It’s been, oh…almost six months since Amity hit the mean streets of Amazon (mean jungles of Amazon?). I still, every single day, do something related to this book, be it shilling on Twitter, talking to people about it on email, hiding Amity bookmarks in library books, or obsessing over statistics.
The point is that it’s an ongoing process.
It seems to, still, be fairly well received, despite the lack of professional editing or artwork, and the disturbing nature of the story. I know quite well that there are a few typos in Amity…that’s actually on my to-do list this weekend (one of the benefits of self-pubbed ebooks is that you can make changes like that and it’s a seamless process to the marketplace). I also know that a lot of people don’t love the cover, but I’m hesitent to change that at this point; the cost of new artwork is certainly never going to pan out in increased book sales (although it was an important lesson for future books). It’s a process.
I’ve also been playing with the book prices (paperback and ebook), to interesting results.
When I first released the paperback, I set it at $13.99, which Amazon discounted right away to about $10. Which was great, because when Amazon discounts, you get paid on the full price. $10 seemed to be a point where people would take a chance on a new author, and I sold a small number of books (the actual number sold is close to 60, but a lot of those went to relatives and friends which, although awesome, isn’t reflective of pricing, per se). I would say maybe twenty copies were sold outside of that group.
At the beginning of the year, Amazon bumped it up to the full price of $13.99, which I then lowered to the current price of $11.96. Sales for the paperback since the beginning of the year: 1 copy. So, as a part of my weekend cleanup, I’m going to jack the price down again, basically wiping out the per-book profit. But, it’s important to keep in mind that this is all marketing and (knock on wood) building a fan base. As long as I’m not bleeding green, it’s all part of the process.
The ebook had a similar story. The initial price was $2.99, which Amazon did not discount. I sold very few units. The first four months, my paperback-to-ebook ratio was maybe 4:1. Around the beginning of February, I decided to take the ebook price down to $.99 (which Amazon discounted right away to $.89), and my sales started moving. Within one day, I sold six ebooks—a stark contrast to the four ebooks I had sold in the entire prior month. Unfortunately, I didn’t continue to sell six a day, but the trend has definitely kept upward. Sometime next week, I’ll put up a graph with the complete month-end specifics, but at this point, with 4 more days left in the month, I’m sitting at nineteen sales.
Big deal, right? Joe Konrath sold nineteen books in the time it took him to floss this morning. But, remember, Mythbusters: this is data! It shows how important the book price is in this environment: an untested author, a self-published book, and a book without a clear-cut genre. $.99, it would seem, is low enough to mitigate some of that risk.
Also, a cool side-effect: due to the spike in sales, Amity was, as of 2/21/2011, the #76 top seller in techno-thrillers, and (probably due to the small number of reviews), the #46 top-rated ebook on Amazon. All of which, in theory, may help sales, due to the additional exposure. Woot.
It’s a process, and a learning experience. Robert Swartwood brought up this same topic earlier today, and has more details from other writers. Next week: the graph.
I want to give you a copy of my novel AMITY
Yes, you. But first, an info dump.
It’s been about 2.5 months since the release of Amity. I am breathlessly grateful to all of the folks who have picked up a copy in paperback or ebook, and even more so to those who have taken the time to review it. Literary busking is a tough gig, to be sure, but I had absolutely no illusions about it being easy when I decided to write a novel. Your support makes it easier.
I promised to keep everyone up to speed on the progress of Amity as a self-published project. I’ve talked to quite a few of you one-off and I think I’ve popped out some random tidbits of info here and there on Twitter and this blog. But, for those of you dying to know how well (or unwell…?) the book has been selling sans publisher support:
As expected, it is selling re-e-e-eallly slow. I don’t have the exact numbers, but I can estimate pretty close to the pin:
About fifty paperback copies via Amazon, ten ebooks via Amazon, zero ebooks via Smashwords (although somebody told me they bought the Nook edition, but it’s not showing up in the report) with 30 samples downloaded.
