Becoming a published author, for me, has been a strange but enlightening experience. Apart from the weird UK disposition of other authors to be negative about just about everything, I’ve enjoyed every minute.
Why is it that we’re all going to be left starving in a garret, owing thousands to the Tax Man (I wish) and becoming friend-less solitary beings? There is also a seeming affirmation that being the unhappy author is a badge of honour.
Well, I come from a mind-set that sees eternal optimism and have been accused of being too light-hearted in the past.
I remember a work colleague from my days as a department manager with C&A, who passed onto another colleague, that I was always ‘humming or singing’…”why not?” I wondered. It makes the day go quicker!
Anyway, the reason for this little piece is to give other (seemingly long-suffering) authors some little tips and hints that I’ve come across since being published that have proved invaluable to me.
Being a very independent person (I don’t have an agent, and I don’t want one), self-employment has been a joy and I’ve come across some simple on-line tools that will help you keep track of the sales of your books, where they’re selling, so you can aim your marketing in those places.
My publisher is equally allowing of my independence and has created a wonderful on-line environment where we all submit our work through the site…and never, ever have to meet in person. Super! I can up-load manuscripts at 1am if I want to, or re-edit an edit at 7.20pm, both outside ‘normal’ office hours.
One thing that got me flummoxed when my first book ‘hit the shelves’ was how to keep track of its sales. Having spent the early part of my career working in retail, I like to know the nuts and bolts of something’s selling ability.
It’s no good a member of my team telling me that men’s sports socks are selling really well, if I find boxes of the things in the store-room, or empty sales-bins. I want physical proof and numerical proof…..that’s when I was astounded to read in this month’s Author that ‘we’ (authors) are expected to rely on publishers for these figures, or PAY (money!!) to ‘Bookscan Research Dept’ £50 for the privilege of keeping track of something we’ve written.
The good new is, you don’t.
Just in case you’ve been living in a time-warp, you might have noticed that anything that happens on the Internet, is observed and tracked my someone else on the Internet…and since most bookselling involves computers and data-storage, as long as you have a computer and access to the World Wide Web, you’re laughing.
Two things are what you need:
1. An Amazon account. Go to www.amazon.co.ukand make one, then go to author central and use that sign-in information to make another account.
Author Central is a USA based useful piece of kit. You can add lots of friendly ‘Author Information’ (or not, depends how shy you are) but the best bit of the site is something new they’re invented called ‘Sales Info’. It’s a top-right-hand tab on the first page.
Click that and you’ll see a map of America, with all the states outlined. In each state, if you roll your mouse over, it will tell you how many books sold.
Bottom left is a coloured pile of boxes, the darker the colour (it’s in blue) the more you’ve sold. On the right of the illustration is a bar-chart showing which state sold the most in descending order.
In their burble on their ‘Sales Info Tour’ it tells you that the information is got from “Borders and Walden, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, Target, and Buy.Com. Some retailers do not participate, including Wal-Mart and Sam's Club.”
What could be more fun that seeing, physically, how many books you’ve sold in America? What could be even more fun than knowing it hasn’t cost a bean and you don’t even have to leave your home-office to find the information.
I found it superbly exciting.
OK, so you only want to find out UK sales? No probs.
2. Go to this website. Novel Rank It’s quite small, but perfectly formed at the moment, and I’m not on commission…..honest…
This is called NovelRank and is run by a fellow author, who also understand the Amazon Ranking codes (in my mind he must be a genius to understand that!)
All you have to do is sign-in, make an account, then go to Amazon and get the web-address of your book, copy and paste it into the site…and away you go.
EVERY HOUR your sales will be updated…
On your author page, you’ll be able to find out how many books sold in the last week or month, you can download it as an Excel doc, you can see what your Amazon rank is and compare it to other books, like yours, that are also selling on Amazon, you can add E-Books (got mine on there, it’s crazy watching the sales, it gets terribly additive)
Unfortunately this lovely site only includes sales from Amazon, but if you know they’re selling well in other places too, you can show this information, which is based on REAL SALES, not projected, to potential other publishers, or agents, or whoever might be interested in your book sales.
I’ve got mine on a piece of paper on my fridge, as a constant reminder, that my books ARE selling and ARE being bought…..somewhere in the world right now…
…Great morale boost, for the lonely, solitary, sad, negative author in us all…
Mary English Author of How to Survive a Pisces, How to Bond with an Aquarius and soon to be published How to Cheer Up a Capricorn part of a series of 12 Astrology How to Books published by O-Books and available from Amazon world-wide and other on-line retailers.