The E-Book Experiment: 6 Month Report

When I started my e-book experiment I decided I would wait six months before passing any judgements. That would be a long enough period to collect some data and see how the whole thing worked for me. You hear all sorts of contradictory reports about e-publishing but I’ve always liked to collect empirical evidence for myself, rather than listen to who shouts loudest on the internet. I decided I was just going to release the backlist I had and work on projects that interested me in the gaps between my work for Black Library.

Well, six months have passed so now I am going to assess how it went with particular reference to my Terrarch series. I am going to discuss actual numbers and amounts of money earned so if you are the sort of person who is squeamish about such things I suggest you look away.

First up here are the monthly figures for the Terrarch books over the past 6 calendar months.

July

41

August

78

September

301

October

689

November

1085

December

1587

 

As you can see there has been fairly steady growth as I added new titles. The big jump in September came about when I reduced the price of Death’s Angels, the first book in the series, to 99 cents as a loss leader. As a strategy this fairly obviously worked. All in all I sold 3781 Terrarch books in the first 6 months. I am pleased with the results, particularly since the vast majority of the sales have occurred in the past couple of months and that the upward trend in sales appears to be holding steady into January.

Far and away the biggest selling title is Death’s Angels then sales occur as you would expect descending in order of release date.

Death’s Angels (July 8th )

1753

The Serpent Tower (August 16th )

811

The Queen’s Assassin (September 16th )

692

Shadowblood (November 3rd )

525

 

Such sales figures are very unlikely to cause the English language editors who rejected the novels any lack of sleep but look at this from my point of view. The books have so far earned roughly $4000/ £2500 after covering production costs. Death’s Angels is currently averaging around 25-28 sales a day, the rest of the Terrarch books are averaging around 10-12 per title. In very rough terms, because of the generous royalty rates on e-books, this works out to an income of just under $3000/£1900 a month. For a midlist author such as myself, that is pretty good money being earned by just four novels. Add to this the fact that Amazon reports sales in near real time and pays monthly by bank transfer and you have a compelling package. In traditional publishing, with things like reserves held against returns, it can take eighteen months to two years to get paid for some books.

Obviously there is no guarantee that sales will continue at these levels. They may very well go down, but they may also increase as the number of people with e-readers and smartphones increases. This is a new industry with a new distribution system. It is very early days yet to draw any conclusions about this but I am hopeful. I will report back in another six months and we’ll see how things hold up.

There’s been a lot of discussion about the effects of e-books on writers, publishers and bookstores. I am perfectly willing to believe that for some traditional publishers and most bookshops they have been a complete disaster. Speaking as a working writer I can only say that they have given me a soaring sense of excitement about the possibilities of my chosen career.

To take the Terrarch books as an example, they are about as niche as niche can get, gunpowder military fantasy with elements of Lovecraftian horror. The numbers are not fantastic by the standards of conventional publishing and yet the money they are earning is excellent compared to what most traditionally published writers would get unless they were very good sellers. 

These are books that won’t go out of print or be stripped and returned. Even if sales of the Terrarchs fall to a tiny fraction of what they currently are, they will still earn money, which books that go out of print singularly fail to do. It’s a gambler’s annuity which may well pay off for the rest of my life, and which, unlike an annuity, I can pass on to my wife and children.

I can write new books and be certain that they will be out there until they have a chance to find a readership if one exists.  I can write in lots of the small genres I love, like sword and sorcery, and know I can get paid for it, and it means I can experiment with things that interest me and know they will get out there eventually. All I have to do is to remember to release them.  There is no treadmill of sending books out and waiting for a response and, even if they are accepted, waiting for up to a couple of years for them to get into print. There is no need to think about whether a book  has a potential audience large enough to make it worthwhile for a publisher to consider (and yes, Virginia, professional writers do take such things into consideration, at least some of us need to if we intend to pay the rent and feed our families.)

Are there any conclusions I would draw from this that might help other writers in my position?

There is one very obvious one. Take a look at the upward curve of sales. It’s taken 6 months and 4 books to get to 1500+ sales per month starting from a very low base. It takes time for books to embed themselves in Amazon’s recommendation engines, to get reviews, to reach some sort of critical mass.

