That Bear Ate My Pants: A Home Run On Day One

Today, I have a guest post from indie author Tony James Slater.

I first met Tony at a writer’s conference in 2010. Neither of us remember much about the encounter, which is a testament to the hard working bar staff of York University.

I was trying to snag an agent for my historical novel, and he was hitting the same brick wall with his account of his exotic adventures in Ecuador. When I heard Tony was self-publishing, I was delighted, as I knew how hard he had worked the traditional route, with no joy.

I also knew that if his book was half as funny as he was, he had a hit on his hands. He posted a sample from the beginning of the book near the end of May. As soon as I read that, I knew I would be buying his book.

It came out last Friday, and I grabbed a copy straight away. It’s hilarious, and touching. A very human, and very funny story. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, here is another sample from the middle of the book.

Tony was planning some fireworks for his launch day, but was very cryptic about it. When I saw him race up the charts on his very first day, I knew I was going to have to get him to tell the story of how he did it. 

His book is called That Bear Ate My Pants and it’s available from Amazon and Amazon UK for $2.99/£2.99. A bargain at twice the price, if you ask me.

Here’s Tony.

***

Well, the dust has finally settled after my launch on July 1st. By quite a margin in fact – it’s practically August! Alas, not everything moves at digital speed and I have been at the mercy of more fundamental forces recently.

Here’s a description of my launch day, followed by some figures and a bit of analysis. I was going to call it a ‘brief’ description, until I’d finished it. Then I realized it’s about as brief as War and Peace, and not quite as riveting – so feel free to skip ahead or skim read! I’ll probably never know…

I was planning a truly epic day of promotion for the launch of THAT BEAR ATE MY PANTS! I’d hardly slept in a week, sitting up till 6:00 am, planning strategy, and creating lists of people, groups and sites to target.

I’d done almost everything on my own. I’m a control freak and perfectionist of the highest order, so delegation isn’t really in my nature. But my family would never let me do something like this without their support.

They decided to rent a bear costume and run around the town centre, handing out flyers and trying to draw as much attention as possible. Which I imagine is quite a lot when you’re dressed as a bear!

My sister returned from her honeymoon just in time to suggest we incorporate a gigantic pair of underpants – with her inside – into our strategy. It sounded unbeatable! If you wouldn’t take a flyer from a chick in a bear suit, how can you refuse one when it’s handed to you by a pair of y-fronts with legs?!

Wheels were set in motion. The local papers were contacted, and a couple of them even agreed to come and photograph our ridiculous stunt. Of course I would remain safe from ridicule, hiding at home with my finger on the pulse of the internet.

Then I got one of those calls that no-one wants to get; my uncle Paul, who I’ve known all my life, was on the verge of losing his battle with Motor Neurone Disease. We’d all known it was coming, but the timing (for me) couldn’t have been worse; it was fairly inconvenient for him too, as I’m sure he’d rather have lived past 65.

I threw a load of socks and t-shirts in a bag, grabbed my laptop and drove 300 miles to Manchester to hold his hand as he lay dying.

Launch day was a surreal experience. I’d stayed up all the previous night sending messages, tweaking my Author Central pages on Amazon, adding photos to the Facebook Event I’d created and pre-writing the Launch Day emails.

At midnight and one minute, I fired out the first batch of messages, figuring it didn’t matter when they were opened – as long as it was after 00:01 on July 1st, any resulting sales would count.

My plan, drawn from a series of online marketing seminars I’d attended, was to create an artificial spike in sales ranking on Amazon by getting everyone who was going to buy the book to do it on the same day – ideally outselling far more popular books with an abnormally high, one day sales extravaganza.

I got messages back within minutes. A couple of friends had stayed up late to make their purchases, which is probably for the best – some of my friends struggle to wipe their own arses, so remembering an abstract concept like buying a book before the end of the day would be setting my expectations far too high.

My first sales spurred me on, which was just as well really – I was terrified, and already considering going to bed and trying to forget the whole thing. I’d already decided not to check my sales report until the launch day was over. I had a horrible feeling it would depress me tremendously. Which it did.

