Lucy Smokeheart

Lucy in Cold, Hard Numbers: Part 2

(The first part of this post is available here.)

Continuing my campaign of aggressive transparency, let's carry on with sharing Lucy Smokeheart sales numbers, shall we?

To recap: in May and June, I sold a combined 38 episodes for 99 cents each, 1 subscription at $9.99, and gave away 5 episodes for free, in addition to the 251 Kickstarter backers. That brought my total post-Kickstarter take from the series to $21 precisely.

During July and August, I released episodes 3 and 4, in both cases around the middle of the month. Here's how they did:

iBooks: 3
Amazon: 13
Gumroad subscriptions: 1
Gumroad single episodes: 1
Freebies given: 110 

Total take: $17.07

B&N: 1
Amazon: 30
Gumroad subscriptions: 2
Gumroad single episodes: 1
Freebies given: 1 

Total take: $32.10*

*This is slightly inflated, because I've added in £1.04 to the sum without converting it to dollars, but I figure it's close enough.

I have run a couple of KDP free promotions in this period, and they don't seem to do much for Lucy Smokeheart, to be honest. You're supposed to see a halo effect where copies given away boost sales of later installments -- but in the few days after a Lucy freebie sale, I've seen basically no movement in the other episodes, and in fact a significant number of my sales are from the first episode alone. This could indicate that the first episode isn't compelling enough to actually sell anyone on reading further. Unpleasant if true, but it's definitely something that bears looking at.

What else do these numbers show us? Well, the series appears to be gradually gaining inertia -- each month is reporting more sales than the last, which is nice, even if it is mostly the first episode selling. I'm still not getting rich, but I do quite like the upward trajectory going on here. $6, $10, $17, $32 -- why, at this rate of growth, my advisors (by which I mean my actuary husband) projects it could hit several hundred dollars a month in month 12! Definitely nothing to sneeze at!

...Just one snag -- September's been a bad, bad month, so that rate of growth definitely hasn't continued. But I'll share that chapter in another month or two, once the totals are in. Until next time!

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Lucy in Cold, Hard Numbers

In the interests of sticking to my policy of aggressive transparency, I'd like to share with you my sales figures for the first two months (and episodes) of The Daring Adventures of Captain Lucy Smokeheart. Brace yourselves, you guys, this is a biting dose of reality I'm about to dish out right here.

First, for background: the Kickstarter had 251 backers, so I've "sold" 251 copies of Episode 1, and about 248 of Episode 2. (There were a few backers who went in for only one episode.) But I also made Episode 1 available on Amazon, Gumroad, and Barnes & Noble on May 1. Episode 2 went live on June 9. And both episodes went up on iBooks and Kobo on June 23 (or thereabouts, it's published through Draft2Digital which is... not superb for analytics.)

So how is it selling, apart from Kickstarter backers? Like hotcakes, or like... some other, less desirable kind of cake? Judge for yourselves.

iBooks/Kobo: not yet available
Amazon: 15
B&N: 1
Gumroad: 3

All said and done, in May I earned on the order of $5.70.

iBooks/Kobo: 7 (five of those for free)
Amazon: 12 sold
B&N: 3 sold
Gumroad: 3 bundles sold (one for free), including one subscription to the whole series for $9.99

June made a little more money: we're up to around $15.30. (In late June I dropped the price of Episode 1 to free everywhere except Amazon and B&N, and made a subscription to the whole series available on Gumroad.)

Well! I don't know about you, but I would not consider this a meaningful supplement to my income. That is, however, about what I expected -- actually better than I could have expected, given that all of the people most inclined to give Lucy a shot already backed the Kickstarter. I am crossing my fingers and hoping that numbers pick up some once I have a critical mass of episodes out, but you know, it may not.

To that end, I should probably do more promotion than tweeting once in a while. Once I've released three or maybe four episodes, I may start harrassing friends with blogs or podcasts to see if I can coerce them into giving me three minutes (or three paragraphs). If you'd be interested in running an interview or a guest post from me, do let me know! I am so there!

And meanwhile: It definitely bears noting that I am really enjoying the process of working on Lucy, regardless of riches gained or, you know, not actually gained at all. I've wanted to do a longer project, something that I owned outright, for a long time now. It feels good to stop waiting for permission.

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The Economics of Lucy Smokeheart: Part 2

A couple of weeks ago, I did some math and showed my work on how much time I expect to spend executing the project, and what my expected payoff will be. The upshot: Writing and designing Lucy Smokeheart will optimistically make me the delightful sum of $6.52 per hour. Probably much less; possibly as little as half that, depending on how fast the writing goes.

