Revision's First Week

Over at Chuck Wendig's place, last week I wrote a piece about how great it is to work with a small press. But there are two more benefits to my relationship with Fireside that didn't make it into that piece. They are: sales numbers more or less on request; and the freedom to share those numbers if I so choose. So let's you and me talk about Revision's first week in the wild.

Let's set the stage. Remember, I got a star in Publisher's Weekly. A great review in NPR Books. I've been on Rocket Talk, and several other reviewers and bloggers have said kind and thoughtful things. (A running list of reviews are linked from here.)  Now that the book is out, I have seven reviews averaging 4.7 stars on Amazon, and 19 ratings averaging 3.79 on Goodreads. (Wow, that... took a dive overnight, it was 4.16 yesterday. Easy come, easy go, I guess.) By and large, critical reception has been superb, far better than I could possibly have expected.

But what does all of that actually mean in cash money and books sold?

In total, we've sold 292 copies of Revision. Of that, 70 books were preorders on Amazon, and 3 were preorders on iTunes. Wait, let's make a nice visual for this:

Note Amazon's total domination of the market. Note how Kobo basically sucks, more's the pity. For my part, I'm amazed at how many people went all-in for the print version, since it costs so much more money. But the allure of paper is still strong, I guess. (And on Amazon, if you buy the print edition, you get the book for free through the Matchbook program, which is a nice draw.)

Remember back when I posted sales projections? I figured my baseline number of sales was... about 300, as that's about the combined number of people who will buy a copy because they are related to me, have a collegial professional relationship with me, are super good friends with me, or who really love my prior work. Actually, I suspect a majority of that 300 fall into more than one of those categories. It looks like that guess was spot on. I hadn't put a time frame on it, but I suppose it's "copies sold until the book more or less stops selling entirely," whether that takes a week, a month, a year.

The real question, is what happens from here?

So this is an overview of the print version of Revision's sales rank history over on Amazon. There are a few early spikes because the print edition was actually available for a week or so ahead of launch, and then on May 5, it hit a new high and sort of stayed there for a few days. And now it's starting to gradually drop.

The ebook edition's curve looks very similar, with more and bigger preorder spikes. The Kindle edition even hovered in the mid-5000s sales ranks for a while, which in my case works out to mean we were moving, mmm, 30 or so copies in a day.

I have a little more publicity lined up, so that high plateau may well continue for another week or two. But if the book were going to debut big and get onto an Amazon Top-100 or even Top-1000 list, that would've happened last week. I won't lie, I'm a little disappointed the book didn't go so high and get the sales boost that comes with that. From past experience, daily sales from here will continue to slide until they settle into either a modest few books sold in a typical week, or bupkis. The book will probably continue to see some modest sales spikes around signings, talks, and panels. Our chance to game the system for added visibility, however, is pretty much over.

Unless, unless. This is the point where we've done basically everything we can do for the book. It's in the hands of the readers now. And maybe some good word of mouth will kick in, who can say. Hugh Howey released Wool in July of 2011, and didn't break 1000 sales in a month until October. Not to say the Hugh Howey trajectory is where I'm headed, but it does mean it's at least possible that sales will remain stable or maybe even climb over an extended period... if the book is good enough, if it strikes enough people in the right way in the right moment, if people tell their friends, if people leave reviews.  

We've had a good, solid start. I'd hazard a guess that there are books even from major houses that have had worse first weeks than this; Kameron Hurley has been painfully honest about God's War selling 300 UK copies over several months. I figure lack of brick and mortar distribution on my end and UK-only numbers on hers make it a decent comparison, if you squint a little.

But will Revision have a tail from here? I don't know. I can't know. I think it's a good book and a lot of people seem to like it, so maybe it'll have legs. Maybe I will sell my benchmark of 1500 copies in the coming weeks or months. Maybe I'll even go full Hugh Howey, hey, you never know. But it's equally possible that this book is just about tapped and we're already on the last hill of the roller coaster.

Guess we'll find out, huh?

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