Monday, 4 May 2015

Three Years, 250,000 words+

Today marks three years since Dead on Demand was first published – and what a roller coaster it’s been!

We started out, two idiots, no writing experience, and thought it would be great idea to see if we could write a book. We tried to run before we’d learned to walk. And yet we ran. Sort of.

I have no doubt that we have a long journey ahead of us as writers, and that our journey will be a very public one. The wiser writer might have spent years toiling away in private before casting their net out into the world of kindle.

We made as many mistakes as you’d expect from two rookies, and a few extra for good measure.

In 2012, we started with a very minimal number of sales. Most newbie self-publishers get an initial spurt of sales from their family and friends – and then sink… Which is exactly what we did.

Go take a look back at our sales trajectory and you’ll find we had a ‘summer slump’ in 2012 where every sale was precious. Books are like rolling stones – they take a while to get going, and to gather momentum.

But when they do, the trajectory can be quite impressive. In September 2012, we gave away 55,000 copies of Dead on Demand hitting #1 in free eBooks as a result.

The next week, we took it down and re-proofread it. That cost us momentum. At the time it came off sale, we were #168 paid in the UK kindle store and on the up. There’s every chance that without the pause in sales, we would have continued into the top 100.

But the book wasn't ready for the big time, and neither were we.

We only had one book. Freebies worked back then because they counted as a fraction of a sale for the popularity charts on Amazon (at roughly 1/10th of a sale). That meant we were visible immediately after the free run.

But we didn’t have a second book to sell. 55,000+ readers, many of them clamouring for a second DCI Morton novel, and all we could say was “We’re working on it”.

Pretty daft, right? Anyone who has worked in sales would love to have that sort of audience clamouring for more. But we couldn’t give it to them because it didn’t exist.

Cleaver Square took until late 2013 to finish. We uploaded it a week before Christmas. We were desperate to get in by years-end lest we become those authors who don’t keep up with one a year.
It did well. It’s continued to do well. In the UK we’ve typically been ranked between 500 and 6000 ever since publication (~1200 at the time of this post). That was 17 months ago now, so it’s not been a flash in the pan. There’s been continued, on-going and prolonged interest in our books (for which we’re hugely grateful).

We made the decision to make Dead on Demand free in 2014. We’ve gone into why at length in the past, but the reason we did so is that it gives you a fair free sample. Readers can try us out, and decide if they want to buy another book from us. No DRM, no time limits, no tricks where we give away part of a book and charge for the ending. You get a book. We get a chance to show you what we’re made of.  If you don’t like it, delete it. That's as simple, fair and honest as we can make it.

And we’ve kept the second book affordable too at £1.99 / $2.99. We’re not giving this one away for free (as we do have to eat). We hope you agree that the total cost of £1.99 for two books (over seven hundred pages total) is a bargain.

Our pricing strategy isn’t changing. Many publishers are asking £6, £7, £8 or even £10 for a single eBook. It’s absurd. The difference in cost between print and eBook is enormous and the price should reflect those differences (though I will point out that eBooks are subject to 20% VAT while printed books are not).

If anyone is particularly interested in how the numbers work, email us and we’ll go through ‘em. We think £1.99 is a fair price, so we’re sticking with that for now (which means that books 1-3 will cost a grand total of £3.98; less than a beer in most London pubs!).

Book three, which is called Ten Guilty Men, has taken even longer than Cleaver Square. We’ve had interludes – to do non-writing work in my case, and to study in Dan’s, that have delayed publication. 

We wanted to release it in 2014 – in keeping with a one a year minimum release calendar.

That didn’t happen. 

We’d rather delay the book than give you a half finished work. I hope you’ll agree Ten Guilty Men is worth the wait. It’s in the editing stage now, and will be released on September 1st. We'll be making Beta and ARC copies available in due course, and we'll post on this blog once the eBook is available for preorder.

In other news, we took Can’t Sell, Won’t Sell down from all retail outlets a while back. We’ve had a few emails about this. We never wanted to charge for it. It just made sense to put it into a book format rather than a series of digital articles. Over time these have become less relevant. Kindle Free Days don’t work like they used to. We now have subscription services. We have Kindle Countdown. The industry has changed rapidly in the last three years – and we’re not comfortable leaving outdated advice live.

We would love to re-write CSWS, but it’s not something that makes us a return on our time so it’s way down the pecking order. I may just put up the whole thing on this blog, and let you guys pick over what remains useful.

Finally, you might have noticed a push on our part towards exploiting subsidiary rights. Cleaver Square has been available in Spanish for a while now (thanks to our excellent translator, Cinta Garcia DeLa Rosa), and we’re going to bringing Dead on Demand to audio in Q2 2015 with the help of Irish voice actor Nicholas Jackman.

We’re also looking into further opportunities here – but for commercial reasons, we can’t discuss specifics. As ever, we’ll put news up as soon as we have any.

Thank you for your support over the last three years. You’ve turned a drunken bet into a wonderful journey.


Sean and Dan

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