I have no doubt that writing series helps. The sales of the other Terrarch books have tracked those of Death’s Angels on about a 50% basis until recently. For every two Death’s Angels sold, one Serpent Tower would sell. There was a surge of sales on Death’s Angels during the holidays, and the follow on sales dropped slightly but seem to be picking up again. That being the case having a low cost, loss-leader first volume in a series would seem to make sense. That’s about all I can think of.

If anybody has any tips they can give me, I would be happy to hear them!

Addendum: At 8pm this evening (January 9) Death’s Angels sold its 2000th copy. Thanks to everyone who bought the book!

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Comments

  1. Amazing numbers, Bill. All the more inspiration for me to experiment myself with the medium. Now, just to get the content cracked out, quality-fy it, get an artist and so on!

    But really, congratulations on doing so good. The point about constant sales throughout the “life-cycle” as compared to an OOP product are all supremely valid. Even if its just 40 sales a month, its still 40 sales a month that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.

    • Exactly mate, and for years to come. It makes such things as short stories and novellas commercially viable as well as fun to write. Mostly it means you can write what you want and try and find an audience rather than being limited to what conventional publishing views as viable. It is really thrilling. And thanks!

  2. Thanks, William. Always an inspirational pleasure to read of someone else’s success.

    I would add that your cover art is spectacularly good. It doesn’t just look professional and eye-catching, but it tells me something about what to expect from the words inside. Now all you need to do is invent a time machine, and create an alternate universe where you launched the same books, but without such good cover art. Then come back to our timeline and tell us how your sales would have altered with lesser artwork 🙂

    • Thanks, Tim. The art is from the Czech release of the book by Jan Patrik Krasny and I was very fortunate that he had done such excellent work for the translations.

  3. Thank you for sharing those numbers.
    Working hard to get my first book done and aiming for a writers’ career I still struggle to decide which way to go – traditional or selfpublished. This is an All-In-decision to me, I guess, since I can’t imagine a printpublisher to agree on a contract with a nameless writer, that excludes the digital rights nowadays and I’m not willing to blindly let them cut my 70% possible royalties to a mere 20%. Still I can’t be sure about it. Your numbers helped me to reassure myself that self-publishing will be my way to go. Having them gives the dream solidity.
    The only thing that still buggles me is germany still holding on to a Fixed Book Price Agreement and expanded it some years ago to ebooks. This keeps the prices up and the big publishers seem to promote it. I’m not sure how amazon will handle all this, or if I will get wacked on the head by someones lawyer if I try to sell my books-in-spe on a low price.

    My plan is to start a blog and feed it constantly about writing, reviewing books and world-building. This is to hopefully get a starting readership as soon as I will put my first novel up on the amazon-store. I plan translating every blogpost into english, too. The idea here is that most of the money in ebooks seem to lie in the english reading audiences so far and being successful on the english market will help the german sells, so I further plan to get me a german-english-translator by sharing royalties in the english language books’ sales (I don’t think I will have myself enough money to pay a fixed amount up front, so that’s the only way to go, I guess) and publish on amazon .com and .co.uk.

    As for tips – or let’s call them ideas, for I’m not in the position to give you a tip – I have some.

    1.Since you depend on yourself for publicity you will have to make the best out of your blog. Try to actively recruit new blogreaders. I hope to accomplish that by using the social networks. The idea is, that organizing giveaways (10€ amazon-coupons or free ebooks etc.) in exchange for “likes” on facebook and other networks will lead to more readers on your blog, which will lead to more readers of your books. You could organize it like a lotto-drawing out of the pool of “like”-giving people. I would have to fiddle out the details but still I think this could work.

    2.Use your blog for earning extra-money. You don’t have to use the full-size image-ads that no one likes. But GoogleAds offers text-ads, too. And they are from time to time pretty well paid, I heard. Use them with modesty to not lose readers on it and you will get something extra. I really don’t know what to expect as income, but you should give it a try. It’s still more than zero, right? You could further expand that idea to advertising yourself via GoogleAds. 10€ per month or something for a simple text-add to boost your clicks, thus readers, potential buyers and add-clickers.

    3.In germany there is a copyright collection society, called VG Wort. It collects money from expected copies (through a flat “tax” on copy-machine and dvd-writers) and kind of a “tax” from public libraries to help contracted writers get their share. Under special circumstances the VG Wort gives money to bloggers, too. It’s a bureucratic mess to get your money, but it is possible and I consider this part of my income when I start to sell my books. Again: Some money is still more than zero. I found this page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_copyright_collection_societies and hope it will help you find your fitting one for the UK. I hope being a resident of Czech doesn’t hinder you getting your fair share out of the UK market. I’m pretty sure though, you could read that up.