Again, this is nothing unexpected. If the long tail feeds authors in perpetuity, I guess I’m in the Shrew’s Muzzle. The moral of this story is patience, and realistic expectations. There are a few super-success stories floating around right now, but the equation doesn’t work for every author or every book in every genre, and it certainly isn’t a quick process. I’ll spend more time on what I’ve done (and not done) in some posts here soon. Promise.
So, to the free book part.
The brief and shallow history of successful independent authors shows clearly that the key is a broad fan base. Success doesn’t come on the first or even second or third wave of readers; it seems to depend mostly on later waves of readers who pick up the book based on reviews and word-of-mouth—maybe not even an author’s first or second book, even. If there is any amount of success to be had, that’s where it starts. Everything prior is getting the word out (as much as many of you don’t like the word, this is Marketing, plain and simple), and that very much matches the results of my self-publishing experiment so far.
To that end, I am making AMITY available as a free ebook for a limited time. I want people to download it, read it, and share it with friends (or delete it in disgust). I’d really love people to leave comments and reviews on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, Goodreads, or on their own blogs or Twitter feeds. I may never make any money on Amity, but I still want people to read it. I’m needy that way.
You don’t need to sign up for a newsletter, you don’t need to give me your email address, credit card, or shirt size, and you don’t need my permission to distribute it. All you have to do is select which version you want, click to download, and drop it into your favorite ereader or handy-dandy computing device.
**The ebook giveaway has expired…thanks to everyone who grabbed a copy and shared it! If you missed out, check out the Amity page for info on getting a copy…**
MOBI (for Kindle, Kindle DX)
EPUB (for Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader, iPad)
PDF (for any PC or Mac, most smartphones)
I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it and, to kick my dead horse one last time, I hope you’ll help spread the word (and the file).
I have a giveaway up on Goodreads for AMITY…stop by and enter to win one of three paperback copies!
Next: Fun stuff.
The haunted house was chaotic, loud, and messy. In all, a success.
The layout worked just like I planned, but the details almost killed me during the setup…plus, I had one fogger and one timer fail in the first hour, one corrupted audio file, a dead speaker system, and I dropped a blacklight an two hours before dusk (my wife found two replacements at Walmart, by some All Hallows Eve miracle).
My neighbor tallies all of the visitors to our houses on a ticker. I didn’t catch him for the final total, but based on his early count, I’m guessing we had close to 725.
Fun, but holy crap am I glad I only do this once a year.
It’s almost getting to be too much for me to set up and break down, though. I need to figure out something new for next year. Something like striking it rich so I can buy a warehouse to keep decorated all year round. Yeah, something like that.
I was so busy that I didn’t get any pictures, but I did take ten minutes to do a walk-through with my video camera. I did one pass in natural light (or lack thereof), and then a second pass with the infrared mode on (which shows way more detail than a visitor would see, but you can see the props in place).
Amazon just released this awesome new feature this morning: online book previews. Very nice. Beta, apparently, but looks pretty darn spiffy.
So, start your day with the disturbing opening to Amity, and a big bowl of fiber-rich cereal…
OK, this is the big swing I’ve been waiting for…
AMITY IS NOW AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK ON AMAZON!
To recap the formats we have it in:
Amazon Kindle Store–Kindle ebook (also Kindle PC, Kindle iPhone/iPad, Kindle Android)
Amazon UK–Kindle ebook for UK readers
Barnes and Noble–Nook ebook (also Nook PC, Nook iPhone/iPad, Nook Android)
Smashwords–other ebook formats, including PDF and HTML
It has been submitted to the Sony Reader bookstore and the iPad bookstore, so if you’re holding out for those, check back often…I’ll post if I hear of them going live.
Run—don’t walk!—to your booksite of preference and pick up a copy or seven. Or just one.
