Clues: Alex's Blog


(Updated) Pondering A Failure

Lately, after a very nice resurgence in sales and interest in my second book, Pilate's Key, I started pondering the book that followed it, Pilate's Ghost; which I affectionately call the "red-headed stepchild" of the John Pilate Mystery series.

The Stepchild.

Ghost gets good reviews and was nominated for a couple of awards, but for some reason it never sold much. As a commercial venture, it's technically a failure. 

The paperback version of the book was the product of a crowdfunding campaign I created to defray costs. I now wonder if the fact that most of the launch day sales were tied up as perks in the successful Kickstarter campaign I created killed forward sales momentum? 

I just don't know.

Technically with Ghost, I sold more copies of a paperback than ever before, and financially, due to the Kickstarter aspect, it made a profit--but the book's retail sales after the first month tanked.

Copies "sold" as perks of Kickstarter were never factored into the book's sales data, so to Amazon and other retailers, it was a stinker. The book has never recovered and now sits at the bottom of the Kindle Store rankings for Mystery novels. 

The all-time best sales rank for Pilate's Ghost is a dismal #1,158,421. (UPDATE: The book saw a resurgence of its own in September 2015--reaching #178,890!)

Contrast that with Pilate's Key's all-time best of #19,662 (NOTE: That figure is off--a more detailed check indicates that Key reached #14,413!). Heck...have a look at the whole ebook series (the Pilate's Cross under Pilate's Key on the graphic is the audiobook, not the ebook or paperback):

UPDATE Sept. 12, 2015: Well, the data for this post has changed...nearly all my titles have started selling again. I still stand by the thesis, but these numbers improve my mood a tad. Maybe all this talk of failure attracted readers who wanted to find out for themselves? Check out the updated graphic below--though the Pilate's Key ranking is still off by about 5,000.

To be clear--these rankings are for the ENTIRE Kindle Store. Most of my books have, at one time or another cracked the top-seller (paid and/or free) list for their genre several times--Pilate's Key made the Top 100 Sea Adventures list in between books by Michael Crichton and Clive Cussler.  Kickstarter Success Secrets  consistently makes the top 100 in the Crowdfunding charts. When I offer my award-winning short story Obsidian as a freebie, it always charts well. 

But, I'm haunted, if you will, by Pilate's Ghost. If I may be allowed to say so, it featured my most mature writing and most intricate story to date. Admittedly it was darker than the previous two books, but it had a great editor and a story that kept pages turning. I even appeared on television on the day of its Halloween 2012 release date to promote the book! 


It just didn't sell.

I think the only thing that has surprised me a bit more is the fact that my first Pilate book of short stories, the recently-released Pilate's 7, has also done better than Ghost and its successor, Pilate's Blood. Blood is regarded by many as a return to the Pilate's Key form, and frankly, it's on the fence of being a sales disappointment, also. But that's another story.

It's all so hard to say for certain, but I am coming around to the explanation that the Kickstarter campaign, which made the paperback of Ghost possible, also put a stake through the book's heart when it came to sales momentum.

Failure is a tough word for something that I worked very hard to create. It's also unfairly dismissive of a book that was nominated for an award or two and was the focus of a successful Kickstarter campaign. I'm not going to call it a failure, exactly. I'm going to call it a lesson learned and a necessary chapter in the continuing John Pilate Mystery Series. 

As for Pilate's Blood, well, that's one I really need to think on some more. Hmmm. 

What do you think, reader? I'd really like to know what you think--the comments section is open!