The 12 Month Review

Sales, rankings, ratings, and progress roundup

Sleight of Hand has been on sale for a year!

What are the end-of-year numbers?

How many readers go on to read Hidden Trump?

How wrong was I about the free prequel?

Did the Charles de Lint review bring sales pouring in?

Am I really a pseudonym for JK Rowling?

What will the next year bring?

Sleight of Hand

It is exactly a year since I hit that button and Amazon started churning through its processes that resulted in an unknown author looking dumbfounded at a screen that claimed he’d written a book and people could just go buy it.

I sold 77 books last August.

I was kinda happy and very busy with Hidden Trump. By the end of that first quarter, I’d sold 2,000. That was just enough to trip up my former work colleagues when they jokingly asked how many friends I’d managed to persuade to buy it. 🙂

November doubled that, and the holiday season doubled it again, by which time Hidden Trump was published and also racing along. Those were heady days, and we’re in a much quieter period now, selling about 20 SoH and 20 HT every day.

SoH has almost exactly 17,000 sales in the year. That’s 3,000 less than I was confidently predicting, but still enough to make me very happy. And the thought that, every day, 20 complete strangers start reading something I wrote, well, that still gives me good shivers.

Ratings and reviews have slowed down as well. There are 132 reviews on Amazon.com for SoH, 22 on the UK site, 5 on the German site, even 1 on the French site. Goodreads has 64. They are almost all positive.

Rankings have declined obviously, from a high point of 1,000 to currently about 11,000 (Amazon.com). That sounds bad, but that’s the 11,000 which has had about 300,000 new books added in the last year to join the millions already on its shelves.

I am delighted. Thank you all.

Hidden Trump

The cast iron measure of how good a book in a series is comes from how many sales you make for the next book. HT is at 69% overall sales of SoH, and the percentage keeps creeping up.

I’m very pleased with that figure.

Raw Deal

I’ve read a lot about promoting indie books, and I went as far as getting a Twitter account (alas, never quite got twittering). But the major marketing strategy for the series has been the release of the free prequel, Raw Deal.

How successful has this been?

The terrible answer is: I don’t know! Only Amazon have the information that would allow a link to be drawn giving the number of people who started with RD and then went on to read SoH.

I can draw a guesstimate from the sales data, and that would be that around 500 new readers have been attracted in by RD. I have had a couple of direct emails and a few posts that support that figure, but this is really fumbling around in the dark.

What did that cost? Well, in BRN (Big Round Numbers), $3,000. That’s free downloads (9500) at the advertised cost ($0.90), at the Amazon percentage for that price (35%).

What did that gain? If my estimate of 500 is correct, and those 500 buy SoH, and 80% of them buy HT, then that’s about $2,500 income. So, not breaking even yet, but I’m still betting it’s a good long term marketing strategy. I’ll be leaving it there for free at least this calendar year. I may return it to 90c in the holiday season. But anyone emailing me to request it (via the website contact form) will still get it free by return email if they ask.

That review

Well the Fantasy and Science Fiction review by Charles de Lint went out and people saw it. You may have seen the post on the page that confirmed someone read it and bought the books on that basis (thank you!), but I have no way of knowing how many people did this. Certainly, there has been no obvious upturn in daily sales.

Doesn’t matter, I’m still tickled that Charles de Lint even found my books!

JK Rowling

I would have been so much more impressed if she’d published anonymously and completely independently. Using her agent and publisher… it was always going to come out. However….Loads of points to her for her subsequent actions (donating the settlement with the lawyers who broke the news, and her suddenly huge royalties, to a charity for wounded soldiers).

I am not JK Rowling. I am happy being me.

You can tell I’m not Rowling (or any female apparently) by analyzing my descriptive styles according to one feminist reader. I employ ‘Male Gaze’ (reference “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, Laura Mulvey. Derivative work from Jacques Lacan, French forensic psychiatrist). This had me giggling. The original work by Mulvey in visual media had significance. In reading, much less. Actually, I don’t use any of the prescribed formats for description of female characters. Neither do notable misogynists such as Sara Petansky, Sue Grafton and Faith Hunter. Or JK Rowling.

