Happy Birthday, Whatley Tupper

It’s been exactly a year since I clicked the “publish” button on the Amazon KDP site.  Not the most climactic way to have something released, but it was still an exciting day for me.

It’s been a good year.  I didn’t know what to expect, and so perhaps that meant my expectations were low, but things have come together pretty well.  No, I haven’t had any bestsellers, Whatley Tupper didn’t go viral, I haven’t retired to focus on my writing.  But that doesn’t meant hat things haven’t gone well.  Whatley Tupper was a book that Daniel and I knew was weird and funny and yet it sat, collecting dust as they say, for several years.  With the current publishing climate, I don’t think The Adventures of Whatley Tupper would have ever been released in the traditional manner.   And now it’s out, almost 12 000 copies floating around in the various Kindles around the world.  Of course, the vast majority of those copies were downloaded for free during a five day stretch in June and I’m sure most of those haven’t even been opened–but compared to sitting in a box under my bed just a year ago, 12 000 is pretty impressive, at least I think so.

It’s been a while since I released a sales graph, and so there is it.  That one five-day spike really screws with the vertical scale and smooths out all the many jagged slopes on either side, but it sure shows how dramatic the effect of a free book is.  The Year We Finally Solved Everything is still free after more than two months (although I don’t know why) and while it’s always been a much less marketable book, it’s actually my most downloaded book.  Until publishing using KDP, The Year We Finally Solved Everything was, at best, destined to be published by some small Canadian press, most of which only release a couple of thousand copies and offer small, $500 – $1000 advances.   I don’t care about the money, so I’m fine with it remaining free.  As far as I know, it will remain free for years.  Amazon works in mysterious ways.

It’s been a great year although I know I could have done a lot more to promote my books.  I find it difficult to get into the social media game.  I just don’t really enjoy facebook or chatting on online forums or tweeting my thoughts.  I don’t even like talking on the phone.   Kindle Boards has been great to ask questions and learn of new developments, but I’m not interested in spending much time on these places each day–this is not a slight to anyone on these places, it’s just not me.  I just can’t do it–I’d rather spend my time writing or editing or planning.  Which means that I’m cutting myself off from a lot of potentially influential people.  I know.  And I used to care more about this.  And maybe I’ll care more about this in the future.   Yeah, receiving royalty cheques is always cool, but that’s not been the best part.  Until a year ago, I’d been writing for more than a decade with having anything published.  There were several close calls, a few broken promises, and even a scam, but nothing in the end published.  That has a way of diminishing a man’s desire to write, of his inspiration.  But in these last months I’ve been writing more than I have in ten years.  I have more ideas than time to get them down.  If anything, I have to keep myself from clicking that ‘publish’ button too soon, without taking the time to make sure that I’m releasing my best work.   A year ago I became liberated and I’m still relishing my new-found freedom.  It’s all up to me.  That is the greatest feeling.  I always loved writing, but now I have more of a reason to write.  Because I can put it out there.  And someone might read it.  And someone might love it.  And someone might hate it.  And someone might shrug indifferently towards it.  But it’s out there.  It’s not sitting in a box under my bed.

Happy Birthday…

 

Six Months to the Day

So, it’s February the 20th, which makes it exactly six months since The Adventures of Whatley Tupper went live on Amazon’s DTP (now KDP).  I started this blog primarily so that other unpublished authors interested in self-publishing could have an idea what to expect.  So, how are things going?

First, an updated sales graph:

You can actually see the slope of the graph change from Christmas onwards.  It begins a little to the left of the last big spike, which was my Kindle Nation Daily sponsorship.  Overall, I’m pleased.  I never had great expectations about how my ebooks would sell–honestly, I expected one a week, or so, at least for the first few months.  So, now that I’m averaging a couple a day since Christmas, I’m pleased.  I think anyone who is self-publishing for the first time should be pleased with that.  Yes, there are the Amanda Hockings and Victorine E. Lieskes and H.P. Malloys who went from complete unknowns to extremely successful writers in a matter of 6 months, and rightfully serve as an inspiration to many.  But, they are the outliers.  They’re the outliers of outliers.  The Adventures of Whatley Tupper has sold around 450 through Amazon.com, and it’s generally been in the #20 000 – #50 000 ranking range, which still puts it ahead of almost three-quarters of a million other ebooks.  If you’re a self-published author, that’s how much competition you have.  So, like I said, I’m happy with what The Adventures… is doing.  I didn’t get into this to make money.  I self-published to get my writing out.  Anyone who’s written for a long time and suffered through countless rejection letters knows what I mean.  You just want to get your work out.

