Writing Career: Running the Numbers
I’ve had A Thought, and tweeted about it some, and now I’m going to discuss it with you!
My Thought was about how much transparency readers want. And…see, on one hand, writers feel like they’re talking about this stuff ALL THE TIME, and it’s information we all know, so it’s sort of hard to tell where the line between “I have told you this one thousand times and you are bored with it” and “this is completely new information to me!” lies. :)
And then the other reason we’re never sure how much we should talk about it is because rolling this information out in numbers can sort of feel like it’s…IDK. Attempting to lay on a guilt trip, or something, which is honestly not the goal! Because, like…there are always reasons people aren’t gonna buy a book! It’s not their genre! They don’t have any spare money right now! They already have a copy! There’s a million reasons! So talking about this is never meant to make people feel badly for not buying a book right now! Okay? Okay! :)
So let’s talk about numbers. Newsletter numbers, specifically, because the people who have chosen to be on my newsletter are my captive audience, and presumably are the most likely to buy any given book. (Join my newsletter! :))
Right now I have about 1630 newsletter subscribers, and in any given month, about 100 people—7% of the subscribers—buy the book I’m promoting that month. That’s pretty reliable.
Now, mostly I count my metrics by Amazon, because like it or lump it, they represent the vast majority of my sales (80 out of those 100 sales mentioned above are Amazon, so it’s literally 4 in 5, except when it’s more than 4 in 5. :)). So 5% of subscribers buy the Project Of The Month on Amazon in any given month.
Right now I’m gonna run the numbers for the release earlier this month, TIMBER WOLF, which is an Amazon-only thing. It’s done really really well.
I’d love to know how many direct sales you think “really really well” means. In fact, I’d like you to tell me in comments, but since I can’t pause this conversation and get that information from you right now, so I’m gonna tell you outright. :) In the 2 weeks since its release, I’ve had 1123 direct sales on TIMBER WOLF.
That’s 4 times the usual number of sales I have in a month. If it’s been a SPECTACULARLY good month, it’s only 3x my number of usual sales; if it’s a particularly BAD month, it’s 6x my usual number of sales, but on average, it’s 4x.
TIMBER WOLF hit #88 in Amazon’s “Bestseller paid sale” ranks at its peak, when it had sold about, mmm, 600 copies? So where I’m going with this is that it takes shockingly few sales, really, to make a ridiculous amount of difference in visibility for a book’s rankings, and those rankings are what show a book to readers I don’t have immediate reliable access to (ie, people who are not on my newsletter mailing list!).
Like, if 10% of my newsletter subscribers buy TIMBER WOLF, it’d impact my Amazon ratings significantly. If 30% did, even now, 2 weeks after release, I might hit the top 50 rankings. 60% might push it to #1, and 75% almost certainly would. 75% sell-through from my mailing list (which, let’s be honest, would be unheard-of levels of engagement for almost ANY mailing list) would double the # of sales since it went live.
So what I was asking on Twitter was, like: here are the numbers. Is knowing that helpful or interesting to you at all? Is that something you’d like me to talk about?
Writing Wednesday: Price Points
I’ve released two books back to back so far this year, MAGIC & MANNERS in March, followed by ATLANTIS FALLEN in April.
As an experiment, I priced ATLANTIS FALLEN $2 cheaper than M&M, to see if the number of sales at the lower price point made up for or (hopefully) outstripped the profit I make off the higher purchase price of MAGIC & MANNERS.
It did. Just barely. It took about 28 of its first 30 days to catch up to MAGIC & MANNERS’ first month, and in the last couple days it inched into making slightly more money than M&M had, but we’re talking about…$110 more. Which is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s also not a great argument for quantity over…er. Higher price point. Whatever single word we would use to mean that. :)
There are an overwhelming number of unknowns in this variable, making it pretty well impossible to say whether ATLANTIS FALLEN would have done (financially, for me) just as well at $9.99 as it did at $7.99. Just a few of those variables are:
– it was the second book I released in a row; perhaps at $9.99 it would’ve sold fewer copies because of that
– it’s urban fantasy vs historical fantasy, and urban fantasy is kind of what CE Murphy is Known For, so perhaps the price point didn’t matter at all because of Preferred Genre status
– I promoted MAGIC & MANNERS pretty damn relentlessly its first month but was much more lacksadaisical about ATLANTIS FALLEN
All of those and other things could be factors. Absolutely no way of telling.