The next twelve months…

I’m obviously not too good at the predictions game. I’ll come up with some sales predictions that you can all laugh at next month.

I will say there will be at least 3 books. One of them will be Wild Card (Bite Back 3) and one of them will be Saigon (Bian’s Tale 1).

Wild Card, Bite Back Book 3: I am in the depths of despair. Which is exactly where I expected to be at this point. I’m at the bit of writing that has to take that great opening and that heart-stopping finale and creates the weave of hypnotic threads that join them. (You can tell, I’m beaming positive thoughts at myself here).

Lauren Sweet (my editor) has seen about 80% of the first section of Wild Card, from the opening scene to the first turning point. She said it’s my best start of the series.

Saigon: Completely on hold until I have Wild Card out.

Anything else

I have to visit Denver and New Mexico for more research, but I won’t make plans until I feel Wild Card is under control. But I would really like to meet with readers on the trip!

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About Mark Henwick

I was born in Africa and left out in the sun too often. An early interest in philosophy and psychology was adequately exorcised by tending bars. And while trying to enroll in a class to read Science Fiction full time, I ended up taking an engineering degree which splendidly qualified me to move into marketing. That in turn spawned a late onset career in creative writing. When not working, I get high by the slightly less conventional means of a small light aircraft. My first book, 'Sleight of Hand' is available on Amazon at http://amzn.to/Sa0D3n

14 responses to “The 12 Month Review”

  1. Debra Dunbar says :

    Good numbers, Mark – I’m thinking you’ll see another jump for the whole series once Wild Card is released. On the novella – my prequel novella sales are lagging compared to the books. Do you think it’s the novella part? I read somewhere they just don’t do as well in this genre.

    For me, my first month on the debut novel was 19. Sales were slow as molasses until spring this year, even with the release of the second in the series. I’m planning a blog post on discoverability this month going over my lessons learned.

    Thankfully, the third novel in the series, cover changes, and cross author promotion have resulted in a dramatic uptick in sales the last few months. I just changed my back blurb on the first novel to better reflect the tone, and am hoping that will further increase sales. And book 4 coming out this month shouldn’t hurt.

    The best news I have is retention: Currently, 1st book to 2nd book is 70% and 2nd book to 3rd book is 85%. That’s amazing, and I’m so happy I’m hooking readers into the series. Yay.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks Debra.

      Prequel novella … I’ve seen a couple of posts from my readers who commented that they felt they were ‘going backwards’ with Raw Deal, and I can understand that. I don’t think that’s indicative of reader’s enthusiasm for going forwards with a series (Sam’s or Amber’s).

      Yup, I don’t think there are many successful stand-alone novellas in this genre, but it’s reasonably common to tack on a novella to a series at some point.

      I’m delighted to hear your new covers and re-charged cover copy are doing the business! And I’m not surprised by the retention – Sam’s story is very much a series thing with plot and character arcs that span books.

      I also think Sam would do well in a sort of manga graphical novel, but I’ve no idea how you’d go about that.

      • Debra Dunbar says :

        LOL- I’ve actually written the story for a graphic novel, and it’s with the artist now. I had hoped to have the first one out for Baltimore ComicCon, but it’s probably going to be next year. We’ll release it in three parts as a serial, then do the set together once the last one is out. Fun, fun!

  2. David says :

    After reading number 1, then immediately downloading 2 (at 2am – Kindle the godsend of insomniacs the world over) I’ve just downloaded the prequel, very surprised to see it was free – in fact I was a tad suspicious and thought there might have been a pricing error that I’d only find out after the download (happened before from Amazon).

