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02 February 2012 @ 11:30 am
The Numbers Game  

I gotta get “Easy Pickings” onto Smashwords. We’re at about 1200 sales via Amazon now, and a couple hundred on BN, plus around 500 (maybe more) from our combined websites, so we’re doing not too badly, I’d say. But I should get it on to that last platform and, er, well, see if it’s *worth* it.

Which leads into the blog about numbers post I’ve been meaning to do, so lemme hit that real quick:

Readers often ask me where they should buy books from, whether I get the same cut from an audio or e-book as a physical copy, and when they should buy a book, because they are concerned with giving me the best deal, and sometimes with what it might take to push me into bestseller numbers. So I asked my editor about some things, such as:

There is a rumor that best-seller lists don’t count books that are sold early, only the ones that are sold in the official week of release. This is a question of some relevance, because my books are almost always on the shelves two weeks before release date. So: does it matter to the lists?

And the answer is yes and no. Almost everybody has to deal with the same soft release problem that I get (a hard release is like Harry Potter got: you were not gonna get that book before midnight the day it was supposed to come out). The NYT apparently aggregates the numbers/momentum over the first weeks of release, whereas USA Today evidently only counts books sold from the week of release (though if you buy it on the Sunday when it’s supposed to come out on Tuesday, that counts as the release week).

We looked at some of my numbers with some of the Walker Papers and concluded that there are enough early sales that it *could* affect my ability to get onto some lists. So ideally? Really, really ideally? My readers would torture themselves and not buy the book until the actual release day, and then everybody go out at once and buy it immediately. This, however, is asking a lot of readers, and I can’t corral everybody and release them all at once. :)

There is also a rumor that Amazon’s numbers don’t count toward any lists. That one is apparently more true than not, though apparently Amazon falls on and off in usage for the lists depending on how willing they are to release their numbers, which varies.

B&N.com, however, *does* count toward list numbers.

Amazon also *always* ships early unless it’s a hard release date. I don’t know if B&N does, but I gather B&N aggregates the numbers shipped anyway and lists them on release day/week. So–without biting a hand that feeds me–it’s probably of more use (not just me, but to any author you like) for readers to pre-order through B&N.com instead of Amazon*.

Now, all that aside, here’s the other vicious truth: I’d really need literally everybody who buys my books to buy them in the first week/month of release in order to have any hope of making seriously big numbers. I have wonderful, loyal readers who have given me an amazing career and have kept my books on the shelves for a long life, which is hugely, hugely important to continuing to do this for a living, but if I want to level up to the best seller lists**, something has to change.

Possibly what has to change is I have to write something different which catches fire, but that’s very hard to predict. :) In the meantime, though, the best I can probably do is hope to get something going that leads into a big splash for the final book of the Walker Papers.

Because we’re on the downward slope here, guys. There are nine books planned for the series, and the timeline is pretty much hell bent for leather from the start of SPIRIT DANCES all the way through to the end of book 9. It’s probably too late to rack up some kind of magic momentum for RAVEN CALLS, since it’s out in four weeks, but I (we, if I assume you’re in this with me) have two books after that to try to hit it out of the park.

ETA: a reader just asked “How in the world can you not be in the top 10 release week?” and I thought that was a good enough question to lay some numbers down in response. And these are real numbers, not made-up ones.

DEMON HUNTS sold 3400 copies its first month of release, and that was spread over the entire month from the earliest shipping into the first week of Official Release. That particular week/month, GIRL WITH A DRAGON TATTOO was also released in trade, and sold 65,000 copies. Even within a month where there’s are less-anticipated books hitting the shelves, to get into top ten numbers we’re looking at an order of magnitude greater sales than I’ve got. I see around 3000 sales pretty steadily in the first month of release; I’d need thirty thousand. This is why I say if *everybody* who reads the Walker Papers bought them in the first week/month of release we’d see top ten numbers.

