Monday, March 28, 2011

Crawlspace and other stories - the kindle experience

It finally happened: CRAWLSPACE AND OTHER STORIES is up on US kindle - now because this was the way Eric wanted it, it is not being done throught NAKED READER as the rest of my e-sales have been. I'm a better writer than I am e-publisher. (I have no real desire to fiddle my way through formats and covers and fine print.) But I am enjoying the sheer accessibility of my sales records. This is something so simple that publishers really need to drive towards. I have never met an author (and I doubt one exists) who really wants to be a mushroom - kept in the dark, fed on BS and harvested when convenient. If you're running an open, honest shop, there is no gain in keeping this information from the author either. I'd argue that the information (along with publicity spend and advance) should be public domain, but I am aware that I'd have more chance of falling pregnant. But really - to set up the feed that tells authors where they are day-to-day is not - for your medium/large publishing house - a particularly expensive or difficult process. There must be at least a million programmers available to do the job. The point is, it's a serious spur - both to authors and readers (and possibly publishers). It would be hugely popular with the authors, and cost little to implement. It's also quite a wake-up call as to how little draw I really have - Crawlspace has sold 21 copies in 5 days (in fact the process made me 45 dollars this week), whereas the Nielsen data says I sell about 500 paper books a week. But it's been very interesting in a number of ways. One has been that I've sold a few more NR shorts simply because readers discovered - on hearing about CRAWLSPACE and searching for me on Amazon Kindle - that there were more. That is why I intend to insist on teasers for other books/stories being part of any e-book in the future. It's a feedback loop I've seen over and over. The best eg. I can think of is MUCH FALL OF BLOOD - where the paperback release has seen the sales of earlier books shoot up... Provided of course they are available - A MANKIND WITCH is not. So while SHADOW OF THE LION benefitted to the tune of 1004 copies... AMW sold zero (ergo I am asking for my rights back - hopefully before the next release in that series). I am not happy about this, as I've lost readers - which is one reason, perhaps, for keeping authors in the dark.

So where is all this leading - well, quite simply into into how valuable - to me anyway, seeing the results of sales effort is. And, more importantly, how vital it is to feed the beast and to keep feeding it, and use the books you keep putting into the system to get new readers.

So: what data would you like from your publisher, and why?

11 comments:

MataPam said...

Number of books printed, number of stores shipped to, returns and whether they were warehoused, reshipped, or pulped.

Amount spent on promotion, at what level. Selling to the chain store buyers, or aimed at readers?

For e-books, roughly the same. Returns, as in bulk returns from the bookstores doesn't happen, of course.

Darwin said...

In my reset of Darwin's Evolutions, I make publicly known the estimated costs for each anthology volume. When I start releasing short-story e-books, the same will apply. The estimated anthology data is already available for anyone who comes by.

Now, when I get to producing actual anthology product, the data on actual sales and returns will differ. I won't make that public, but I will distribute it to all contributors: staff, authors, and artists. That way everyone will know where we stand in terms of performance in the market and when/if we reach the point of disbursing royalties.

MataPam said...

Well, okay, I actually want my publisher to tell me I'm brilliant and send me lots of money.

Apart from that? I'm not really sure. Most writers are at least a book and a half ahead by the time they get sales data. And if the news is bad, is it the writing, the sub-genre, the promoting, the pricing, the stocking, the competition, or the economy?

Ignorance is bliss, or perhaps just simpler than knowledge. But it doesn't give you any indication of how to improve.

Kate Paulk said...

I actually posted the basics in a comment somewhere a while back:
- copies printed
- copies shipped
- copies returned
- copies sold (at what price if you're looking at % of sale price)
- basis and amount of royalty
- reserve against returns

All the info should be grouped by title, then publication type (i.e. hardcover, trade, paperback, ebook), then royalty basis/amount (it gets interesting with ebooks because each outlet takes a different slice and reports over different time periods).

Ideally, you should be able to come up with the numbers the statement is giving from the data on the statement.

Of course, that's a pipe dream and most of us would settle for "something that looks like what we're actually seeing, not 'each of the ten books you've published with us sold 21 copies last quarter'" (No I'm not exaggerating. Much. Some of the big players really are that bad).

Stephen Simmons said...

The "other books by this author" page at the front of paperbacks has always been a very dear friend of mine. What with the fourteen years of sea duty, there are a LOT of authors I discovered well-along in their careers. If I love the book, I'll be populating my shelves with its siblings just as fast as the paycheck will let me. For example,I just discovered Sir Pterry this past fall. And now my collection is NEARLY complete ...

E-books MUST have an equivalent, in my estimation. Particularly since clicking for backlist on NRP or Amazon is WAY easier than heading out to stores in search of books that probably aren't on the shelves anymore.

Darryl ADAMS said...

Well I bought my copy of Crawlspace (partly because I am want the set. Catch them all!).

The issue for me was not the content but the random and inexplicable spacing.

I think I have read the Rats and Bats prequal, but I reread the two Baen books, and I found that it increased the enjoyment, especially explaining Ariel and the Ratafia in a better light.

I read the book on the galaxy tab, so apart from chosing the wrong android device when i bought it on the web, the experience was good.

Now another issue is of cause the DRM. I often share baen books with my friends (two of whom are prolithic book readers). For example, when I read Charlie Stross's Laundry books, I shared to one mate, and as a result a group of 3 now has 2 complete sets of the books, plus a physical and electronic cersion of the RPG game.

The one thing about CRAWLSPACE is that the actual crawlspace story opens up the HAR world to a wider universe, and showed the world has a lot more life in it.

Dave Freer said...

MataPam - returns are on the list from KDP. I assume people return e-books? I haven't had any. Promotion is a factor yes. I'd love to do a statistical comparison of what the effect of different efforts is.

Dave Freer said...

Darwin -that strikes me as admirable... and very idealistic:-).

Dave Freer said...

Kate, I have yet to meet an author in conventional publishing who doesn't secretly suspect the figures are massaged.

Dave Freer said...

Stephen - I think álso wrote' and others who bought are a good start, but the recommended algorthms plainly need a tweak - as I keep getting recommended an author I simply cannot stand. I've gon onto the Amazon remmendations and clicked not interested every time one of their books is suggested. Must have done so 8-9 times by now. They still come up. Meanwhile Pterry who IS on my 5 star list comes out with a new book and I don't get told?

I'm feeling we need to go back to putting teasers and recommendation in our own books for others that we like.

Dave Freer said...

Darryl please don't tell me Crawlspace has DRM! Ack! I must figure out what the spacing issue is and fix it. I'll e-mail you off-list.

Crawlspace per se is supposed to be the first of series of stories all coming together to make a book. It's yet to happen.