Two weeks in to my launch as a proper novelist, I thought I’d look into what’s going on with my sales. I always find these sorts of things interesting, though it probably goes along with the sharing-too-much culture of the 21st century.
Being a novelist is a long game for me. I would certainly like to make my living at this, and as soon as possible, but I also don’t really expect that to happen until I have several more books out there. Much as I love Till Human Voices Wake Us, the literary end of the fantasy spectrum is not the hottest of genres at the moment (or ever; though many beloved books are there, and I can only hope mine will one day be numbered among them). Also I still have a lot to learn about marketing!
Nevertheless, I am very pleased at what has happened so far. I had an initial rush of hopes far overshooting expectations when I had a sudden surge in the Amazon.ca rankings — the point where I was in the top 20 for some categories — I carefully took a screenshot so I would have proof, knowing that it was unlikely to last. The overshot hopes were because I had no idea how many books need to be sold in a day to get up to #1 in Contemporary Fantasy on the Canadian store — most of the people who discuss ranking/sales correlations speak of the American Amazon store, naturally enough. Twelve books in a day, it appears, is enough. While I was initially disappointed in my sudden hopes to have an unexpected smash bestseller, on reflection this pleases me, because it is a fairly approachable goal, I think, in the long run. I will be sitting next to Neil Gaiman again one day, I tell you!
In the mean time, I can say: I have sold 5 books on Kobo (2 of Till Human Voices Wake Us, and one each of my three short stories, ‘Scheherezade,’ ‘Rook,’ and ‘Inkebarrow’); nothing on Xinxii; 4 books on Apple from before I attempted to go directly there (my short stories are now available; I’m still having some difficulties with the novel due to an error in entering metadata); 26 books on Amazon (15 of Till Human Voices Wake Us, 2 each of ‘Inkebarrow’ and ‘Rook,’ and 7 of ‘Scheherezade’), plus 2 on Smashwords. Those are all digital versions, and then there are also 16 print copies sold via Amazon and Createspace directly.
All this together gives me a delightful total of $176.12 plus 9.63 British pounds, in earnings. Not a huge amount, but it pays for everything it cost me to publish the book — well, apart from my own time, which in the case of this book is incalculable — which was mostly its share of overhead, like setting up Underhill Books, buying website domains and hosting, getting a scanner, acquiring InDesign … Therefore, anything going forward is profit.
This is why indie publishing is pretty neat. From here on in Till Human Voices Wake Us — like the three short stories currently out (soon to be joined by ‘Galatea’) — is an asset which will continue to pay dividends. I have no idea what those dividends might be; they could continue at a trickle of sales as they are right now, or suddenly explode in popularity, or diminish entirely to nothing. (We’ll see if some grand tastemaker picks it up and likes it!) Nevertheless, this is a very good place to be in. I’m not quite at 50 copies, and 75 is my great hurdle — that’s when I get over the likely range of my friends and family members buying it out of pity or support — but you know what? I didn’t think I’d get to 50 copies in my first two weeks. I thought it would take longer, even counting in the short story sales to that number, as I have. 35 copies of my first novel is still quite pleasing, even if I’m pretty sure I know everyone who’s bought a copy so far. It’s pretty grand to be in such a position — and to know how I’ve sold! If I were with a traditional publisher, I might never know, and certainly wouldn’t be able to know anything about my sales at this stage in the game.
Say I invested $10,000 of my time into this book. (I didn’t; I meant it quite literally when I said it was incalculable for this novel, which I started when I was fourteen or fifteen and have been working on — sort of — ever since. But it seems a reasonable amount of time at a reasonable wage — 250 hours at $40/hr.) I have so far earned about $175 from it. That’s a return of 1.75% — which is better than the bank is offering on a savings account! And that’s only a fortnight in.
Plus I’ve had some nice comments from people reading it for the first time, and that’s a reward beyond rubies. Keep the compliments coming, friends! And the hard questions about how time works in my narrative universe … a topic which will recur, since it’s a problem my characters face quite frequently and which I find quite fascinating …