    Hm I think that’s it so far. Sorry for that lengthy comment – again. I seem to just not be able to comment your posts in a short way. Really hope it helps though.

    • Thanks, Tim, some excellent suggestions there. Very interesting stuff about Germany.

      I am glad you find the numbers encouraging. One of the things I have always liked about the indie community is the transparency about such things. In terms of career paths, one of the best things about our present epoch is that there are multiple ways forward now. I don’t think any of it is either/or. I doubt self-publishing is the kiss of death, it was once perceived to be. I foresee a future in which big publishers will use the self-pubbed as a sort of crowd-sourced slush pile from which to pick new authors. It is certainly what Amazon is doing and, in my opinion, Amazon is far and away the sharpest company working in the industry at the moment. I’ve said it before and it’s worth repeating. This is an opportunity for the big boys to find out what sells at no cost to themselves, rather than guessing and praying that something might sell once they’ve put it out there. This is not rocket science :).

      I confess I am not in favour of advertising on my blog. In some ways the whole blog is already one big advertisement for my work and I don’t really want to subject my readers to any more than I have to. I feel it’s a bit friendlier that way. It’s also why I don’t have direct sales links on the front page. It’s just a personal choice of mine not a comment on what anybody else might do.

  4. Hi Bill

    Another very interesting post concerning an area I’m increasingly considering trying to get into myself.

    Can I ask, do you pay another pair of eyes to edit/copy edit your ebook titles before you self-publish?

    Best wishes and here’s hoping 2012 continues to be a prosperous year for you!

    Jon

  5. It’s an excellent opportunity, and indeed an exciting time, but I hope everyone reading Bill’s blog – as I’m sure Bill would agree – remembers that he’s built up a following through traditional publication, and that it’s that record of publication that acts as a kind of ‘guarantee’ of quality when it comes to his self-published work. The Amazon deal is great specifically for traditionally published authors who have work that otherwise wouldn’t get published – stuff they worked on because it meant something to them personally, regardless of it’s commercial potential.

    You should remember, if you are an as yet unpublished author, that what works for Bill – with a pile of novels out from Black Library and elsewhere – will not necessarily work for you. I would advise any and all authors looking for first-time publication that the route to success is very simple: write the best book you can possibly write, make it as good as or better than the traditionally published novels you love, and you will succeed in the professional market, so long as you are persistent.

    I speak as someone who has worked as a book doctor many times over the years, and I can assure you that most of the hopefuls out there are not yet ready to be published, and self-publishing on Kindle won’t help them – even if they’re good.

    • I do agree with much of what you said, Gary, but I feel obliged to point out that there are authors out there self-publishing that have been in the business one tenth of the time I have and who are achieving many orders of magnitude more sales than I do. They get better reviews too!

  6. Fascinating information. I just went to Amazon to look these up and I see that all 4 books are included in Amazon’s Kindle Lending Library, which means Amazon Prime members can “check them out” and read them for free, as part of the yearly Prime subscription. I am wondering what sort of compensation you see from this system. Do they just give you the normal amount for each book checked out, or is there a different arrangement?

    • Hi Matt. At the moment Amazon has a pool of half a million dollars that gets divvied up among the authors whose books are borrowed, presumably on a proportional basis to the amount of borrowing. Given the number of people in the pool, I doubt this will pay anything like what a sale does, but it does expose the books to readers who might otherwise not look at them. There is some debate as to whether this is a good thing long term. I have my doubts myself but at the moment I am going along with it in a spirit of experimentation :).

      • Just found out that Amazon paid $1.70 per loan this month. This is actually rather an impressive sum, considering.

        • Michael Mooney says:

          Does that mean that if, as a Prime memeber, I go and check out the titles I’ve already bought, you’ll get further income? Must go and find out 🙂

          • I suspect it does, mate, but only in the States. As far as I know the lending library does not function in the UK just yet. Only a matter of time though.

  7. I have bought the terrach books through Kindle and I can say that the ease that I bought the entire series obviously made my choice simpler when I had finished a book to get the next at a great price. Looking forward to future work.

