1,000 copies of Coffin Dodgers

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.

* One!

* 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.

27 thoughts on “1,000 copies of Coffin Dodgers

  1. g24 says:

    Congratulations, Gary.

    I can remember the discussion a while ago on whether or not you should self-publish. It seems the consensus was about right: 1) it won’t be a money-spinner, and 2) it’s still worth doing.

    Do you think it would have been worth doing more marketing?

    I’m not surprised the Kindle numbers dominate – if you’ve got a Kindle there’s almost feck all else you can do with it but read ebooks, whereas with iBooks (i.e. iPad) there’s an absolute ton of stuff competing for your time and attention.

    Good work, let’s see some more.

  2. Gary says:

    > Do you think it would have been worth doing more marketing?

    Yes. I think I’ve done two things wrong: I haven’t promoted the book as much as I could have, and I haven’t got any other titles available. With the former that’s largely a personality thing: I’m better at self-deprecation than self-promotion.

    I think the multiple-titles thing helps too: it shows that you’re serious, or at least prolific, and books cross-promote one another. I’ve seen lots of successful e-publishers say that having multiple titles is the best sales tool of all.

    I’m just finishing off an ebook collection of tech writing, mainly columns, and I had an idea for the CD sequel yesterday that’s brought the whole book into sharp focus. I’m also 1/10th into another novel, which is proving very difficult to write. I’ll have something next year, I just don’t know what yet :)

    > with iBooks (i.e. iPad) there’s an absolute ton of stuff competing for your time and attention

    Yes, absolutely.

    I’m still not convinced by ebooks on tablets; given the choice I’d go for e-ink every time. Even handy things such as instapaper work better (IMO) on dedicated e-reading devices; although I’ve got the app on iPad and iPhone I catch up on instapaper stuff on my kindle. The service will happily create a digest of all your unread stuff and email it to your Kindle.

    It’s interesting – interesting to me, anyway – to see the different formats competing with one another in my house. The iPad is brilliant for kids’ books, and my one is stuffed with the damn things, but I don’t read long form stuff on it at all. The Kindle’s great for convenience and often cost, but it’s easy to forget what you’ve got: I’ve got a stack of hardbacks on the shelf, and they have a “read me! read me!” pull that you don’t get from one-clicking a book in the Kindle store.

    For all I love ebooks and Kindles, I’m still on a hardbacks-first policy; for example, I found out yesterday that PJ O’Rourke has a new book out, and didn’t even think about whether it had a Kindle version. I’m finding that with books I value – things I think I’ll come back to, like the Jobs biog or O’Rourke – I’ll plump for the hardback even if it’s more expensive. With fiction, the decision comes down to cost.

    I might be unusual, though, because I work from home. If I commuted, I’d have the Kindle on every trip.

  3. Stephen says:

    Congrats, that’s great news! Looking forward to the CD sequel, if you’re accepting votes ;-)

    You’re right about the Kindle and commuting: I just finished Neal Stephenson’s REAMDE on the Kindle, and I’m so glad I didn’t have to lug the massive tome around in my bag every day. I got a copy of Sir Terry’s SNUFF

  4. Stephen says:

    by attending his talk at the Theatre Royal, and I don’t know when I’ll read it, it’s so big and heavy. Trying to convince myself it’s OK to buy it on Kindle too…

  5. Stephen says:

    Sorry about the split comment, this crappy Dell I’m forced to work with is so laggy, I didn’t notice I’d hit tab instead of caps lock, so the space bar submitted the comment before I was ready!

  6. Hunnymonster says:

    Good for you Gary. I’m sure a lot those that bought CD will at least try your future output (and tell their pals of like mind to try CD before CD2 comes out).

    I suppose the real test of having “arrived” would be to see a torrent of it ;)

  7. Squander Two says:

    > I think the multiple-titles thing helps too: it shows that you’re serious, or at least prolific, and books cross-promote one another. I’ve seen lots of successful e-publishers say that having multiple titles is the best sales tool of all.

