Tuesday, July 31, 2012

6,000 books sold!

 One of the things I treasure about the community of Indie writers is transparency. This is an experiment for all of us, and we're all trying different things. Fortunately, we live in the age of instant information and we can share our failures and successes effortlessly, for the greater benefit of all. 

In this new environment, some writers have found success by social networking, others by pricing all of their titles at $0.99. Or $2.99. Or $9.99. For some, the number "10" has been lucky. Publish ten books, they say, and then everything takes off. Yet others have only published one or two, or instead have chosen to publish short novellas rather than full length novels. For the right person at the right time, each of these techniques has brought massive success. Ultimately though, the true formula for success seems to be writing well and knowing your market. Those two things have always been integral to this business and it seems they always will.

Admittedly, it's hard to keep track of everything going on out there, and this task is made even harder by the moving target - by which I mean Amazon of course. In the last few months, it has come to light that Amazon does some odd things with their search and display algorithms, the most recent being an adjustment that favors higher priced novels. This created a situation where lower priced novels had to sell many more copies to reach the same overall ranking on Amazon.com I tested this myself and found it to be true. I've seen one of my novels priced at $5.99 go from 200,000 rank down to less than 50,000 with one sale. That information in itself would be highly valuable, except for the fact that we know Amazon toys with the individual "weight" of each sale, so we can only draw conclusions as to what this means for individual prices. One of my loss leader titles priced at $0.99 might have to sell five or ten copies to reach a rank of 50,000 on the same day, and we can't even assume that these algorithms function the same all day long. What works at noon may not at midnight. Amazon likes to keep us guessing. 

But it's still good to know where we all sit as individuals. That information is valuable; it gives us a feel for the movement of the market and the business in general. So, this is where I am:

6,000. That's the number of titles sold in approximately 18 months since I began this experiment. That doesn't count free downloads. That number is pure profit. It may seem pretty good or a bit pathetic depending on where you stand. The truth is that 6,000 books is a fairly midlist number in Indie publishing. It's not an abysmal failure by any stretch, but few would consider that mark a phenomenal success. But let's examine those numbers a little closer:

The first point I should make is that my number of published titles has consistently grown over that time frame. I began by publishing a small back log of novels, trying to put up a new one every few weeks. In the midst of that, I was continuing to write, and eventually I began publishing the newer works as well. I'm now reaching the level of about four new novels per year - that's four NEW, full-length novels, it doesn't count short stories or the back list. What that means is that when I started publishing eighteen months ago, I had one title up. A few weeks later it was two. A few months later, it was five. So I began as an unknown with no marketing or promotion, and just a slowly growing list of books. 

I spent that first year analyzing my numbers in terms of daily averages. Thirty sales for one month would have meant one sale per day. I started at less than that, and worked my way up to three a day, then five, and so on... I peaked during the post-holiday shopping season with just under 1,500 sales for the month of February . That number then slid down to less than a thousand, until I hit bottom over the summer with an average of 250-300 sales per month. After selling 1,500 books a month for a while, 300 can feel pretty lousy. But the reality is that I'm still selling several times what I was selling last year. 

The last point is that my 6,000 number has mostly happened in the last six months. The slow build that got me to that number didn't amount to much for the first year. I don't have solid numbers, but my guess would be less than 1,500 of those sales came from 2011. The rest of it has been all this year, and that's not too bad.

All I can do at this point is hope and pray that the growth continues in the same way. I know to expect a surge in business around the holidays and a slump through the summer. That's the way it just seems to work. But if I'm selling three or four times as much next summer as I am this summer, I WILL be making a living at this, and ultimately that is the goal.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tinker's War!

Ten years have passed since the death of Prince Sheldon and the end of his violent coup, and in that time Breeze has been content to fly her spring-powered planes back and forth across Astatia, shuttling ambassadors and nobles from city to city. Steam technology and springs have evolved since the discovery of the unique qualities of Tinker's Blackrock steel, which can store incredible amounts of energy, but word of this steel has spread far and wide and  the years of peace, prosperity, and political bickering have made the nation weak. 

When a horde of barbarian warriors known as Vangars invade by crossing the Frigid Sea in gigantic black dragon ships fueled by precious but dwindling supplies of black tar-like oil, Astatia is all but defenseless.The mighty Vangar warriors assault the capital cities, slaying the royal families and killing or capturing thousands of citizens in one mighty blow, leaving a cloud of acrid black smoke and the smell of death in their wake. Breeze forms a team of rebels intent on defeating the Vangars, but in the meanwhile Tinker has become the Vangars' most valuable prisoner, and her hopes of rescuing him may be too late.

In the midst of the chaos, Breeze finds herself trapped in the middle of a romantic conspiracy to wed her to a young pilot, but Breeze has no interest in marrying her would-be suitor, nor in the young Tal'mar warrior named Tam who would claim her as his own... or does she? The only thing she knows for certain is that she must rescue Tinker and stop the Vangar from learning his secrets or all else will be lost, and the kingdom of Astatia will fall into ruin and slavery forever.

Tinker's War will be available September 15. If you'd like to read it before then, contact me about an advance review copy at JamieSedgwick@sbcglobal.net

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I'm Back!!!!!

Whew. 10 Days on the road, 5 days of solid driving, towing my family's 25ft travel trailer through no less than 7 states for a total of nearly 3,000 miles. That's practically San Francisco to D.C.! After a whirlwind adventure, we finally got home Friday night. We spent Saturday unpacking and working on the trailer, and then towed it up to storage. And as soon as I was done with it all, I immediately came down with a cold.

I suppose that's not too surprising, considering the extreme exhaustion that such a trip can cause, but the truth is it started even before I left. I knew that before I hit the road with my family, I'd have to do some maintenance on my truck and trailer because the last place you want to break down is in the middle of the high plains in July, 1,000 miles from home and with no cell phone reception and temperatures often pushing 110 degrees.

I started early, doing some repairs on the trailer and general maintenance on the truck. Then I realized that I not only had to change the transmission fluid and oil, but the front end needed a complete rebuild. Before our trip even began, I had changed the ball joints, tie rods, drag link and track bar bushings... plus the above mentioned maintenance. So really, this trip started for me about two months ago and I hadn't had a moment's rest until Sunday morning, when the flu knocked me on my butt and I spent the day pacing around the house like a mental patient looking for his invisible sneakers.

And yesterday, an old friend came by to ask for help finding a new apartment because the house where he had been renting a room just went into a short sale and the bank gave him two weeks to get out. Hazy as I was, I did what I could. He's got a list of six places to visit today. I hope it all works out for him, and I'm sure by the end of the week I'll probably be helping him move.

At any rate, Sunday and Monday were a wash and I'm only just getting back to reality today. I had big plans for this week but I'm kind of lowering my expectations. I'm getting ready to send out ARCs on Tinker's War, but they won't be ready for a couple more weeks and in the meanwhile I still haven't drummed up any reviews for Death in the Hallows. So my plan is to contact reviewers this week and send out copies of Hallows, and then start focusing on Tinker's War next week. By the end of the month I'll be sending those ARCs out.

In the meanwhile, my blog and newsletter followers are welcome to email me and get on the list. If you want an advance review copy of Tinker's War, let me know! And if you have a blog or other similar forum and would like to do an interview or author spotlight, please contact me. My email address is: JamieSedgwick@sbcglobal.net