Pig and the Box: 6 Month Review

MCMThursday, July 2, 2009

Is it that time already? The Pig and the Box version 2 has been out for half a year now. In that time, I've released four other books (Poke of the Titans, TorrentBoy: Zombie World!, Fission Chips and Percy's Perch), and tried a variety of techniques for creating a better book industry. Here's what I know:


When I last served up results, the book had been downloaded about 300,000 times in 30 days. In the months since, my prediction of 100 downloads a day has been reasonably correct: 105 downloads a day (on average), coming out to a little over 12,900 readers (312,900 including the first month), or 52,000 readers a month (averaged). Trending towards 328,380 readers for the year. To re-hash everyone's favourite statistic this month: a Canadian best-seller is 5,000 copies or more. So The Pig and the Box is a best-seller, 62 times over. Well, except that READS aren't the same as BUYS...


When we last saw our stats, I was aiming to sell 111 print copies for the year, and had only sold 69, for a total profit of $104.19. Since then, I've filled a bunch of orders (including ThinkGeek), bringing my sales for the year to 241, or $363.91. I've more than doubled my goal, earned back my production costs, and am happily collecting a few sales every month from Amazon and Chapters. All told, not too shabby.

eBooks continue to be a mystery. In the first week, I sold 10 copies of my ePub version. Since then, I sold another 3, for a grand total of $38 for the year so far. The eBook stats were so disappointing that I had no trouble ditching that distribution method from my line-up entirely.

The biggest switch is donations. Donors tossed me about $75 in the first month, and then almost completely disappeared for several months... until last week, when I introduced the Reader system (where you can read the book for free in your browser). The "make a donation" page at the end of the book seems to have worked amazingly well: $104 in a week, almost exclusively in $2 increments. Given my print profits are only $1.51 per copy, this is a major victory for me. The tip jar method actually works. I wouldn't have guessed that, honestly.

In total, The Pig and the Box has earned me $580.91 so far in 2009. I don't expect it to break $700 by year's end, but even still, that's a pretty good take for a super-saturated 3-year-old re-issue.

Lessons Learned

eBooks are good, but not for illustrated works. Full-colour pictures are what stop me from using technologies like Kindle or other black-and-white-only readers. Also, the abysmal image support in readers like Stanza make it even less appealing. Until the technology catches up to print in this market segment, it's not worth the time to create ePubs.

Donations work best for what I do. Most of my books are aimed at tech-minded people who don't mind reading off a screen. Given that fact, creating print runs for most of my titles is a waste of money. The best way to turn a profit is to ask for donations from people that have read the book free online. Deep down inside, people are pretty nice, and they're not too stingy to drop me a buck or two. It's an uncertain way to make a living, but it might just work.

Things To Do

Not to sound pessimistic, but the Pig and the Box has probably run its course. I don't imagine I'll get much more than 100 reads a day from now on, barring any minor miracles. Then again, I should probably work on creating minor miracles... I still have no idea how to do this "marketing" thing, and it's pretty obviously dragging my numbers down. I have a lot of readers of Fission Chips by sheer luck... I have no idea how they found me. If I could figure a way to semi-reliably pull people in, I might be able to earn a living off donations.

Looking at it this way: let's say I get 700 downloads a week, and $100 in donations. That means I earn 14% of my reader count in dollars. For a month at the current levels, that translates into $400. I don't expect I can increase the donation rate, but if I could increase the readership rate, things would change fast. Double the readership, and that's $800/month. $9,600/year isn't "a living", but it's damn good for a back-title.

The only question is how to increase the 100/day reader rate. It's hard enough making a promotional push for a new launch... but doing this kind of long-term promotion... I don't have any idea how to do it. Something to contemplate.

Goals Going Forward

My current goal is to sell 10 more print copies for the year, and try to maintain my $400/month donation rate. If I can do that, I'll finish out the year with a total of $2,980.91, and will be able to call The Pig and the Box (Second Edition) a major success. Still, if I only earn $650, I'll be overjoyed. I'm just trying to set lofty goals :)

Check back for a 1-year update at the end of December!

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