    In retrospect, then, do you think you’d have done better long-term to sit on Coffin Dodgers until you had two or three books ready to go and then publish them all together?

    (Sit on coffin dodgers. Hur hur hur.)

  8. Gary says:

    No, because the whole point of putting CD out there was so it wouldn’t languish unread on a hard disk. I think I should have put more effort into getting the tech writing collection organised. I’ve been meaning to finish it for months. It’s nearly done :)

  9. Gary says:

    I’m also republishing my short story, malky’s bottle of xmas, on Amazon: it’s shifted nearly 1,000 copies (free) in the Sony Reader store, so I’ll do the list it/tell amazon it’s free elsewhere/wait for the price to drop dance for the Kindle version.

  10. Hunnymonster says:

    Did you do a direct download of Malky’s? I have it from somewhere you pointed us all to earlier…. but obviously will download from Amazon to push your figures :)

  11. gary says:

    Don’t do it until it’s free :) I took it off amazon because the price match thing wasn’t working – amazon was supposed to match the zero price tag elsewhere but didn’t, for no good reason. I’m hoping it works this time.

  12. Hunnymonster says:

    C’mon Gary – I moved to Scotland on an evangelical mission to revive the culture of stereotypical thrift you’re all famous for…

    (The Dutch have you beaten into a (free) cocked hat though!)

  13. Gary says:

    Heh. Fancy beta-testing the non-fiction one? It’s a collection of tech writing I’ve done over the years. Some of it’s even funny.

  14. Gary says:

    TBH I’m really just looking for feedback of the “does it hang together?” variety – anything that’s jarring or shouldn’t be in there. Word format OK?

  15. Dafters says:

    Well done on the thousand.
    I’ve got about a dozen half started stories on my hard drive that I’ve not had chance to go back to. But having read all your posts on CD I’m tempted to revisit an see how I do.

  16. Gary says:

    Thanks, Dafters.

    > I’ve got about a dozen half started stories on my hard drive

    Oh, I know *that* feeling :)

    > I’m tempted to revisit an see how I do.

    You should. Sometimes a bit of time is all that’s necessary to work out what to do next. That’s definitely been the case for me.

  17. Dafters says:

    Thanks Gary, I’ll certainly have a go.
    Out of interest did you start CD with any length in mind or did you just let it play out as you went.

  18. Gary says:

    Not really, although I felt the first draft was too short. The final version is 67K words, which is a tad short for a novel, but I felt that any longer and it’d be padded out. I don’t want to be one of those writers who fills page after page with endless irrelevant description: I don’t know if you do this, but I find myself speed-reading the bits that are obviously padded in novels.

    I’m writing the sequel now and my target is 70K words, but that might change as it goes along. If it turns out that the story fits in 40K words then so be it; if it needs 100K then that’s fine too.

    That’s one of the good things about ebooks, IMO. You can go for the length that best suits the story rather than a fairly arbitrary number of words.

  19. Dafters says:

    Yeah, I know exactly what you mean about speed reading, I’m a git for it. Best example being Tom Clancy books.

    Was curious about the word count as I never know whether to limit myself or just see how it goes. In the end I overthink it and just down tools mid sentence. I wasnt sure about the length of CD as it was the first thing I read on the kindle app for iPhone and as a result had no real concept of how much I’d read, if that makes sense? In fact, it probably makes your point about ebooks.

    Thanks again, I’ll take it on board and see how it goes.

  20. Gary says:

    > Best example being Tom Clancy books.

    I know sometimes it’s the writer showing off – “Look how much research I’VE done!” – but a lot of the time I think it’s completely unnecessary. The story’s good at 70k words but it’s unsellable until it’s 80k, or 100k, so the writer goes back and describes every blade of grass and stick of furniture to get the extra 10K words or 30K words. It does my head in.

    > Thanks again, I’ll take it on board and see how it goes.

    Good luck :)

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