And as always, thank you all so much for your support as I try to stand this self-funded book up in the big, scary publishing world. Every book you buy helps, and every person you tell helps even more…and every review, rating, comment, or tag you leave on Amazon helps even more.
Whether you love AMITY or hate it (I suspect there may not be a lot of people on the fence about this book), your support helps continue the push to legitimize independent, self-funded literature—not just for me, but for all of you as well.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to finish my fetal-rocking and nail-biting.
I’ve been holding back on making a big stink over this, but, as most of you probably already know:
AMITY is now available in e-book!
Hot damn on a biscuit.
I have a dedicated Amity page set up (top link or the banner on the right side) with details, but, to save you the click:
Amity ebook is available at
Amazon–Kindle ebook (also Kindle PC, Kindle iPhone/iPad, Kindle Android)
Amazon UK–Kindle ebook for UK readers
Barnes and Noble–Nook ebook (also Nook PC, Nook iPhone/iPad, Nook Android)
Smashwords–other ebook formats, including PDF and HTML
…and is in the queue for Diesel, Sony, and the iPad store. For all of the electronic versions, you can download free software to read it on your PC and most iPhone/Blackberry/Android phones.
I’m targeting 10/1 for the paperback release, so stay tuned if you’re holding out for a physical book. I just got a proof from the printer but had to send it back for some changes. The final book will look great…very happy with the layout.
Last but not least: I’ve been sitting on the book trailer until the paperback release, but what the hell…since it’s delayed a couple of weeks, I don’t want to wait any longer (click through to YouTube to watch in HD).
…and, without further ado, the front cover for Amity:
The Smashwords version is already up and looks great, much better than I expected. The Amazon DTP (ebook) link should be done processing tonight or tomorrow, and I’ll do an official announcement with links then. The Amazon paperback release will probably be a few weeks—the content and artwork files are processing, and I’m hoping to get my mits on a proof and approve it for release by 9/24.
Obviously, one of the great risks of self-publishing is that you are leaping without an editor to tell you if you’ve stepped off of the right part of the cliff. The world’s editorial experts explore those cliffs daily and, although no less subservient to gravity than the authors they represent, are probably in a better position to combine and assess the relevant variables of success than an average writer preparing to make the leap alone.
But jumping without a diving coach doesn’t prevent one from falling; it just increases the odds of landing on something harder and sharper than water.
I’m not Emily Brontë, and I’m not Aristotle, and I’m certainly not Leo Tolstoy. Some writers’ work could scarcely be improved with editorial oversight. I, rest assured, am not one of them. Neither are you.
So, you ask with a twitching eye and tilted jaw, why are you still screwing around with that book—the one that no agents in Manhattan would represent? You don’t have an editor.
Two reasons, I reply as I pull on my high-test, impact-absorbing, Styrofoam-lined diving shorts.
First: I have a completed story, and I like it. I’ve spent months cleaning and tightening and tweaking; I’ve gotten feedback from several readers, and have made the right edits. I like what’s left.
Second: Ultimately, I don’t need anyone’s goddamn permission to publish my book, and that’s essentially what you’re asking for when you query agents. Editorial oversight has value, to be sure; but the business side of publishing has rejected my book (and I’m certainly not alone), and the risk-taking literature-loving side of the business couldn’t pick up the slack even if it wanted to (assuming that my book isn’t complete garbage).
As I mentioned over at idealog this morning: you’re going to lose 100% of the races that you don’t enter. Will my book only sells ten copies? Will every Amazon reader review declare it to be the Waterworld of literature?
Only one way to find out.
So, I’m trying. And studying. And working my ass off.
