Remember the good old days when your novel would be released one week and six weeks later it would be removed from the bookstore shelves in order to make space for something else? You might write one novel per year and, if you were lucky, have one novel per year released. Of course all that's changed now in the digital age where space on the virtual bookstore shelf is infinite. Now I'm writing three books per year and I'm publishing so many of them my publishers can't keep up, which means I've actually begun my own imprint to handle the overflow. How fucking cool is that?
The digital and e-book age has initiated something else that's pretty cool.
Books that might have long been forgotten in the paper and bookstore "returns" age, are now able to enjoy renewed life. Over the past two weeks I've sold more than 14,000 books in e-book, print, and audible form. The novels that are kicking ass are THE REMAINS, GODCHILD, and THE INNOCENT. What makes these novels so special? Nothing in particular, other than I consider them some of my best and most inspired work. But that's the creative Vince talking. Now for the business Vince.
Take a look at the vitals for these three releases:
--THE INNOCENT: First publisher, Delacorte Press in 1999: Copies sold, 7,000 and change.
Second publisher, StoneGate Ink in 2011: Copies sold, 100,000 and change.
Third publisher, Thomas & Mercer in 2012: 10,000 and change to date...
--GODCHILD: First Publisher, Dell in 2000: Copies sold...Data Unavailable but if I had to guess
you can count the sales using the fingers on both
Second Publisher, StoneGate Ink in 2011: Copies sold, 25,000 and change.
Third Publisher, Thomas & Mercer in 2012: Copies sold, 8,000 and change to date
--THE REMAINS: First Publisher, StoneHouse Ink in 2010: Copies sold, 30,000 and change.
Second Publisher, Thomas & Mercer in 2012: Copies sold, 15,000 and change
to date...(I'm guestimating that I will move around 25K of this title by the end
of the month. Maybe more.)
The numbers reflected by T&M might not look as good as those of the "Gates" YET, but you have to keep in mind that the new editions are only a year or less old. Presently, I'm averaging 3500 sales per month with the Amazon Publishing imprint (they acquired 7 titles, all of which were released in late 2012. At the end of this month, I will have easily moved well over 50K units for them). If I update this same blog exactly a year from now, I suspect that my combined numbers at T&M will measure in the hundreds of thousands. Something not possible in the purely "paper/return" days of old. My books are my greatest financial assets, and presently there is simply no better place for these assets to reside and grow than in the hands of Amazon Publishing's Thomas & Mercer imprint. Five years from now things might be entirely different, although I doubt it.
This is not to say that selling books is easier these days. It's not. In some ways, it's more difficult given the ease with which anyone can self-publish a novel. There's a lot of shit out there and it's clogging up the pipes so to speak. But if you're good at what you do, possess a degree of God given talent, and you dedicate yourself entirely to the craft and the life, you have at least a chance of breaking out. To a degree, that is.
As recently as three weeks ago I was contacted by a reporter (name not given) at The New York Times, asking me about my relationship with one of my present publishers and how it is that I am able to sell so well (this same reporter has been contacting me periodically for almost a year now). I've also been contacted by The Observer in London, the WSJ, and numerous other publications. I don't hand over much information to them which is a source of their infinite frustration, but I sense what they are looking for is "the secret." You know, what's the secret of your success? What deal have you made with the devil? What kind of tricks are you playing? What algarythms are you manipulating? (This last one really cracks me up...)
The truth is that there are no manipulations and there are no tricks. The most I can reveal is that now and again, my publishers might run a special. But this sales tactic is no different from any bookstore or chain of bookstores offering my books at a discounted price for a certain period of time. The point is to move units and it's purely a decision made by the pencil pushers on the "Retail" side of the building. You want to find me, I'm down the hall in the "Talent."
And don't take my word for it. There are a lot of other authors moving more units than I am, JA Konrath, Blake Crouch, Sean Chercover among them. Just this past weekend, Aaron Patterson moved something like 10K units of his novel Sweet Dreams. The book is five years old.
This week my very first published novel, Permanence (Northwest 1995) will go on special now that it's been re-released in e-Book format. Back in the 90's it sold less than 500 copies and from that point on, was forgotten entirely, despite its stellar reviews. I'll make a prediction, come this time next week, Permanence will have sold at least 3500 units over the period of a couple of days. I can't guarantee that kind of success, but based on experience, I think I can stand up in public and make that prediction. 3,500 units sold in just a couple of days. That will be more sales than I collectively earned from 1995 - 1999.
Who misses the good old days?