Stuart Henry Zhang is Getting Closer to Saving the World

Things are coming together for Can Stuart Henry Zhang Save the World? which will complete the not-so-great choose-your-own-adventure trilogy that Daniel and I started with The Adventures of Whatley Tupper.  Soon I’ll have the artwork complete and in not much longer I’m hoping for a pre-release version that will be available for free or at most 99 cents at Amazon.  I really can’t see how the final version won’t be ready too far into 2014.

And below is the first section and initial choices.  If you see any typos, either ignore them or make a comment below.  It’s amazing how errors can slip past me so easily…

    Stuart Henry Zhang’s pharmacy was as tranquil as a man on Paxil until someone started rattling the locked front doors.  Alarmed (and a little annoyed), he stepped out from his alcove and attempted to peer through the window at the opposite end of his long and narrow store.  Someone was pounding on the glass, although at this time of night he couldn’t tell exactly whom.  And frankly, Stuart wasn’t in a rush to figure it out.  The townsfolk hadn’t always been particularly kind to him in the three years since he’d moved to New Blackpool—especially when drunk, especially at night.  Just two blocks down Mainstreet was The Black Lung, the only bar in town, and surely this person was just another inebriated and disreputable citizen who thought that calling a man of Chinese decent “Chop Stuey” was equally witty and gratifying.  Stuart shook his head and waved both hands to ward the person away.  “The pharmacy is closed!”

    The person did not listen, now striking the window with both fists while yelling something unintelligible like an ape.  Stuart pulled off his glasses and winced, still unable to make out anything but a frantic silhouette of what he presumed to be a man.  “Come back at ten in the morning.  Otherwise…” he stopped.  He was about to inform this stranger that the Walmart pharmacy was still open but quickly decided against this.  The last thing Walmart needed was any more business.

     After one last and feeble knock on the door, the ruckus abruptly ended and the Zen-like calm of Stuart’s pharmacy was restored.  Surprisingly, his words had worked.  He slid his glasses back on and returned to the bottle before him, secure in the knowledge that as a pharmacist, his work was pivotal to livelihood of the community.

    A second later a scream shattered this fleeting calm.  It was quick and jagged and most definitely a desperate cry.  There was then the unmistakable sound of shattering glass and Stuart feared for the worst; someone might have damaged his truck.  He questioned why he didn’t have a gun on the premises—sure, he had some powerful narcotics available, easily strong enough to pacify the wildest man, but unless he could jam them down the perpetrators throat (or insert them anally) they would be of little use.  He grabbed a carbon-fiber cane from the shelf and marched down the center aisle, past glossy cold remedies and pastel colored allergy medications, and buttoned up his white lab coat before twisting the deadbolt.

    He swung the door open.  He stepped out into the darkness.  Mainstreet was deserted, quiet, and barren.  No one was around.  Just a few feet away, his jacked-up Ford F-150 pickup truck, as red as a Tylenol eZ tab, was thankfully untouched.  He breathed a sigh of relief… until noticing a handprint of blood that streaked across his storefront window.


What should Stuart do?

Should he call the police? 

Should he investigate further on his own? 

The End of November

Since I’m not updating my sales into Excel on a daily basis anymore, I can’t give a valid graph showing new sales anymore.  But, here’s my total sales on “The Adventures of Whatley Tupper” after a little more than three months:

Just a few shy of 250.  It’s actually over 250 if you include Amazon UK and Smashwords, but I’ll probably never actually get paid from either of those (especially Amazon UK–one has to break $100 USD to get a cheque mailed, separate from the Amazon US account, so that will probably take a few years).   The last boost in sales was my 4 day 99 cent sale that garnered a little bit of attention at the Amazon Community Discussions.   Since then, quite slow.  I still can’t seem to get past the just-under-one-a-day-average.  It’s been selling at that pace since the beginning of September, but that said, I’m also putting much less effort into promoting it.  The sales I’m getting are pretty much finding themselves.

So, what’s that?  250 sales in 3 months.  At this rate, I’ll break 1000 in the summer.  That sounds pretty cool, actually.  When I started this all in late August, I never thought that might be a possibility.  Of course, when I look that that awfully flat end of the graph, it makes me think that I’ll have to wait a lot more than a year.

By the way, I have “The Year We Finally Solved Everything” KND sponsorship coming up on December 7th.  Have I mentioned that before?  I could go back into my posts.  But I’m not going to.   I’ll just blather on and repeat myself like an old man.

