Saleswanking 2019, and Writing 2020

Don’t worry, this will be brief, because there’s not a whole damn lot to talk about: I sold exactly 114 books in 2019, 91 of which were in person and a whopping 23 on Amazon. I had no new releases of any kind this year. I intended to spend most of the summer broadening the places where my books were available (I went off KDP forever ago, so I’ve been Amazon-exclusive with no real benefits for it since then) and working on a new novel (I have three in various stages of not-finished) but the Ongoing Medical Calamity derailed the fuck out of that. I’ve written some microfictions and maybe a couple of short stories this year over at Patreon and that’s it. I went to … three cons, I think? Four? Kokomo-Con, InConjunction, ConGlomeration, and Hall of Heroes con. So four. I know I canceled at least two because of the Calamity, and right now I’m only scheduled for one in 2020– Indy Popcon, which was one of the two I cancelled last summer.

I said this yesterday, and let me repeat it: there is no risk– none– of the blog going anywhere, because it’s too important to my ongoing mental health even before you get to the part where I like writing here. But for the first time in several years I’m thinking about deliberately hitting pause on calling myself an independent author for a while. I’ve mostly been ignoring my books on here except for the occasional Station Identification post on the weekends and the static links on the right; I may as well put them back on KDP if I’m not going to do the legwork necessary to have them available all over the place. I don’t write a lot of fiction any longer because with everything going on in my life I haven’t had the mental space for it, and I require an enormous amount of headspace to be able to write fiction. Nonfiction? Blog posts? Dead easy. But I don’t like writing fiction, and I never have– what I like is having written fiction, which is an amazing high that unfortunately requires me to spend hours pulling teeth first. I think about writing fiction all day, every day, I just don’t actually do it.

It might be time to put it away for a bit and not think about it at all. I’ll either get my mojo back, which would be good, or I won’t, which really won’t be any different from now except for the guilt. My family’s health situation isn’t getting better anytime soon– there is no silver lining to this cloud and no light at the end of the tunnel, and that’s not depression talking, it’s unfortunate and inevitable fact– so the only thing to do is decide what to do about it. I can make a serious effort to reprioritize my fiction, which means finding some other things to put away, or I can put it away. I just need to decide which one I’m going to do.

Kokomo-Con 2019 Wrapup

The following things are all true; I am finding that I’m terrible at evaluating how these shows actually go, and this one was more mixed than most:

  • Attendance was pretty good; they announced about a thousand people through the door at the end of the show, which was a couple hundred more than last year, I think.
  • Weirdly, there were a lot of empty booths, which I don’t think was the case in previous years– any booth that was empty had a placard on it for someone, which means there was a last-minute cancellation. This time it looks like a lot of them just didn’t sell for some reason.
  • I sold half as many books as I’ve sold in previous years.
  • I paid for the table, which is always the goal, and there’s $150 in my pocket that wasn’t there on Friday.
  • Despite the poorer-than-usual sales, there were three other authors there who I’m friends with and know from previous shows, and I outsold all three of them, and in two cases pretty considerably.
  • Damn near every single person who came up and bought a book mentioned that they’d bought books from me at previous shows and were back for more, which is always an awesome feeling. One person came over to apologize for not having gotten to my book yet, but he wanted me to know he was still going to read it. Dude, I left a Salman Rushdie book on my unread shelf for a year once. You can make me wait. The book ain’t going anywhere.
  • The exception to the above was a guy who I talked to for five minutes who then bought every book I had except for Searching for Malumba.
  • Unrelated to the con, but fun: there was some sort of car show in central Indiana somewhere on Saturday, and the whole way down we were surrounded by Corvettes and classic cars driven by people who almost certainly didn’t know each other but figured out that they were all going to the same place and so fell into caravans. It was pretty cool. Also cool: passing six Corvettes in a row on the highway when you’re driving a Kia Soul. ūüôā

So, yeah, pretty spectacularly mixed, yeah?

I was planning on taking a year off from this show– I love Kokomo-Con, and I’ve been three years in a row, but there’s a more writing-focused three-day con in Louisville on the same weekend that I’ve heard all kinds of good things about and I was planning on checking that one out in 2020. However, next year the Kokomo-Con is moving a weekend deeper into October, so it’s possible that the shows won’t overlap with each other next year, in which case I’ll need to decide if I want to/am able to do two shows in two weekends. So I’m not reserving my 2020 table just yet, and we’ll see what weekend the Imaginarium ends up being next year.

Blech.

Day two of the show, and … this isn’t going well. My panels today were fun (in general, I’m finding I really like doing panels) but just like the last time I did this con, all of the vendors are unhappy and attendance seems really low. I mean, I’ve already sold more books than I did in 2015 with all of Sunday left to go (and I spent several hours away from my booth doing panels today) but “better than the show where I sold no books the first day” isn’t a high mark.

It’s 8:09 and I’m ready to be asleep. I’ve got a big-ass book to work my way through but I wouldn’t be surprised if I was asleep by nine.