A thing I’m finding really interesting, though, is that throughout April, and so far in May, MAGIC & MANNERS is only slightly behind ATLANTIS FALLEN in absolute number of sales (and consequently slightly head in actual profit, because of the price point difference).
The wonderful thing about that, from my perspective, is that although I have a perception that readers feel Urban Fantasy is My Thing, it may be really that CE Murphy is My Brand and that’s what people are buying, more than a specific genre. Which is what a writer hopes for, of course, so yay! (Especially yay because whoo boy do I have a wide variety of stuff coming out over the next several months! :))
At any rate, I think I’m going to leave ATLANTIS FALLEN at $7.99 and see how the two books play out over the course of several months or even a year, just out of curiosity. All of this is a long-term game
Oh, and for those who are curious: NO DOMINION, which was released, er, several years ago now, doesn’t seem to be getting any kind of boost from the new books. It’s still selling about what it has been the past couple-three years, which is both interesting and totally fine. If its sales represent the long-term income/sales numbers for any given book then someday that’ll be a modestly decent income to rely on. So that’s cool.
Obligatory link salad:
MAGIC & MANNERS:
Kobo || Kindle || Nook || Amazon || Audible
& at bookstores near you! (ask them to order you a copy!)
The Magic & Manners Project: Publication Process
Part two of my series on all-out self publishing, a project I’ve taken on with MAGIC & MANNERS, a Jane Austen pastiche in which I wondered what would happen if the Bennet sisters had too much magic rather than too little cash. Part One, which focuses on finding and working with a production team as well as developing a work flow (including a Helpful Check List) is here.
This week I’m going to look at the actual publication process. I’ve been working through Amazon and Ingram, who are both doing what’s called Print On Demand (POD), which means the book is printed when you order a copy, rather than having copies sitting around a warehouse waiting for someone to order them.
I assume you know about Amazon. :) They have a couple of self-publishing arms, one for print books (CreateSpace) and one for ebooks (KDP). Bookstores, very reasonably, don’t want to buy print books from Amazon, and Amazon has a captive audience for its ebooks, as they’re the largest distributor of them and have the lion’s share of the market with their Kindle e-readers. I am, largely, not going to talk about Amazon, because it’s such a closed ecosystem the whole process is somewhat different.
Ingram is one of the two largest book distributors in the world; they are, in other words, the people from whom the bookstores buy their books. They have a self-publishing arm, IngramSpark, and it used to be that in their listings (where bookstores order from) they listed the self-published books separately, in an area where they wouldn’t come up for a bookstore unless the store went in there specifically looking for it…which bookstores had no reason to do. A while ago, though, I read that Ingram had changed that policy and that Spark books were now available broadly throughout their system, and I’ve been very interested in pursuing a self-published book with them since, because the theory here was that a self-published CE Murphy book could now turn up in (say, the Barnes & Noble) system and cause them to say “oh sure we’ll order that.”
It’s not actually that easy, because without a reason to look for a new CE Murphy book there’s no reason they would, but in theory, it *allows* them to, at least. I’ll get to promotion in a later post, because it’s going to be too big to bite off here, but in short, right now that’s why it’s really fantastic for readers to go into their local bookstores and ask if they can have a copy ordered in, and suggest short-ordering (which means just ordering a couple of them) some for the shelves.
The Magic & Manners Project (Part 1)
About four years ago I got it into my head to wonder what PRIDE & PREJUDICE would be like if the Bennet sisters were plagued by an excess of magic rather than a dearth of cash. In a fit of inspiration, I wrote a first chapter, and then over the next year, a second and a third. By then, Patreon was a thing, and I decided to write MAGIC & MANNERS as a serialized crowdfunding project.
It took longer than I expected and brought me to the conclusion that serializing a novel wasn’t a good fit for Patreon, or at least, not the way I did it (but you can read about that here), but I got the book done and had great visions of turning it around swiftly and getting it out into the public realm.