I spent the day sending tweets, alternating between promotional ones with links to my book on Amazon and vain attempts to be witty, to avoid annoying too many users.

Most ‘Tweeps’ hate someone who sends out nothing but adverts for their shit. It’s like being continually SPAMmed by your best friend. What do you do if that happens? Cut him loose.

Tread lightly, I told myself, and say lots of crazy shit. That always gets folk interested! In fact, it should be a proverb.

It’s hard to say exactly what I was doing all day. I sat down in front of the computer, started typing and BAM! 20 hours had disappeared. Time was just absorbed wholesale by the process of conducting a hundred micro conversations simultaneously over Facebook messages, group threads, email, and Twitter.

And it was punctuated every couple of hours by a pause while I sat by my uncle’s bedside, stroking his hand and watching the machines force air into his lungs. “I did it, I launched my book!” I told him. “I’m gonna be famous Uncle!” I got a brief glint of his eyes and his hand trembled for a moment as he fought past the weakness to give me a shaky thumbs-up.

Back at my temporary Command Centre the messages had started to back up. Some folks had bought my book and wanted to be sure I knew it. Some had read the beginning and wanted to tell me what they thought of it. Occasionally someone I’d never heard of had entered into a dialogue after seeing on Facebook or Twitter that I’d surpassed Bill Bryson in the Kindle Travel charts.

It was true. Once people started coming home from work around 5:30pm, things had started to hot up. I’d sneaked a peak at my sales after watching my UK rank leap from 16,000 to 4,500 – only to discover that I’d sold 4 books. Including the two to my friends at midnight.

I’d been pissed off and dispirited, ignoring the silver lining – so few sales making such a difference to my rank would only mean good things as the day progressed. Instead, I walked out into the sunshine and told myself it didn’t matter; then I looked in on my uncle, and told myself there were other things that did matter.

But suddenly, like a monsoon, messages pelted into my inbox from friends who had bought the book. Everyone seemed to want to tell me about it, which thrilled me, and I spent the next few hours writing back to them all, whilst keeping up my Facebook campaigning and keeping a weather-eye on Twitter.

Soon the messages were arriving faster than I could respond to them, as congratulations on my ranking (which I hadn’t had time to check) started coming through. I’d broken into the top thousand. Impressive, considering half a day earlier I’d been practically off the board.

I could go on, but I won’t. It’s more of the same from here on in – the thrill of rising rankings, the desperate fear of slipping back again, and mountains and mountains of words – I must have typed enough to fill my next three books, just keeping up with all the messages, comments and Tweet mentions.

So, what happened? That’s the bit you really care about, eh! Can’t say I blame you. This is what I really wanted to know before I started, so that I could predict what would happen and figure out what preparation I needed to do.

(‘More’ is the answer to that last bit.)

A few people promised to promote me to their followers lists on Twitter, to their e-mailing lists and to their friends on Facebook. From all this promotion (or is this what you call cross promotion?) – I sold one book. It was to a friend of a friend, in New Zealand.

To my knowledge, my efforts on Twitter (and the re-tweets and mentions by others) netted me exactly zero sales.

I had a Facebook Event set up and personally invited 250 people. 66 joined, thereby committing to buy a copy on the day. And on the day I sold 53 copies in total.

So what did I take away from this?

Well, for one thing, sales is a tough-assed game! People hate to be sold to. If you’re clever enough, or sneaky enough, and can figure out how to sell to them without them being aware of it – well, that’s genius. Go on, bugger off, go sell insurance or something.

You have to NOT sell to people – you have to put your message out there, that you’ve written a great book, that it’s available, and that’s that. All the places I pushed hardest, the resistance grew to match any pressure I could bring to bear (without a shot gun).

People will buy YOU, not your product. Almost all of my sales went to people who know me. They supported me because I had invested time in them – not all were friends as such, but all were people I had communicated with to some degree, either in Facebook groups or various other online methods.

The only exception was a close friend of a girl I’d gone out of my way to help big time – she appreciated it enough to stick her neck out for me, and collared me one more notch on the bookshelf.

The numbers which left me alternatively elated and despairing, seem with hindsight to make perfect sense; like everything, this business is subject to the law of diminishing returns.

