Monday, August 26, 2013

The BIG numbers - EDEN's first full month.

It's been just over one month since I self-published Eden to Kindle on Amazon, and to be entirely honest I did not think that I would be sharing such amazing sales figures as I am about to. The vast majority of my research, reading the experiences of other self-published authors, suggested to me that it would be a long haul over many months to gain sufficient recognition to achieve successful chart positions. In fact, for various reasons, in my case the reverse has been true. This is almost certainly due to my already having a reader-base through traditional publication by Simon & Schuster. However, Eden has also shot up in the charts on and my presence there is far smaller than in the UK. In addition I have done absolutely no publicity for the title in the USA, which suggests something else is at work.

First though, the figures. These are the sales I've achieved for Eden in its first month:

UK: 904 copies sold.

USA: 312 copies sold.

Other territories: 14 copies sold.

My highest ranking to date on Amazon UK in the paid Kindle chart so far has been #715.
My highest ranking to date on's paid Kindle chart is ( currently ) #2,823.

To put these chart positions into some kind of context, there are estimated to be around 750,000 Kindle books in the UK chart and some 2,000,000 in the USA.

A look back across my posts charting my self-publishing experiment reveals a series of jolts as the book climbed the charts here in the UK, and a similar picture in the USA ( although slower to start there ). Chief among the things that I have learned so far is that when a book is published to Kindle it must be featured in relevant categories that also give the book a chance to stand out, and that reaching a chart position within those categories guarantees an increase in sales as the title's visibility and exposure to new readers increases. Being seen is everything in this business, whether you're traditionally published or doing it for yourself. Eden jumped 2,000 places virtually overnight when it entered the Top 100 in the post-apocalyptic category, both here and in the USA. That got the ball rolling in each case, with sales doubling week on week.

But what has driven sales in the USA? My traditionally published books are not as well known there, I have approached no bloggers or performed any other publicity, digital or otherwise, and yet in a chart of over two million books Eden is now ranking in the top 0.1% of all titles. I've spent much of the weekend pondering this, and the only solution I can think of is that a combination of low price, professional cover design, compelling subject matter and ( so far ) very positive reviews are helping Eden stand out from an already overcrowded self-publishing market. I read again and again reviews of SP books lamenting the poor editing, the weak plotting, the rushed narrative etc etc. Only a small number of authors are patient and determined enough to produce an industry-quality book for self-publishing and those authors do seem to get noticed more quickly by readers eager to discover a new author. The lesson here is that it's worth having books professionally edited, having covers designed and really thinking about how to present your self-published novel to the public, because the only thing holding back everybody else is the fact that they didn't do those things and that's never going to change. You can't just whack out 50,000 words and expect it to sell well, but that's what the majority do. Your book's got to be good, then it's got to be made better, and better again, and then it's got to be edited, publicised and sold. I'm not going to compare Eden to self-published books that have sold hundreds of thousands, but it's on the right track so far.

While I don't think that Eden has charted so high solely because of my efforts to produce a top-quality book, in the absence of any other factors I do think that those efforts are largely responsible for the book's rise. What I'm hoping now is that the rise continues, and that charting in specific categories leads to a "snowball effect" on sales, a phenomenon noted by many other self-published authors before me. Only time will tell, but right now I think that I've achieved another major milestone in publishing, and that means that Eden's sequel is now a priority. I'd decided only to write a sequel if Eden sold well and received predominantly positive reviews, and that's definitely happened. More to the point, if any book I write is deemed unsuitable for the current publishing market in the future, it will then be self-published instead. There really is no good reason now not to.

I'll update again next week, but also include other observations about digital and self-publishing rather than sustain a blow-by-blow account of the book's position in the charts.

Monday, August 19, 2013

EDEN: week four of self-publication!

It's been a hell of a week, to say the least.

Since my last post I've learned even more about how Amazon's Kindle rankings work, and also seen Eden climb ever further up the charts. This morning it reached #796 in the overall chart, although it has slipped a little way since and at the time of writing is at #824. More amazing though is that the book is now charting on's Post-Apocalyptic category at #80 and is at #12,855 overall.

