Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Small fish . . .

There's always a bigger fish. Qui-Gon Jinn said that, and I know you're not going to argue with a Jedi. And whilst there is always a bigger it's also the case that I am a small fish. In the writing world I'm a herring. Possibly red.

Anyway. The point is that small fish gotta hustle or they become small fish sticks. So, I've done my best to market The Emperor's Knife, spent a small fortune on posting copies hither and thither, and generally tried to hold up my end of the bargain any writer strikes with their publisher. I also keep a close eye on the painful business of bookscan which tears away the weasel words we writers comfort ourselves with and hits us upside the head with cold hard figures. Bookscan data is available to authors who sign with the program at Amazon and claims to catch about 75% of all sales on a weekly basis across the whole of the USA from bookshop tills to Amazon sales.

The graph below charts The Emperor's Knife sales across the 30 weeks since its US release.

You'll note a 'graceful decline' from modest beginings. This graceful decline carries us from roughly 80 sales a week early on to 40/week after 20 weeks. Sales halve in 20 weeks. At the point indicated by the arrow something happens. Sales start to halve every two weeks!

The fall across the first 20 weeks is the kind of profile most books have with sales slowly dropping as the initial rush for a new title fades and the reviews stop hitting the blogs. The fall for the last 10 weeks is something else. That's the profile of sales for a book that simply isn't being replaced on the shelves when copies are sold.

Now small fish have small publishers, in my case Night Shade Books, so I sent them an email to find out what the deal was. It turns out that NSB's distribution has been problematic of late. They had to switch distributors because the old one wasn't living up to expectations, and the change-over seems to have left quite a few crates of books stranded in warehouses... The good news is that whilst all the accelerated decline was due to books not being replaced - some of the decline was due to books not being replaced because there were no replacements to be had. In short, The Emperor's Knife sold out its print run but confusion over distribution combined with the imminent release of the trade paperback (now out) meant that a 2nd edition never quite happened.

So, I'm now a small fish that's happy the 4,000 hardbacks sold out, and sad I never got to boast about a 2nd edition.

At the end of it though, I'm still a small fish and if I don't watch my figures, watch my publisher, toot my horn, and do all those other things I gots to do + write another book ... well I'm going to get lost in the weeds or chewed up and spat out.

Come in. The water's lovely.


  1. So, no second edition. Hunh.

    And yes, you need to write. Write!

  2. The distribution problem sucks, but in the current economic climate, selling out in hardback is still great! I know I initially balked at the high price of your ebook, but I wanted to read it before WorldCon so I gave in eventually. Glad I did, as I'm enjoying it, but I don't normally buy hardbacks from debut authors.

  3. Oh dear. How frustrating that the problem is completely out of your grasp to fix!

    I guess it's now time to start promoting your e-book more heavily. And, sales of The Emperor's Knife will pick up a bit when Knife Sworn comes out, right?

    Keep writing!

  4. Of course, this makes me a minnow ... I'm just saying ...

  5. Hi Marzarkis

    I have just finished The Emperor's nife and I really enjoyed it.

    It was a great first novel and I am looking fore\ward to the second in the series. Keep it up.


  6. I saw your book in B&N a few months ago and thought it looked interesting. I didn't have much time for reading at that time, (and didn't have enough money to buy a hardback either). I was watching to see if an audio version would be released on, but never saw one.

    B&N sold out. I visit B&N a few times a month, so I watched for a paperback version to come out, but never saw one. After a month or two, I had forgotten the title of the book. Fortunately I had saved the title in my wishlist on Amazon, and re-discovered it when I was browsing the list. I ordered a used copy of the hardback two weeks ago on Amazon. I don't know if that purchase shows up in the bookscan (I'm thinking probably not). I found a link to your blog today when looking on Amazon to see if a sequel had been published yet. Your book is still finding an audience.


  7. I'm sorry the paperback wasn't available for you, but happy you snagged a copy eventually. The sequel is due out this fall. I will definitely make a big noise about that!

  8. I got Emperor's Knife completely at random from my local library and have been flabbergasted at how good it is, so far. (I'm still in the middle.) Please pat yourself on the back -- and continue your career as a writer!

  9. Thank you so much! I'm glad you're enjoying it.