I should make a point about The Year We Finally Solved Everything.  Unlike The Adventures…, there’s nothing gimmicky about it.  It’s not genre fiction.  I’m not sure what genre it fits into, perhaps on the edge of Literary, which is why it sells much, much less–probably at a ratio of 1:10 compared to The Adventres….  If you look at all the top self-published books, they are all genre books, with thrillers and paranormal romance (of course) being the biggest sellers.  I do feel (although this is just what my gut tells me) that Kinde owners don’t represent a complete cross-section of readers.  I think the people who would be more inclined to buy a more ‘literary-like’ novel are the same people who are reluctant to give up paper books.  Combined with the fact that such books are rarely ever big sellers, I expect The Year We Finally Solved Everything to continue selling like this.  That said, I’m still planning on releasing another similarly-non-categorical novel later this year, and I have no expectations of it selling a lot.

So, six months in, I can’t complain.  The entire process has pushed me to write more than I have in years, which is perhaps the most important consequence.  I feel like I have a voice, even if it’s a small voice, and that’s fine.  I never wanted to yell.

Finally, I wonder what things will look like in 5 years.  I don’t mean in regards to my sales, but instead concerning the model of self-publishing.  Right now, Amazon dominates, and, honestly, I like it this way, because I think Amazon has a very good model that is good to authors.  But, who knows what will change.   Because it will.  And hopefully for the better… hopefully…

Whatley in 2010

I’m back in Vancouver, a city with the following adjectives for rain in typical weather forecasts: mist, drizzle, light rain, showers, rain with snow at higher elevations, thunder showers, periods of rain, and heavy rain.

So, it’s the last day of 2010, and here are all my sales for “The Adventures of Whatley Tupper” at Amazon.com:


Take this for what it is: one person’s sales for a first book, without any previous publishing credits, contacts or experience.  I’ve learned a fair number of things over these last four months (crap, it’s only been 4 months!  It feels so much longer since I discovered Amazon’s DTP) but I most certainly have a hell of a lot more to learn.

Some points of interest labeled on the graph…

A: This was my first 99 cent sale, which lasted an entire week (in general, the standard price has been $2.99 otherwise)

B: This was my KND daily sponsorship on October 8th.  One look at this graph explains why I am such a fervent supporter of this.

C: My feature on DailyCheapReads.com, followed by a customer discussion at Amazon.com where a reader, who discovered the book at DailyCheapReads liked the book and started a thread which had postings for several days.

D: My second 99 cent sale, which only lasted 3 days in mid-November.

E: The days after Christmas, in which I’ve noticed a slight uptick in the rate if sales, from just under an average of 1 a day to more than 1 a day.  Although, it’s only been a week, so it’s far too early to tell if this will last.

Notice, unfortunately, that I had a KindleBoards book of the day, between C and D, which doesn’t really show on the graph.

So, take what you will from this data.  If you’re in the same situation that I was back in the summer (an unpublished author, completely ignorant to the world of epublishing), then perhaps you can make your own judgments about what worked and what didn’t.

And have a happy new year.  I have several promotions for “The Adventures of Whatley Tupper” set up for January, and I’ll detail them throughout the month.

 

 

Post-Christmas Musings

I’m currently in Winnipeg, a city where people tell you it’s balmy when it’s -15 degrees Celsius.

I’m thinking about 2011, my sophomore year.  My two previous books were both written before I knew about ebook publishing, and both were books that I tried, unsuccessfully, to get publishing through traditional presses.  In 2011, I’m not even trying to do that.  I won’t send out a single query letter.  I won’t write up a single synopsis.   I won’t wait expectantly for the mail every day, for month, awaiting the eventual rejection letter.  I won’t mail out a single manuscript or excerpt.  As expensive as KindleNationDaily daily sponsorship may seem, $80 is what it costs to mail out just a few complete manuscripts.   Those are things I will not miss.