I know that I've already mentioned that there has been very little publicity surrounding the novel, but it seems important because so many self-published authors struggle to obtain blog reviews and such like. I have only received one industry blog-review so far, the rest being ordinary reader's reviews, but it hasn't stopped the book's rapid rise up the charts. However, there are things that I did get wrong.

Upon reflection, I think that I should have done more to create a "buzz" around the launch of the book. Many self-published authors ( and traditional publishers too ) make much fuss about the importance of this and I'm beginning to understand why: sell a hundred books on your first day and you'll shoot straight into the Kindle UK chart at the 500 mark, reach a high position in your respective categories and get seen earlier by more people, potentially hastening a book's rise. At least when I'm ready to publish Eden's sequel I'll have this knowledge at hand.

Anyway, I have no complaints about Eden's success so far. I have also learned that Kindle UK sales seem to slump at weekends. Eden dropped to the 1,100 position over the weekend, but maintained its position in the category charts. This seems to be because all other books experienced a similar slump, with the likely exception of the biggest names, and upon Monday morning all books leaped up again. Has anybody else  noticed this, or have an explanation for it?

I'll update soon with my total number of copies sold in my first month ( probably next Monday ) but already it's far higher than I expected and rising week on week. Keeping my fingers crossed that this trend continues apace...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"EDEN": could it actually happen?

Several readers have recently asked me if the natural apocalypse that occurs in my novel Eden is a real phenomenon and whether it could literally bring about the downfall of civilisation in the way described?

The answer is very much "yes", but don't take my word for it;

NASA have been warning the US Government for the last five years that our sun is long overdue a solar super-storm, and if we're in the firing line then it is quite literally the end of everything, for we would be utterly unable to rebuild our infrastructure quickly enough to prevent our technological downfall. Eden is not just a work of fiction, but an account of what our world might be like in the aftermath of such a terrific and widespread collapse.

You have been warned....

Monday, August 12, 2013

EDEN: Week 3!

So, huge news since last week's update on my self-publishing experiment!

I decided to alter the categories in which Eden appears on Amazon's Kindle page. Since its launch, the novel had been under the Crime, Thriller & Mystery section in Action & Adventure and Suspense categories ( Amazon only lets you pick two categories these days ). Being in these two categories meant that the novel was effectively competing with every other thriller novel in the world, reducing its chances of getting noticed. Even so, the book had reached the 2,500 spot in the rankings and was continuing to climb. I didn't want to risk upsetting this trend but felt it was worth a try to position the book in categories that would help it to stand out more. Furthermore, a couple of the book's reviews mentioned a few typos, so I wanted to hunt them out, correct them and re-upload the perfected novel anyway, so it seemed like the right time to do it.

In the end, based on the placement of other novels of a similar type, I switched Eden across to the Science Fiction category - Post-Apocalyptic and Dystopian respectively. I then went to bed with my fingers crossed for good news.

I awoke to the news that Eden had shot up into the 1,400 position!! I couldn't believe it, but overnight the book had risen much higher in the charts, and also hit the Science Fiction Top 100! At the time of writing this post, Eden is holding steady at 1,270 in Kindle Paid and is #3 in the Post-Apocalyptic category and #7 in the Dystopian category.

I knew that choosing an accurate category was important, but this has led to a re-doubling of sales, with Eden now selling around 70 copies per day. Fingers crossed now that a few of the blog reviews I've been waiting for will appear. Eden's currently got five reviews, all 5-star, so hoping to build upon that over the coming week

In other news, I'm half way through a first draft of a futuristic thriller which I'm keeping under wraps at the moment, and about to start a first draft of a new crime novel for my literary agent Luigi Bonomi. Keeping busy, but finding myself unable to refrain from checking how Eden's doing at least once an hour!!

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

EDEN: Week 2!

Well, I didn't expect this to happen!

