Monday, April 30, 2012

How Am I Doing Now?

As I was self-publishing, I was always very transparent about what was happening, and I've tried to maintain that even with going with traditional publishing. I don't want to talk about more industry stuff all the time, because I think it can get boring and redundant and readers don't necessarily care about sales.

But it's been awhile since I talked about things, and I've had time to work with my publisher and see how things are and get an idea of how things are going. So I thought I'd give you an update.

Before I say that, I want to clarify one thing that some people still get confused on: I have two separate deals with St. Martin's. The one that happened first was for a brand new four-book deal (the Watersong series), and the deal that came a little bit later was a three-book deal to re-publish the previously self-published Trylle Trilogy. (To read older blogs about the Watersong deal: read here, and the Trylle deal, please read: here and here.)

As part of the deal with St. Martin's, I unpublished all three Trylle books last summer. That gave them time to be edited and build up proper steam for the re-release starting in January 2012. But by the time I un-published them, I'd already sold nearly a million copies of the trilogy.

So, when going forward with the deal, both my publisher and I knew that we'd already sold to a large part of our readers. Many people who would want to read the books already had, and while some of them might re-buy, a lot of them wouldn't. We both know that, and we both understood.

Still, we geared up for the release like they would any other books. In terms of the actual book, I've had input on every aspect of design - from the cover to editing to pricing to marketing. I've loved working with my editor, publicists, and every member of the team I've been in contact with St. Martin's. I've never accepted part of the process that I didn't like. I've still been able to be hands-on when I want to and need to, but without all the stress I've had before.

My publisher sent out an insane of amount ARCs to create early buzz. They worked with major retailers, like Wal-mart and Barnes & Noble to get placement, including many adds in important trade and book buying publications. There were also more ads aimed at readers, like a full page in the Hunger Games special edition of People magazine and commercials on MTV. They also set up a website for me and added some cool content there (www.worldofamandahocking.com)

Those were just things happening in the US. Overseas, Pan Macmillan has been doing a tremendous push with the English versions of my books as well. In the UK, they had posters for Switched set up in train stations all over. I know that in particular, Australia has run a very large campaign for my books, including giving out a copy of Switched with an edition of Dolly magazine (which I understand to be something like Teen magazine here in the US). But across the board, the promotion in the UK, Asia, India, South Africa, and Australia has been phenomenal.

To gear up for the publication of Switched in January, I did a small press tour. In the US, that meant appearing on Anderson Cooper's daytime talk show Anderson and on Erin Burnett's show on CNN, as well as several interviews for newspapers, radio, and blogs. They also got reviews from major review publications, like Kirkus, Publisher's Weekly, and the New York Times. My publisher set up a very cool meet and greet with local bloggers, and I did a book signing and reading.

After Switched came out, I went over to the UK and did press there, including a short interview on the BBC and a piece in The Guardian. I actually did a huge amount of press while I was there, for the UK, India, Asia, and Australia. I also got to do a couple book signings and talked at a school.



I'm not saying that I couldn't have gotten some or all of that press without my publisher - I'm sure that I would've been able to get some of that attention on my own as a self-publisher. But my publisher certainly did get me more than I would've gotten or at least would've thought to get on my own, and they organized it all for me. And the foreign press - I would've been completely lost with a publicist to help me navigate.

But in the end, as pleased I've been with my publisher, as much as I've enjoyed working with them, and as much marketing and publicity they've done, none of it really matters if the books aren't doing well.

So how are the books doing? I don't the exact sales on anything because it's harder to tally with paperbacks and through a publisher, but here's what I do know:

Switched came out January 3, 2012 with an initial print run of  about 200,000 books in the US, and it's in its fifth printing. Torn came out February 28, 2012, and I'm actually not sure of its initial print run, but it's in its third printing. In a recent email from editor, she said that books in series tend to lose momentum as the series goes on with sequels doing slightly worse than the original, but she said that has not been the case with my books. Torn was outselling Switched and doing really well. Ascend came out last week, and my editor told me that my first week sales are already double that of Torn.