I hope to release two books next year, the first being a new choose your own adventure book, co-written by Daniel Pitts.  We’ll be done the draft in a couple of weeks, and the release date is already set for April 30th, 2011.  I have both KND sponsorship and  KindleBoards Banner Ad scheduled for that day, and the plan is to have them promote the grand release of the new book.  Considering I want to have the month of April to send out advance copies, that gives us two and a half months to thoroughly edit.  It should be enough time, and the deadline has definitely motivated us both not to slack.  It’s all self-imposed, of course, but it keeps us working, and I think when self-publishing, these self-imposes deadlines ares important.  I’m very excited about this, the prospect of building up some hype, creating a proper release for a book.

I also hope to release another solo-work next year, but I’m working on it more slowly and right now am focused on “The Redemption of Mr. Sturlubok.”  I hope to release it, tentatively titled, “A Dream Apart,” in the summer.

In the late winter I’ll detail my plans for releasing “The Redemption…” and I will be offering free copies to people.  So, if you liked Whatley Tupper, and you’re actually reading this blog, well, keep checking this site…  all four of you.

Pre-Christmas Musings

So, I’m in the city of Calgary, Alberta, for a little stint, visiting family.  A city as clean and with as much character as a show home.

I’ll update my sales graph when I return to Vancouver, but things have been slow but steady with The Adventures of Whatley Tupper.  And I’m pleased with where things are, over 250 sales and new ones coming in every day or so.  I’m not putting any work into promotion for it these days, so this seems the be its natural rate of sales.   Nothing much, but more than I thought when I started back in August.  I thought, being an unknown author releasing a book among thousands of other unknown authors, that I’d be lucky to get a sale a week.   The fact that, somehow, customers find my books amazes me.  I wish I knew how much was word of mouth, how much was random searches, how much was dumb luck, how much was seeing an old review on a blog.

It’s easy to get hung up on comparisons, however, and it’s easy to find blogs or forum posts with successful authors detailing their many, many sales.  Like I’ve written before, I set up this blog because I wanted to detail the nitty-gritty details of my experiences knowing that I most likely would be average.  I think I’ve shown how an average unknown author does.  But it’s hard, when reading how author _______ just sold 1000 books in the last couple weeks and only started this summer, to think, “What am I doing wrong?”  I live a comfortable life a teacher in Canada (probably one of the best places in the world to be a teacher, as a side note) and I don’t need the money and I write because I love writing and now I publish because I love knowing that other people can read my work if they want to (or if they can find it).  But, lately, I find boards like KindleBoards have too many threads where people are declaring/boasting about sales and I don’t think it’s healthy.  I dare you to click on that link and not find a thread on the first page about someone’s new milestone.  I understand the pride one feels when these sales numbers are reached, but there seems to be too much focus on this of late.  It feels tacky.  I feel that writers are artists and we shouldn’t be talking about sales so much.

And I realize the irony here.  This is why I’m writing this post.  This blog began as a detail of my sales history.  But I’m growing bored with that, and you can definitely see from my posts that I’m not bragging.  I’ve received $111.13 so far in four months.  I’d make that much at McDonald’s in a couple of shifts.

Or maybe I’m just a complete hypocrite.   This is entirely possible.  Just because I don’t think I’m a hypocrite means nothing.  Nobody thinks they are a hypocrite.  Interesting.

Anyhow, let’s wrap this up, high-school essay style, and reiterate my thesis statement (if there was one):  In conclusion, the online indie-author community seems be getting increasingly focused on sales and money, and perhaps I’m part of the problem.

 

111.13

So, I got my first royalty cheque in the mail today, and it was a cool feeling.  I hoped I would get one before Christmas, and now it seems they will be mailed monthly.  Some points of interest:

  • I was paid for August and September only at this point
  • Cheques (I guess I should write checks since they’re coming from the States) are only mailed out once the amount exceeds $100 USD if your an international (non-American) author
  • I didn’t have any tax withheld, which is what should happen, although I’ve read of other Canadian authors having a hell of time filling out paperwork to avoid an automatic 33% deduction–which never made sense.  Why would non-American authors pay tax to the IRS?
  • Royalty payments seem to be mailed out about 6-8 weeks after the respective month they are for

Not much else to say.  I’m tempted to not cash it, but, dammit, Amazon doesn’t need my money.  I’ve always remained adamant that as in independent author, I can’t get hung up on how much I’m getting paid.  I’ve always written because it’s something I love doing.  But, at the same time, it’s the first time I’ve ever been paid for something I’ve written, which is quite gratifying.  I guess I’m a professional author now.

