Post-PXHCC’12 post (numbers, new prices, et cetera)

Phoenix Comicon 2012 was this weekend, and it seems to have been wildly successful, all around. They haven’t released a final number yet, but current estimates of attendance seem to be falling around 30,000 people. Every exhibitor I spoke to said they had a great year, and I did, too. Suddenly the pressure is on to have new books available to sell at next year’s Comicon (I’ve already paid to get a Small Press Table there, and unless they wildly re-arrange the space, pre-paying so early should have secured the same location I had this year) because the hot seller I had this year (Never Let the Right One Go) will certainly be sold out by then.

Here are my total sales (all paperback, except where noted, and all including sales tax), with the last two years’ comparable sales (in italics, in parentheses):

  • Lost and Not Found: 1 / $11  (2011: 1 / $14, 2010: 0 / $0)
  • Lost and Not Found – Director’s Cut: 2 / $16 (2011: 0 / $0, 2010: 1 / $10)
  • Dragons’ Truth: 3 / $47 (2011: 2 / $26, 2010: 4 / $49)
  • Cheating, Death: 9 / $45 (2011: 7 / $70, 2010: 6 (plus 2 given away) / $55)
  • Time, emiT, and Time Again: 2 / $14 (2011: 3 / $42)
  • The First Untrue Trilogy: 3 / $33 (2011: 6 / $144)
  • The Second Untrue Trilogy: 3 / $55 (2011: 3 / $70)
  • Worth 1k — Volume 2: 2 / $20
  • Unspecified: 1 / $5
  • Never Let the Right One Go (hardcover): 33 / $1250
  • Never Let the Right One Go (MP3 CDs): 1 / $20
  • Never Let the Right One Go (eBooks): 2 / $40
  • Total Comicon book sales: 62 / $1556 (2011: 27 / $411, 2010: 27 / $411)
  • Total minus NLtROG hc: 29 / $306

I haven’t included every title I have, or everything I had available, or everything that ever sold at any Comicon, just the things which sold at this year’s Comicon. (Books I had with me but sold zero copies include: Forget What You Can’t Remember, More Lost Memories, Worth 1k — Volume 2, and the MP3 CDs for Dragons’ Truth and Time, emiT, and Time Again.) Book sales were up by almost every measure: I even sold more paperbacks than previous years (even without counting the limited edition hardcover I was featuring this year), though the revenue on that was lower because of my new pricing system. Including Never Let the Right One Go, sales were more than double the last two years at Comicon, by volume, and more than triple by revenue.

Each day’s sales were better than the last, and they started with a bang: Thursday (Preview night, which in previous years has been just that – people coming around to see what’s there, and spending little) I had about $238 in sales (2011: $60, 2010: $0), which almost covered the cost of the Small Press Table ($229+tax) before things really got started. Friday I made $299, Saturday $442, and Sunday $578, including a sale after con was over: I was packed up and on my way to my car – someone spotted me rolling my boxes of books out & flagged me down to buy one.

Most of this was because of my new book, Never Let the Right One Go, and how I was marketing it. Designing great covers (thanks to getting permission to use those great photographs) was a big part, and just having the book on display brought a lot of people to my table – people would stare, mesmerized, by Emily and Sophia’s direct gazes, then find themselves drawn in. Also, creating a unique product, the flipbook, and standing there for most of the four days of Comicon, manually flipping the book over and over as though I were one of those people who stand on street corners trying to catch drivers eyes by flipping and spinning their signs/ads around, but really just to show off that it was two books in one binding, created a fair amount of interest; a surprising number of people had never seen a flipbook of any kind, before. Far and away the most important parts of my marketing efforts were in how I described the books (which I really believe worked only because of how I wrote the books), and the promotional chapbooks I gave away the first three days: I put together the first two chapters of each book, along with the synopses and the information on the limited edition and my table number, and handed them out to anyone who was interested after hearing about the books, but not ready to buy – like an eBook preview for the physical books; getting the readers hooked on the story, the characters, the world-building, and wanting more. Quite a lot of sales were to people who walked up to me with determination after having read the preview, with no doubts about needing to buy the books, and no hesitation about the price.