    Wanted to add that I came to your books via the Charles de Lint review, so that’s at least two sales the review is responsible for. I agree with his overall comment that your books aren’t just another tired rehash of familiar tropes, you managed to imbue them with a freshness. And that takes talent.

    By the way why not increase the price of number 2? Number 1 being a low price makes some sense but for 2 onwards I’m sure those that want to read those would be willing to pay that bit more.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks very much for the feedback David, and yes, St Kindle is the patron saint of Insomniacs.

      Something strange does appear to have happened in the pricing for Raw Deal. It’s intended to be free. (Basically just copying what others have done successfully). After the problems described in the blog, it was free up until a week or so ago. At that point it still said $0.00 on Amazon, but I started to get reports from readers that they had been charged, and the analysis sent to me by Amazon indicated I was getting a royalty. The numbers went down from a daily average of 70 to an average of 10. I complained. They assured me everything was fine and the downloads have sprung back up. 245 yesterday! Hmmm.

      Future pricing of the series? Not sure yet. I probably could stick another dollar on top without bending anyone’s nose out of joint. It’s the sort of thing I may look at when Wild Card & Saigon are done, but at the moment, I’m happy and the sales are ticking along quietly without effort.

      Delighted to hear another confirmation that the review brought you in.

  3. Alison G says :

    I also found your books through the Charles de Lint review and enjoyed them very much. I live in the Denver metro area and hope I get a chance to meet you when you come to visit. However my track record for getting to author events hasn’t been really good lately, alas.
    I enjoyed your subtle shout out to Michael Soulé in Hidden Trump as he is a bit of a hero of mine.
    Since you are setting your novels in Denver, I think you need to see the short film Breathless which you can watch on http://www.airballcreative.com
    This was commissioned for a TEDx event and is a powerful reminder of why Denver is a great place. (And, no, I didn’t have anything to do with the film, I am no where near that creative.)

    • Mark Henwick says :

      I was told (by experts) that no one would notice the subtle stuff! Lol.
      In truth, I had more from Michael Soulé in the earlier drafts – stuff about making a philosophy for both Athanate and Were with them as apex predators. It got too complicated! I’ll try and find some old bits and put it in a post.

      Thanks for the link. I’m on my way out today, but I’ll sit and watch tonight.
      Also thanks for confirming the Charles de Lint review connection.
      Here’s hoping I can meet up with you and others in Denver later in the year!

    • Mark Henwick says :

      I loved Breathless! Got a bit misty eyed. “That’s what a skyline is *supposed* to look like”. Everything from sunset shots of the DIA roof to a sneak peek at the front of Coyote Ugly.BIG sigh.

      I want to portray Denver almost like a character in the novels and yet I realise I don’t know the city well enough, and it’s so easy to trip up (like getting the one way system wrong in the first edition of Raw Deal!)

      Anyway, Thanks for Breathless Alison, much appreciated.

  4. richard says :

    I keep checking your site to keep up on the progress of wild card. I haven’t been this anxious about a books publishing since last year when I was waiting for Hidden Trump. 🙂

    If your interested in electric cars and your travels take you to San Diego, then stop on by any time. I’ll introduce you to a eclectic bunch of guys who enjoy taking regular cars and turning them into electric cars. In the meantime keep writing and I will continue to read.

  5. Paul Goodrich says :

    Mark,

    Just want to say that I found you as well from the Charles review. Long time subscriper of the magazine. Love the books and am waiting the next one, thanks.

    Paul Goodrich

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thank you Paul! The CdL interview has been a quiet burn, but clearly has been bringing readers in. It was such a shock to read the article!
      The magazine is very good.

      • Paul Goodrich says :

        Mark,

        I’ve been reading F&SF since the 60’s believe or not. (I was a kid then) Back then I used to also get Galaxy and Worlds of If magazines as well. There used to be a ton of magazines like that then. Asimov’s and F&SF seem to be about all that’s left. At least that I’m aware of. Cheers.

        Paul Goodrich

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