Ha!

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.

Quiet Times

I wasn’t planning on updating my sales figures for “The Adventures of Whatley Tupper” beyond this point, but several people have asked me to continue.  I guess we all like to compare.  I’m not going to be as regular with it, and I’m not going to update my spreadsheet everyday–that was just getting annoying–but I will, from time to time, update my total sales.  I must say, since the burst of sales in the first half of November, from my Amazon 99 cent sale and ending with the KindleBoards Book of the Day sponsorship, things have been very, very, very quiet.  Like, 2 sales in the last week quiet.  Like, the quietest week I’ve had since publishing, quiet.  Now, that’s some quiet.

I noticed after my Kindle Nation Daily sponsorship spike that sales really flattened out, so perhaps this is related.  I’m not sure.  I guess, I have no idea where most of my sales for Whatley Tupper come from anymore.  I don’t believe anything really comes from forums, like KindleBoards or MobileReads, the people at those sites have seen my books already.  I don’t know how people stumble upon my books and buy one.  I presume through reading a blog review, some word of mouth.  Whatever it is, there’s no much happening.  But, I fine with it for now.  These are quiet times.  I’m still hoping for a few blog reviews before Christmas, and I have another KND sponsorship for Whatley in early January.  So, I know things will look up in the future.

Or, I hope things will look up in the future.

The Trap of Self-Promotion

I was inspired by a comment left to one of my posts about a month ago, about how author self-promotion is a myth.  It’s been something I’ve been thinking about quite a lot ever since, and it’s encouraged me to work harder.

To explain…

I wrote my first novel in 5 weeks when in was 22 years old in 1998.  I made it up as I went.  It had several titles, eventually I went with “El Presidente.”  It was more of a test to see if I could actually write a novel–I tried starting one when I was in high school, but I couldn’t put together a story on paper that was intricate enough to warrant 50 000+ words.  After that first novel though, I wrote another one in 4 weeks that same summer.   It was called “Well Past Midnight.”  This one, I thought was going to it.  It would be published.  After all, how many people actually write novels?  And good ones, at that?!

Of course, it never got published.  It wasn’t good, but more importantly, I didn’t have a clue about how to get a book published.  But I was young, I was full of ideas, I could type quickly, and kept working.  The next year, I finished my third novel in three months–a long, drawn out process, I thought at the time–a science fiction novel, “How the World Ends.”  This one, I really focused on the editing, revising five, six, seven times.  This was unheard of for me.  All told, I spent a year on it, and felt that this might be my masterpiece.  I’d already accepted that my last couple novels were crap.  This was it.  I’d learned how to submit to publishers, I thought.  And of course, nothing happened.  So, I spend a year and a half on my next novel, “Decaf,” and that seems like a really long time.  Surely, this will be the one.

I wrote my fifth novel a year later, “The Affluentials,” but it took me nearly a year to write the draft, then a year to edit it.  I felt that this had a better chance at getting published.  It wasn’t science fiction.  It was about a man who worked in an office.  And I’d never once worked in an office.  So, unsurprisingly, it was never published.

I started to get the point.   It wasn’t easy to get published.  My next novel, I spent a year writing the draft, and a couple of years editing it.  “The Importance of Being Keegan,” it was called.  I still like the title.  The book, not so much.  Tried getting it published, no luck.  I’d realized that writing is a long, drawn out process.  There was no need in rushing things.  If was ever going to be published, it would be one something that I had really taken my time with.  I used to write every day, every other day, but soon I was writing once a week, maybe once a month.  I’d start a new draft and give up on it.  I had many false-starts after this.   I didn’t want to write for the sake of writing.  I wanted to write something I felt strongly about.  And so, I stopped writing.  I always thought of stories, but I didn’t write.

