Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Company You Keep

Wintertide has been out for three days, and the early reports are good. That is to say, early reviews have so far been positive, but also sales are doing remarkably well. I reached a personal best when Wintertide hit number one on the Hot New Releases for Kindle Fantasy Historical.

It's not as nice as hitting number one for fiction in general or even fantasy in general, but I never expected that. I never expected this. Given my lack of marketing power, and distribution ability, my books should go unnoticed and fade quickly to obscurity. I know several other authors in similar situations and this is generally the case. Getting published is hard, getting the general reading public to buy you, is harder.

The interesting thing is that I don't always know how well I'm doing. I usually don't. The process feels very blind. Echoes sometimes bounce back, but usually there is only silence. Particularly after a book release. The quiet feels very loud.

Yet every once in a while something unexpected happens.

My wife, Robin, spends far more time looking at the “business side” of my writing, and came across something not long ago. Amazon started a new feature where they look at cross-sales between various books/authors. This is kind of an expanded “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” feature whereas the first one looks at individual books the second looks at all books by an author. Looking at these cross-sales links you see some things that are not overly surprising. There are a lot of cross-sales between people like Brent Weeks, Peter V. Brent, and Robert V.S. Redick. Flipping between authors you see lots of pretty well known names all from large presses and most with multiple books.

To my surprise my name was listed among them. And not just a few…Robin found me listed on dozens of pages such as: Brent Weeks, Patrick Rothfuss, Joe Abercrombie, Guy Gavriel Kay and on some of them I was one in the #1 spot or #2 spot, which means I’m cross-outselling more on some of these lists than the big names.

The feature no longer shows up on the book page and has now moved to the author page but here is an example of what it looks like (taken from Patrick Rothfuss’s Page):

As I mentioned I know and keep track of a number of other small press, newly published authors, but none of their names came up on such pages – they just are not selling enough. So how the heck did I get in with all these established names? When did that happen? And what does that mean?

I haven't a clue.

In the movie Coal Miner’s Daughter, Tommy Lee Jones, who plays Doo, Loretta Lynn's husband, is trying to get people to listen to his wife's (played by Sissy Spacek) first record. They drive around the country together traveling to radio stations dropping off copies and then one day they hear that her song is on the top ten Country Western chart. Being busy driving every day, they had no idea until one of the deejays mention it. Up until that point they figured they were failures.

Often times it feels just like that. We keep sending notes in bottles, wondering if anyone out there is finding them. So for now Robin and I are sitting on the beach watching our latest bottle drifting off, but by the looks of things, it's caught a good current.


  1. Is it wrong that I have no idea who Brent Weeks, Patrick Rothfuss, Joe Abercrombie, or Guy Gavriel Kay are?

  2. yes, it is a bad thing you don't know their names. Of course, now you've got several more authors to investigate :-D

    Michael, congrats on making your wave. Trust it keeps getting bigger and bigger...

  3. For what it's worth, I don't know who they are, either ...

  4. Oh! Wintertide is out? *Goes off to buy it on Amazon*

    Dear Michael, you ponder how this happened, but I think it has everything to do with writing a superb story that is worth reading. You capture my imagination and my interest with the characters and depth. That, Sir, might be why they are selling well. Because they should. They are worth it.

    Just my opinion... :)

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