Friday, June 19, 2009

#24 (+ Idaho Falls Details)

First off, the Idaho Falls book signing tomorrow is from 1:30-3:30 at the Barnes and Noble at the Grand Teton Mall.

Now, for those who didn't see my Twitter/Facebook post, WARBREAKER hit #24 on the New York Times Hardcover Fiction Bestseller List.  You all have my deepest thanks for continuing to support me in this writing addiction of mine.  It's because of you, truly, that I can do this thing that I love for a living. 

#24 is a good place to be.  You'll note that it isn't quite as good as Mistborn Three's number (#21.)  But at the same time, this is a much different book.  With Mistborn Three, we had a large, multi-city tour planned and we had the benefit of being the concluding volume in a series.  I don't think hitting #24 is a sign of failure on Warbreaker's part, but instead a sign of just  how above-the-baseline Mistborn Three was. 

So, a lot of people have been asking what I think--now that it is all done--of the process of releasing drafts on-line as I wrote them.  Will I be doing it again?  Do I think it helped or hurt sales?  Both are hard to answer.  I think that, seeing how the book has done, that it's unlikely I lost sales because of this.  Actually, I still like to think that I picked up some readers--or, at the very least, reassured some Wheel of Time fans.  But the numbers are right dead-even where I guessed they would be, and beyond that, there are a large number of variables at work here.  I don't have a good estimate of how my books should be selling right now.  I haven't been an author long enough to establish an average.  However, because I like to be open and forthcoming about these things, I thought I'd try to figure out a system by which I could talk about my sales with you all. 

I don't want to talk actual numbers for a couple of reasons.  First off, the numbers I have are the Bookscan numbers, which are flawed.  Bookscan says they only reach about 70% of the market, and that percentage can vary widely depending on the genre and even the specific book.  For the Alcatraz books, Bookscan missed more than 50% of the sales because of all the non-bookstore markets that Scholastic uses. 

However, generally, we can use Bookscan as a comparison between books in the same genre by the same author.  And so, I've devised some units of measurement for us.  the EL(h) a the EL(p).  One EL(h) is equal to the number of copies in hardcover that Elantris sold in its first year of release.  (Which, in most cases, makes up almost all of the hardcover sales.)  One EL(p) is then the number of copies Elantris sold in its first year of paperback release.  Sound good?  I use Elantris as a baseline because it was my first book, and it did modest--without being overwhelming--in both hardcover and paperback format. 

Now, how do my other books stack up?  Well, lets look at them book-by-book.

Mistborn Hardback:  95% EL(h)
Mistborn Paperback:  136% EL(p)
Mistborn Promotional 76% EL(p)

Mistborn comes first.  If you were reading the blog back when it came out, I believe I mentioned our worry about there being a dip in sales here.  Elantris was a breakout book by a new author, and that tends to draw attention, getting us a number of extra sales for novelty.  It was also priced a few bucks cheaper than it should have been, something Tor commonly does in order to help give a first-time author a push.  By raising the price three bucks and by not doing a sequel next, we saw a small number of the hardcover people jump over to the paperback.  However, the paperback numbers were very good (this is all pre-WoT) so it means that the novel got good word of mouth and sold well, even better than Elantris.

The third number is the promotional edition we did with the new cover (which is now the only cover) after the WoT announcement.  So you can see us picking up steam there.

Mistborn 2 Hardback: 175% EL(h)
Mistborn 2 Paperback: 210% EL(p)

Mistborn two showed an impressive gain on both fronts, taking us up to about double Elantris's numbers.  This was a big relief, since this was kind of the 'do or die' book.  Would people stick around and keep reading after they read the first book?  Would I be an idle curiosity, or would I become a consistent seller.  About halfway into the release of the Mistborn 2 hardcover, the WoT announcement was made, and it had an impact to say the least.

Mistborn 3 Hardcover: 360% EL.(h)
Mistborn 3 Paperback:  Too Early to Tell.  It's only been out for a few months, but it's gotten to about 75% EL(p) so far, and looks like it will hit about 300% El(p) over one year. 

Mistborn three marked a HUGE jump in sales.  I talked about this above; I think it has to do with the push we gave it mixed with the salability of being the final book of a series. 

Warbreaker:  60% EL(h) in the first week. 

This release for Warbreaker puts it between Mistborn 2 (which did about 25% EL(h) in its first week and MB3 (which did about 90%EL(h) in its first week.)   So we've got a solid release for it, I think.  Other notes for those who are curious:  Elantris did the following in its three years of paperback release:

Year One:  100%  EL(p)(Duh, this is the baseline.)
Year Two: 81% EL(p)  (Holding up well, selling almost as many.
Year Three 142% EL(p) (Yes, it sold better its third year than it did its first year.  Hello, Wheel of Time.)

And if you're wondering, here are the numbers for Knife of Dreams:

First day: 1600%EL(h)
First Year: 7100% EL(h) 

Yes, that's seventy one times as well as Elantris in its first year, or just shy  of 20 times Mistborn Three's numbers.  And Mistborn Three was one of Tor's biggest books of the year last year.  Robert Jordan was in his own league entirely.  One thing you should probably know about modest bestsellers like mine is that we aren't selling nearly the number of copies you probably think we're selling.  That was one of the eye opening things about this business to me.  Most bestselling books are not selling in the millions of copies, or even the hundreds of thousands of copies, but closer to the tens of thousands.  It's possible to hit the NYT list and sell a total of under 10,000 copies during the hardcover release. 

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