot Society forum member, and he left the below comment after my last post.  I started to reply directly to his questions, but I quickly found that my reply was becoming longer than the post on which he’d left them.  So I decided I would simply create a new post on the topic.  Read his comment below, and my reply after.

Mike Oakes says:

Congratulations

I read the first few chapters of your book when you had it in the crypt of the DRS forum. It stood out to me as a book that could get published. When I saw that you were releasing it, I was excited to see how a skilled first time writer would fare in the open market. I’d say breaking even in two months is faring pretty well. It gives me faith that good work will at least usually be rewarded.

I get the impression that your sales have ramped up and are still going strong. Is that true? A post on any specific sales figures would be very interesting.

Again, congratulations.
And good luck in the future.

 

Hi Mike. First of all, thanks for the kind words.  They mean a lot to me.  I’m still getting used to the idea that people actually like my writing, and every note I get from someone makes me smile at the thought.  So thanks for today’s smile. :-))

As for the sales of Half Past Midnight, yes – sales are still going strong (knock on wood), or at least what I consider strong.  There are plenty of folks that have paved the way before me, and I’ve tried to study what they’ve done to maximize my results.  If you want to see how the big kids do it, I strongly suggest you read the blogs or listen to podcasts of people like Nathan Lowell, Robin Sullivan, Joe Konrath, and a whole host of others.  They are the folks that can really show you how it’s done.

Me?  I’m still very new at this business, so I’m not sure what the veterans would consider strong sales.  I can tell you that I’m not about to quit the day job and pursue my writing career – at least, not yet.  I’m even less sure how to respond to the question regarding whether or not my sales have ramped up.  It’s just not a simple yes or no question in my case. Let me explain.

HPM sales started pretty slow when the book first released in mid-December.  That was pretty much as I expected.  Like I said, I’m a new author with no following, and there are tens of thousands of other new authors on Amazon.  So during my first two weeks, HPM worked its way up to about ten sales per day.  My math showed that 95% of those sales were on Amazon.  So on January 1, I removed the book from Smashwords, Nook, and other venues, joined Amazon’s KDP Select program, and sales stayed the same – still about ten per day.  Then came what I call “The Great Experiment”

Let me preface this part by giving credit where credit is due.  You see, I was lucky enough to have also had my book chosen as a Red Adept Select title.  Up at the top of my page here, you will see a carousel of books entitled “Red Adept Select Titles” (and I would encourage you to read any of them that strike your fancy – they are all extremely well done).  Suddenly, I was in the same “room” as these fine folks, most of them well established writers with a wealth of knowledge and experience that they were more than willing to share.  It was these fine folks who convinced me to try The Experiment.

On January 3, I took a gamble based on their advice.  I posted an ad, made a couple of announcements on social media sites, and made the book free for a day.  Suddenly “sales” (which I put in quotes, because giving something away for free is not the same as selling it) completely shot through the roof.  Hell, they blasted the roof completely off the house, left the atmosphere, and destroyed a nearby asteroid!  On that one day, I gave away more than 11,300 copies of the book.  That’s more than eleven thousand, three hundred!!!!!

And that’s where the magic started.  Those 11,300 “sales” shot my book to the number two spot on the Amazon “Top 100 Action and Adventure – Free” list, and into the twenties of their Top 100 of all free books.  That, combined with the two ads, gave me some incredible exposure.  More importantly, for the next week after the book was no longer free, HPM continued to sell at a rate of more than 100 copies per day.  That kept it in the charts, but now it was suddenly in the Top 100 Action and Adventure – Paid list.  In fact, for three days, it stayed in Amazon’s Top 100 of all paid books!  This triggered what I like to call the Ouroboros Effect.  The more visible a book is, the better its sales, which keeps it visible in the charts, which triggers more sales, which keeps it visible in the charts, which…. well, you get the idea.  Half Past Midnight rode the Ouroboros express for about a week, and then began to taper off until after a few weeks it finally leveled out at about twenty sales per day.

… Until this week. For some reason, sales are now climbing again.  I’m pretty sure I understand why it did so well immediately after The Experiment.  I think it was simply a combination of having published in a genre that was hungry for new material, following a good marketing strategy, and pure luck.