I tell a thousand dudes about my launch. 500 of them read the message. 100 of them get back to me and eighty of those swear blind they’ll purchase my book on the day. Around thirty-five of them actually do so.

Had I expected more? Of course. Had I expected more from my close friends and contacts? Hell yes! But it just goes to show that a sale is only guaranteed when the money is handed over.

I had emails two days afterwards, telling me ‘I tried to get it, but I didn’t have the software,’ or ‘I was working late and I forgot, should I still buy a copy?’ That’s all good.

If I’d been smarter I’d have seen this coming. Instead of contacting a thousand warm bodies at the start of the process, I’d have rounded up 5,000. From where, I’m not quite sure. But the internet has billions of users – I just need longer before the next launch to make more friends and contacts. And maybe I need to learn Chinese.

The one super cool thing I learned was… okay there were two.

The two super cool things I learned were… or was it three? Nah, just messin’.

1) I now know just how few sales it takes, in a concentrated burst, to shoot a book up the charts. In categories better populated, like Crime Thriller or Paranormal Romance, the necessary figures are likely far higher, but for me – in Humour/Animals and Travel/South America, my first handful of sales (20 or so – I have big hands) were enough to thrust me to nos. 3, 2, and later, 1.

By the end of the day (counting up to midnight that night) my small but tightly-focused sales count had sent me up the Kindle (UK) Travel Books Bestsellers chart to #7 – two places ahead of Bill Bryson’s top offering at #9.

I’d sold 53 books in one day – 46 of them in England – and my UK Amazon ranking had peaked at 450. When you think of how many big-time pros there are out there – everyone from JK Rowling, John Le Carre, and Dan Brown, to Eckhart Tolle, Paulo Coelho, and Jamie Oliver – #450 out of EVERY book on Amazon is pretty freakin’ sweet!

And I did it with so few sales it defies belief. If I’d had the time I needed, if all had gone to plan, and if every bugger who’d promised they would buy a copy had, you know, BOUGHT ONE – I’d have made around 200 sales in one day, and by my estimation would easily have busted the top 100.

Perhaps more usefully for me, I’d almost certainly have hit #1 overall in Travel. Imagine that! #1 Travel Bestseller on Amazon.co.uk – that’s an accolade no-one could have taken away from me.

I’ll still get it, mind. Just might take me a couple of months…

Perhaps most importantly, it means that if I get another opportunity to make a big, concentrated sales push – such as when a good press review comes out – I only need to make 45+ sales in one day (in the UK) to drive me back up the charts.

Had I achieved hundreds of sales I’d have been more impressed with the success initially, but it would make trying to repeat the feat a virtual impossibility. Just 45 sales in one day? Hell, I can do that again. Watch out Bill, here I come!

Oh, and there was another thing I said I’d taken away from this. Here it is:

2) I KICKED ASS! For details, see above. But it’s undeniable – mountains of wet slobbery ass! Kicked. By me. It’s one hell of a good feeling! I won’t be forgetting that in a hurry.

And that night – after trying (and failing) to repeat the coup on Amazon.com, after replying to the 300th message and realising that what I was typing didn’t even make sense to me any more – I went to bed.

It was 4am and I’d been awake for nearly 60 hours straight. 53 measly sales! I felt like I’d worked pretty hard for every one of them. But I was, technically, a best-seller.

Tony.

Note: Paul passed away on July 5th, at 11:00 pm. All his family were with him. He will be greatly missed.

About David Gaughran

David Gaughran is Irish, living in Prague, and the author of Mercenary, A Storm Hits Valparaiso, Let's Get Digital, Let's Get Visible, and this here blog.
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52 Responses to That Bear Ate My Pants: A Home Run On Day One

  1. I’d like to thank Tony for his guest post today, and commiserate with him for the loss of his uncle.

    If anyone has any questions for Tony (and I know I do), he should be along later.

    Dave

    Like

    • Tony Slater says:

      Thanks Dave! I’m putting in a late appearance after spending the morning sorting out the next Big Issue in my life – I’m getting married in two weeks, and people are starting to ask me where…
      Thanks for the positive spin on my tale. I’m positive about it, though it was certainly a mixed bag of emotions on the day. I’ll go down the list of questions and add a few words where I should.
      Much obliged to ya’!
      Tony

      Like

      • My pleasure chief, and you should be positive.

