It’s been just over a month since the official release/publication date of my new book/series, Never Let the Right One Go, so I thought I’d do a post to go over its progress so far, in terms of reviews, sales (both paper and digital), and free downloads. All numbers in this post are based on the best data I have available, covering the period from when the books became available (on the podcast as early as May 4th, the eBooks between midnight on 5/12 and several days later, and the hardcovers since 5/14) and midnight at the end of 6/13.
First I’d like to address free eBook downloads: As I’ve stated before, I’ve only made ePub and mobi versions of the eBooks available for free, so far. Since for 2012 nearly 75% of all my free eBook downloads are of a PDF version (over half a version which is only screen-readable, not printable, and none of which have reflowable text), this puts both Sophia and Emily at a disadvantage regarding eBook download volumes. In their first month of availability, the free Sophia eBook has been downloaded 62 times and the free Emily eBook has been downloaded 55 times. The ePub version is 30% more popular than the mobi version, for both titles. Considering that Unspecified, a poetry book, is still getting around 400 free downloads a month, every month, nine months after release, these are disheartening numbers. Of course, over 87% of Unspecified‘s downloads are of PDF versions, so I suppose that tells me what I need to do if I want to increase the number of people reading Never Let the Right One Go for free; based on these numbers, I could expect each title to see 400-1,000 downloads a month, if PDFs (et cetera) were available.
Then there were the versions of the eBook available for purchase. As I stated in my Phoenix Comicon wrap-up post, I sold two copies (of each of the two books) of the eBooks at Comicon, via Indie Aisle redemption cards, at roughly $8.99 per eBook. In addition to those, I sold 5 copies of Sophia (and no copies of Emily) – two each on Amazon and the iBookstore, and one copy via Barnes & Noble. (It’s possible some copies sold via Smashwords Premium Distribution that I won’t hear about for months; I don’t count those as sold until my balance due is updated.) After Comicon, because of great sales there, and because of my current pricing scheme, I adjusted the prices of the eBooks down to $2.99 (effective on most stores around 6/1) – only one of the 5 copies of the Sophia eBook were at the reduced price; the four other buyers (plus the two at Comicon) thought $8.99 or $9.99 was a reasonable price for an eBook. I’ll write another post after a while, on this subject: I think the eBook buyers clamoring for lower prices are a tiny (vocal) minority, and that most eBook buyers see low price as an indicator of dubious quality.
In addition, at Comicon I sold 33 copies of the Never Let the Right One Go limited edition hardcover, and I’ve sold another 5 copies online, for a total of 38 copies sold of the hardcover book containing both complete novels. (Four copies were exchanged with the photographers/models as compensation, so there are only 8 copies left, though one of those is also spoken for; I have a buyer who has asked me to hold one copy, to be delivered by hand (and paid for) next month.) Plus, I made up two copies of the audiobooks on MP3 CDs, and sold one of them at Comicon, for another copy of each book in a reader’s hands.
Speaking of the audiobook, I began podcasting both books on the Modern Evil Podcast at the beginning of May. Each is currently only up to about chapter 6 (with 21 chapters to go of each novel, over the next 21 weeks), so I can’t really count how many people have listened to the novels, quite yet – but I can see how many have downloaded at least the first chapter of either novel; 172 have downloaded the first chapter of the Sophia audiobook, and 129 have downloaded the first chapter of the Emily audiobook. (45-55 each have downloaded the latest chapter in the feed, so that’s probably how many are very-actively listening; around 50.) All told, here is the breakdown of distributed copies for the first month (or so) of availability:
- Amazon: Sophia x2 ($13.22)
- BN: Sophia x1 ($5.84)
- iTunes: Sophia x2 ($8.39)
- Indie Aisle: Sophia x2, Emily x2 (~$36)
- Hardcover: x38 ($1320)
- Audiobooks: x1 (~$18)
- Free eBooks: Sophia x62, Emily x55 ($0)
- Totals (full book): Sophia x108, Emily x96 (~$1402)
- MEPod (started): Sophia x172, Emily x129 ($0)
- Total started: Sophia x280, Emily x225 (~$1402)
When given the option to acquire the novels individually, about 30% more people get Sophia than Emily, though when paying readers are given the same option, 100% of them only get Sophia (so far). But what do they think of the books once they read them?
