Post-mortem of a Book Launch
On Saturday the 28th of April 2012, I held my “triple book launch” at the Royal Hotel in Clifton Hill. The video of my speech (which included me reading an extract of The Dark Horde that contains swearing and graphic content) can be seen here:
Attendance and sales for the day was broadly comparable to the “book launch gigs” I held (for the then-released versions of my Evermore novel) in 2001 and 2003. Well when I say broadly comparable, it was actually less. Here’s a reasonably accurate breakdown and comparison of my three book launches:
Books Launched:_____Evermore: An Introduction
Attendance:__________Circa 100 (it was in a public bar so it’s hard to judge the exact numbers)
Books Sold:___________About 50 copies
Costs for the day:_____$300 for catering. $300 for the band. Plus posters, fliers and drinks.
Revenue for the day:__Based on the above, it should have been about $300 after costs, but I seem to recall it was barely enough to cover the costs of the night, so either I actually sold less books (at least 35) or had more expenses.
Books Launched:_____Evermore: An Introduction (Brolga version distributed through Pan Macmillan)
Invite List:____________Circa 200
Books Sold:___________About 40 copies (plus a poster or two)
Costs for the day:_____$300 for the band. Plus posters, fliers and drinks.
Revenue for the day:__Roughly $400 for the day after costs.
Books Launched:_____Evermore: An Introduction (Brolga version distributed through Pan Macmillan)
Invite List:____________Circa 100 I think?
Books Sold:___________I think I sold a single copy
Costs for the day:_____Fortunately nothing except time, and perhaps my pride
Revenue for the day:__$20
Books Launched:_____The Dark Horde and Evermore: An Introduction (Ignis paperback and ebook version distributed through Amazon) and Gamebook Adventures: Infinite Universe (which is only available as an iOS app and wasn’t sold at the launch)
Books Sold:___________32 copies. 4 posters.
Costs for the day:_____Only posters, fliers and drinks. (There was no band).
Revenue for the day:__Roughly $500 for the day after costs.
So based on these figures, my conclusions are as follows:
- My 2012 book launch, despite having the largest invite list and having three titles (as opposed to the other launches that only had one), had the lowest attendance and the lowest number of sales. (Not counting the second launch I did in 2003, was an embarrassment haha).
- My 2012 book launch however, was probably the most profitable given that I neither had to pay for catering, nor pay for a band; unlike the previous two launches.
- Making $500 odd on sales for a day is nice, but when you’ve spent close to $20,000 to produce the books, you’re still a loooong way from breaking even.
Below are some other observations I can make from having done a few book launches now. And yes, some of these observations are quite brutally honest, but I don’t see it as my role here to sugar-coat anything. The single life of a self-published author can feel like you’re fighting the world every day, and the tendency of humanity to either apathy or criticism can make you question why you even bother sometimes, but this is what it means to be a writer. It’s better that you know this before starting, as the actual writing is by far the easiest part.
EDIT 3rd May 2012: I've actually toned some of the comments below down a little. Sometimes I can let my emotions get the better of me, and paint things in a melodramatically negative light that isn't exactly objective and even necessarily accurate. What I don't wish to do is convey the impression that I cannot accept criticism or am inclined to whinge if "the world doesn't instantly love my brilliance"... I am human though, and wanted to express things so that others know how I feel and can relate to the sometimes arduous and demoralising experience of being a writer. With this in mind, read on if you will...
- Handing out fliers to people to entice them to come to your launch, is unlikely to succeed; unless they already know you. For each launch, I’ve left hundreds of fliers at differing venues (bookstores, pubs and conventions), and I’m yet to be aware of it bringing a single person to the event that I hadn’t otherwise invited. It arguably has some advertising effect though, in terms of getting your name and works seen by others.
- The longer it has been since you caught up with a friend, the less likely it is that they will come. The 2012 launch for instance, included a hundred or so people that I hadn’t caught up with for six months or more; of which one actually turned up. This is despite some of those people either having said that they’ll come, having read and praised your pre-published manuscript, or even being featured in the works.
