It’s been two weeks since my second novel, The Buddha’s Bone was published. This is a good moment to reflect as it has been quite the whirlwind. During publication week I ended up sick with flu. I didn’t have much time to rest, as I also had a sick child to mind. There’s nothing tougher as a parent than being sick when you have to take care of someone else.
Nevertheless, promotion has gone well. I’ve had more reviews coming in on Goodreads and Amazon – both UK and US marketplaces – from both ARC reviewers and readers. Some moments of the past two weeks have been as expected and some moments have been surreal. Here’s a rundown, which I’ll break into successes and surprises:
I’m astonished to say that sales of The Buddha’s Bone have exceeded expectations. In two weeks, I’ve sold more copies than the total number my debut novel, Gods of Avalon Road, sold in two years. Yep, you read that right – I’m amazed too! As the author of both books, I can say that they’re very different novels, but both are of similar quality in terms of writing and production. The difference is that I sent out ARCs (Advance Review Copies) of The Buddha’s Bone three months before publication, building up a few reviews, which I really think helped readers decide whether to buy or not. I didn’t know much about the impact of ARC reviewers at the time of my first novel. I also ran an advertisement in the Ingram Advance catalog for The Buddha’s Bone. I went into this blindly as I had no experience of running ads, but decided to risk the $85/£67 fee for a blurb of 50 or fewer words, knowing that it would be distributed to all the libraries, bookstores, wholesalers in the US in addition to 27,000 subscribers worldwide. That decision paid off. I’ll go into that a bit more in my next point.
Sales surprises – good
During my research over the summer, before publication, I had read that as an Indie author you should expect to mainly sell ebooks and few, if any print copies. I’m astounded to say that in my case the opposite has happened. 80% of my sales have been the hardcover version of my book which I produced through Ingramspark and I’m selling at $18.99/£14.99 a copy. About 12% of my sales have been the Kindle ebook at £1.99 and 8% the paperback version at £8.99 through Amazon. The majority of my hardcover sales have been in the US (about 87%), with 13% in the UK. If any author is undecided about whether to use Ingramspark for their hardcover book, and to avail of the option to advertise in the Ingram Advance catalog, I wholeheartedly say yes – to both. It costs $49/£35 to produce a print book and $85/£67 for the ad in Ingram advance catalog, but it’s worth the investment in my experience.
Publishing directly on Kindle for my ebook and Amazon for my paperback has worked out well too. I’m having steady sales trickling in and the royalties are higher than I was expecting too, without a publisher taking a percentage of the profits. Don’t misunderstand what I mean when I say ‘profit’ either – I had start-up costs since this was my first book under my own imprint (ISBNs/set up fees/business cards, etc) so it will be a while (a long, long while) before I break even between royalties and expenses.
Sales surprises – bad (and good)
As an author, I’m sure that I’m not alone in saying that few people I know in real life are supporters of my writing. Many are initially interested in the process of writing a novel. Some show no interest at all – and I respect that; it’s honest! A few are genuine supporters of my work. I’m grateful to those friends across the world who gave messages of support, liked my posts and videos or have asked about how my book is doing since it was published. It means a lot; even more so because this is my first book under my own imprint. But the truth of the matter is that only 8% of my sales for The Buddha’s Bone are from people I know in real life. On a positive note, it means that 92% of sales are from new readers and therefore I have expanded my readership in a way I hadn’t previously done with my debut novel, despite having a publisher for that one. I’ll get into the personal side of writing, relating to friends and family buying books versus unknown readers in another post. For now, The Buddha’s Bone is reaching a new audience somewhere out there in the wide world. In readership terms, I have achieved success if I am comparing to what I had previously achieved with Gods of Avalon Road. I can only compare myself to past achievements, and so in that sense my writing career is moving forwards, as I have now expanded my readership and surpassed what I had previously reached with Gods of Avalon Road. But in monetary terms it probably wouldn’t count as success, since I have yet to break even with the balance between expenses and royalties. Between readership or monetary gain, reaching new readers is my priority for now. What writer wouldn’t feel the same way?