    • Thanks John– The Kindle is a whole new world when it comes to buying and reading books. The whispernet version means I need never be stuck for a new book to read pretty much wherever I am.

      • The Kindle and whispernet also enable the evil, or gratifying (depending on one’s point of view), impulse buy: finish a novel, immediately pick up the sequel or other offerings by the same author anytime, day or night. It’s the literary version of drunken dialing – “OMG, I purchased the entire Perry Rodan series at 2:30 A.M. last night. And it’s in German!”

        It really is a new paradigm for content creators, distributors and consumers. It’s fascinating watching it develop. Big THANK YOU, Bill for sharing your numbers and experiences!

        • Perry Rhodan! That brings back some memories, Tony. I had a whole bunch of them released in English in the 70s. I seem to recall I bought them for the Chris Fosse covers.

          For a while there I was thinking the Kindle helped me control my impulse purchases by letting me buy new books when I finished old ones. I did not feel that compulsion I used to when I saw something interesting in a bookshop– you know “I had better snatch this up now in case it’s gone the next time I come in”. However, I then discovered the Daily Deal and 12 days of Kindle promotions over Christmas and bought about 30 books. That said, they cost me about the same as three or four books in a bookshop would have in the old days and I have some interesting new authors to read.

          No problem with sharing the numbers. It’s my contribution to the indie transparency movement :).

          • Michael Mooney says:

            I think it was Chris Foss – and pushed to us poor Lensmen fans…

          • Indeed you are correct, Michael. My apologies to Mr Foss, an artist who gave me a great deal of pleasure in my youth. I used to spend hours just staring at them. If I am not deluding myself I may even have had a book with a collection of his art in it.

  8. Greatly done William, and thanks for the detailed numbers.
    Way cool that midlist authors can hope to live out of their books, even without publishers.

    I’ve decided to not buy from Amazon, so if by chance (or purpose) you chose to un-Select (even for short periods) your ebook, cold you please tell me, so that I can buy directly from you then ?

    • Thanks! I certainly can let you know. The books were available from many outlets until a few days ago. The reasons for that will a post for another day. I’ll probably go off Select in a few months once some of the issues with other distributors that have been troubling me have been sorted.

  9. Thanks for sharing your experience–with actual numbers. Good luck and hope it keeps up for you!

  10. bobby brewster says:

    Great reading must say after getting a kindle for xmas have just read the first 2 Terrarch books thought they are great reads and the hordes without e readers etc are missing out on good work.

  11. Fascinating. And your sharing is much appreciated.

    I’ll be very interested to learn more about how you judge outlets for sales other than Amazon. I was looking for your books outside of Amazon and was surprised that I couldn’t find them (I got messages like “Death’s Angels by William King is not currently available from the Reader Store”). It took me awhile to realize that because you’ve signed up for lending with Amazon you’re not allowed to sell them anywhere else.

    The only reason I don’t buy ebooks from Amazon is because I find the Kindle formatting usually much sloppier than EPUB or (my favorite still) PDF.

    • Hey Thad, Thanks for the comments. I actually pulled my books from the non-Amazon outlets, partially because I wanted to try Select and partially because I was getting some strange side-effects of being on Smashwords. Amazon UK’s price matching with W H Smith was costing me more money than I was making from all the non-Amazon venues I reached through SW. (Amazon being about 97% of my sales.) This was an impulsive decision but I have not seen any real reason to regret it yet. Amazon’s Select Library is currently paying $1.70 a loan which more than makes up for any lost sales at other venues. It is possible things might have gone differently for me with B&N if I was based in the US but I have been told that B&N make it more difficult for people who come into their system through Smashwords than through their Pubit system and unfortunately that’s the only way for a non-US resident to get into their system. I have no idea whether that is true but it is something I have heard again and again, and certainly my sales on B&N have been negligible. I’ll give Select a 3 month trial and then come to another decision. Things are changing so fast in the industry at the moment that what makes sense one month may not the next.