And killing myself trying to write a synopsis (sweet Zeus, that’s hard…)
But I have it whittled down to a basic strategy:
1. Focus on Amazon DTP and Smashwords for epub
2. Try to align a CreateSpace release as close as possible to the epub release
3. Try and get copies into the hands of people who may like it and may talk about it
4. YouTube trailer, bookmarks left all over the world, whatever kind of collateral I can get out
5. Socialization…this is really a weak point for me. As much as I’d love to have people helping spread the word, the honest truth is that I don’t have a strong network. If I was a salesman or MLM marketer, I would have starved to death a long time ago. But, still, I’ll do what I can. Anyone need guest-posters for their blogs?
I’m getting excited as I move closer. Depending on how long the DTP and CS review processes take, I could be selling books by the end of next week. Next week!
God, how chilling.
I’ve never read Wuthering Heights, but for some reason I remembered this song from the 80s (I had never heard Kate Bushes original but my sister drilled Pat Benatar’s version deep into my head when she was in middle school). I made the mistake of looking it up on YouTube today, and I’ve probably listened to it thirty times since noon. The lyrics are the very definition of haunting.
Now I find myself drilling through The Shipping News as fast as I can so I can read Wuthering Heights this weekend. Yeah, I’m obsessive. Good thing, too, otherwise I’d never finish writing a book.
As of tonight, I have gone through Amity a tenth time stem-to-stern, and it is officially locked for edits. There is nothing I can do at this point to improve it (for better or worse), and I think I’ve caught all of the little spelling and grammatical issues.
During my last copyedit, I put some effort into formatting as well—preparing it for ebook release. That’s been an interesting process, as there are so many different requirements for different ebook formats.
If you have an ebook reader (or plan on releasing an ebook), do yourself a favor and download Calibre. It has been very valuable. It takes your input file (HTML works best) and converts it into epub, mobi, RTF, or whatever format you need. Keep in mind that most sites like Smashwords and Amazon DTP won’t accept pre-formatted ebooks and you’ll end up uploading a .doc or .html file. And, it isn’t good for advanced editing for tables, graphics, or tables of contents. However, Calibre has served two great uses for me in marching toward self-publishing:
- You can save your book as an ebook to get an idea of what will happen to the formatting when it gets spit out of the other end of a meatgrinder. I re-formatted and saved five times before I was happy with the output.
- Reading your book all the way through as an ebook gives you a totally different dimension than reading it on paper or on-screen. I caught some editorial things that I may have missed—the look and feel is so different that it’s like reading someone else’s book, and that can help you assess it with a bit more objectivity. Of course, that requires an ereader in addition to Calibre. Something to consider.
I’ll go into some detail on the benefits on the various formats soon. I also want to spend some time dissecting the benefits and best ways to get out to the various resellers. Soon. Next week, probably.
Also: I have cover art!
I read a post on Media Bistro yesterday that kind of threw me off-balance a bit (side note: I thought the word I wanted here was akimbo; Google image search “akimbo” with safe search turned off, I dare you). The post was about how Dan Brown’s works had surpassed the Bible as the most-highlighted text on the Kindle. My first thought was not, as one may expect, “Gosh, I wonder why that is?”.
No, my first thought was “Why the f**k is Amazon tracking what people highlight?!?”
I have very much been getting the ereader bug again, but I think Amazon just squashed it under their gigantic heel. It makes me question the whole reasoning behind free 3G access on ereaders; even if, as one commenter pointed out, you can shut it off, I can’t help but wonder how explicit it is when you set your device up initially that your data is subject to snooping and marketing and public dissemination?
What an effective way to kill a great thing.
Anyway, Media Bistro have picked up on the real story on highlighting, and quoted my initial rant in a new article. Feel free to stop by and let Amazon know how you feel about being snooped upon while highlighting the best parts of Twilight.
I just–literally, as I was typing this–got a partial request for Amity from a small publishing house I found on QueryTracker. They only wanted ten pages, so it’s kind of a partial-partial, but all I’ve gotten is rejections so far, and I’ll take what I can get. Like Bear Grylls says about the importance of starting a fire at night while stuck in the wilderness: most of the survival game is mental, and you need any lift you can get to keep you going forward.