Switched was on the New York Times Children's Paperback Books list for a total of 13 weeks, and Torn has been on for a total of 5 weeks. With Ascend out now, there are three books in a series, so none of the books will be eligible for the main Children's Paperback list and will instead be vying for a spot on the Children's Series list. Whether or not it will make, I don't know. We'll have to wait and see.

So far, my publisher is very happy and very excited about how the books are doing. As far as I can tell, they're doing about as well as they'd expected and hoped. The same goes for me. I wasn't really completely sure how well the books would do considering they'd already been self-published and already sold so many copies before, but I'm very pleased to with it.


Some people have been speculating that I'm not doing so well based on my Amazon rankings - which aren't terrible, but none of my books are in the Top 100 right now. They think this means that I'm not selling and the books must be doing poorly.

But one of the biggest reasons I went with a publisher is because I wanted to expand outside of the pool of Amazon readership. I know ebooks are continuing to grow, and I know that right now Amazon controls the largest share of ebook sales (they account for roughly 60% of my self-published ebook sales, with Barnes & Noble covering the vast majority of the other 40%).

And you cannot discount the fact that I sold nearly a million books copies of the Trylle books before I went with a publisher, and a large portion of those were through Amazon. I thought I'd already mostly tapped out the Amazon audience, so the fact that my books are doing as well as they are (Switched is ranked in the #1,000s of the Kindle store at the time of this writing, and Ascend is ranked #325) is impressive to me.

Books can't sell exponentially well forever. Sure, Stephanie Meyer and J. K. Rowling continue to sell really well, but they are in an entirely different stratosphere than I am. That's like comparing Coldplay to the Beatles. Or anybody to the Beatles. Just because I'm not doing as well as the Beatles does not mean I'm doing badly. They are the frickin Beatles. With exception of books like the Bible or Charles Dickens, eventually shelf time expires for every book. And I think we can all safely agree that Switched is neither the Bible nor A Tale of Two Cities.

My books are still being stocked readily at Wal-mart, Target, and Barnes & Noble. If books aren't selling, they quit stocking them, and they still are, so that's a very good sign.

I don't have any sales number on how the books are doing in the UK, India, Asia, South Africa, or Australia, but everything I've heard from my publishers there sounds very encouraging and they seem very pleased with how the books are doing.

And most importantly - at least to me - the reviews and the response to the new editions of the Trylle books have been very positive, more so than the original versions. That's thanks in part to copy editing (no misspelled or forgotten words), but I think it's more to do with the small but strong changes made with the overall content. Especially with Ascend. Readers seem to be enjoying it much more, and that's always been important to me.

Some of the changes made to the Trylle books were mine, some were my editor's, but I think the overall collaborative experience of me being able to bounce ideas of another person made the books stronger, smoother, and over all more fun for the readers. I am more willing to take chances and to try different things because I feel like I have a safety net in the form of my editor. That makes for a better quality of work overall, plus I feel less stressed.

So in conclusion - I have been very happy with the overall editing, packaging, marketing, and sales with both St. Martin's and Pan Macmillan for all three books in the Trylle series.

If you want to really judge on how I do with self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, though, the Trylle books aren't really the best ones to look to for an example. Because I'd already tapped into such a huge portion of the audience, everything is a bit skewed.

What will really be interesting is to see how the Watersong books do. St. Martin's rolled out the carpet for the Trylle books, but I know they didn't give it all they have because they knew they couldn't completely recoup it. They were taking a chance that the books might not find an audience at all because they'd been previously published at a lower price. The marketing plan they have for Watersong is larger, and it's starting out without the million book deficit that the Trylle had.

Plus, I think the Watersong books are so stronger. Don't get me wrong - I love the Trylle books, particularly Torn and Ascend. But I think that Watersong has a more original concept, stronger female leads, tons of action, and plenty of romance.

But anyway - we'll see how it goes. I can only say that so far I am happy and am pleased with my decisions.