Thursday, December 13, 2012

Post-Launch Telemetry


To everyone who has purchased Nobody (The Pirate Arc), I would like to extend my heartfelt Thank you!
The process of writing a book takes a long time. Much longer than most people expect. Life’s other events have a way of getting in the way of the schedule you expected to follow, making it go even longer. Some things you see coming a ways off. Others, you never see until they hit you broadside.
I did a fairly good estimate on how long it would take me to complete Nobody. Based on this, I set up a budget that I figured would give me a year’s worth of money to pay the bills after the book was published. With a year of being able to pay the bills, that gave me flexibility to get the book published and selling, and enough time to go out and find a job in case the book flopped.
With that, I rolled up my sleeves, took off my watch, and started writing.
Well, life happens…
I’m nearing the completion of Nobody, finding myself more than a year behind my schedule due to such life events. And if you read the above paragraph, you will recall that I left myself only enough money to get me a year past publication.
Yes, it takes a long time. The more time it takes, the more there is opportunity for those awful moments when you find yourself at a loss, stuck on a certain part of the story, and you stare at the words and begin to wonder if this is really going to work. Am I just spinning my tires? Is this really going to succeed? Or am I wasting my dwindling savings on a pipe dream when I should be going out and getting a job?
I’ve had a number of those episodes. Two that were admittedly really bad—one when I knew money was starting to run out. I knew it would run out as I finished the book, and that left me almost three months before I would even see the first check from any sales that occurred once it was released.
I realized I had gone past my time limit. It was now do or die.
The editing process on the first six chapters went fairly smoothly. It was as I was finishing the last couple rounds of edits that it occurred to me that the first six chapters could stand on their own, and left enough of an open ending that would leave the reader wanting more.
There hatched the idea to release the first six chapters as a short story. I figured it would be an entertaining read and for less than a cup of coffee. At 99¢, it wouldn’t make much money, but it would at least bring in a little income to allow me to make token payments on the bills when needed. Banks are so much happier to work with you when you can at least pay something instead of nothing.
It took me time to convince myself that it was a good idea.
Baen Books has a program called “eARC”. An eARC (Advance Reader Copy) is essentially an ebook of the raw manuscript as submitted by the author for publishing. They charge a premium price for these and there is a market for them. They are full of errors, misspellings, apocryphal story arcs, because they haven’t been through the editing process to produce the final product. But the reader gets a rare opportunity to see just what the story looked like as it came pouring out of the author’s mind. Would you pay three times the price for the final book for just such a document? Many would say, yes. Imagine if you could get your hands on a prototype manuscript of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy, Romero and Julia? Or Tolstoy’s 1805?
Many books in the past were originally published serially in monthly periodicals. The practice is beginning to make a comeback, thanks to ebook publishing.
It is not my intent to publish the Aggadeh Chronicles serially.
So, I pulled the six chapters of Nobody and packaged them together and published them as a short story excerpt.

Thanksgiving morning—as I was preparing to head over to my sister’s place for the holiday dinner—I gave a quick check of my email and discovered that my book had gone live on Amazon about an hour before midnight. Delaying my departure, I quickly jumped online and into my account with Amazon and much to my surprise, discovered two copies had already sold. Even before I myself knew that the book was available for sale!
That made for a very happy Thanksgiving dinner!
It is a bit of a mystery to me about those first two copies that sold. I didn’t even publish the links to the book until the weekend—by which point five copies had sold. Until Amazon’s databases were fully updated, my father had a helluva time trying to find my ebook online. As my book debuted at the lofty ranking of 103,000+ in their bestsellers list, one would have to dig awfully deep to actually find it.
Unless one of the people who bought it on Thanksgiving actually sends me an email explaining, I’ll never really know. I think one of the more plausible explanations is the early purchasers are publishing agents trawling for new talent among the self-publishing writers. If it is a good read, sit quietly for a month or two and if the book really starts to sell, they give the new author a call and an offer.

Based on sales figures presented for fairly successful authors, I figured I would probably sell a dozen copies in the first month before interest in my story would begin to catch on and spread. Also based on previous examples, I knew that if my book was a success, it might still be a few months before I reached 1,000 copies sold. Such numbers mean I’ll still be behind the eight ball financially, but my prospects will be strong when the full book is out. (My target date is hopefully in February.)
It was my fervent hope that I would at least sell 110 copies by the end of 2012. I figured that would be a good signal that my book would succeed.
By November 30th, I had sold 30 copies. This guarantees that I’ll be paid $10 on February 1st. (Sixty-day delay before royalties are paid.) As far as selling 12 copies in a month, I sold 30 copies in the first week!
As of today, I have now sold more than 300 copies! (These numbers change on an hourly basis, so it may be different to those who decide to take a look for themselves.)
My book is now ranked at #71 on Amazon’s Bestsellers List for Epic Fantasies. (To keep things realistic, this is a sub-sub-category. Small fish. Small pond.)
Amazon Promotion Letter
It's a safe bet that this is going to be printed,
framed, and hung on the wall!
My overall rank was #2,988 on Amazon’s Alltime Bestsellers List!
And this morning, I received the weekly email from Amazon promoting various books for sale, and discovered my book was the first one listed!
The icing on the cake is people have actually been leaving reviews about my story, and the reviews have been good!
To say the least, this is significantly better than what I was expecting. Sales are growing much faster than I could have imagined. It is in no small part to friends helping promote my book. Just simply saying, “Hey, my friend wrote this–,” has resulted in the majority of these sales. I can only reach so many people. But when my friends share with their friends, that number increases exponentially. And now, people who have no connection to me other than they have read my book are starting to spread the word. This is where these sales are coming from.
For the first time, my own strained faith in myself to write successfully is finally reaching fruition. I now have a possible answer for those frightening moments of self-doubt wondering if this was really going to work.
The answer looks like it's going to be: Hell yeah!