  12. Isobelle Carmody says:

    Hey William, your handwriting was so bad that I got a lot of unable to deliver messages when I tried various guesses, then trawling around, I found this blog. Absolutely fascinating stuff about E books and wonderful to see it backed up with figures, I must say. I have just heard that Random in the states have decided not to publish the newest book in a series in a traditional book form, but to go right to E book. They seem to feel pretty content with the decision and meanwhile I have been approached to see if I would like to have some short stories published as small e book offerings. I don’t know how to feel about it. I am deep into the traditional route of publication, having always been published in print, but I feel the times are really changing. I was feeling a bit uneasy and gloomy about it all, until I read this blog- it is nice to see the technology embraced and even lauded. Anyway, email me and let’s have a coffee in meatspeace

    • Thanks Isobelle,

      Glad you found the blog. I am really happy with my adventures in epublishing. Also my handwriting is famously bad. Will drop you a line.

  13. I don’t know William; the obvious upward trend probably should cause the editors who rejected you a little bit of tossing and turning… If not downright sleeplessness. The numbers are impressive.

    I published a YA horror on Smashwords and then Amazon but have only published the single book as the others are unfortunately requiring some rather intense editing (that seems to go to the bottom of the ‘to do’ list). Do you think that having a single book up there diminishes your chances at success?

    For published ‘The Zmora’, I have a prequel and sequel outline in my head however this is behind the ‘to be edited’ pile on the table. Given your blog, I’m wondering if I should push them further up the list…

    Fantastic blog. I started a blog when I first published but ran out of things to say as nothing happened  I have to start marketing it a little better I suppose and then perhaps I can dust it off and start again.

    Carol Knee-Omant

    • Thanks Carol. I think the number of books you have out there will definitely affect your sales particularly if you write series. It’s a lot easier to sell series. The way the recommendation engines work on Amazon also seems (I say seems because no one really knows) to make having multiple books with your name on them an advantage even if they are not in a series. People have more chance to discover you through recommendations, also boughts etc.

      That said there are a fair number of writers having massive success with only a single book out. I think it’s very much a case of being in the right place at the right time, and the only way you can get that is by having the book out. Right now, I have one book that is not part of a series and not even in a genre I normally write in (The Inquiry Agent). It sells less than my series fantasy novels but it still sells and it seems to be finding an audience. I have had more email requests for a sequel than I have ever had for any of my other books. It is encouraging to know that there will be an audience out there for a sequel. And those 6-8 books sold a day add up to a tidy number over time.

      To answer your question, from a purely commercial point of view, I would say go with the series. From a career point of view, I would say write the books you want to write in the order you want to write them. The trick is to keep yourself motivated in the long run, and the best way to do that is to be happy when you work.

  14. Thanks William. I suspect I would be better off with moving into the series, but my heart is in finishing my absolute favourite. It is that is still in type written form (as in paper) so is basically writing a whole knew book from this ancient skeleton…
    I justify this order to myself by thinking that there must be some element within the series that has yet to resolve itself in my head… Of course that could just be a whole lot of hogwash 🙂
    C

  15. Thanks for the post, Bill. Nicely condensed and easily understood explanation about the e-book process. I’ve been fiddling with pressbooks.com and wondered if it was worthwhile persevering. You’ve convinced me.
    I should look through the rest of your site to get this answer, I guess. Did you do the setting up yourself or through another agency? Did you only put the books on Amazon?.
    Good luck with the books, I’m sure those figures will keep climbing – beautiful covers, by the way.
    cheers from Australia
    Sheryl 🙂

    • Thanks Sheryl, I do the layouts and formatting of the books myself. My wife does the layout for the covers. The actual formatting and layout process is pretty easy. If you can save a file in Microsoft Word you can layout an ebook. I’ve been meaning to do a post on this for some time. I’ll get round to it any month now :). I used to put my books on Smashwords but I pulled them from there in part because I wanted to go Select with Amazon and in part because I was having trouble with price-matching bots in the UK. W H Smith kept putting my books on sale (without my permission and despite the way the agency agreement is supposed to work) and Amazon kept price matching which meant I was losing between 2% and 29% royalty on each sale. Since the UK is where the bulk of my sales are I was losing quite a lot of money. I understand Smashwords is working on a methods to improve author control of this stuff. Once that is worked out I will probably return to it with some of my books.

  16. Oh, God. Thank you soooo much for posting that. I was a click away from seeking a publisher after giving my book (the first in the series) only 2 months to strive. You have renewed my faith in self-publishing and that query letter I wrote will now go in the back of a drawer where my novel would surely be, were it not for the indie revolution.

    • Thank you for the kind words. I think patience is the key with indie publishing. Luck also helps. That is true with almost any form of publishing though :).