That was ten months ago, and MAGIC & MANNERS launched last week. @.@
I now pause to drop in links, before getting to the bulk of the post. :)
MAGIC AND MANNERS for Kobo!
MAGIC AND MANNERS for Kindle!
MAGIC AND MANNERS print edition on Amazon!
MAGIC AND MANNERS audio book on Audible!
MAGIC AND MANNERS is the first project I’ve really gone full-out self-publisher on, with the full production team in place to do everything right. It’s been fascinating, frustrating, and fun, not just for the alliteration, but in actual fact. I’m planning to do a number of posts, probably over several months as I collect more data, about the whole process, and I hope they’ll be of use and interest to people going forward.
Writing Wednesday: Putting Handles on the Cups
There’s a Writing Rule that says “Write every day, no matter what.” You hear people tout this rule, just like every other Writing Rule, and since I’m dragging myself back into the swing of things after what amounts to a five month hiatus, I thought I’d address it.
Obviously it’s terrible advice.
I mean, yes, if you can write every day, that’s awesome. That’s great! Go for it! Have fun! Write every day! God knows I do when I can. But the idea that you must is as crippling as any other Writing Rule, because reality interferes a great deal and people can rarely write every. single. day.
I think the biggest reason people say that (and even I’ve been known to say it) is that it can be so. hard. to get momentum back, if you haven’t been writing regularly. I’m starting up on REDEEMER now, and honestly I feel like a beached fish, flopping around uncomfortably. I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing. I have this long synopsis and I look at it and I think “yeah yeah yeah blah blah blah this isn’t even any help *flop flail yuck barf* oh look i could go pick blackberries.”
It’s easier to resist picking blackberries when I’ve got momentum.
It’s not necessarily that the book is going easily and that’s why it’s easier to resist. It’s that I’ve at least got the habit re-established: I’m sitting down and writing now, this is my work time, the berries will be there in a few hours. What I write might be like pulling teeth, but if I’ve got two weeks or two months of that behind me already, I’m in practice.
Right now I am so badly out of practice, and having such a hard time getting myself moving. I just don’ wanna. People tell me all the time I must be very disciplined to write as much as I do. It’s really not discipline. It’s habit, and when the habit’s broken (as it currently is), it’s just as awful for me to get it started again as it is for anybody else.
I’ve heard people say “write every day when you’re working on a particular project” as a way of ameliorating the onus of Writing Daily. I think that’s better advice. Actually, I think it’s great advice except for where it again doesn’t necessarily coincide with reality. But it does help enormously.
It doesn’t, however, actually get you started, so I will tell you
This One Simple TrThese Two Simple Tricks I know to get the writing started when you Don’ Wanna:
1. Turn off the goddamn internet. Use the Freedom internet blocker, or its less draconian sister Anti-Social, put your phone on flight mode or in another room or both, but turn off the goddamn internet and do your work.
2. All you have to do is put the handles on the cups.
This is a trick I learned from a friend who is a potter. When she doesn’t want to go out to pot, she tells herself that all she has to do is put the handles on the cups. It’s a five or ten minute job and then she can be done for the day and she’ll have accomplished something.
The thing is that once the handles are on the cups, she’s out there in the studio, she’s gotten into the groove, she’s working, so she might as well throw a couple bowls while she’s at it. Or a vase. Or glaze the plates. Or whatever.
It’s a total mind game, but it works. Once in a great while, all she does is put the handles on the damn cups and then she’s done…but even if that’s all she does, she’s accomplished *something* for the day, and that’s what she set out to do.
Right now my Scrivener is set up in total handles-on-the-cups mode. I have it set to 250 words as my goal for the day. Given that I currently have like 4 hours to myself every week day and I can normally write something like 4500 words in that time, 250 words is really putting handles on the cups. But I’m pushing toward Hour 3 of My Time right now and all I’ve written is a blog post because I Don’ Wanna, so 250 is at the moment what I’m telling myself is all I have to do.
And the truth is that in a minute here I’m going to turn off my internet and start putting handles on the cups, and I’ll probably come away with a thousand or two words.
So that’s the best trick I know to get writing, folks. Go put the handles on the cups. That’s all you have to do today. Just go put the handles on the cups.