        It took me a week or two to get 50 sales, and everyone told me I was way ahead of the curve. And you are getting 70% of £2.99 (that’s british pounds, people) instead of 35% of $0.99.

        From where I’m sitting, you are doing pretty damn well.

        Like

  2. Should I take this as a warning to not bother with a major first-day blitz? Just let it develop slowly over time? Doesn’t seem like all that effort got him very far, not far enough to be worth it monetarily, anyway.

    Like

    • I wouldn’t necessarily say “don’t bother with it”. I wouldn’t do it at the expense of a longer-term strategy, but it could easily be done in addition to one. It cost him virtually nothing and he made a big splash. I know from watching it unfold on Twitter, that a lot of people heard about the book. And sometimes, people need to hear about a book a couple of times before they buy it. I know I generally do.

      Tony may not be seeing all the benefits of the effort he put in just yet. But to get the most out of it, he needs to follow that up now.

      Like

    • Tony Slater says:

      I think… go for it! There’s a few reasons:
      First, it was never really about money – I’m looking to attract attention, from readers, from agents, from publishers – and this is the most attention I’ve ever had in my life! I figure about 30 or 40 people downloaded free samples, I’ve given a couple of interviews on books blogs and Kindle Author, I got messages of congratulations from authors who’ve sold tens of thousands of books themselves – all good stuff! It only takes the right person to hear about it and read it, and they might be able to spread the word to legions of their own fans.
      Second, I made almost a hundred quid – not great, but not bad for a day’s work. Of course it averages out to about £1 an hour if I factor in all my pre-launch efforts!
      And third, as David mentioned below, it costs nothing (except hard work!). I’m hoping my sales will take off faster and grow larger as a direct result. Certainly, I’ve had my first four reviews on the various Amazon sites, which wouldn’t have happened if the book had leaked out to a handful of people per day.
      I think, go for it for sure – because perhaps most important of all, is that this DIDN’T WORK for me – I stuffed it up a bit (or circumstances did) and I don’t have a very large fan/friend base to begin with. You might have ten times the friends – and a decent list of Twitter followers etc – and with enough time to ‘work’ this crowd you might get a much better conversion rate. 53 sales for me could be 200 for you, which would make it worthwhile financially AND promotionally.
      Good luck!

      Like

  3. Martin Lake says:

    E=publishing is a new field and it seems that there are no hard rules, no golden tips. We are all trying out new ways of working and, by the nature of experiment, most will fail. This is not a thing to despair of, more a call to get back in the saddle and have yet another go.

    I think Tony should be applauded for this strategy and for showing us the highs and lows of it. Just reading about it made me think about buying the book.

    Martin Lake

    Like

    • I agree Martin.

      This market is changing so rapidly as it swells with new entrants from different demographics that what is a good advice or a good strategy today, could be the opposite tomorrow. Tony certainly had nothing to lose by trying this strategy, and it has given him some nice numbers to get the ball rolling. Most self-publishers won’t come near that first day figure in their first month, and no-one can take those sales away.

      And, as I said before, I don’t think he has seen the full benefits of that almighty noise he made quite yet!

      Like

    • Tony Slater says:

      There’s a really good point David made, which you’ve touched on here too – reading this, made you ‘think about’ buying the book. AWESOME! My launch put the book out there. People need to see it, or hear about it, to ‘think about’ it. The second, or third time the see or hear of it – then they might buy. That’s a common belief in sales. Without my launch David would never have asked me to write this guest post – so even this action is putting the book out there, to people that otherwise wouldn’t have heard of it. All those people who didn’t buy, still might – they’ve just had their first touch, and they need one or two more to convince them. Providing more ‘touches’ by spreading the word through other channels is my next job – well, perhaps after I get married on July 21st!

      Like

      • Aw Tony, I would have had you on anyway. The big splash just helped you skip the queue! Also, emailing me a great guest post and saying “how about something like this”, just made it EASY for me. In fact, I liked the guest post so much, I cancelled what I had planned for today. Note to others: if you want to guest post somewhere, making it easy for whoever the host is goes a looooong way.