(almost) Twelfth Week in Review

This week, I put “The Adventures of Whatley Tupper” on sale for 99 cents from Monday to Wednesday, and advertised this by starting a customer discussion on the Amazon site encouraging authors to post messages detailing any books that are temporarily on sale for 99 cents.  It turned out to be a pretty good idea, as the discussion gained a lot of customer interest (at least in the first few days).  Long story short, I had my best week in sales since my KND sponsorship, although most of those sales were at 99 cents, so the royalties take a hit.  But, in terms of just getting some copies out, I’m very pleased with the results.  Hopefully some people write a review or two, and hopefully it leads to more interest in my other book.

(As a side note, I began that Amazon discussion to promote the fact that “The Year We Finally Solved Everything” is on sale for the entire month for 99 cents.  But Whatley Tupper still outsold The Year… by a ratio of 3 to 1.  I always thought a choose your own adventure for adults would be an easier sell than a dramatic piece, and now I’m certain of it.)

Tomorrow, Whatley Tupper is the KindleBoards Book of the Day, so I’ll post an updated sales graph on Monday evening.  Honestly, I don’t suspect it will be worth the $35 price tag.  I don’t really think many people impulse buy books from ‘click-me’ ads.  But, hopefully I’m wrong.  My goal: 10 sales on Sunday.  I’d need about 17 to break even.

Seventh Week in Review

So, let’s get this out of the way from the start, the thesis statement of my post: Kindle Nation Daily sponsorships (US) works.   At least for me.  Here’s my updated sales graphs:

Note the vertical scale.  My previous highs were just under 10 in a day.  Now it’s shot up to 50 (followed by 13 on Saturday).  Look at some of my previous posts to see how previous peaks have been utterly dwarfed.  The fact that in my experience the ad was paid for in less than 24 hours is quite impressive.  I wouldn’t normally expect the cost of advertising to pay for itself so quickly.  This truly is a win-win situation for Stephen Windwalker (the one-man operation that is Kindle Nation Daily) and for the sponsors.  I do think that $80 is an appropriate fee for the day, and so I hope it doesn’t change for some time.

Now, of course, the question of how sales will be affected in the longer-term are still an unknown.  My goal is for a slight but distinct improvement in day-to-day averages.  Before this weekend, I tended to sell about 1 a day, a little less actually when you ignore various other promotions (such as interviews or Amazon discussions mentioned in previous posts).  My goal is that I’ll average closer to 2 sales a day for the next few weeks.  By next weekend I should start to get a feel of how this will play out.   That said, I’ve already signed up for another KND sponsorship on December 7th.  It will be interesting to see how a second sponsorship pans out.

This week I’ve also signed up for the KindleBoards book of the day (my date is November 14th and the cost was $35) and the RedAdept Reviews sponsorship (the week of January the 8th and the cost was $10).  The fact that these are ‘click-me’ ads, akin to Google or Facebook ads that I don’t really think people ever click on, leads me to believe these will not be terribly cost-effective.  At least not like KND.

This week, however, I don’t have any other promotions on the way.  So, it should be a good way to see how the KND sponsorship plays out.  So, in case my opinion is not clear enough, I now repeat for emphasis: I wholeheartedly recommend a Kindle Nation Daily sponsorship to any self-published author.  And considering that just last week I was somewhat dissing the UK sponsorship, I didn’t think I’d be won over so completely.

Kindle Nation Daily

So, just today Whatley Tupper is the paid daily sponsor at Kindle Nation Daily.  It’s been up for 1 hour, and I’ve had three sales.  It’s an encouraging start.  I’m not sure how a choose-your-own-adventure novel for adults will go over with KND crowd, although I’ve heard it’s male-dominated, so it could work well.  I’ll give a detailed account of how this went for me this weekend.

Also, I’ve already purchased another KND sponsorship for December 7th, so obviously I think this is a good idea.

Quick update:

It’s been exactly 12 hours since my sponsorship went out, and I’m really pleased.  Already I’ve had 32 sales.   This is really going to screw up the scale of my sales graphs!  It seems like this will pay for itself before the day is through.  I’m very pleased, especially after my disppointing experience with KND UK.  It’s early, but right now I’m definitely pleased with the results.

Quick update re: Quick Update

Just noticed that I used the word ‘pleased’ three times in that short paragraph.  How disgraceful.

Sixth Week in Review

I’ve noticed a trend in the sales of my book, pretty much in all six of the weeks since it’s been published.  Perhaps you can spot it here:

Sales are always best in the beginning of the week (Monday to Wednesday), and then dies down to a trickle (or nothing at all, like this week) from Friday to Sunday.   Apparently, people don’t really want to buy silly comedic choose your own adventure books on the weekend.  It’s a Monday thing.