  17. Ronald Morris says:

    Hi Bill, this is Ronald over in the US. Sorry if this post rambles.

    First, I loved the Terrarch series and the price buster on book 1 is what got me to buy them all in 3 days. I am almost 52 so I have seen many Warhammer and 40k novels come and go. I usually consider them to be B grade journeyman fiction. Uninspired F&SF gamer porn. but I keep reading them because they are good enough to read and I love the pike and musket genre. I was a little leary of reading the Terrarch series but the price drop definitely drew me in. I am very glad I tried your books and I will definitely be trying your other novels as they become available. I just wish all the Warhammer novels would go ebook.

    I think that if you have not done so checking out the old posts at Baen Book’s forum, Baen’s Bar, might prove very interesting to you and any other author considering the ebook route. I have been buying my ebooks from Baen for over 10 years and they have had quite a lively debate over the years over the advantages and disadvantages of ebooks and lower level pricing. Their experiments have led to a free library for 1st books of series once the series is established, monthly low cost releases of all their books that month in an ebook bundle and releasing books by ebook before they come out in hardback and for lower prices than for hardback. Some of their hardbacks have even contained dvds with large numbers of ‘extra’ books to get buyers to try out other series. You can find their forum at their website baenebooks. I hope you don’t mind my mentioning another company on your blog. I deliberately did not post the link.

    And just a comment for other authors reading this… as an ebook reader my biggest peeve after 15 dollar efiles is people who cannot be bothered with proofreading their spelling!! Recently I found a school teacher and history buff with four good novels who I gave 2 stars to because anyone who made it through university had to write english papers and should know the difference between homonyms!! By that I mean words that sound alike but have completely different meanings. Effect/affect, whose/who’s, are/arrgh, etc. Nothing turns readers off like a book that is written with spelling errors in every, single, paragraph.

    • Hi Ronald. Thanks for the kind words. No worries about mentioning Baen. Next time feel free to post the link! I’ve read a few things about the Baen ebook program over the years, all of it good. Baen were definitely pioneers here and have done many things right. I also can understand your frustrations about $15 ebooks. I personally have a policy of not buying ebooks at hardback prices even if I really want the book. It just seems to encourage this sort of bad behaviour on the part of publishers. I do make exceptions for technical books but these usually cost way less in ebook form than they do in print even if they are 15 bucks. A lot of the Linux books I have cost $30+ as paperbacks so I don’t feel too bad spending $15 on an ebook.

      • Ronald Morris says:

        Actually I do routinely pay $15 for eARCs (electronic Advanced Reader Copies) of books that look exceptional from Baen. But that is because it is a posted near final draft that I can read as much as 6 months before the final draft comes out. Sometimes I just can’t wait for the nest book in Honor Harrington or a John Ringo novel. On the other hand I do not buy ebooks from Amazon for more than about $7.99. I consider that to be enough for a fair profit for both the publisher and the writer. Something interesting happened recently with Evan Currie, author of Odyssey One. He was self published and his books have been very popular. His sequel was due out in Dec 2011 but it seems Amazon has actually bought the rights to his next book in the series and pushed the release date back to Sept 2012, presumably to coincide with a print release of the book.

        You might mention to The Black Library that some of us would gladly buy ebooks of their out of print books from the 80’s. I am thinking of things like the Route 666 alternate timeline books as well as the standadrd Warhammer and 40k stuff. I am much happier buying kindle these days than paper/hard backs. At one time I had 10 full size bookcases of paperbacks plus stacks of hardbacks everywhere. I read proliifically. But now if I buy kindle or HTML format I can just read on my computer and not have a house that qualifies as belonging to a hoarder.

        • I am afraid I have no influence on what Black Library releases in ebook format, Ronald! I know what you mean about the advantages of ebooks. The last time we moved I shipped a ton and a half of books out of the UK. That represented about a third of the books I owned then, less now. I am happy to buy mostly ebooks these days, reserving my print purchases for things that are not out in ebook format or a few really special things that I want.

  18. Ronald Morris says:

    I would think the ton and a hal was an exaggeration on how many books you shipped except I filled my pickup truck up twice with books when I moved 15 years ago!!