That was something else I was pretty sure of before Comicon, but am really glad to have seen proved out: People are willing to pay more for a good book. I didn’t put the price of the book on the book itself, or on the signs I made up, or in the promotional chapbook; I only put it on the price list I keep on my table during Comicon, which shows all the books’ prices, each relatively small, and usually unnoticed. I talked about the books and their stories and structure and characters first, and about the price last, and only when asked. For most of the people I gave the chapbooks to, especially those who came back eagerly ready to buy after having read it, they didn’t even ask the price until they walked up with cash in hand, and then didn’t blink when I asked $38 ($35+tax, rounded down to whole dollars) for a book. For most of the people who heard the price and didn’t buy, it wasn’t because they thought it was too expensive, but because they didn’t have enough cash left after their other Comicon purchases; their disappointed looks were quite crushing. (I pointed those customers to my website, where the eBooks are a lot cheaper than a limited edition hardcover – free, even.) The lesson is: If the story is good enough, the price doesn’t have to be low.

That said, while I’m tempted to keep the price of the Sophia and Emily eBooks where it is ($8.99/each), knowing that the stories are good enough to deserve that valuation (or, obviously, more – people were happily paying almost double that for the hardcover), I still want to stand by the pricing model I introduced this year, which adjusts the prices down as books “earn out”. So, with sales from Phoenix Comicon 2012 now accounted for, here are the updated prices for my books: paper / ebook:

It’ll take a few days for me to get the prices updated everywhere, which is probably a good thing considering I sold some copies of the Never Let the Right One Go eBooks at their $8.99 prices at Comicon – I don’t particularly want people who paid that price to see it so much lower when they get online to go redeem their codes; that sort of thing tends to create a feeling of buyer’s remorse. I’ve also got to go update all the pages on with accurate inventory levels, including things like: There are only 8 copies of the Never Let the Right One Go limited edition hardcover left, and I only have 5 more copies of Cheating, Death – and I haven’t decided whether I want to re-order any more copies of Cheating, Death. Probably I will; it’s sold more copies than any of my other books (77 copies, including paperbacks, eBooks, and donations) and is currently at a very attractive price point for hand sales… though I’m not expecting to do another event where direct sales will happen until Phoenix Comicon 2013, so maybe I’ll wait to order more until it’s time for that.

All in all, Phoenix Comicon has been a real blessing and a great opportunity for me. Meeting readers and being able to engage with them directly, often repeatedly (both day-by-day over the course of the con and year-after-year), about my works and my ideas, and often about their lives, their work, and their ideas, is awesome and rewarding on its own. As I kept telling people (usually right after handing a teenager my card and telling them they can get the eBooks for free), I’d rather have more readers than more money. Making a lot of sales, more sales each year than the year before, is certainly nice, too, and parallels what I’ve been seeing with my business overall – the beginnings of the fruition of my long-term plans; keep writing great books, keep making great art, keep connecting with readers and fans, and appropriate rewards will follow.

Now I’ve just got the next six to nine months to figure out exactly what new thing(s) I’ll be showing off at Phoenix Comicon 2013. If hundreds, or thousands, of copies of the Sophia and Emily eBooks sell, maybe that’ll include individual paperback editions of those books. If I can get the research, planning, writing, editing, and design done quickly enough, hopefully that’ll include the re-written Dragons’ Truth – and better yet, the entire new Dragons’ Truth trilogy I’ve been planning. If the book about writing and publishing does well as an eBook, and if I can figure out how to put it together as a paper book, maybe that, too – there are always aspiring authors asking me questions at Phoenix Comicon, so I know at least a few copies would sell there. Maybe a couple other, entirely different, things. Lots of time to figure it out, but even more ambition than time, so … time to get back to work, I suppose.

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Author, artist, romantic, insomniac, exorcist, creative visionary, lover, and all-around-crazy-person.

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