It was published first in paperback on Amazon and then rolled out as a pre-order ebook to Amazon, Kobo, Nook, iBooks, Smashwords, Scribd and others.
The paperback is registered and cataloged with major distributors worldwide, including Nielsen, Gardners, Bertram, and Ingram. You can get it from Waterstones in the UK and it’s going to be available from Barnes & Noble in the US at some point soon. You can also ask your library to order a copy for you.
So, it’s out there. And what’s happened in those first three weeks? You know, I’m not sure! Let me explain.
First up, the data for distribution and sales doesn’t appear instantly, but trickles through drip by drop. Some channels can take literally months to process sales records. Other channels are quicker. However, I have some data, and I’m happy to share that with you.
Why not? It’s just the facts. I’ve nothing to hide and it will interest you. Just bear in mind that at this early stage it’s a very incomplete data set. It’s certainly far too early to discuss trends or come to any hard-and-fast conclusions. Caveats aside, then, what have we got?
The main source is from Amazon (UK/US/DE have seen sales). So what happened at Amazon so far? Well, it’s been a roller-coaster ride. Up and down like the proverbial yo-yo.
But before we go into that, I have sold some books. According to my business plan, I shouldn’t have expected to sell a single one at this stage, still less hit the bestseller charts and garner a couple of top-notch reviews. But we’ll get back to that.
I have sold paperback books mostly, and a couple of ebooks have been pre-ordered. And the interesting thing is that the word on Indie Street is clear: you cannot sell Middle Grade/early YA paperback books if you are independently published.
Apparently the word on the street is wrong.
I think I’ve sold fewer than 100 books so far (discounting a couple purchased by supportive friends and family). I think that’s not bad. Not bad at all for a complete unknown with no fancy marketing team. Or any marketing team, come to that.
I’m not blowing my own trumpet here, just sharing my surprise. In the end, the deciding factor will be whether or not the book continues to sell steadily in the long term. Many a book, Indie or otherwise, has had a happy launch only to sink without trace. I’m quite realistic about the possibilities.There’s no joy in selling a couple of handfuls of books in the first few weeks and then nothing for the rest of your life.
This is what happened. In the first few days, there were no sales. Then I think a couple of family members bought a copy each and so I had a sales ranking – something like 400,000 or so! A figure like that means little. But in the next few days it started to sell to folks I didn’t know. It’s been selling one or two copies most days. And then this happened:
That’s my book, down there on the bottom right. It had an overall sales rank of about 45,000 at this point (which isn’t bad, given there are over 3 million books listed on Amazon). But for a core sub-category (Young Adult Steampunk) it had hit the top ten. Only just, in at number 9, but there.
Now this is a tiny niche-within-a-niche so not the making of millionaires. Even so, it represented increased visibility to the avid readers in that niche. And what it was doing in that niche anyway is anyone’s guess. All the metadata points it to Middle Grade Adventure Books (if you search that on Amazon, it comes up on the first page). But there was a sudden flurry of book sales on the back of that. Two days later, the situation looked like this:
It had climbed up to number 5 in the bestseller list for that niche. The most observant among you will also notice it now has a few of those lovely stars, too. 4.5 star rating from two reviews. One came from someone on the mailing list who’d received a free review copy – and actually honored the agreement with his honest opinion. The other was a verified purchase. Sales continued to trickle in and the next few days saw my book climb to the number 3 spot:
Well, that looked mighty pretty to me! At this point the overall ranking was 20,000 in books. This started to represent real, daily sales. I was blown away. Remember I had happily expected to sell nothing at all until the third book was out and I’d had chance to create a bit of buzz.
But would it continue?
No. It wouldn’t. Enter the Yo-yo Effect…
The book held its own in the top ten for a while, then suddenly it started to fall and finally dropped down to number 15 in the list. Still not bad, but it was also showing an overall ranking of 103,000. That’s typically interpreted as one book or less per day. But still.
Then it bumped back up to number five, then down to 10, up to 8, down to 25 and seems, at the time of writing, to have settled into position 15 for the last few days.
I fully expect that, unless something very extraordinary and unexpected happens, it will now continue to decline. It may even vanish altogether. At least for a while. As a few more reviews trickle in and as chance discoverers decide to give it a shot, it may pick up again on and off. That is until the second book comes out and then the third. Each new book helps the discover-ability of the others in the online market ecology. Prolific writers are 99% more likely to achieve financial success in the longer term (assuming they’ve covered all the bases; a good, well-written book not being the least of those). The link between publishing lots and any measure of success is the topic of the next post.
But for now, I’m happy. I’m encouraged that there’s something there. The book’s going to do okay in the long term, I’m sure of it. And I never expected to sell any at this stage.
So, what are the three things I’ve learned thus far?
- It’s always worth doing your research, but there’s really no way to properly predict what will happen to a book once it’s published.
- Don’t be distracted from your main strategy because you either get a better launch than you’d thought, or because it seems to have flopped. Watch with interest, gather data for later analysis, and keep on with your wider publishing strategy. It’s a long term thing.
- Even if it looks good at the outset, for chrissakes don’t give up the day job just yet!
However, I have a long term business plan and an overall strategy and from that perspective it’s all good and it’s all going according to plan. And part of that plan is a fairly punishing publishing schedule and multiple lines of attack.
But more about that next time, when we’ll find out just what Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Stephen King, and James Patterson have in common. And we’ll learn from that. Well, I did.
Sign up to the Clockwork Press mailing list. You’ll get the first two books in the Dark Sea Trilogy absolutely free in the e-book format of your choice. Crazy, isn’t it? But it’s true.
If you’d rather buy them or just prefer a paperback, the first in the series, Beyond the Starline, is here: Amazon UK Amazon US Waterstones Barnes & Noble Smashwords Kobo or ask for it in your library or local independent bookstore and they’ll order it for you.
If you have any questions or comments, I’ll be more than happy to help if I can, or just connect and share experiences, thoughts, feelings and ideas.
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Image credits: all images (apart from the book covers of my novels) are in the Public Domain and were sourced via the Creative Commons. Click on the image to reveal the name of the artist and the work in the address bar.