Update: Coffin Dodgers hit the 10,000 mark in February 2012. I’ve broken down the numbers here.
A wee milestone: Coffin Dodgers just sold its 1,000th copy, and to gladden my heart further it’s just outside the humour top ten (it’s number 12) and number 440 in the UK Kindle Store. The charts are updated hourly, but the book has been in or around the humour top 20 for more than a week now. As ever, I’m very grateful to everyone who’s said nice things about it or recommended it to anybody else.
I’d love to say I’ve learnt some really important lessons about publishing, but I haven’t. I’ve noticed a few things, though.
* First and foremost, ebooks don’t follow the “big splash then slow decline” sales model: my sales appear to be accelerating. In its first month Coffin Dodgers sold 89 copies; so far this month I’ve sold 260. That’s happening without my involvement, so I’m assuming there’s a positive feedback loop where Amazon spots books that are doing reasonably well and recommends them to readers.
* People don’t read free samples. That might be a side-effect of 99p pricing – people think “oh, what the hell”, because 99p isn’t very much – but it’s clear that people aren’t going “new author, eh? I’ll download the free sample to see if I like it” before hitting the buy button. I’ve had a few refunds and at least one one-star rating on Goodreads.com, which I’m not going to obsess about. Oh no. (For what it’s worth, the total number of refunds is about six, which isn’t a lot.)
* One star. One! No explanation. Just one star. One!
* Amazon’s Kindle is where it’s at: it’s to books what iTunes is to music. Last month I sold 272 books on Amazon UK, 3 on Amazon US, 3 via Smashwords and one via Apple. The difference might be sheer luck – maybe iTunes would show the same feedback loop as Amazon if I’d sold more there – but for now at least, you could concentrate solely on the Kindle without losing much sleep or many sales. It’ll be interesting to see if that changes now that the Kobo reader is selling in WH Smith.
* As I’ve mentioned before, pricing is key when nobody knows who you are. Whether you like it or not, 99p is the price people expect to pay for ebooks from unknown authors. If your objective is to be read – and mine is – then pricing higher is probably counter productive.
* This isn’t a living. Assuming sales of 300 copies a month, which is pretty good, that’s around £90 in royalties per month – it’ll keep you in Moleskines, but it won’t pay the mortgage. What it does do, I think, is prove that no matter how niche your book, it’ll find an audience. And it encourages you to write more by flattering your ego, and by making you think things such as “okay, one book doing 300 a month is ninety quid, but if I had ten books doing that…”
* I really need to get my arse in gear with my other books. A non-fiction one is imminent, and I’m swithering between two fiction titles: one’s a sequel to Coffin Dodgers and the other one isn’t. Time to commit, I think. Or two write two books simultaneously.