1st Month Postmortem: The Vector

MCMMonday, August 31, 2009

A big part of the charm of doing something crazy is seeing how it fails. Throughout this year, I've done a lot of crazy things, and they've all been leading up to one book: The Vector. This is how I did.

The Plan

I learned a lot from my earlier adult fiction experiments, so I knew that for The Vector, I wasn't going to go to print right away. First of all, it rarely ends up being worth it... the majority of my sales still end up being via donations and eBook purchases. So there was very little incentive to offer a print version (especially since it costs $100 to set up). I serialized the chapters (updating 3 times a week) and let readers "upgrade" to the full version for $5. There's also a Kindle version available ($1.99 for a limited time), but most of my resources have gone into the 1889-hosted version.


I set very big goals for this one, even though I knew I wouldn't have time to properly market it. Given zero start-up costs, I was still looking to double what I'd need for a print run, so 44 copies sold (assuming $200 to be made up of $4.55 in profits). As for reads, if I could somehow manage to maintain a readership of 2,000 people, I would consider it a success. 2,000 people is tiny compared to Fission Chips, but this is a very different beast, and I didn't want to go expecting something unreasonable.

The Results

The thing that gave me the biggest boost was io9.com's article about The Vector. That brought in thousands of people, and based on my stats, about 5,000 or so of them stuck around. What's more, the readership has been increasing at a good clip, so I now have just shy of 7,200 readers. This is still lower than Fission Chips, but again, there's no interactivity to this, and it's a much denser bit of prose to get into.

As for purchases, I have managed to convert a grand total of 931 people to my cause in the month the book has been serializing. That ends up being $4,236.05 in profits in a little over 30 days. I've also sold a few copies on the Kindle store, but I don't have stats for that just yet, so I won't count it in my totals.

The Serial + Model

I've jokingly called this "serialization + upgrade" idea the future of books, and I think it might actually be. I've seen a very interesting trend in the stats... at the start, I had the burst of readers who I would call the "brave ones"... they thought the story looked good, and they bought in. But every time I get to a milestone chapter (where something really exciting and/or revelatory happens), I get a flurry of purchases. Interestingly, it never happens on the chapters where the mystery gets DEEPER, only on the ones where there's some sense of closure. I'm not sure why that is... it's the opposite of what I expected.

The benefit of this system is that it plays on the impatience of the audience. You CAN read the whole book for free if you're willing to wait, but many, many people aren't that patient. Granted, only 10% of my readership has upgraded, but as time goes on, that number grows. I don't expect to get even half of my readers to upgrade before we finish up in November, but I would be surprised if I don't get close to 30%.

One area this falls apart is Smashwords. Since they determine "free preview" based on a percentage of the word count, you can't say "only show X chapters"... you need to try and guess, which takes a lot of time. I wish they'd support actual chapters at Smashwords, so I could do this more effectively. Until then, I'll just fudge it.

Lessons Learned

First of all: I haven't made any missteps with this one yet. I don't think I've lost many sales by not having an option there to start, and I have a strong suspicion that when I finally do offer one, it'll do very well. Starting eBook-only gives me the opportunity to build a base of revenue from which I can expand into other methods. Marketing hasn't been an big concern after io9, but I'm sure I could do more. More on that later (in another blog post).

What's Next?

For The Vector, I'm going to be doing the print version shortly, and hopefully getting into more e-shops. A few months later, I'll be releasing the Limited Edition hardcover and softcovers. The question also remains: what do I do when the serial finishes serializing? I'm thinking I may wait 2 weeks and then reset the clock, and just re-serialize from scratch. Might be fun.

For other projects... I'm prepping the Chaos Book for release, trying to finish Xander and the Wind, and I am going to have to start looking at options for artwork for Cookies for Christmas. I'm possibly on track to meet my 12 books in 12 months goal, but it will still take a lot of work. Stay tuned!

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