In this same time, I worked on and off on “The Adventures of Whatley Tupper,” with my friend, Daniel Pitts.  We emailed back and forth, but it was leisurely.  Again, there was no rush.  This book would probably never be published, so why hurry?  This book took three years of writing, two years of editing.  Five years to pen 100 000 words between two people.  Hardly efficient.

Things changed slightly with when I wrote the draft of “The Year We Finally Solved Everything” in the first half of 2008.  It came to be faster than any book in years.  But I still couldn’t publish it.  I had more bites than ever before, including some fantastic editorial advice from Arsenal Pulp Press, but no contracts.  I wasn’t surprised, it was just a fact.

So, when I learned how easy it was to self-publish, suddenly everything was up to me.  I could release anything I wanted.  I could blame no one else.  I started with “The Adventures of Whatley Tupper” because it seemed like an easier sell.   I would spend hours a day online, trying to find ways to promote it.  I became obsessed with checking sales reports, checking forums, checking my inbox, checking Amazon discussions, checking, checking, checking.  Excited when my sales count would tick up.  When someone expressed some interest in my book.

But I wasn’t writing, and that’s what I need to be doing.  After years of not expecting to get published, I forgot how to write each and every day.  But, if there ever was a time to write for the sake of writing, this would be it.  Now, I know that I will be able to publish my next book.  The only question is, will it be any good?  Well, I won’t know until I write it.  And so, I need to keep writing.   I need to find that spark, that energy I had when I was 22–not because I was young, because I’m still young–because I was oblivious to the hurdles that faced me.  There are no hurdles anymore.

OK, this was rather long-winded and off-topic, but these last few weeks, I’ve written more than I have in years.  And, more importantly, I feel good about what I’m writing.  Whenever I feel tempted to check out KindleBoards, I think I should write instead.  Hell, there’s only so much self-congratulating one man needs to read.

There’s no better promotion than someone reading your book, thinking it’s great, and telling someone else–whether in person or online somehow.  The more books an author has, the more this will happen.

KindleBoards Book of the Day

I sent in my first request for a KindleBoards Book of the Day some 12 hours after it was announced on the forum (in early October), and the first day available was today, November 14th.  It cost $35.00 (USD).

A couple of weeks later, I put in an order for another Book of the Day ad, this time for “The Year We Finally Solved Everything.”  I was hoping there would be something available in January.  The nearest available date was April 20th.

And that was more than 3 weeks ago.  I can’t imagine how far into the future they are now booked for.  As well, KindleBoards now offers banners space for sale ($40 a day).  These could be an interesting idea–you design them yourself and can make them quite eye catching, especially if you’re a graphic designer wannabe.  People on the forums seem to be really appreciative, and it is great for indie authors to have more avenues to advertise.

But I think it’s overpriced.

Today, I sold only 4 copies of “The Adventures of Whatley Tupper.”  I never expected this promotion to pay for itself, but compared to the success I’ve had at Kindle Nation Daily, DailyCheapReads and the Amazon Customer Discussions, I would have hoped for more.  I think the problem is that people (including me) don’t really look or click on banner ads.  People ignore them.  There are too many ads on too many websites as it is already.

Now, counting daily sales can be a little dangerous.  Firstly, I don’t know how many people downloaded samples and may choose to purchase at a later date.  Secondly, advertising is not about the instant sale.  It’s exposure, and so having an ad does help in this respect (although, then I’d think the banner ad would be more beneficial for this).

But, this isn’t my first attempt at paid promotion, so I have some reason to be disappointed.   Not that I think $35 is a lot of money for an ad.  But, considering the price of Kindle Nation Daily sponsorships ($80 USD with which I generated almost 20 times the sales), I think a more reasonable price would be $20.  Maybe post two or three ads a day.  Once a website starts having ads, I don’t think there’s much of a difference between having 1-2 and 3-4.

That said, these ads are clearly very popular, so perhaps other people have had better luck with it.   And on a final note, I’m noticing more and more websites and blogs with advertisements, and I’m a little wary of how quickly this is happening.  The more ads on the sites, the less powerful they become.  Hopefully prices stay constant.

Sorry, KindleBoards.