Q3 Numbers, NaNoDecisions, and taking risks

Looking back, I see I didn’t make a proper numbers post for Q2, this year. This post is also a couple of weeks later than it ought to have been. Meh. Q2 looked a lot like Q1, except for a spike in Podiobooks downloads for the last few days of June. eBook downloads continued their gradual descent from the highs they’d hit after being linked to by some “free eBooks” listing sites last year. Q3 looks a bit odd, but in understandable ways.

For example, that spike in podiobook downloads coincides with the launch of Apple’s new Podcasts app for iOS – separating podcasts out of iTunes and improving visibility and ease of use for a lot of the people who wanted to listen to podcasts and podcast audio fiction. That spike actually turned out to be a new baseline level of downloads – until Podiobooks.com went down completely for a little while, torn apart by malicious, hacking spammers. All Podiobooks.com titles were de-listed from iTunes for a week or two while they rebuilt the site. When things were back online, many of my titles’ downloads continued at rates higher than they’d been prior to the launch of the standalone Podcasts app, but none of them were near the levels they were at before being temporarily de-listed, and some of them went right back down to their pre-Podcasts-app trickles. Oh, well. Easy come, easy go.

Without listing out all the totals of all the downloads for each title across multiple formats (I’ll gladly share the numbers with you if you’re interested, just ask me), here are some highlights: 124,867 total Podiobooks downloads (across all titles) for Q3, which compares favorably with ~35k in Q2, ~27k in Q1, and ~151k in all of 2011. The final episodes of the various books were downloaded a total of 9,015 times in Q3, so that’s probably the maximum number of new people who have heard an entire book, though if everyone who finished one of my books also downloaded all my other available titles it might have been as few as 693 different people downloading those 9k books – which is to say the number of new listeners my books found in Q3 via the Podiobooks feeds was somewhere in the range from 693 to 9,015. Not taking in to account things like repeated downloads or other errors, of course. Still, 124k downloads in Q3 represents fully 17% of the 731,086 total downloads (as of end-of-Q3’2012) I’ve had via Podiobooks.com over the years; hopefully the coming months will bring a steady flow of downloads and an increase in orders of the for-purchase versions of my stories. Podiobooks.com added up all the donations from all my titles for Q1 through Q3 into one payout, and my cut of the 2 donations came out to a total of $10.46; for the purposes of this post, we’ll consider them both to be Q3 donations.

eBooks did not see that dramatic up-tick. In fact, they saw the continued decline of downloads I’ve been witnessing since last fall. My eBooks were downloaded a total of 2,705 times in Q3, and only 11 of those were purchases. (This compares with 4,689/24 in Q2 and 4,992/36 in Q1.) Those purchases netted me $26.90, and the most popular title was Sophia. Alternatively, there were only 40 or 45 copies of Emily or Sophia (respectively) downloaded (in all of Q3) including the purchased and the free copies; aside from my own poetry, they are my least-popular free eBooks. (The Sophia Podiobook has been available for less than a week and has been downloaded my more than twice as many people as the eBook was downloaded in Q3. I am confident both eBooks would be downloaded more if I made them available in PDF.) Alternatively, I sold 2 Never Let the Right One Go hardbacks in Q3, earning $70. That makes a total of 15 “book sales” for Q3, earning $107.36.

Oh, and for those of you who haven’t put two and two together: Lowering prices, adjusting eBook prices down, down, down, hasn’t helped sales at all. I’ve been lowering my eBook prices the more copies they’ve sold and the more money they’ve earned, and my sales volume has gone right down with them. As an experiment, I’m thinking of putting my “floored” eBooks (those which have already earned out their expenses) “on sale” at $0.99 for November and December, rather than holding them at $2.99 for the remainder of the year, just to see what happens. Either way (barring some miraculous turn of events where my eBooks suddenly start selling thousands of copies a month at $0.99 apiece) I plan to raise all my prices back to reasonable and appropriate levels at the start of 2013, and to give up the the pricing experiment we began nearly a year ago. For the nth time (at least 3 major experiments I can recall, and several shorter or less-rigorous ones) I’ve shown that lowering my prices reduces my sales. (Not just less money, but fewer copies sold -by far- every time.) I don’t think I’ll be messing with prices in this way again any time soon. Lower prices is not, apparently, what my readers want.