#Saleswanking for 2018 and more

This is going to be a very short post, considering the amount of work that went into it, because Amazon and Square don’t play nice with each other and neither of them makes it especially easy to get these numbers in a format that I like. HOWEVER! I haven’t looked at book sales in a systematic way in a while, so this kinda needed to happen. And, frankly, included some nice surprises.

Note that “Amazon” includes both paid sales and free downloads, and I’ve smushed together both physical and digital copies as well; nearly all of them are digital. The Square sales are sales in person; some of those are going to be free giveaways for one reason or another but all of them involve physical books given or sold to people by me. This is 2018 only:

Eight hundred and fifty-seven books seems like a lot, honestly. The little discrepancy you see with Click from 2018 to the total includes the 14 people who got free copies through Patreon, which is one of the only ways you can get the book (pledge more than $2 a month!) and the 9 on the Square set were sold in person at conventions, which is the other way to get it.

As of right now, my books are starting to drop off of KDP Select, which means I’m about to lose the ability to give them away on Amazon. I am either trying to get all six of them (Click isn’t on Amazon) on the same schedule or about to broaden back out and put my books on other sites again. I haven’t decided. As of January 2nd, everything will be off KDP select, so I’ve got a few more days to think about it.

The overall numbers really surprised me. I didn’t think I’d moved this many books.

So, basically, if you include the occasional sale that isn’t captured here (Barnes and Noble, Apple, non-convention personal sales that I didn’t bother recording in Square,) I’m probably at right around five¬†thousand¬†books¬†sold or downloaded since I started doing this.

Which, on the one hand, is a larger number than I thought it was going to be, and on the other hand, if I look at actual money earned from this … yeesh. I’m not going to share that because Amazon accepts currencies from all over the world and I’m not about to start digging through my tax returns, but suffice it to say that I’ve absolutely lost money at playing author since 2014. Cons and hotel rooms and book printings and all that cost money, and again, a lot of those Amazon numbers are from giveaways, not sales.

The totals for in-person sales, which are included in the above– this is just a summation of the “Square” lines:

Which, again, this isn’t nothing. Every one of these represents an actual human standing in front of me who bought books from me. Am I J.K. Rowling? Hell no. But this is a lot larger of a number than zero, which is what it would have been when I started doing this.

I should probably set some hard and fast goals for 2019. Not yet; I need to absorb these numbers first. But maybe that post is coming. Tomorrow, the 10 best books of the year.

Good old-fashioned blog- and saleswanking, plus some whining

First day of fall today, supposedly. ¬†Not that I could tell; it was goddamn near 90 outside, the hottest day in weeks. ¬†We’ve had a couple of mild summers in a row around here, which is good since I’m incapable of handling heat.


Trying to decide what I ought to do next. ¬†Tales: The Benevolence Archives, Vol. 3 is out next Tuesday, and can still be pre-ordered digitally for $2.99 or– sssh,¬†don’t tell anyonebought in print for $8.99. ¬†Unless you’re a Prime member, the book’s not¬†getting to you before the 26th, so we’ll call it day-and-date and not worry about it. ¬†In general, presale numbers have not been making me happy. ¬†My presales have gone up with every book until this one, but with four days until release¬†BA 3 has fewer presales than anything else I’ve released so far. ¬†I’ll take the blame for a good chunk of that; I haven’t had the time or energy to invest into properly marketing the thing, and it doesn’t help that blog traffic has looked like this for a while now:

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Now, 2015 is a little unrepresentative– a¬†single post was good for over a hundred thousand of those hits, and there’s still a few months left in 2017, but the overall downward trend is pretty evident. ¬†My twitter feed has been locked in at about 10K followers for over a year now, and nothing I can do will move the numbers. ¬†And the books aren’t selling very well, and aren’t getting reviews at all. ¬†I just fiddled around in KNP’s sales dashboard to generate a useful graph, but just picture a line dwindling to near-zero several months ago and staying there, other than a brief blip when¬†Balremesh¬†came out. ¬†Presales on that were good, but it appears that¬†everyone who wanted it pre-ordered it. ¬†I’d blame the occasional free weekend, but my sales were shit¬†before I put everything back on Kindle Select again, so nothing’s changed in that regard.

This is starting to sound like a Goodbye Cruel World sort of post, and maybe it¬†should be, but it’s mostly me casting around trying to figure out how to shake things up in my life. ¬†Being an author is important to me, but I don’t think I can really go back to doing that until I figure out a way to¬†not be a furniture salesman anymore– I don’t think it’s a coincidence that all these sales downturns started hitting when I stopped teaching, and got seriously bad when I started at my current job. ¬†The blog traffic predates that, yeah, but it’s kinda tough to surpass a year where you have a single post get 39,000 shares on Facebook.

And then there’s the question of the Next Book, and whether I should even try to¬†start the next book right now, or focus on fixing everything else before I worry about that. ¬†It’ll probably be me going back to the¬†Skylights universe and trying to nail the sequel to that book properly, but there’s another book bouncing around in my head trying to get out that doesn’t fit in with¬†any of my established universes and might be fun to write. ¬†But I’ve kind of liked the last few weekends where I’m¬†not stressing about whether I’m writing all the time, so maybe I need a break. ¬†I dunno.