But I have no idea how to explain this latest bump in sales.  For some reason, sales have gone back up to around fifty per day, and I haven’t done anything to promote it.  There is nothing that I can point to and say, “here’s why sales are increasing”.  Yet for the last few days, Half Past Midnight is once again in Amazon’s Top 100 Action and Adventure-Paid on both the Kindle (now #66) and Book (now #82) lists.  It’s not back up where it was before, but it’s there nevertheless.  I was expecting a bit of a bump toward the end of February, because I have an ad scheduled to come out then.  But this latest bump is a complete mystery to me.

 UPDATE – Before I posted this, I spoke to my editor, Lynn O’Dell.  When I expressed my puzzlement over the recent uptick in sales she checked and pointed out that Half Past Midnight is now linked in Amazon’s “Also Bought” lists to other post-apocalyptic novels such as William Forstchen’s One Second After, Des Michaels’ Terawatt, Ray Gorham’s 77 Days in September, and David Crawford’s Lights Out, all of which have significant fan bases.  It’s something that sometimes happens when an intermingling of fans occurs.  I have no idea if it will continue – if it will result in a continued sales increase, or if it’s simply a short-lived phenomenon.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s just another twist on the roller coaster – and I’m going to continue to enjoy the ride for as long as I can. 8-)

So Mike, I hope that answered your questions.  If not, just ask again and I’ll be happy to respond.

Be safe everyone. :bye:

Oct 102011
 

If anyone is actually reading this, you may have noticed that I haven’t posted in almost two weeks, and that’s unusual for me.  I do apologize.  As anyone who’s not a full-time writer knows, life has a way of intruding.

You’ll note that the progress meter on “The Road to Rejas” is still moving.  I’m just over 7500 words into it and at this point I believe I can say with a bit of confidence that this puppy is going to surpass the projected 10k wordcount by a considerable percentage. Of course, I can’t predict how much of a percentage that may be, but I’ve found that the characters seem to have a lot more to say than I thought they did.

In the meantime, I spoke to Steve Jackson at Telemachus Press this weekend.  He tells me that Half Past Midnight has completed the formatting phase and is moving through the process.  I try not to bug him about it, but I’m afraid it’s difficult for me to leave things alone.  Luckily for me, Steve seems to be a very patient guy and doesn’t seem to mind my nagging.  (Thanks, Steve!)  :)

During the course of our discussion, I asked him about the current battle between Amazon (CreateSpace) vs. other print on demand (POD) companies.

First some background —  For those of you that may not be aware, CreateSpace is Amazon’s in-house POD distributor.  There are really only two big players in the POD industry; CreateSpace (CS) and Lightning Source (LS).  Nearly all other POD companies actually use these two for their print runs.

So what is POD?  Let’s say a small author (such as yours truly) decides to offer up their book in written format, and they don’t have the benefit of a publishing house to handle the print runs.  They then turn to CS or LS to offer the book as a POD.  That allows them to sell the book on Amazon without actually having the book printed.  The reader then sees the book offered, orders it, and it gets printed on a small press when it is ordered.

Only lately, that isn’t the case.  Lately, if you have your book printed by Lightning Source, you are likely to find that your book is “out of stock” with a 1 – 3 week wait time.  Needless to say, there has been considerable consternation over this situation.  Most people seem to feel that Amazon is using this tactic to force authors to use CS, where Amazon can get a larger cut of the author’s profits, and control a larger piece of the industry in general.

Now, as a newbie to this industry, I’m pretty concerned when I see something going on that can change the playing field in a realm wherein I haven’t even fully gotten myself established yet.  I thought Steve might have something to say about it, since Telemachus Press uses LS for their POD books.  So I asked him, fully expecting a little bit of a rant on how Amazon is trying to overstep, or strong-arm the industry, as I’ve seen posted at so many other sites.  Needless to say, I was a little surprised when all I got from him was a chuckle. 

It turns out that this isn’t the first time Amazon has done something like this.  It seems that in 2008, Amazon simply removed the “Buy” buttons on books that weren’t printed through their in-house POD company (at that time it was called BookSurge, and later changed to CreateSpace – I don’t know why, but I don’t think I would want the abbreviation for BookSurge associated with my company either. ;-) )  I’ve gone back and read through several articles and blog posts on the 2008 situation, and while I can’t find anything in writing on what actually ended it, Steve pointed out to me that while CS is owned and operated by Amazon, LS is owned and operated by Ingram Content Group, who currently has the industry’s largest active book inventory, with access to 7.5 million titles, and is absolutely HUGE when it comes to getting into brick and mortar stores.  I would think that Amazon would take a major hickey if LS were to shut off access of their books to Amazon.

