Irregular Creatures: The Prognosis

In case you missed it (which, given my self-prostitution, means you must’ve been buried under a tornado-smacked barn), I went ahead and “officially” released my short story collection, IRREGULAR CREATURES, to the Amazon Kindle marketplace.

I say “officially” because it had been up there since Saturday.

And between Saturday and yesterday, I had zero sales. Not surprising, one supposes, but contained within is a critical lesson: your audience isn’t likely to stumble blindly upon your book. That is true whether it’s in a bookstore or on Amazon — yes, there exists the chance someone will trip on a rock and fall face-down upon it, but you sure can’t count on it. Bookstores are filled with thousands of books. Amazon multiplies that by a factor of… well, let’s just go with one of those imaginary numbers like Snarbgang or Fronk. (Coincidentally, also the name of my favorite Vaudeville comedy duo!) You want people to read it, you gotta lead them to it. Put up signs. And fireworks. And a Tijuana donkey show.

It wasn’t until I released the truth of the book’s existence into the wild that I netted the first sale — and the next, and the next after that.

Because you came calling. A stampede of awesome people.

First Up: My Thanks

So many of you rose to the call of “Please pimp my book” that I literally cannot thank each of you because if I tried to thank you individually, I would eventually die of some random old person disease.

At last count, I saw about 250 tweets of you fine feathered peeps shaking the reeds and shock-prodding other folks in the butt-pucker so they head on out and nab a copy of the e-book.

That is insane. Like, in the good way.

Never mind the many folks who pimped it on Facebook — Rick Carroll, Shawn Gaston, Keith Rawson, uber-agent Stacia Decker, and others. David Hill was the first reviewer on Amazon. James Melzer wrote a far-too-kind blog post exhorting people to go snatch up the collection. (Get it? Snatch? Because there’s a whole story about Thai pussy shows? Shut up. Don’t judge me.)

And again, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The blog post announcement, too, was heartily attended. I’m writing this post ahead of time, and even now that post has 1000+ looky-loos all by itself.

You kick ass, everyone of you.

(And hey, the shepherd-slash-prophet of self-publishing — Konrath His Own Self — swung by the site.)

Second Up: The Numbers

By middle of the day, the collection achieved profitability. My only cost going in was the cover art — I won’t tell you how much it cost because, well, I dunno. That’s not your business. *points to crotch*

But I will share with you the total numbers.

As of 9PM:

Amazon US sales: 86

Amazon UK sales: 7

PDF sales through this website: 15

Total sales: 108.

I make $2.07 per sale from Amazon, and $2.60 when purchased here (Paypal fees).

So, a genuinely profitable day, and this is only the first day.

Oh — Amazon sales pushed us up to #824.

Fact: Amazon’s sales ranking is determined by a parliament of insane robots. I began the day at #117,000, then one sale rocketed me up to #75,000 then another sale bumped me to #11,000. After that, I spent the day pinballing between #7,000-ish and #1,000-ish. It would sometimes do this even when I had not earned any new sales. Once, I earned sales, then dropped sales rank so fast, you’d think somebody kicked it out of a plane. Amazon sales rank is a cipher wrapped in a mystery enveloped in a slice of honey-glazed ham.

Mmmm. Ham.

Third Up: My Feelings On The Subject

I feel like a princess.

*pinches nipples, flings tiara skyward, does a pirouette*

Wait, no, that’s a whole different post for a whole different website.

I am cautiously optimistic. I mean, you can really look at this three ways:

Optimistic: Hey, holy shit, awesome. Better than expected. It’s just a dumb short story collection and I’m just some dipshit squawking and spitting into the void, so even if I never got a single other sale, I made enough money to go out and eat a kick-ass dinner. My writing is feeding me. Nobody owns my soul (except all those other people who own my soul — oh, and the Devil). Fucking-A. I rule. Everybody else drools. To celebrate, I will conquer some bacon with my gastrointestinal fluids.

Realistic: It was a good day. It remains to be seen if there’s really going to be a long tail, though. Those who bought today were likely the faithful, so how will the book find an audience otherwise? The author can only do so much. If word of mouth doesn’t carry it, the spark doesn’t catch anything aflame and — sizzle, fizzle, hiss. This is a 45,000 word product. Were I to have earned even a meager per-word on getting those stories published (say, two cents a word), I’d be up $900. And as yet, I’m not really close to that. But the long tail might be there. If I work it good and work it hard (nnngh), I might see that return yet. One lesson to learn: blog views are free, retweets are free, clicks are easy-peasy, but all those things do not automatically translate into a purchase — and that’s a-okay. It isn’t all about the immediate sale.