Well, so far 100% of the reviews the two books have received on sites like Goodreads and Amazon have been from people whose copies were not included in the stats above; they were people who were involved as First Readers or Beta Readers of the books. (The latest reviews are from someone who didn’t have time to make it through the written texts, but was easily able to listen to the audiobooks once I had them completed; she is still one of my First Readers, though.) I mention this not because I believe their reviews are biased toward me (give me a moment, I’ll show they’re all over the board – rather than the oft-derided all-five-star reviews of “the author’s friends and family”), but because … I really don’t yet know what random people coming across the books think about them. I don’t yet know what any of the people who paid nearly $40 (w/tax) at Comicon think of them (and likely never will). Several of my First Readers and Beta Readers for Never Let the Right One Go had never read a book by me before, so they weren’t (yet) fans, and others had less-than-favorable reactions to some of my other recent work – and yet so far, most of their reactions have been, while reasonable and honest, not what I would have expected from each of them. Here is what my books look like on Amazon, right now:
Four-star average is fine by me, and none of the reviews are the sort of 1-star or one-sentence reviews I’ve been frustrated by in the past. Instead, there is no consensus (so far) about whether the books are good (or mediocre), or as to which one is better than the other (with Sophia taking a very slight lead), and after a month, I’m not really sure either book will (possibly ever again) receive additional reviews or ratings on Amazon. Most of my titles don’t have any reviews, and those that do seem to get them within a very short period after release and then never again – despite new people reading them, sometimes thousands of new people reading them. Interestingly, the numbers on Goodreads look a little different (though the reviewers are about 75% the same; their reviews copied and pasted between the two sites), with Sophia looking like a significantly better book than Emily. Here’s what the books look like on Goodreads right now:
Here, Sophia comes in almost a full star-rating better, though if you look at the details at the bottom of Emily, you can see the chart is out-of-date (there should be two 3-star ratings, not one) because the latest review of Emily was posted just a couple of hours ago. Sophia has the look of a good book, with all those 5-star ratings, something which isn’t showing up on Amazon.
Now, I realize you may not look at a lot of book reviews, so I’ve grabbed screenshots of a couple of other titles to give you an idea of commonly-seen ratings distributions for generally-popular books. Either most people really like them (top right, 90% 4-star or better), or they are polarizing, (bottom right, 61% 4-star or better, plus almost 21% 1-star), but there isn’t an even spread across all five star-ratings. Usually there are disproportionate numbers of 5-star (and sometimes 1-star) reviews, but that (I believe) has a lot to do with the nature of amateur reviewing; people tend only to speak up about things they feel strongly about. We see the first pattern beginning to form for Sophia at Goodreads, but not for Emily, and for neither at Amazon, which is where sales are likely to result (or not) from those star-ratings. When writing these books I’d been dreaming of a pattern like the second and hoping for a pattern like the first (and really just hoping to get enough ratings/reviews that any pattern at all appeared, so at least in that I’m making some headway!), so it’s a bit disappointing to see such an even spread of opinions about both books, so far. They are neither loved nor divisive. I’m not sure they’re provoking any conversation, either:
If there’s one thing I’m learning in the wake of the recent Prometheus release, it’s that creating something which leaves people with things to wonder about, to talk about, to complain about, and to leave the theatre/book/whatever scratching their heads about, it’s probably better than … well, apparently better than what it is I’m doing, where I do my best to explain everything, tie up all loose ends, fill all plot holes, et cetera. Where the characters’ motivations and actions and resolutions are clear and make sense (at least internally, even if you wouldn’t have done that in their position), and the world is well-thought-out and thoroughly-explained… Luckily, I suppose, the next book I’m writing, in the DNGR Saga, starts in the middle, goes all sorts of crazy places along the way, and ends up with plenty of unanswered questions. Unfortunately, I fear that’ll put it in with so many of my other books as being unreviewable – people just won’t know what to say (or think) about them. Killing word-of-mouth sales/interest. Nullifying the possibility of building a reputation.
Now I’m rambling.
Enough: Good night.
Update: After getting some sleep (well, mostly what I’m about to write was things I continued thinking, while lying awake in bed, trying to sleep as the sun came up beyond my curtains), I wanted to clarify/summarize a few key points: Within one month of availability, Never Let the Right One Go has been more profitable and sold more copies than any of my other books (excepting Cheating, Death) across their entire lifetime (some approaching a decade since first printing), and in terms of gross revenue it is far and away the most successful book (or series) I have ever published. In terms of revenue from book sales (not including cover art) the only other thing in my history which comes close is by comparing the entire Untrue Tales… series to the idea that Never Let the Right One Go is (technically) a series of two books; and even then Never Let the Right One Go already has 50% more revenue than all editions and releases of everything in the Untrue Tales… series combined. Depending on how the Sophia (and Emily) eBooks do in the coming months, and how quickly the 7 remaining copies of the hardback sell, Never Let the Right One Go should surpass Cheating, Death in both profitability and copies sold before the end of the year. Without the benefit of the revenue from selling the original cover art, Cheating, Death is already beaten on that front. Also, I believe each of the two books have received more Amazon reviews than any of my other titles. Despite my frustration with the star-distribution, more reviews is better, and something I’ve been striving toward lately, and Emily and Sophia have succeeded there, as well.
All in all, this is my most successful book to date, by many measures. I feel it very successfully accomplished what I set out to do when writing the books, which is my paramount goal. In addition, it has sold more copies, faster, for more money, than anything else I’ve ever published. In part this is because of all the marketing efforts I built into it from the start (cover design, hooking first sentences and first chapters, et cetera), and in part as a result of the gradual building of my reputation/brand/audience/fanbase, so that each book I write does a little better than the one before it. Now I just have to figure out what the right first sentence/paragraph/chapter for my new book will be, and what the heck to put on the cover, right?