Category Archives: ebooks

Numb3rs (see, it just looks dumb)

One of the things I’ve set out to do with my e-publishing efforts is to be transparent about the process and to share what I learn with others. That way, even if my books don’t set the world on fire or pay for a car (or even busfare), I can help other writers learn from my mistakes and successes and get off to a better start.

So, since Godheads has been on sale for a little over a week, and there’s a new free story clogging up the internets, let’s look at how the numbers are shaking out.

Over on Smashwords, Godheads has sold 10 copies since release, and another 5 sample downloads have been made. That’s a significantly slower rate of sales than Hotel Flamingo, which did 14 copies in the first day and 7 more over the course of about a week. Similarly, Flamingo attracted 250-odd page views on release, while Godheads got only 80 or so. Both of them got the same kind of push through Twitter, LJ, Facebook and just emailing everyone I knew and asking them to buy it, but Godheads had a much weaker result.

What to make of that? Did all my friends hate the last book and decide to just ignore the new one? Well, possibly, but I’m not going to assume that. In the end, it’s about what else people have on and what catches their attention, and perhaps May is just busier than November. But I also do think that perhaps some of the novelty has worn off, as has some of the utility of word-of-mouth from the dedicated readers, and that just reinforces the need to start promoting more assertively. I’ve been almost-deliberate-but-mostly-just-lazy avoiding promoting Flamingo until Godheads was done, but now that I have two books, it’s time to bounce the attention back-and-forth between them to build the combo meter.

Speaking of Hotel Flamingo, it got a sudden uptick of 40 page views when Godheads came out, which was also around the time of my EWF panel. Not sure which one of those things was responsible – it’s hard to synch up events when the recording body is on the other side of the IDT – but either way it’s good. Those 40 views led to a grand total of one new sale, though, bringing the total through Smashwords to 50 copies. That’s not wonderful; at this rate it’ll be another six months before the book breaks even. Again, promotion may help.

My free stories, on the other hand, are doing just fine. ‘The Descent’ has clocked 350 downloads from Smashwords, 30 through Sony for its ereader and more than one thousand through Barnes and Noble! None of which earns me a goddamn cent, true, but it’s nonetheless gratifying to think of that many people reading my stuff – and, perhaps, contemplating spending money on other stuff one day. ‘Watching the Fireworks’ has only been up for  a few days, but it’s been downloaded 24 times, and should keep gaining attention – and, since it’s a completely different genre to everything else I’m doing, may get some attention from a different reader group discovering it through tags and metadata.

Alright, so that’s Smashwords. But what about the big dog, Amazon and the Kindle Store? For months I waited for Smashwords to finalise their negotiations and distribute to the Kindle Store, which is the number one marketplace for ebooks; eventually I got tired of waiting, created new versions through Amazon’s epub services and put them up their myself. Godheads is currently (let me check the site quickly) the #40 957th most popular book in the Kindle Store; Hotel Flamingo is a more disappointing #114 820. But still, that’s out of a list of more than 750 000, so that’s pretty cool. And what kind of numbers do those rankings reflect? 4 copies of Flamingo and 5 of Godheads. The bar, she is not set especially high. A lot of books on the Kindle Store are just rotting away in a server, unloved, untouched, never to be downloaded again. Gloomy, really.

Furthermore, those sales don’t do me as much good as the Smashwords one, as I discovered today while checking my royalty details. I published both books on a 70% royalty rate, which is standard, but looking at the sales figures I saw that some of the sales only attracted a 35% royalty. I thought something was screwy with the settings, but they were fine; then I dug further into the Terms and Conditions (you know, the stuff you never bother reading) and discovered the truth. That 70% royalty is only available for sales into Amazon’s home territories – the USA, the UK (amazon.uk) and German and nearby countries (amazon.de). Sales to anywhere else in the world only qualify for a 35% royalty, which is kind of a kick in the balls if you’re an Australian writer writing about Australia with a predominantly Australian audience. Apparently the lower rate is to offset the cost of Whispernet, Amazon’s ‘free’ 3G delivery system that sends books to your Kindle; outside those territories, someone’s gotta pay for that bandwidth, and apparently the writers are the ones who take it in the shorts.

I’m annoyed about that, and more so given that it’s not something you realise until you do some digging, but it’s not as if I’m going to yank the books out of there. I’ll just encourage people to go with Smashwords instead, if possible, which pays a higher royalty and is a lot more transparent about the whole process. They’re far from perfect, and I’m not always pleased with some of the formatting of their ebooks, but they do a lot more to keep their writers informed about how it all works and to do what they can for them, which has more appeal than Amazon’s hands-off approach.

For that matter, I plan to take a bit of advice from Chuck Wendig, who sells his ebooks Irregular Creatures and Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey through both the Kindle Store (as .mobi files) and through his own site Terrible Minds (as PDFs). Sales of the PDFs are lower than the ebooks, but they’re respectable and he gets all the cash, rather than a variable cut. So I’m following his lead and putting together my own PDFs of Flamingo and Godheads that people can pick up directly. Not sure how I’m going to arrange that as yet – whether using a Paypal widget or just telling people to shoot me an email – but I’ll get it worked out soon enough.

