Monday, 17 March 2014

Éire go Brách! Two years, already?

Morning all, and a very happy St Patrick's Day!

Today marks the two year anniversary since that fateful bet. It was exactly two years ago that we set out to write a book in ninety days. Our only aspiration was to prove it could be done - and we did.

We made mistakes. We rushed things. But two years, and hundreds of thousands of copies later (note to taxman - most of them free), it's proving to be one of the best stupid/ drunk decisions ever made.

We've now got two novels out that we've co-authored: the titular 90daysnovel, Dead on Demand and its sequel Cleaver Square. On top of that, we've released a should-be-free marketing guide (that's being updated soon), a few short introductions to legal skills and published half a million words in blog posts on everything from publishing to economics to human rights.

Book three in the DCI Morton series in underway - and we're well on track to keep up a one-a-year release there, as well as various pseudonymous projects. The reason we do other stuff is to even out the downloads - publishing is subject to extreme swings in sales counts. Dead on Demand's best hour equals its worst eight months. It's that extreme.

OK, I might be exaggerating for effect, but you get the gist. Top 250 for a few days can be as many sales as 50,000 for a full year. If you've only got one novel, as we did for a long time, then your royalties swing with that pendulum. Over time, the combined average of a backlist should stabilise things and make it easier to plan.

We've said in the past that author remuneration is odd. Authors put in months or years up front, and, in a digital age, can take years to get paid. Money used to be front-loaded - advances were often all the author got, and even if they earned out the bulk of their royalties were usually earned in the first few months post publication (though perhaps not paid for a while thanks to withholding for returns etc).

I'll be totally honest, because this is an author focussed blog. It will take a long time before our books match our 'non-author' earnings potential. We've explained why before - the short of it is that an author's portfolio is back-loaded. Right now, we have two novels. In 20 years, that could easily be 25 or 30 novels.

Guess who has the bigger sales potential, the guy with one book, or the guy with twenty plus? It's pretty obvious that an author's pay is often delayed gratification. But if you can make it through the lean early years, then the potential later on is enormous. Proper planning helps - if you write in series, the book to book retention rate increases each time. Lee Child sees a reported 80% of his readers return to a sequel. That series loyalty is one of the reasons that he's a household name.

We're way down the sales curve from Lee, but we have been fortunate enough to grace the top 100 Crime, Mystery and Thrillers list here in the UK a few times with Dead on Demand, and we often rank in the niche sub-categories. I love the little categories - they make finding a reading niche really easy. If you want Scottish Police Procedurals, Amazon will serve you up a list of best 100 (small hint, they're all Ian Rankin...).

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be doing a few author-focussed posts again. We're starting tomorrow with the question 'What is branding for an author?' and looking at the high level stuff. In a digital age, it really comes down to your web presence and how it comes accross, so we'll go through a few simple techniques on how to maximise both your reach (the # of people who see you) and your appeal (the % of your reach that like what they see). It'll touch on a few nitty gritty issues like SEO, but only just - we're not here to bore the pants off you.

So, thanks for a great two years - here's to many more.

See you tomorrow!

Dan & Sean

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