- It is quite hard to interest people (particularly younger generations) in books, let alone something which isn’t mass-marketed and all over tv and the internet. ... I have been frustrated at times by friends' reactions (or lack of) when all you're trying to do is to get them to spend a few minutes to have a look at what you're doing and if they like it, to spend a few more minutes doing a review to help your cause as a caring friend... And then you make a blog post like this, which can spur them into action once they realise that you really really want their help. That's when you're reminded that actually you do have a lot of support and admiration, even if it's not always expressed.
- Friends and family however, can make negative judgements about your work without ever having read it. Because they hear about your work from you yourself, rather than on prime-time tv, or on the front page of their daily newspaper, they assume that it can’t be very good and that it’s probably a “niche” thing. They wish you all the best but often won’t bother to read your work, or tell you what they thought if they do; particularly if their feedback is negative as they think that you don’t want to hear criticism.
- Typically your greatest supporters tend to be either other artists (who understand just how hard it is to get your name out there) or people who don’t know you (and typically have come to discover your work on their own)... And good friends that you hassle enough, so that they don't have to put up with your whinging haha (and assuming they like your work too).
- The greatest challenge to succeed in writing, I have found to be publicity. Obtaining publicity for writing is by far the hardest challenge I have ever faced (and I’ve faced a lot of hard challenges but I’m not here to talk about those now). And the biggest obstacle to publicity I have found, is apathy. Consider for instance, that I must have 50 odd friends with an iPhone who know that I have released a gamebook on it. Not only that, but the start of gamebook is free to download (with the whole thing costing less than $5). Of these, only one has done a review (make that 4 in the 24 or so hours since I did this post!), and many haven’t even downloaded a free copy. When you remind them of this, they say something dismissive to the effect that “they’ll get around to it” (and then probably think to themselves how they wished you’d shut up about it, and let them go back to their Angry Birds game etc, or raving about some other overseas artist with heaps of publicity already). Another example is my call for friends to spend a few seconds to rate my works or spend five minutes to submit a review. I said this in the speech I linked above (and notice the laughs that gets), and since then I've ranted about the lack of response in this blog piece. After which five friends have done reviews in the last 24 hours now, so even though I've now toned this rant down, I don't regret that I ranted in the first place as it got the response that I sought... Now I'm toning down for the sake of some objectivity ;) (noting I only say some objectivity haha, my experience and thoughts are as subjective as the next person's).
So in the time it has taken you to read this article, you could have written reviews for all three of my works, or at least checked them out on the App Store or Amazon to see what they’re about. I’m too stubborn, and have too fanatical a belief in my own ability to give up; which I think you need as a writer to persevere; I only hope that friends and family don’t give up on me… If that’s you, you know what I want you to do ;)
And finally, to end what is perhaps the rantiest blog I’ll ever write (I only say perhaps; there’s lot of things I could rant about if I considered it was in my interests to do so), let me make clear that I do appreciate the support I’ve had; from friends, family, media and readers I don’t personally know. Your encouraging praise keeps the fire burning and inspires me to ever greater things!
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Whilst I understand the frustration of your career path, you miss or gloss over a few key points.
Namely, that a majority of people think what you do sucks or just doesn't interest them. Happens to me all the time - you just need to stop giving a fuck. Your in the unenviable position of convincing people to like you - it doesn't work in your love life, but now you're trying to get people to not only love you, but to pay money for the privilege? You may as well try and punch sight into a blind man. Just kick back, do it all because you love it all, and participation from the wider public is just a bonus. And then you can stop pissing about it on the net. Good luck bro, and I hope your perceptions will adjust to show you what it really is all about.
Thank you for your contribution Nevermore. I think I get what you are trying to say, but I have to correct you on your perception of me. I'm not "giving a fuck" in the sense of caring about criticism (which you will always get; justified or not; regardless of what you do) so much as I'm "giving a fuck" about trying to get people to read and review my work because (a) I think it is good enough and (b) I am trying to make this enterprise viable and that means getting publicity by reviews etc. I give a fuck about what others think in the same sense that a store owner gives a fuck about whether people are buying their stuff or not and in turn responding well to the purchase to promote further sales; do you get me?
As for the rest of my comment, I've removed it on the following day (at the same time as toning this blog post down) as I think I've said quite enough already... I've taken my pills now and am feeling much better thank you