If it was possible to aggregate all the DEMON HUNTS sales into one week so all the lists might catch it, I would (theoretically, assuming other sales did not also aggregate) maybe land at around #48 on a long list of 50 for one of the big lists. So, yeah. Orders of magnitude. That’s why I’d love to be able to harness something via this whole social media platform, but I just don’t know how. :)

*This is not a statement intended to make people with Kindles feel bad. If you have a Kindle, for heaven’s sake, buy a Kindle book. I get the *royalties* the same no matter what; this post is just about whether there’s hope for me to reach a bestseller status over the next few years. :)

**And I do. I have always been in this game to–for lack of a better phrase–win it, and my personal definition of “win” is not “beat the other guy” but “get onto the national bestseller lists”. There is nothing wrong with being a mid-list writer and I’ll take it if that’s what I forever land at, but my completely-out-of-my-hands goal is to have that awkward first name “New York Times Bestselling Author” preceding the already-on-the-covers “CE Murphy”. :)

(x-posted from the essential kit)

Kari Sperringla_marquise_de_ on February 2nd, 2012 11:41 am (UTC)
And then there's the UK... We tend to have to source US books via Amazon, unless we live near a larger branch of Forbidden Planet (my nearest one is small and dominated by comics and models). (there is special ordering, but it can be.... erratic.) It's a pain, and I apologise. Waterstones are reasonable for UK sff but not for US. And convention dealers' rooms tend to emphasise attending writers...
I miss the days when I lived in Dublin and was 10 mins walk from all the sff I could want in FP Dublin. (IT was wonderful in the early 90s. Haven't been in for years, but I have faith.)
kitmizkit on February 2nd, 2012 11:50 am (UTC)
I first visited FP in Dublin in the early 90s and thought I'd gone to Heaven. Unfortunately, it is not that splendid anymore, for a book-reader. In fact, you could say it sucks and you wouldn't be wrong. It too is dominated by comics and models these days.

And yeah, the Amazon stuff in particular is more aimed at a US audience, because they have the options. Wretched monopoly system.
Kari Sperringla_marquise_de_ on February 2nd, 2012 12:40 pm (UTC)
Oh, that's a shame. I loved that shop with a passion.
And yes, monopoly capitalism. Bah. But I have pre-ordered Raven Calls, so I will be getting to read it. Which is a win.
mikaela_lmikaela_l on February 2nd, 2012 12:12 pm (UTC)
I love my local store, but I am not visiting that often anymore. That is a combinationg of price and going mostly digital. ( When I can get two books from the Bookdepository, and pay the same amount that one cost in SFbokhandeln... Yeah.)

Also, foreign sales doesn't count towards the lists. Which is why I prefer e-books :).
Kate Kirbykirbyk on February 2nd, 2012 12:59 pm (UTC)
Obviously, what you really need is to get one of your books made into a movie!

Urban Shaman is the obvious choice, though I think the Strongbox Chronicles might be the most hollywood-ready.

If I won the lottery, which is unlikely since I never play, but if I did, becoming a sci-fi/fantasy movie producer would be totally compelling!
kit: writing_catedermodymizkit on February 2nd, 2012 01:16 pm (UTC)
Actually, I think HEART OF STONE is a much more movie-able book/series/world than the Walker Papers. :) Though, yes, the Strongbox Chronicles are practically movie of the week material. :)
ruford42 on February 3rd, 2012 01:39 am (UTC)
Yes, the Strongbox Chronicles are movie of the week. Which means if they were made into a movie, the only reason I'd bother to go see it is knowing it's based on your character -- Otherwise, it just wouldn't stand out.

And while my wife and I love Heart of Stone -- the Negotiator is by far the favorite series for my wife and I -- I can't say I'd be as eager to see it in movie form, since a good part of what I enjoyed about both Negotiator and Walker Papers is the first person perspective...Having someone actually mutter out 'eee-rash-un-aall' on screen, well I suppose it could be done in voice-over, but that seems to lend itself better to a series than a movie where you can space things out a bit more in the pacing.

