Is this the end?

That sounds a bit apocalyptic, but I’m referring to the book sales. I have a plan that involves withdrawing all the ebooks from sales channels, offering them for free from the website and making money from other product lines. Does this sound like a plan?

All the sound and fury, the froth and bubble, was done to sell books. So how am I doing? In six years I think I’ve sold thirty ebooks. Call it thirty quid for six years toil. Now you might be thinking, ‘well Harrison, it’s you’re own fault for not using Facebook/Snapchat/Weeblywobbly’ or whatever it’s called, but that’s not the point.

All that effort to sell something that makes less than £1. If I ordered one Createspace paperback, ripped the cover off, handbound it and put it in an autographed fancy box for £30, one sale is worth more than a few years of ebook selling. I’ve come to this conclusion after doing two things: designing clothes and joining Instagram.

When I decided to use merchandise to promote the ebooks I was looking at the issue the wrong way around. What am I doing all this for? It’s to earn a living doing something I enjoy, and what I enjoy doing is ‘creating.’ The books are just one part of that creative process. The story is the foundation, but the story is also an alternative world and that world has so many components.

The magazine that never was. It still exists, just hasn’t been made available yet.

You can make money one of several ways: sell a ton of cheap things; sell one very expensive thing; sell a lot of medium priced things. That last one is the hardest because of the size of the competition and the difficulty of being found; the first is probably just as hard because the profit margins are virtually non-existent; the third method requires a brand and a following which takes time.

The ebooks fall into the first category. Cheap, lots of ’em. It might cost nothing to produce an ebook, but then again one book does take a year to write and then goodness knows how long to promote on Facebook/Snapchat/Weeblywobbly etc.

But what I’ve found on Instagram is that with a decent following, a one off, bespoke, unique creation can be put on Etsy and sold almost straight away. Those creatives, sellers and designers have obviously done the hard work to get a following that clamours for their latest creation, but would you make all that effort to sell a £1 ebook or a £50 jacket worn by one of the characters in that £1 ebook?

All free soon. Books promoting the TotenUniverse, not the other way round!

I think the point I’m trying to make is that the TotenUniverse is promoting the wrong thing. I should be concentrating on the high value offer and creating a world that people don’t just read about, but interact with. If I had one wish it would be to see someone turn up at a ComicCon event dressed as Metze or Ystirria or Lena in her coven ritual outfit.

So my plan now is to pull the books off the sales channels and make them all available for free from my website. Develop the clothing and accessory line, collaborate with other designers and visual artists, make more music, develop a Youtube channel, pull the literature off the page and make it real supplemented by a canon of other stories and features.

That will take effort, building up a proper social media profile is key to growing that loyal following, but if you’re going to invest a lot of time and money should it be to sell a cheap ebook or something more substantial that people will value and cherish? I think the latter.

An initial sketch idea on Instagram
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12 thoughts on “Is this the end?

  1. I think I speak for the rest of the commentators here when I argue your change of tactics is worth the effort. If your previous strategy hasn’t worked thus far, you have little to nothing to lose by trying a new approach. I wholeheartedly endorse your commitment to a broader social media profile (if you pursue the YouTube channel route, I recommend starting a Patreon account as well), as I’ve seen what good it can do for promoting my peers’ artistic content. My little brother is a musician and has had success with Instagram/FB/YouTube outreach as well.

    It’s a complicated yet collective strategy. I say go for it, and hard.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s still early days, but I’ve already got a promotional idea leading up to April 30th, Walpurgisnacht: new novel release plus the series so far going up for free on the website. And I’m busy finding a collaborator for a special prize in a competition. I just need to get a real item of clothing completed and displayed to boost the Instagram ‘raison d’etre.’

      I keep seeing people mention Patreon and I’ve just had a look at it now. Holy crap, it’s like a continuous kickstarter campaign. Definitely a channel to explore and get started on. I wanted to run a crowdfunded campaign to get a music video made and bring the band to life, but Patreon might be a better route. Instagram (+Twitter), Youtube, Patreon: could be an effective platform if I can get my arse in gear!

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  2. I think you’re right. I think the nature of the online book experience is that anything that can be delivered whole by computer (such as an e-book) is essentially regarded as of zero value – in which case the limiting commodities that prevent access to any one author’s work are (a) discovery and (b) time. And with everybody competing for attention using the same tools, stuff gets lost in the ‘noise’. The huge explosion of interest in Amazon Kindle has, in effect, swamped any chance of an individual author achieving much in the way of sales. Merch, though? That’s a different matter – so yes, I think this may well be the way to go. Use the books as an advertising tool for high-value stuff that can’t be downloaded, but which DOES have a tactile reality when the buyer gets it. And maybe add music – make that side a reality (though I think that music, as a commodity, has gone the same way as books). Either way, it sounds exciting and a direction to explore – keep us posted on how you go!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The more I expand the ‘universe’ the more I see opportunities for tangible products and whilst fashion can be counterfeited I’d like to see a Russian website offer a free jacket for downloading! You’re probably right about the low value placed on digital products; my intentions with the music were not to make money either, but to increase the audio visual appeal of the universe and make it even more plausible.

      Of course there is no universe without the books, which is why I’ll continue writing, but even there I see opportunities to develop what I describe as a canon of work to make this an almost unending source of interest for the reader to enjoy.

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  3. Sounds like you have most of the work done on this, Chris, which makes it worth doing. If someone was starting from scratch to build a whole merchandising universe, it’d be a different thing, but you have all the stuff there. I’ll be watching with interest. Not to sound creepy or anything. Or put pressure on you. Or both. If you know what I mean. *cough*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do you know what I haven’t got? Time. A pesky proper job is limiting my ability to do all this. But I do like the money it pays!

      Feel free to watch with interest. You have my permission to chastise me if I start slacking.

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    1. Yeah, Woolworth’s eventually found their business model undercut. A lot of people on Amazon use software to undercut their competitors until they’re all hurtling towards the 0.01p price range and trying to get their money back on postage. Messrs Ferrari, Gucci and Rolex didn’t do too badly at the other end of the spectrum.

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