        And Tony, if you crack open that laptop during the honeymoon you might get divorced before you even get sunburnt!

        Like

  4. Chaz Young says:

    I liked the exerpts from the book very much! I added myself to the followers on Tony’s website and now I am off to Amazon to buy the book.

    I really enjoy reading your blog, David. Always informative and entertaining.

    Like

    • Tony Slater says:

      Thanks so much Chaz! Let me know what you think of it!
      David’s blog is The Resource that convinced me self publishing was a sensible option for me. Quite how he finds all the information he does – well, I’ll just say that I’m damn glad I don’t have to! I just come here, and it’s all laid out for me. If you haven’t read from the start, I urge you to go back through the posts to the beginning and watch not only the news unfold, but the blog develop and blossom. I’m really glad I’ve witnessed it.
      Tony

      Like

  5. Thanks for sharing your launch experience, Tony!

    David, I just found your site yesterday, and I’m having a great time reading through your backlog. Insightful & useful!

    Like

  6. Many thanks, Tony, for sharing your launch day in all its gory detail. You made me laugh and cry. (I’m very sorry to hear about your uncle.) I wish you great success, and will be keeping my eye out for you. Although your numbers didn’t rise to where you had hoped on your first day, I have a suspicion your marketing efforts will pay off in the long run. But even so, congratulations.

    And thank you, David, for such a great post. Your blog has very quickly become my favorite, and it’s the first one I check every morning on the feed.🙂

    Like

    • Tony Slater says:

      Thanks Angela! I’m starting to see glimmers of reward from the promotional blitz – but I hear most self-published books take a few months to get going. Maybe I’ll achieve that quicker, or more dramatically – maybe not. I’m crossing my fingers and toes – hell, I’m crossing everything that has an opposing appendage – that it will lead somewhere. And if not, I’ve lost nothing beyond a few hours of sleep.
      David’s blog is required reading for me. I’ve been trying to memorize statistics from some of his posts, for a radio interview that might be upcoming – if I sound like I know what I’m talking about when I launch into a debate on self-publishing, it’ll be all his fault!

      Like

  7. Jim Bronyaur says:

    Wow Tony, great post here… and yikes, what a LONG day, huh? But still, those 50 some sales were in fact SALES! That’s wll worth it to me. Hopefully those sales turn into reviews and it will help boost the book.

    In ref. to a “first day blitz” – I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but it shouldn’t be your only thing. I think getting out there on that first day, cheering, it huge beacuse it shows your true emotion. Think about how much time goes into a book and when you see the final product, you can’t help but smile and cheer.

    The marketing and planning takes time. Little by little, each day.

    And of course, as we’ve all said before, the best thing after the first book is the second book!😉

    -Jim

    Like

    • Tony Slater says:

      Indeed! I tried it as an experiment, ’cause that’s just me – I never believe in the ‘right’ way of doing something, until I try my own crazy ideas and screw it up completely! The next thing will be a more sustained, conventional marketing strategy. Everyone is asking about my second book though. I might even self publish it if I do well with this one, but Summersdale have asked for first refusal of it. I think they liked a sample, set in Thailand, where I bet a hippy-dude on a ferry that my luggage was stranger than his. I won, because I had the severed head of a dog, on ice in a polystyrene cooler. True story.
      Tony

      Like

  8. Michelle Muto says:

    This book sounds hilarious! There’s far too few humorous books out there. Thanks for adding this one to my TBR list!

    Like

    • Michelle, I’ve only read a couple of chapters, but it’s very, very funny.

      Like

    • Tony Slater says:

      Thanks Michelle!
      Up until the last edit, the first line of the book was:
      ‘It’s true. A bear did eat my pants. Luckily I wasn’t wearing them at the time, or this book would be called ‘That Bear Ate My Balls And My Ass’ (not to mention my legs and my feet) and I’d probably be writing it from hospital.’
      I love writing comedy. You can get away with so much more!
      Tony

      Like

  9. I missed most of the launch completely — I know of you and THE BEAR THAT ATE through the Indie Writers Unite Facebook group. And I have good news:

    Your book sells itself.