That said -- what I would LOVE to see on screen? The Inheritor's Cycle! From the first few pages, it wasn't just words painting a picture but it was as if it were already a movie with the camera zooming in on Belinda's back and complete with pans and cuts throughout the various scenes (well at least until my expectations of fantasy ran right into the world of sci-fantasy :) But a Fantasy / Spy thriller set in a time of political intrigue like that...with insights into the secret puppetmasters -- ooh...I'd just love to see that on a screen :)
Bryantbryant on February 2nd, 2012 03:37 pm (UTC)
Nah. MMO. I actually have a project in mind that'd work fairly well with the Old Races mythos, but it'll be a while before I'm running my own studio, if ever.
hegemony hedgehogagrimony on February 2nd, 2012 03:37 pm (UTC)
Whether or not you can buy early at B&N seems to depend entirely on the phase of the moon, the prevailing winds on Mars, and the capitulation level of the random employee you're asking. Sometimes these factors also determine if you can buy it on the actual release day at my local store.
Axisor: Poe - Sleepingaxisor on February 2nd, 2012 04:50 pm (UTC)
You still didn't answer the Audio book question :(

I found you through Audible and have all your books (well, the Walkers and the Negotiators, though they have not done Banshee Cries) in Audible Audio format.... but not all in print.

Does audible number even feed into book sale numbers... as it is a verson of the book? I do know that Raven Cursed for Faith Hunter was a #1 download on audible at one point....
Alix (Tersa): Arwen Reading (tersa)tersa on February 2nd, 2012 04:52 pm (UTC)
Right. B&N it is, then.

(Also, just as a heads up, you have a rogue </i> around your 'thirty thousand' which is italicizing the end of your post.)
Chrysoulachrysoula on February 2nd, 2012 07:29 pm (UTC)
Very impressed by the Easy Pickings sales, esp. since it's the first month still (well, not anymore) and awareness of it has mostly had to grow by word of mouth, I think? Congratulations there!
Chrysoulachrysoula on February 2nd, 2012 07:29 pm (UTC)
(And thanks for real numbers.)
terrioterrio on February 3rd, 2012 03:55 am (UTC)
I can't help feeling that having the initial releases in trade paperback isn't doing you any favors in terms of initial sales. There's a certain... I don't know what to call it, cachet? to buying a hardcover book. There's the feeling of sturdiness and durability, etc., that draws some folks. And for those of us on a budget, mass market paperbacks are very appealing -- hey, it's under $10, why not go ahead and grab it? In some ways, I think trade paperbacks are the worst of both worlds -- more expensive than mass market paperbacks, but without the snazziness of a hardcover.

Or I could be all wet. :-)
Tiko: Tiana balconysteelneko on February 3rd, 2012 04:23 am (UTC)
My readers would torture themselves and not buy the book until the actual release day, and then everybody go out at once and buy it immediately. This, however, is asking a lot of readers, and I can't corral everybody and release them all at once. :)

A couple years ago, an urban fantasy author actually did try to corral all her readers into buying her new book in the official first week of release in order to try and make the NYT Bestsellers List. It got into weird controlling territory, like telling international readers they had to buy two copies of the book, or berating someone who bought it a day early because they were about to go in for surgery. And then demanding pics of the surgery for proof. I don't know how successful she was, but it certainly spawned a lot of resentment.

I don't know if there's a means to intentionally engineer a spot on the NYT list in any way that's not the right combination of talent and luck at the right moment.
silver shadow believersaintswife on February 4th, 2012 04:29 am (UTC)
All right then.

Good to know :)

I was going to get it anyway - doesn't matter to me where I get it from.

And I am seriously going through withdrawal since our local Borders closed shop.

I never realized how much bookstores were a place I could just... *breathe in* about once every couple of weeks.

Now if I want to go to a bookstore I need to go to the Mall. Ugh.