It was one year ago today, Dec. 22, that I finally decided to try this "e-book thing" I'd heard all the kids raving about. I was dubious about the whole self-publishing movement and I still wasn't sure people were willing to "read books on computer." I'd been taught that serious writers never self-publish, and if I had been offered a bottom-of-the-barrel paperback deal, I would have taken it.
Still, I wasn't going to risk the whole shooting match, and I was shopping a couple of newer manuscripts. But I figured I would put up an old novella, Burial to Follow, and hardly anyone would notice, especially those peers I was so worried about. I did the cover myself, with art taken from the DIRT comic book. Yeah, it's a terribly cheesy cover. I sent it through Amazon for the Kindle, a device I'd read a lot about but had never seen.
And I sold two copies as 2009 drew to a close, but I also uploaded The Red Church, my most successful novel. I had held the rights for more than a year, getting a couple of small foreign deals, but I couldn't figure out a way to get it back in print. Of course, by "print" I was thinking of cranking up printing presses and spending thousands of dollars and worrying about bookstore orders.
I sold one copy of The Red Church before midnight, Dec. 31. In January, when the price was $1.99 and I was making a 35 percent royalty, I sold 67 copies of Red Church and 12 of Burial to Follow. The next month, I sold 413 copies combined. In March, I sold 771 copies as I added another book. It still wasn't much money, but it began to look reasonable and I softened my stance on self-publishing.
April took me a step back to 667 copies total. March moved up to 793, followed by 1,119 in June, 1,152 in July, and back down to 1,146 in August, when Amazon's 70 percent royalty kicked in and I raised some prices to $2.99.
I haven't done an analysis of how many titles I added during this time, or which book was selling at what price, but I had at least four novels up by then, as well as four or five story collections. Individually, nothing was knocking it out of the park, but collectively it looked like The Little Engine That Could.
During this time I'd been called by a Big Agent who had some interest, though primarily it was for ghostwriting, which would only interest me if it was a pay-off-the-house job. The third time I heard "I can't sell this," I didn't waste another second. I started putting everything up on Kindle as soon as it was edited, proofread, and formatted.
Back to numbers. September made a nice little jump, to 1,949 copies, and my first United Kingdom sales trickled in. October saw the first significant surge, up to 2,799 copies. November got crazy when Disintegration broke into the Kindle Top 100, reaching as high as #30 overall. For the month, I sold 12,422 Kindle e-books.
I'll be down for December, as Disintegration did its inevitable cooling, and as of last night I had 5,810 sales for the month to date. All these numbers are for Kindle e-books in the U.S. only. My U.K. numbers are still small in comparison but growing steadily. The Red Church sold 4,764 copies in a year, eight years after its original release and about six years after the publisher had left it for dead. I'm happy to see it is not dead, that people still read it and respond to it. That's one of the best things about this new era: nothing has to die. Ideas can fade and bounce back in a natural ebb and flow and readers can find them in their own time.
In my first full year in the Scott Nicholson industry, I sold 29,120 copies on the U.S. Kindle. I had some print-on-demand paper sales and additional e-book sales on other devices like Nook, Kobo, Sony, and iPad, but Amazon is my main outlet. After Jan. 1, many authors will be blogging about their numbers and their success. I'm not competing at a J.A. Konrath level (thanks for the inspiration, Joe) or an Amanda Hocking level, and I'm not laying out these numbers to brag or send anyone scurrying to measure themselves against me. But I have a pretty nice level that works for me and is easy to sustain and build, and that's all any writer should seek.
I don't even know how much money I made, and I wouldn't talk about that anyway, but I do mix my prices between 99 cents and $3.99. Suffice to say that's more copies than I sold in any of my last four mass-market releases, and I made more money in 2010 than in any year in which I was writing for New York. It's easy to get caught up in real-time numbers and rankings and feel like it's all slippery when you move down a few thousand slots in the rankings. But this is the first time I've stepped back and looked at the big picture, and it's pretty stunning.
If I were running a real business, like selling widgets, it's the kind of growth I could take to a bank. It trends pretty solid and steady, with plenty of potential for growth, considering Amazon is claiming 8 million Kindle sales this year. Sure, I have lots of books out now, maybe around 20, and that's swelling my numbers, but my response to that is: Why in the world do I care how many books it takes? I have them and people like them. I'd be stupid to release one a year like major authors do. I want readers to find all my books at any time. And I will write more. That's what I do.
But I also know I didn't do much besides what I love, and I would have written the books anyway. More than 30,000 of you took a bigger risk than I did. You said, "This Scott Nicholson guy is worth a little of my time and money." And I don't take that lightly at all. Thank you.