As of yesterday afternoon, Lucy has funded and all that fat cash will be mine! But what happens if I hit my first stretch goal, $7500 for cover illustrations? Well! Let's have a little more fun with arithmetic, shall we?

The objective of the stretch goal is to allow me to commission Heather Williamee, my delightful illustrator, to help me with covers for all twelve installments of the story. Possibly also a few more odds and ends that I am choosing to be secretive about at this time. I expect illustrations are going to cost me about $1500, given the hourly rate Heather has charged me and the number of illustrations I'm hoping to commission.

But -- o-ho! That still leaves me with an extra $1000 in my pocket! ...Uh, sort of. I'm still losing Kickstarter fees and self-employment taxes off the whole extra $2500, remember, which knocks it down to $2125 out of the gate. Minus the illustrator fees, that additional $2500 for the stretch goal only really ends up as $625 lining my pockets.

So my total earned income for Lucy Smokeheart in the event that we fund to $7500 and no further will be $4005, spread over the same 518 hours of writing, design, and production work.

That brings my hourly wage up to... wait for it... $7.73 an hour. We've hurdled the minimum wage bar! ...But I could still do a better getting a part-time job at Target, if money was the main objective here. 

Not that I'm against money, mind. Heavens, no. That extra $625 would come in handy, and I'd really love to be able to create superior cover art. So will it happen? Ten more days to wait and see!

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Veronica Mars and Me

I had a conversation with Twitter not long after the Veronica Mars Kickstarter launched, in which I observed that my funding for The Daring Adventures of Captain Lucy Smokeheart would probably dry up for a few days. That's because the pool of people willing to fund me and the pool of people who freaking LOVE Veronica Mars are pretty close to being the same exact thing. These people having only so much money and enthusiasm to go around, I reasoned, would result in my not particularly getting backers for a couple of days.

Now, it's not clear what actually happens in the Kickstarter ecosystem when a big project like Veronica Mars shows up and makes everyone excited. Kickstarter is on record saying that a big project results in more money overall going to smaller projects (like Lucy Smokeheart.) They're probably right -- they know their internal metrics better than I do -- but I speculate that it only really helps other projects in the same category in the short run. When you fund Veronica Mars, the "you might also like" suggestions are a bunch of other film projects. I expect other film projects right now are experiencing a delightful uptick in funding.

Publishing projects like mine, maybe not so much.

Yesterday was tied for my second-worst funding day on record; I got a single $25 backer. My only worse day was March 4, in which I got only $20. (This is still admittedly better than no-backer days!) So it's clear that the thousands of people pouring into Veronica Mars aren't benefiting me any.

But it's also not clear that Veronica has hurt me any. Yesterday was a bad day for funding, to be sure, but it was also an off day for me in terms of promotion -- I spent most of the day out of the office and more or less off social media. And I've learned there's a pretty clear relationship between Tweeting about your project and reminding people you're out there, and those people actually clicking over to give you money. Fancy that!

So the bad day is almost certainly my fault, not Veronica's.

And in fact I did get a significant bump in funding a few hours after the Veronica Mars project launched -- though that was almost certainly a response to my prediction that I wasn't going to see much funding for a while, as a supportive group of friends went out of their way to promote Lucy Smokeheart right then. The more noise you can make, the more money you get. It's like science all up in here!

So my conclusion is that Veronica Mars hasn't sucked all of the air out of the room, so to speak. I am competing with her for dollars -- but only in the sense that I was already competing with the whole of the entertainment industrial complex to begin with. And if I can't compete with the entertainment industrial complex enough to get a couple hundred people excited enough to give me money now, that's my sign that maybe the thing I'm talking about isn't something that people actually want in the first place. Better to know that now, and not after I've spent a year writing.

Oh, and of course I funded Veronica Mars, and you should too. That thing is going to be amazing. And if you have a few dollars left after that, maybe fund Lucy Smokeheart, too?

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30 Days of Piracy

In support of Lucy Smokeheart, I've been releasing a video every day in which I do a piratey thing or unleash some pirate true facts. We're up to Day 11 now, and I've learned something. It's a lot of work! Good grief, I'm spending hours a week on staging and make-up and recording and editing!

Why, you may ask, am I bothering with such a thing? It's a cunning cover story, basically. To get a Kickstarter funded you have to do a lot of reminding people that it exists. But daily Tweets and Facebook posts "Remember! I still want ALL OF YOUR MONEYS!" are sleazy, spammy, and not the energy I want present in my community or my social interactions.

With my 30 Days videos, though, I'm putting a little bit of free content out there into the world and hoping they put a smile on someone's face. Giving and not just asking. It's a subtle distinction, but a meaningful one. As the Wendig would say, "Be a fountan, not a drain."

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