Speaking of decisions… I think I’ve come to at least a partial decision with regard to the major project I’ve been developing, NaNoWriMo, and what products I’ll have on hand at Phoenix Comicon 2013. First, I think I’d rather give this big project as much room as it requires to be done well, and I think that, at least on the pre-production end, it needs more room than I have between now and the end of November to make starting it my NaNoWriMo project. This may mean extending the project’s calendar from 6 months up to (at most) 18 months, which would give me a lot more breathing room to really get every aspect of it done as well as I’m able. It may simply mean backing it up a couple of months, as I work on something else in November, then take the remaining time necessary for preparation, then end up having it not-quite-ready in time for Comicon; that is, maybe it really only needs 6-7 months more work, but that since at least several more weeks of that are before any writing happens, it can’t continue happening and satisfy the requirements of NaNoWriMo, too.

Second, and implied by the first decision, I think I’d really like to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. Perhaps not properly, but … some. I haven’t decided which project to work on; I have two books partially begun, I could start with a blank page and see where the month takes me, and I have perhaps 17 other projects pending – many of which could be snatched up and bumped to the front of the line for a NaNoWriMo’d no-prep first draft. For example, I have the first 20k words of a Death Noodle Glitterfairy Robot Saga book written, and I could semi-easily pick it up and write the remaining 30-35k words. Or I have the (non-fiction, thus non-novel) book about my experiences writing and publishing, which I’ve written a few thousand words for and have detailed cards/outlines for most of the rest of – I probably need at least another 48k words before I get close to the end of that one. If I pick one of those two, there’s a good chance I won’t “win”, in the sense of writing >50,000 words in November … though I’d probably “cheat” and just upload the actual finished book (either would end up more than that long) for verification by the end of the month … unless I finished one of them and started something else, too (the other project, a series of short stories or poetry, whatever). Either way, I think I’d like to invest a good number of hours this month writing something, attending write-ins, spending time with other writers who are writing, all that good stuff. I’ve got a couple of days to figure out what I’ll be writing; plenty of time.

Consequently, presuming a win (or two, if I complete both of my partially-finished books), I’ll have at least one new book to publish between now and PHXCC’13 which, while not fulfilling my odd goal of having “a tentacle novel” to sell there, should help me to make a significant amount of sales: People like new things. In addition, I am currently planning on rolling part/all of the profits from the hardcover sales of Never Let the Right One Go (Only 6 copies left, right now! Order soon!) into having paperback editions of Sophia and Emily created. They can’t be a flipbook. It will have to be two different paperbacks, just because of printing logistics. (Probably I’ll price them around $9.99 for direct sales, with a cover price around $14.99 apiece.) That gives me three or four “new” books for sale at PHXCC’13, even with the delays on the bigger project(s), which helps allay my fears about showing up with 6 or fewer copies of this year’s hardcover and the “leftovers” of all my other books. (Please, anyone, won’t you order the two Untrue Trilogies?)

There are risks involved in these decisions (Will the Sophia and Emily paperbacks sell, or will I just be adding more books to my shelves? If they’re my least-popular free eBooks, and if sales of their expensive hardcover “proved” that the people willing to pay are willing to pay a premium, what makes me think offering the value/affordable option of paperbacks will elicit any sales? Will I even be able to finish a new book? How will I pay for publishing it? Will I lose my momentum on the bigger project in the meantime? Will I just continue pushing it back, and back, and back, the way I’ve been pushing back the Dragons’ Truth rewrite for 2-3 years? What about my deep and ongoing depression?), but I think they’re the right decisions for now. Just reaching them has lifted a great weight off my mind, and writing this all out has calmed me significantly.

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

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