    Read the sample and I knew I wanted to buy, which I did from Barnes & Noble for the Nook.

    Like

    • Tony Slater says:

      Cheers Lindsay! The book is going to have to sell itself for the next couple of weeks – if I keep promoting it like this I’ll be getting married half naked in a field. Actually, that might give my fiance some ideas, so I’d better not mention it…
      Glad you got a copy! I didn’t know I was on the Nook!
      Tony

      Like

  10. Whoops — mis-stated title. THAT BEAR ATE MY PANTS.

    By any name, it sells itself.

    Like

  11. Congrats, Tony! So glad to hear you weren’t rocking in a corner. 😉

    Like

    • Tony Slater says:

      Cheers Shea!
      Walking is my rocking. If I feel like things are getting on top of me or I’m just not coping – I get outside and walk around (usually talking to myself) until it passes. I don’t know if it’s being outside in nature (I live in a field) or if it’s the talking (I’m the only person who can put up with myself once I start one of my positivity rants) – but it always does the trick. I’ve spent a lot of time outside this week :0)

      Like

  12. Heather says:

    Continue all that walking and talking to yourself, Tony, it’s working alright🙂 Congrats!

    Like

  13. As a fellow explorer you’ll know, Tony, that buying from Amazon or elewhere isn’t always easy outside the “civilized world,” which is my only excuse for not having bought this yet. It’s on my list for mext month when I go back to the comforts of the first world for a “holiday”.

    The sales figures sound pretty impressive to me for a start-out book. Don’t be downhearted. We would have been ecstatic with those figures at our launch!

    And of course travel writing is a niche market. Pointless to compare your sales with commercial fiction writers, unless you plan on being the next Bill Bryson, of course.

    Summersdale have a great track record for great travel writing and at this stage in the Transition are probably the best bet to reach a wider audience. They will certainly be my first option if I find time to complete my travel books before the bricks and mortar stores close, and Summersdale may well survive the Transition and emerge all the stronger as a reliable, quality e-store for good travel writing.

    Like

    • Tony Slater says:

      Thanks Mark – it’s true, Amazon do seem inclined to make it difficult for those who live outside their preferred territories – not to mention the difficulty of finding decent internet in many places. I lived for a year in Thailand and the only internet cafe near me was built out of driftwood…

      I’m happy enough with the sales. Mostly because it’s an easy target to beat next time! No-one should set their expectations too high for an ebook launch – even established authors would probably shake their heads at launch day sales figures when compared to a media-backed print book launch. But we make up for it over time – my sales will (hopefully) still be picking up by the time a print version would have gone ‘spine out’ – we seem to start in obscurity and slowly rise out of it, whereas traditionally published books risk exactly the opposite effect.

      Summersdale… sigh! They loved THAT BEAR… but figured they couldn’t sell it because I had no fan base, or ‘platform’ to speak of. That’s so much more important with a print book, where you need those immediate fan sales to cover the production costs and make the book appear to be a success. I have no costs to cover (other than hiring a bear suit – don’t ask!) and my success can take as long to develop as it needs to – I’m sure it will happen sooner or later!

      Tony

      Like

    • Tony Slater says:

      Ah, Mark!
      I just read back my response to your..err… response, and thought it sounded an awful lot like I was trying to give a lecture on the pro’s of self publishing! Man, I bet you had a good laugh about that. Or I hope you did – if there’s a Tony shaped voodoo doll on your shelf with a dart through it’s head, please tell me now! You see, my mouth is so big I’m quite often in danger of swallowing my own head. I was just on your blog, reading about Mark and Louise’s success, then I came back to check posts here and went “Hm, Mark Williams International, that sounds familiar… ARGH!” So, um, yes. I know you know more about this game than me. Than thirty or forty thousand of me on top of each other. Hope I didn’t sound too much like an asshole. Look, here’s a stick. You can hit me with it!
      Tony

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  14. Pingback: Two Indie Writers Somehow Escape The “Tsunami of Crap” To Sign Major Trade Deal | David Gaughran