Pessimistic: Fuck off, fuck-badger. Loser. Loo-hoo-hooo-oooooooser. That old-ass knight from the end of that Indiana Jones movie is saying, right now, “He chose… poorly.” And he’s saying it about you, douchewipe. That thing was 45,000 words. You usually get a pretty good per-word, so realistically, that thing is worth at least $1800. You really think it’s going to make you almost two grand? Mm-humm. Sure. Sure. And my mother was Batman. See what I did there? Because my mother is not Batman. Herp. And derp. Dummy. Now those stories can’t win awards, they won’t be in print, and nobody cares because they’re self-published namby-pamby poo-poo pee-pee wee-wee nonsense.

But again, I’m somewhere in the middle. Closer to optimistic. I’m happy about the day’s sales.

And it’s not like it’s gone. You can still buy it.

No, really: You Can Still Buy It.

Fourth: What Now?

Well, in part, I shut up about it. I have other things to work on and other stuff to talk about. And the last thing I want to do is become a shill for my own book, a constantly-jabbering parrot: “Buy my crap! Buy my crap! KRAAAWWK! Buy my crap! Flying cats! Bangkok vagina! Buy my crap!”

Some of it will fall to you. You like it? Then please: spread the love. I’m hearing some good reports from people who have read the first story (“Dog-Man And Cat-Bird, A Flying Cat Story”), and that’s awesome. Tell others. Leave reviews on Amazon (even if you bought only the PDF). Don’t need to go overboard or out of your way, but if you’d be so kind as to occasionally pimp it, I would love you forever.

But some of it falls to me, too. If anybody needs a review copy, let me know. I can help make that happen. I’ll also be soliciting some interviews and what-not about the process, but feel free to ping me if you’d be into hearing a bit about this whole process.

Plus, if you have any other ideas for getting it “out there,” my ears are open. They’re full of wax and earwigs, sure, but by golly, they are open.

And that’s it for now, peeps.

Thanks again.

Keep them cats a-flying.

25 responses to “Irregular Creatures: The Prognosis”

  1. I’d love to hear about this whole process, please.

    And the librarian in charge of our eBook service has added Irregular Creatures to her list of purchase requests. I also passed along the title to two of the reading groups – one SFF and the other exclusively short stories – that meet at our library.

  2. I think the important thing is to keep the momentum going. I know you said you didn’t want to talk about the book all the time, but maybe you could add a little something to the end of your posts from time to time reminding people that the book is still out there.
    For instance I finally purchased the Machine of Death book off of Amazon last week, and I’ve known about it for months. Sometimes it just takes a little time and a little prodding to get people moving. Assuming they’re people like me.

  3. Kudos on a successful first day and the candid update.

    I get your lack of desire to turn into full-time pimp (please don’t!), but a few really simple suggestions:

    1) Put an ad for it in your sidebar here.
    2) Add it to the top of your Books For Sale page, and other About Chuck pages.
    3) Claim and update your Amazon Author page:
    4) Claim and update Goodreads Author profile:

    • @Guy:

      1) Working on it now!

      2) Working on it now also too indeed! (I dunno. Been shoveling all morning, need more coffee.)

      3) Oooh, didn’t even think of that.

      4) See #3.

      Thank you sir!

  4. I hate cats. But suddenly I love flying cats.

    Excellent sales. I mean, really enviable sales. Sales to make me go grrrrrrr. I imagine this is partly due to your cunning promotional techniques, but mostly is a testament to your status as a jolly good writer chap, as we say in Blighty.

    I too would like to know more about the actual process of getting a Kindle book made. Without having to actually lift a finger and research it. Lazy, me.

    Re: Amazon magic robots, the Book of the Gods slid up and down a few greasy bestselling chart poles for a few weeks. It depends not only on your book sales but also that of other people’s books in the same chart. Some author might be outed as a Nazi and his book plummets, allowing yours to rise. And so on.

    (Think that’s the first time I’ve ever used the word ‘Nazi’ in a forum post. I just lost my internet virginity. A historic moment.)

    I love love love the idea that someone can just press a few buttons and have a book ready for punters to buy. You could do a book of deleted scenes from your novels.Translate your words of writing wisdom from blog to Kindle. Etc etc. Even stuff that only sells for a dollar or two a pop will be potentially selling *forever*. Not necessarily a cash cow, but perhaps a cash hamster. The more books an author has available, the better, yes?

