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 Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com'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.