  15. An excellent post, Tony. I have thoroughly enjoyed your sample and I am off to buy your book right now.
    ‘People will buy YOU, not your product.’ I absolutely loved this because it’s so true. I must have spent a million hours marketing my book – (which you have bought, thank you very much) – before realising this crucial bit of information. The best marketing advice I have learnt so far? Write more books. Write quality content. Build relationships up with people who will then potentially become your readers. But by now you probably know all this.
    I wish you every success in the future – I am sorry to hear about your uncle.
    Laura

    Like

    • Tony Slater says:

      Laura, I love to buy books by people I know! It’s a bit of a thrill to chat to an author and then read their work knowing I could message them about it afterwards. I really do think this is one of the best aspects of e-publishing; we can connect with fans, with people before they become fans, with people that will never be fans. I love doing it (and hopefully they do too). There’s sometimes a bit of an agenda, as at the end of the day I want to put my book out there – but I don’t want to piss people off by pushing it in their face, or marketing to everyone I meet. I just like to hang out with a growing circle of people, most of whom know me as an author (something my real-world friends are still a bit skeptical of!). Then when someone does buy a book and likes it, I get to hear about it from them (awesome!) and they get to make friends with someone whose work they enjoy. That leads to really good word of mouth recommendations, which are the best kind we can have, eh!
      Tony

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  16. Bill King says:

    Thanks for an excellent post, Tony, and also for discussing one of those things I have rarely seen mentioned about Kindle publishing– exactly how few sales are needed to get you on to some of those bestseller lists. Last weekend I managed to get to 62 in the epic fantasy category in the UK by dint of selling 2 books, one of which I bought myself just to test that I had uploaded the book properly.

    Like

    • Tony Slater says:

      Hi Bill!
      Yeah, that was the whole raison d’etre behind my strategy. It works especially well in the UK I think, because we have so much less competition, both in books and in sales. My US sales for the day were less than half my UK ones, but those UK sales took me to 450 – in the US I ever broke water about 16,000!
      I still think if I’d made the 200 sales I had planned I could have cracked the top 200 at least. Maybe higher, depending on how slow a day it was for everyone above me!
      The only trouble with this strategy is the loading or weighting on Amazon sales rank – I’ve never found a reliable source stating how it’s applied, but your ranking is derived from a combination of your sales over different periods – something like 40% from sales this hour, 20% sales this day, 20% this month, 20% total sales… I assume it’s designed to give more stability to the rankings, especially as you get closer to the top. So perennial sellers will still sit high once my sales blitz is over, as they have the advantage of many previous sales in their favour. It’s only fair after all – imagine if I stayed higher up the charts than Bryson, after my launch day – when he’s sold like a trillion books world-wide! Still, it does mean that my launch day sales are good for something after the event (other than a bit of royalties) – they’ll count for me as previous sales, and help weight my ranking for the next time I try to climb the charts!
      Tony

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  17. Bill King says:

    Hey Tony,
    That all makes perfect sense . It’s something I have never even given any thought to. I must confess I was a bit shocked when I saw I was on the chart at all. I’m guessing Amazon must mirror print publishing bestseller lists in that there are definitely times of the year when it is much easier to get on the NYT lists than others. I have now learned that releasing an epic fantasy ebook at 8 on a Saturday morning in the middle of the summer lull is a good way of getting on the charts. Now all I need to do is coordinate a marketing campaign based around that🙂.

    I think you’re right about the US/UK stuff as well. My US sales are much higher on the Kindle (which reflects the sales of my print books) but the e-book has never been as high in the charts as it is in the UK. Well, live and learn,
    Cheers,
    Bill

    Like

    • Tony Slater says:

      I love the self-publishing community for this – I’ve only been a part of them for a little while, and I literally learn something new every day! I’ve never been able to get into the legacy publishing world, but I imagine it as a fairly labyrinthine business where information is on a need-to-know basis. In this community everyone is so free with advice, facts and figures, some days it’s like information overload!
      Here’s hoping e-readers come to the UK in the same proportion they have in the US. What’s the name of your Epic Fantasy, Bill? I’d like to take a look, fantasy is what I read (when I read – can hardly remember the last time).
      Cheers!
      Tony

      Like

      • Bill King says:

        You know something, Tony, you are right. In traditional publishing, a lot of stuff is simply not talked about. The thing that first drew me into the whole e-publishing thing was the openness of Konrath and lots of others about their numbers.