  19. Absolutely fascinating William. Fair play to you for writing this blog post. There seems to be so much secrecy in the publishing world – this article is an absolute breath of fresh air. I have just published my first ebook (on January 4th) and have sold 251 copies in just over three weeks, receiving 26 reviews (22 of which are 5 star). I am absolutely staggered by it. Seeing the way your figures grow and reading your wise words it seems that at last authors such as us can actually make a difference. Thank you so much for this heartening, wonderful article!

    Cheers!

    Stu

  20. Thank you Bill! I really didn’t know what to espect and across the web there are very little stats to use as comparisons.

    In terms of a secret – I wish I knew. I guess initially people I knew downloaded it and then maybe word of mouth? I’ve been on the Goodreads forum for a couple of weeks and the UK Kindle forum too which I think has been helpful. I guess the major and most pleasing aspect has been the quality of reviews. Some of them have literally brought tears to my eyes.

    So I guess my faith in Tollesbury Time Forever is increasing and word is spreading perhaps. Really interested to read what you say about these internal Amazon promotion mechanisms. Would love to know more!

    Cheers!

    Stu

  21. Excellent experiment!

    I do have a question, however: did you find that your sales decreased in December due to Amazon’s launching the Select programme? I ask because I’m an author with a small publishing house and have noticed that the moment the Select programme was opened, my sales plummeted. Have you had a similar experience?

    Thank you for sharing your adventure 😀

    • Thanks Michelle, sorry to hear about the plummeting sales. My experience was more or less the opposite. My sales almost doubled in December and have stayed there ever since. I did get something like 380 sales of the Inquiry Agent in the last few days of December when it came off free which boosted my December numbers a bit but the post-free sales of that book dropped to a much more normal level in January. Most of my sales are in the UK where Select has no effect at all, since I have never made any of the books that sell well there free and there is no Kindle Select Library. I think the increase came from the huge boost in the number of new Kindle readers in Britain after Xmas. Also there was an element of right place/right time. One of my books, the first in the Terrarch series, was in the UK Epic Fantasy top 20 around Xmas and so I think it just got noticed.

      • Aha!
        My publisher only recently made my books available in the UK.
        I and many other small press authors have been considering breaking with our publishers and doing as you have done. I, like you, write niche-within-niche fantasy and felt myself fortunate to be taken by a publisher at all. I am diffident to go on my own, but the information that you experiment provides is very helpful. Thank you!

        • You’re very welcome. Basic e-book publishing is a walk in the park but I can understand your nervousness. If you have any interest at all though I would recommend giving it a try. I have absolutely no regrets about doing it. It has made what seemed like one of my career’s biggest setbacks at the time, being unable to find an English language publisher for my series, into one of the luckiest things that ever happened to me. I seriously doubt I would be doing half so well with a conventional publishing deal as I am right now.

          • Hrm… It certainly gives me something to consider. I have been playing around with the idea of serializing my books and self-publishing them. They are extremely long as novels and could easily be broken down into arcs. If I do self-publish, I think serializing is where I might go.

            Thank you again for sharing your adventure. I look forward to reading your lovecraftian-steampunk-pirate series 😀

          • One of the wonders of the new age of publishing is how much stuff is becoming possible. I think the idea of serializing your books is great. I am toying with releasing a series of interconnected novellas myself at the moment. It’s the sort of thing that might just have been possible if I was a well-known writer with magazine contacts in the old days, but is trivial to do now. It may, in fact, be a very dumb decision on my part, but I can do it if I want to and I have to answer to no one but myself if it fails.

          • I agree. It makes me think of the days when Isaac Azimov ran his short fiction series (really shows my age). I did a small test and published an anthology of short stories and two novellas, just to see if anyone would mind their being only 25,000 words in length. No one seemed to mind as along as the pieces were priced accordingly. As well, I made sure that there were plenty of free samples on my site to go around. I certainly go agree with your idea of “if this fails, at least it’s my fault.” Authors like T.H> White would have killed for digital publishing considering that nearly half of his books were labeled by publishers as “unprintable”. I am grateful that we now have this option; I just hope I can make the best use of it. 😀
            Do publish your novella series. Then I won’t feel all alone in the serial world. 😀

Trackbacks

  1. […] Zite I stumbled across William King’s recent blog post about how his four novels, self-published on Amazon, have been doing over the last six months. It’s a fascinating read. His sales numbers start off very small, as you might expect, but […]

  2. […] William King‘s 6-month Report On Self-Publishing […]

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