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Friday, 24 January 2014

E-book Sales. The Bottom Line.


I sold a small clutch of copies of The Red House On The Niobrara earlier this month. I mean four copies, plus a couple more this week. It got me quite excited. Seven sales for the month, and another four days of January to go. I went back through the amazon records to see how many copies I’d sold so far. Brace yourselves for a momentous revelation. I certainly did as I approached this audit with a single fact lodged in my mind, that ‘the vast majority’ of self-published e-books, according to what I’ve read recently, never get past a hundred sales. Well, mine has. Phew. I have just touched 131, 95% of them Stateside.

Does that sound like failure? Not to me it doesn’t. Bearing in mind that I have yet to think about a coherent sales strategy, that I just threw it out there with millions of other e-books, followed up with a few emails and a tweets, and gave away several dozen copies to potential reviewers, I’m really quite pleased. It remains available, and it is selling consistently. Slowly but consistently: people are finding it, and buying it. A few every month.

If I add all the $4-$5 royalties (and leave aside the fact that I still haven’t persuaded amazon to stop ripping me off 30% US tax) it comes to about $600, or £400 sterling. As I have recorded elsewhere, the total royalties on my cricket book, Brim Full of Passion, never quite added up to £500. And that was selected as the Wisden Cricket Book of the Year 2007.

So, I keep checking the sales reports, keep getting a shot of encouragement every time a couple more are clocked up, and look forward to Feb 22nd when I attend a short course on ‘establishing a web presence’ down in London. That is supposed to teach me how to promote myself and my wares. I suspect I have a lot to learn.

Over the 20 months since I put The Red House out there, I have received quite a few enquiries about hard copies. Are there any? No, not yet. That’s on the agenda for later this year, after I’ve got these two current books out of the way. Once I have some printed I intend to set up a lecture tour of some kind. Small-town, Midwest libraries, that kind of thing. It’s a new idea, and I have to give it a lot of thought. But the seed has been sown and my sub-conscious keeps lobbing out new questions for me to chew over. I feel a growing sense of excitement and will soon start pestering people on my contact list with questions.

Okay, health matters. I thought I’d got away with it this year. Along came the annual cold, Christmas-time, and for the first time in a decade or two it didn’t seem to be hell-bent on destroying me. In fact, come last Monday or Tuesday I was beginning to suspect I’d got it beaten. Was that due to the garlic pills I’ve been taking all year? The vitamins? Quien sabe? as they say in Mexico. In fact, it was nothing more than a lull as the cold germs re-grouped. They launched their counter-attack, full-force, on Wednesday – and they have me on the ropes. Sleepless nights with blocked passages, a mild fever, general lassitude, a throbbing head, and an awful lot of nasal unpleasantness that we needn’t go into right now.

Still. Small mercies. One, I have managed to keep banging out my daily wordage. Two, between sessions at the keyboard I have been reading, and thoroughly enjoying, a book I got for Christmas: volume 1 of Mark Lewisohn’s Beatles biography. It weighs in at about 950 pages, the final hundred of which are indices and end-notes. Pretty much everything you would want to know about every member of the band is in there. Plus a few things you’d rather not. I’m now on p. 250 or so and have at last been introduced to Brian Epstein and George Martin.

I’m also engaged in another rather interesting task. My friend Jules Smith, poet, scholar, and biographer of Charles Bukowski, is conducting a lengthy interview – of me – by email. I can’t remember where he plans to publish it. So far I have answered questions about my early literary interests (Steinbeck, Hemingway, London, Kerouac) and racked up 3000 words for him to digest.

Right. Final day before the weekend. Work.