  5. Man I bought it, read the first story & loved it. I will definitely pimp that shit for you and not like some $10 hooker either, I’m talking like Elliot Spitzer $2000/hour type pro, that’s how I’ll pimp it. At the very least I’ll write a sterling review at amazon, tweet about it and even mention it on my blog(which might not help much because my blog kinda hides in the shadows of the untamed wilderness of the Internet.)

    The thing I really loved about it though- someone one could have me handed that story off the street and I would have known it was written by you! You voice is clear & it pulls you into the story the further you get into it. That gives me some hope, because the few people that do read my blog all say that they get sucked into the blog they’re reading. So thanks for the indirect encouragement.

    After I shovel(arrgging farggin hate shoveling) I will reward myself by starting the next story!


  6. I’m about halfway through this killer collection. I think it’s great. Dog-man Cat-Bird was an amazing story. I think it’s going to fall into one of my top five favorite short stories. Radioactive was just twisted, I had to set it aside while I finished my breakfast. (That is a compliment by the way. Stephen King is about the only other person who makes my stomach turn.) I’ll continue to pimp this book to my limited social networking circle because it is more than worth the 2.99. Good luck!

  7. I’m halfway through the collection and I’ll save my thoughts for a blog post of my own (I’ll send you the link privately when I’m done).

    I will only add to the chorus about not losing momentum. You’re on the right track: keep promoting, but don’t make it your life. When in doubt, lean slightly towards promotion. It’s a tricky beast, since you don’t want to become strident and repetitive. Your instincts are strong (trust your feelings, Luke), so I think you’ll thread the needle.

    • I’m glad that people are really responding to the lead story of that collection. I have long loved Dog-Man and Cat-Bird, but it has also long been… uhh, too long. It’s almost a 15,000 word story, which is a bit much in terms of finding easy publication.

      Also: you will now see that the BOOKS FOR SALE link above, and the BUY THIS BOOK link to the right are all geared toward some promo goodness.

      — c.

  8. In addition to Guy’s excellent suggestions about, I’d also recommend going to the forum and doing some promotion — as well as participation in the Writer’s Cafe subforum —,60.0.html

    Find some Kindle-review bloggers via those forums who would be amenable and send them copies to review.

    Also — as fun as your product description is, you might consider adding something more akin to traditional back-cover copy or an old RPG-industry distributor sell sheet. Give us more information about the stories in the book. Give the customer a reason to buy, beyond a karate kick to the face.

  9. One suggestion I didn’t see here was to offer a preview. Maybe half of the first short story, enough for people to get really into it. Then cut them off so they MUST BUY in order to find what happens.

    This is actually pretty timely, as I was just musing about the Free Tactic on my blog. Like, literally this morning. Good luck!

  10. Good point about having the free stories here, but people who hear about the collection from other people and go to the amazon page aren’t going to necessarily know that and hop over to your website to read them. It’s an extra step, and any obstacles you can clear between the potential buyer and that decision to buy means more sales. Any way to put a preview on that Amazon page?

  11. Ahh, I can’t wait to get my copy and start reading… just waiting for my slow-ass e-cheque to clear.

    I’m also very interested to see how this whole process goes, since I’m thinking self-publishing for my short stories too. My novels I want to give the whole meal, agent-publisher deal, but in the meantime, you know?

  12. I’ve just taken delivery of a new and virgin Kindle, all set to be filled with more books than it’s legal for anyone to read.

    Count me as one more purchase.

  13. Congrats on your success. Just getting it out there is cool. And you are a talented mo fo (If you will pardon the slang there).

    Read the Cat-Bird story last night after I downloaded my shiny PDF and it really stuck with me. I had a dream about a calico cat and then on the way to work, a black cat crossed the road in front of my car. My first thought was: “Holy crap! I hope that fucker doesn’t have wings!”

  14. I know at least two of those sales were from people I pimped you to on the Bioware Social Network. Here’s hoping I can garner you a few more when I pimp you on LJ. 😉

    I’ll be buying my copy tomorrow, btw. (Had to wait for payday.) Congrats on the success, big guy. *thumbs up*

  15. Why aren’t you doing a pod cast with steve Weddle? An interview over at Do Some Damage? You want his thing to work, you gotta get the word out there. Have Rawson Interview as well. Hell, I’ll interview you. Send me a review copy. I’ve no kindle or I’d buy the damn thing.

    • @Frank:

      Well, last thing I wanna do is assume anybody wants to post about the book. Promo is one thing, but I don’t want to be pushy about it. (On the other side, the collection really isn’t crime — I mean, there’s one story in there that… well, I guess breathes the same air as crime, but mostly I’d just call it “real life horror.”)

      — c.

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