Just two weeks after being published to Amazon, "Eden" has rocketed up the charts and at the time of writing is in position 2,600 in the Kindle UK chart ( paid ) which means the book is currently selling about 40 copies per day. It has garnered three reviews, all five stars, and I've had considerable feedback via my Facebook Fan Page and e-mail telling me that it is the best book I've written so far!

Of course, this does not mean that the book will automatically continue to climb the charts on its own, but its success so far is more than I'd dared hope for, especially since my efforts to gain promotional support in the form of blogger reviews and interviews has yet to take-off.

To date six very friendly bloggers have agreed to review Eden, doing so over the next couple of months depending on their very busy schedules. Some that I approached have not replied, but as it's holiday season this is to be expected. Many do say on their websites that due to the volume of requests they do not have time to reply individually. Again, par for the course and understandable.

So what's causing the rapid climb? I'd love to say that my carefully crafted plan is behind it all, but I suspect that it's a mixture of things, some that I dreamed up and others that I borrowed from other successful self-published authors. The price, for one thing, I think is "right". In these tough economic times, people need to be able to afford to take a chance on an author they maybe haven't heard of. If I'm polishing my own ego then I think my cover design is attention grabbing and says "big book" to browsers on the Internet. I think also that timing the launch alongside the fourth Ethan Warner novel may have drawn attention to Eden ( I'm thinking that people see The Chimera Secret while browsing in bookshops, wander home and find my author page to buy the book for their Kindle, and then spot Eden and decide to give that a go too, or even in place of The Chimera Secret, because of the lower price ).

But I think that there may be something else too: the fact that more and more people are switching over to digital books. We're behind the USA on this in Europe, but it's becoming more and more obvious that with hardback sales already in free fall, paperback sales are only going to go the same way. This is one reason why I've taken to digital publishing alongside traditional contracts: once you've seen the writing on the wall, it's not wise to hang around. If I'd published Eden to Kindle two years ago, I'm not sure that I would have seen the same sales.

There's still a long way to go, but so far Eden really is moving in the right direction and my cunning plan for digital domination appears, for the time being, to be working. More updates soon...

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Self-publishing versus traditional publishing.

While browsing Twitter recently I discovered a link to an article with American self-published author Hugh Howey. For those of you who haven't heard of him, Hugh's ninth novel, "Wool", went viral and became a huge best-seller. James Cameron bought the film rights, and Hugh's now a full-time author. The link below will take you to the article, written in April 2013:

I found this all incredibly interesting, as it details in some length the fact that many authors are now making a tidy living from self-publishing. They're not names you'd likely have heard of, but their books occupy what is sometimes called the "fat" end of the tail. This refers to a graph of all book sales, whether digital or traditional. A small number of authors occupy the top, high-earning part of the graph, while the vast majority occupy the long "tail" of the graph along the bottom. But there is a small chunk, buried deep in the bottom left corner of that graph, where a sizeable number of authors earn enough to make a difference in their lives without ever getting famous. Figures vary, but as the above article describes, they can be earning anything from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars a month.

This sweet-spot is where I think many authors aspire to be; nobody expects to be the next J.K. Rowling or Dan Brown, but all who work hard at writing good material aim to earn a living from it, and the number of people achieving this is on the rise on both sides of the Atlantic.

It led me to think about how best to get there. The fact is that right now I rely on traditional publishing contracts to earn a living, and right now that's where I want to remain as no author can achieve the brand awareness that a major publishing house can provide. But, and it's a big but, right now I can produce up to three novels per year writing full time. Every time one of those novels isn't quite right for editors in the big publishing houses, it will be self-published. There's simply no longer any good reason not to. Why rely on one book to be in the sweet spot in the charts? Why not two, or four, or ten?

Eden is still climbing the charts, reaching the mid-3000 spot this morning and selling about 30 copies per day. That's further on than it was last week, and it now has 3 five-star reviews. My fourth Ethan Warner book, The Chimera Secret, is vying for position with it in the charts. Chimera has an international publisher behind it. Eden has nothing but me. See what I mean...?