(For the curious – my Smashwords files use Times New Roman, my Kindle Store files use Book Antiqua, and I was using Century for the PODcom files but am switching to Adobe Garamond Pro because the punctuation marks in Century are awful. These are the things I think about during lunch breaks.)

Anyway, that’s what I’m working on this week, along with uploading some updated files to Smashwords, sending out copies to reviewers, and working on a new flash piece about doll heads. And talking about genre and gaming at Continuum 7 over the weekend. More on that later.

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Recovered

As I mentioned a few days ago, the cover I used for Godheads and Other Stories was only a placeholder, which I mocked up to tide me over for the EWF while the real cover was finalised.

Well, I’m happy to say that it’s in and it looks fantastic:

This is from the crew at Design Junkies, who also made the awesome Hotel Flamingo cover. I asked them to do another cover based around a photo of a building, to connect the two books, and to use a church that was… I think my brief was ‘run-down and spooky-looking’. Which this definitely is.

The new cover is up on Smashwords and the Kindle Store, and in the Books tab, and everywhere else it was supposed to be. Hang on, no, I haven’t put it on Facebook yet – will do that later. One of the downsides of self-publishing I never considered was the need to constantly update things – adding URLs to pages, uploading book files with new links and info, all that business. Kind of a pain, but I don’t have enough money to pay someone else to do it for me, so such is life.

Interesting to think that a lot of my stories connect to buildings and place. It’s not deliberate, and it’s not constant, but it happens often enough that if nothing else it makes for good covers. Makes me think that my next project should be to reattempt the aborted novella Higherground, which was all about tall buildings and cities after midnight and weird things happening above your line of sight. Hmm. Worth considering.

That said, right now I need a holiday from writing. Just for a little while.

Godheads and Other Stories

It was something like six months ago when I published Hotel Flamingo as an e-novella, and at that time I said I’d have an anthology of short stories available soon.

Well, ‘soon’ turned out to be more than six months later, but I’ve finally gotten my arse into gear and produced something new – Godheads and Other Stories, a collection of six short stories about the intersection between high weirdness and low mundaneness, and how even the very strange can see normal once you get used to it. They are:

  • ‘On the Redeye Express’: It’s about an hour or two into the ride when Nick realises that people are vanishing from the bus. He’s too tired to question it, and too worried that his girlfriend might dump him at the end of this trip – but when it keeps happening, what’s he going to do about it?
  • ‘Metatext Otis’: One morning, Otis Blincher woke up to find he had turned into a Franz Kafka novel. What’s a man supposed to do when his day starts like that?
  • ‘Objects Seen in Hindsight May be Deader than They Appear’: Armed only with a plastic homebirthing kit and some paperclips, Simon confronts the ghost of a ghost as part of his initiation into an order of paranormal investigators. But when a creature exists only in your memories, how are you supposed to fight it – and how can you trust what you learn about it?
  • ‘The Salbine Incident’: Doctor Edward Sabine set out to prove the existence of the ghosts of fictional characters like Sherlock Holmes by creating his own. The results were… regrettable.
  • ‘Meanwhile, at the End of Days’: Two pensioners wait for the bus. Meanwhile, Jesus Christ returns to Earth for the Second Coming. Is there time to make it to the Rapture and still get to the RSL in time for the bingo specials?
  • ‘Godheads’: In an age where gods and spirits have been captured and rendered down into consumer drugs, Diane and Angela head out to their favourite club to get high and dance. But Diane’s too angry to have fun tonight – and convinced that something strange and dangerous threatens not just her relationship but reality itself.

Some of these are old (I wrote ‘Godheads’ in 1996), some are new (I finished writing ‘Objects Seen in Hindsight…’ last night); some of them are very long (‘Godheads’ is more than 6000 words), some are very short (‘Metatext Otis’ is exactly 500 words), but they’re all worth reading. Well, I would think that, but I’m biased.

Here’s a picture of the current cover, just for entertainment’s sake, but this is getting replaced with a sexier, better cover later in the week once the designer finishes it. But I couldn’t wait that long to get the book out the door!

So where can you buy this collection of literary dynamite and bizarro horror for no more than $2.99 American (or even less in Australian dollars)?

Well, two places. First, there’s the website Smashwords, which has it available in a variety of formats including EPUB, MOBI and PDF, which can be read by devices like Kindles, Kobos, Nooks and pretty much everything else.

Second, Kindle users can get it directly from the Amazon Kindle Store – except that Amazon have a slower approval process than Smashwords, so at the time of this writing they don’t have it up for sale yet. However, if you wait about 24 hours and go to my author page, you should be able to find it there. Or search for ‘Patrick O’Duffy’ on the Store via your Kindle and buy it directly that way. (If it’s not there yet, keep trying! Never give up!)

(EDIT TO ADD: Okay, it’s there now.)

(It’ll also show up on the iBookstore within a few weeks, but why would you wait that long?)

While you’re at it, feel free to check out Hotel Flamingo on Smashwords or Amazon if you haven’t already. Plus, of course, the free fiction in the Downloads section, if you missed the announcement about that a couple of days ago.

And please, if you like either book, tell a friend, leave a review, or just shout my name really loudly in the street until the police show up. I’d appreciate it.
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