So it’s two giants facing off, waiting to see who’ll blink first.  And us little guys who are trying to offer our product who are caught in the middle. 

How do we choose?  In my case, I’m a big proponent of finding the provider who offers the better quality.  Steve Jackson, of Telemachus Press, is firmly in the LS camp.  He claims that the quality of the product LS offers is far superior to CS, and tells stories of books with spines misalligned and pages curling in the air when left lying flat on the table.

I have read other blogs that say just the opposite, claiming that the paper quality of CS is better, thicker, and the color quality of the book covers is better in CS.

Robin Sullivan, who you already know is a guru in this business if you’ve ever read any of my other posts, or have read her blog itself, posted on this subject back in July.  She did a comparison of Create Space Vs Lightning Source that is well worth a read.  She compares the quality (among other things) and according to her, there is very little difference in the two.  As for the problems that Amazon has with LS and how it affects us little guys? Robin recommends examing your goals for distribution before making up your mind.  Both LS and CS have pros and cons under certain circumstances.  Are you going to sell in brick and mortars?  Are you going to sell directly through your website?  Are you going to sell only on Amazon?

Lots of things to consider.  Go read Robin’s blog if you want to see what else she has to say on the  matter.  For now, I’m just glad I’m only going ebook.  :)

In the meantime, keep safe, keep reading, and keep writing.

Aug 072011
 

I’m a bit surprised to discover how many people are visiting my site.  Initially I thought this was going to be little more than my own little online diary, and as such, I wrote more for myself than anyone else.  There were, of course, thoughts that some people might find me later – after I publish, but here I am a month after launching this blog, and Google analytics tells me I’ve had 118 distinct visitors to my site.  It’s not really big, by any means, but it’s about 115 more than I expected just now.  8-) Checking the stats shows me that peak visitation usually occurs after I post to Twitter, and I imagine that if I got serious with my Facebook site, that would help as well. That is after all, why they call it social networking, right? :laugh:

It seems that I have become part of a network without even being aware of it.  As I’ve come to realize this, my posts have changed.  I no longer simply write for myself.  I assume that there may be other people out there who are as eager to learn about this new world of self- or indie- publishing as I am, so I write for them.  Now, since my current experience is mainly just with the writing and editing phase of the process, that means that all I can offer for the rest is to simply point out when I find a good resource.

Anyone who has read any of my older posts knows how much I recommend The Dead Robots’ Society as a place to meet fellow aspiring writers, and to learn about the trials and tribulations of the business from those who are going through the same thing.  And any of you who have listened to their podcasts, will have likely already heard of the lady I am about to recommend.  But if you haven’t, let me strongly recommend Robin Sullivan‘s blog, Write to Publish.

I first heard of Robin and Michael J. Sullivan in a podcast interview with The Dead Robots, and was delighted with their down to earth, no-holds-barred attitude. Michael is the author of The Riyria Revelations, a fantasy series that begins with The Crown Conspiracy (you will find it listed in my sidebar widget of “Some Books I Recommend”).  I am not a huge fan of fantasy, but I read this one at the recommendation of some people I trust, and was pleasantly surprised. Michael is a fine storyteller and author.

As fine as he is though, I would like to focus on his wife.  Robin Sullivan is a guru when it comes to understanding the changing landscape of modern publishing.  During that first DRS interview I heard her in, she was amazingly succinct and well versed, spouting facts and statistics that everyone else seems to view as taboo.  She was a refreshing font of information, and has been back on The Dead Robots’ Society for more interviews and Q&A sessions.  Now I knew her publishing company, Ridan Publishing, had a website, but I haven’t bothered to mention it because Ridan is currently closed to submissions.  What I never thought to search for was a blog.  It wasn’t until I began to follow her on Twitter that I noticed her blog posts.  At that point I discovered that this wonderful lady has been sharing her knowledge almost daily on Write to Publish.

So let me rectify my oversight here.  If you (like me) are searching for good sources of information from which you can learn about modern publishing, please do yourself a favor and visit Write to Publish.  You absolutely won’t regret it.