        I have almost three quarters of a million books in print in English and, believe it or not, this is the first time I have ever mentioned that fact other than to my immediate friends and family and to my agent. And now that I have mentioned it, I cannot, for the life of me, think why I have treated it like a guilty secret.

        The book is called Death’s Angels. It’s not exactly a traditional epic fantasy. That was the only category that it fitted into at all.

        Cheers,

        Bill

        Like

      • Bill,

        I’m not sure if I was supposed to overhear that or not! Wow. That’s a lot of books in print. Just checking out your blog now – very interesting.

        Dave

        Like

      • Tony Slater says:

        Aha! As it turns out I already have a couple of Bill’s print books, from the days when I worked for Games Workshop! Welcome to the self-publishing scene, I hope you are every bit as successful here. I’ve just got a copy of Death’s Angels from the UK Amazon store, but my girlfriend has already called dibs on reading it first! She’s had a succession of rather dubious experiences trawling the free ebooks sections, so she’s keen to read something ‘proper’ as she put it! We’ll be sure to give you some reviews on Amazon when we’re done.

        Like

  18. Bill King says:

    @David: I am fine with you overhearing it. I just had one of those lightbulb over the head moments when I was replying to Tony. I was writing about how hard it has always been to get information about stuff like this and then I thought “well you’ve never talked about your numbers.” So I wrote the reply above and then I went back to the last post on my blog about this and put some figures in!

    @Tony: I hope you both enjoy the book. Like I said, it’s not a very conventional fantasy novel. I am tickled by the GW connection. It turns up in the strangest of places. Years ago I was trekking in the north of Thailand and someone asked me what I did for a living. Trying to explain the concept of writing tie-in novels to a complete stranger can be a real challenge so I started to ramble on about Warhammer. The guy just looked at me and then said, “oh yeah, Gotrek and Felix. I have a goblin army myself.” It was not a conversation I expected to be having half-way up a mountain in the Golden Triangle. Good luck with the book. I just bought a copy. See- this online marketing works!

    Like

    • Tony Slater says:

      Wow, awesome! I tell you what, that’s one of the best things going for self-publishing right there: you’ve just bought my book! I’ve read your work when it was brand new on our shelves (I think I even got a staff discount!) – and now, thanks to the way this whole thing works out, we’ve ended up chatting and you – big league ‘real world’ author, has bought a copy of my book! That is crazy. You know, I even sold a copy to my all-time favourite author – again who I ended up chatting to like this, in a newsgroup conversation. I LOVE that people can connect this way. I doubt I would ever meet you in real life and convince you to read my stuff, but because of the way this interaction is encouraged by the community… well, here we are. It melts my head sometimes!
      Thanks ever so much Bill, I must say I’m looking forward to reading your book most out of all the ones I’ve downloaded recently (and I’ve been doing a fair bit of it to support the other new Indie folks around here).

      @Dave – Don’t let his nonchalance fool you – this dude is a heavy hitter! His Gotrek and Felix books are MASSIVE, it started as niche fantasy but I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more than 3/4M folk out there that have read him! The copy of Dragonslayer in our local library was so well read it was practically shredded!

      Like

  19. Sam Webb says:

    Tony!! I’m so proud of you!

    Like

    • Tony Slater says:

      Sam? Is that really you?! AWESOME! Long, LONG time no see! Are you living in South Africa now? What are you upto? I’d love it if you got in touch – my website is http://www.TonyJamesSlater.com and you can email me through the ‘Contact Me’ page. What a small world it is, that you would be reading a blog I also read on the other side of the world! Mind you, David’s blog is pretty much required readings if you live on this planet! Hope to hear from you soon :0)
      Love
      Tony

      Like

  20. Pingback: That Was The Year That Was (Review of 2011 – Tony Style!) :Adventure Without End

  21. Pingback: Why Giving Away Thousands Of Free Books Is A Good Thing | David Gaughran

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