This week I had several things happen: Kindle Nation Daily UK sponsorship, a feature Indie Books Blog, an interview at Kindle Author, as well as a review at Motherlode (all discussed in previous posts).   While I can’t tell what exactly caused what sales, I’m sure the Kindle UK sponsorship led to some American sales, and I’m presuming it was the reason for most of that spike in sales I had (although I’ve had no UK sales this week).  Overall, a nice start to the week, and then a very slow end.   And even though October has been utterly dead to me so far, I did finally break the $100 mark in royalties, so I’ll finally get a cheque at some point–I don’t know how often Amazon pays out to international authors.  But that was a goal of mine that I didn’t think I’d reach in early October, so I’m pleased with that.

This is the week, however, that I’ve been looking forward to for some time.  On Friday, October the 8th, my book will be the paid daily sponsor at the US Kindle Nation Daily.  I’ve read many accounts at KindleBoards where people mention breaking even with this in just a day or two, so obviously that is my hope.  But I also hope that it leads to some longer term exposure.  Either way, I’ve already purchased another US sponsorship, hopefully for early December.   KND has been getting so much positive press at KindleBoards that it seems certain that prices will go up, yet again, and availability will dry up faster and faster.

Finally, I purchased (for $35 USD) a daily feature at KindleBoards for November 14th.   Look at me, Mr. Moneybags…

Don’t Discount the Discussions

The Amazon Customer Discussions, that is.  On Sunday evening, I posted a new thread, promoting my book and the fact that I was lucky enough to get a nice review from J.A. Konrath.  It was fairly shameless promotion, but when you’re doing stuff online, it’s a lot easier to be shameless.  The thread is here (and please join the conversation!).  Well, I was also lucky enough to inadvertently start and argument on the board about whether or not an author should be promoting a book there (I think slightly more people were in favour), and this had the side-effect of keeping my topic on the first page, garnering a lot of hits from people.  Although I don’t believe it’s possible to view how many views a customer discussion has had, every time a volley of posts came in, I sold a few copies.  Many people in the thread said they bought a copy because they found the posts funny.

I think until now I’d discounted how valuable the Amazon Customer Discussions are.  I can honestly say that they have led to more sales of my book than any other single thing I’ve done.  While I’ll update the sales on the weekend, I’ve had a better start to the week than I did when I dropped the price to 99 cents.  I’m sure there’s some residual effects from having a couple of positive reviews on blogs, but, again, when there’s no action on my thread, not much happens.  If a number of people start replying to me and each other, I sell one, two, maybe three copies in short period of time.  It’s taken me by surprise.

Ironically, the argument that began in my post began because some people didn’t want authors clogging up discussions with their promotions.  So, I’d feel bad about writing this post, except that I know that not a lot of people are going to read this, so I’m not afraid of causing a flood of new postings at Amazon…

4 Weeks’ Sales in Review

So, as alluded in my first month’s review, changing the price to 99 cents made a very noticeable change in sales.  You don’t have to be an expert with reading graphs to see what happened:

I think you can tell when the price dropped to 99 cents.  Still lots of fluctuations, including no sales at all last Wednesday.  The highest spike also corresponds with the day that Whatley Tupper was featured on Spalding’s Racket.  I’ve heard others say that when they drop to 99 cents that their sales spike and then cool after a few days, and I can certainly attest to that.

In terms of royalties, of course, they slowed, even though I nearly doubled my total sales in a single week:

But, of course, anyone who sets their price at 99 cents shouldn’t be thinking about royalties.  (I will be honest about this: I do want to crack the $100 mark sooner than later, because that’s when a non-US citizen breaks the threshold to receive a royalty cheque from Amazon.  It will be the first ever royalty cheque I’d ever had, and I might just want to frame it).  Pricing at 99 cents is about exposure, and I’ll admit that I was taken by surprise with how much of a difference it made.  I’ll definitely try another one-week 99 cent sale again in another month (probably November) to see if something similar happens.

But, for the next few weeks, I want to leave the price alone at $2.99.  I’m curious if I’ll notice any difference in sales compared to the last time it was at this price.  Then, I was averaging about 5 sales a week, but I’ve received a couple of nice blog reviews since then, as well as an Amazon review from J.A. Konrath.  You know that I’ll update you with all the exciting Excel graphs next Sunday.