Long time readers of this blog might remember me. I'm a science fiction author (dabblin' in comedy, lol) who decided to go solo with his fiction via the Amazon Kindle's self-publishing programme. The short version: I retired (aged 34) from writing; published my books last-ditch style on the Kindle; sold a few copies, got some nice feedback; started writing again. For the long version, check out these other guest articles on Scott's blog, or my own blog.
One of the things I'd like to do with this guest post is give the reader some data on my sales and expenditure. Before I do that, however, I want to cover a little ground on my recent self-publishing experience.
My relative success in the UK towards the end of last year prompted me to approach agents in the United States. Because my sales in the US have always been steady, but never quite on the scale of those in the UK, I wondered whether I could convince a US agent to think of the UK market as a test-case for the US. As it turns out, I could; I'm now represented by Katherine Flynn at Kneerim, Williams & Bloom.
Before I happy-dance through my house Gangnam Style - remember, it's dangerous - I should add that, thus far, the reaction from US publishers to the Saskia Brandt series has paralleled the outrageously laissez-faire attitude of their UK cousins. (Readers may wish to read my earlier post on Snookins and Shit Dance.)
My agent is invaluable in other ways, however. She provided some great feedback on Déjà Vu (Saskia Brandt book one) and knows what she's doing with the film production companies who want to option the books, whereas I'd be like a monkey shopping at Ikea.
Relatedly, this year has been full of probably-important decisions that I've made without, frankly, having the time or inclination to evaluate them thoroughly. Let's evaluate them now.
I've joined the Amazon Kindle Select programme. In essence, this is an agreement whereby Amazon helps with marketing your book in return for (i) exclusivity and (ii) the right to add the book to its Kindle lending library. My gut instinct was to agree. For a start, more than 90% of my sales came from Amazon even when my books were available on competing platforms. Secondly, the renumeration for a lent copy of a book is about the same as my royalty on a sold copy, so I don't feel like I'm being fleeced. Thirdly, more people read my stuff. Fourth, I'm supporting Amazon.
Wait. Supporting Amazon? Have I been getting hammered on the eggnog? (Yes. In fact, I'm roaring drunk right now and I LOVE YOU GUYS.) But it's still true that without Amazon, I would be another washed-up writer. Thanks to the Kindle, I get random emails like this:
Having gone into Waterstones and seen a whole table of (Insert number) shades of ( Insert colour) type books, read bits of them and felt VERY CROSS with the AWFUL writing in the world... I was so PLEASED to read a GOOD book that even stopped me from getting sleep I REALLY need, since I've got two young kids. Won't buy your next one quite yet as the lack of sleep would kill me but THANK YOU and all the very best!!!!
Excuse me while I tour my house in the Gangnam Style.
Another decision is pricing. The third book in the series, The Amber Rooms, will be out on the 21st of this month (i.e. now, if this article goes up on or after that date). Should I keep it the same price as the first two? I may plump for 99p, £1.99 and £2.99. Three pounds is a little higher than I would prefer, but there's the cost of the editing to earn out, and I always have the option of dropping the price if no bugger buys it. However, if a reader has bought the first two books, they'll probably hand over £2.99 for the third. I think I would. On the other hand, this escalation smacks of stinging those readers who have supported my work. I'm undecided.
Anyway, this being Scott's blog, where you walk the walk while you talk the talk - or something - I want to finish with some numbers.
Thus far, across all Kindle markets, I've sold 18,621 books (13,186 of Déjà Vu, 4,926 of Flashback, the rest being Proper Job and my other books - one of which is an academic text on the philosophy behind artificial intelligence). Only 192 copies have been lent. As for free promotions, there were 72,333 (36,963 of these were Déjà Vu).
My total earnings thus far in the UK are £8,447.30. In the US, $1,994.86. (And in Europe, €47.36!)
I'm in the process of working out my expenditure with more precision. However, it's somewhere in the region of £4000.
As I've written elsewhere, and once in response to Nicholas Clee, the overall profit is somewhat meaningless. It simply represents what's left over when I've finished ploughing the money into the next book; all editing, proofing, etc. for subsequent books has come from the earnings of previous ones. The expenditure can, therefore, be unpredictable. I created the cover for Déjà Vu myself using a stock image. Cost: £50 or so. Flashback's cover was produced by a professional at around £700. For The Amber Rooms, I found a public domain image a few weeks back and knocked up my own cover, essentially for free.
Overall, my experience with the Amazon Kindle programme has been positive. There are some negatives. One, I don't have copies of my books to hold. It is, of course, possible to use an online print-on-demand service like CreateSpace, but my experience with them has been awful. After weeks of delay, they produced two proof copies of Déjà Vu that suffered from all manner of problems - uneven gutters, off-kilter text, poor guillotining - and I despaired of the whole thing. Two, I couldn't afford to produce an audiobook; and I love audiobooks. Three, it doesn't quite feel like the books are actually published.
But to accentuate the positive for a moment: There are no print runs; I have a large readership now, and a small but determined fan base; I've made money; the books are no longer motes in my eye.
Not a bad year. As usual, if you have any questions, I'll be happy to reply to them in the comments.
Ian has kindly agreed to give away five free Kindle copies to people who leave a comment beneath this post. We'll pick the winners at random and contact them directly.