Thursday, 16 October 2014

Does Unbound Know The Answer To Selling E-Books? - Alice Jolly

Alice is one of our newest members, and will be posting regularly on the 4th of each month - but a bit of a malfunction on October 4th resulted in her first post being up only for a couple of hours. So - as it's an interesting post, full of useful information, we're re-posting it here today.

What makes a book or e-book sell? That’s a question that every publisher, agent and writer would
Alice Jolly
like to be able to answer. Of course, at present, due to the rise of e-books, the answer is changing daily. But still you would assume that the big publishing houses must have an extensive knowledge of who buys books and why.

But they don’t. How can they? They might notice that the sales of a book or e-book rise after an article in the paper, a radio interview, or a flurry of tweets, but still they have no means of knowing anything much about the people who bought the book, or why exactly they bought it.

Amazon, of course, claim to know which books we all like. Hence all those annoying messages which say - because you like ‘A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing’ you may also like ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’ Uuuum.

So does anyone know? Yes, strangely, I do. That’s because I’m publishing a book with Unbound and in order to get the publication process started I have to sell a certain number of copies in advance. Every day I’m checking how many I have sold.

I’m up to 60% now, which means I have raised over £6,000. That figure is on the Unbound website for everyone to see. But there is a part of the Unbound website which only I can see and which looks scarily like a complicated Maths problem. All sorts figures and graphs indicate exactly who bought my book and when.

I also get a weekly updates from Unbound telling me the names of those who signed up and how much money they put in. I even get messages in my ‘Writers’ Shed’ from subscribers themselves. I want to hug all these people – and though Unbound I can send them the e-equivalent of a hug. And on top of all that, because the subscriptions come direct to Unbound, they can e-mail people and ask them why they signed up – and they are doing that.

I can look at those scary graphs and match them to moments when a flurry of new people subscribed. Oh yes, that was the day when the article was in The Independent. That was the Mumsnet blog day. That was the day when that amazingly generous Hollywood producer put information up on his very heavily used Facebook page.

Unbound is a strange sort of publisher. Their main ambitions seems to be to introduce the reader to the writer and then get the hell out of there. But then isn’t that really what we all want? After all, who cares about publishers? The only people that matter are the readers and the writers.

So will Unbound work for my book? Will it work overall? Let’s hope so. But whatever the future holds, I do think it is interesting that one small, independent publisher has such a huge knowledge of who is buying their books and why. Shouldn’t other publishers be worried? I think so.

 The link for my book is here: http://unbound.co.uk/books/dead-babies-and-seaside-towns

7 comments:

JO said...

Do come back and tell us how your get on with this - it will be fascinating to see how this works out, both in the short and longer term. I wonder if other companies will try the same thing, if a few will flourish while others sink without trace, what makes one project work and another disappear - these are interesting times!

Alice said...

Thanks for your comment. I will definitely come back with more on this. It is all so new and I think that no-one yet knows how it will work out - but it is definitely worth watching the process!

Bill Kirton said...

A very interesting initiative, Alice, and one which seems to put the emphasis where it belongs. I love the idea of a publisher who, as you say, makes the necessary introduction then 'gets the hell out of there'. The direct reader-writer link is fascinating and promises some interesting exchanges. I'm with Jo - please let us know how things progress.

Reb MacRath said...

Welldone--and welcome, Alice. Please keep us posted on your progress. My first publisher got the hell out of there before making the necessary intros--such as getting my book in the stores. It did not appear in their catalog either...but it went on to win an award because I stepped in and learned how to hustle.

Dennis Hamley said...

Alice, this has opened up a whole new world. It frightens me a bit but I need to know about it so please keep us informed.

Alice said...

Thanks for the comments. I'll be saying in my next blog post - please be aware that I'm no expert in this. I am going through the process and finding out as I go - but I think no-one really knows exactly how it will work out. For me it has been really hard work and difficult - but also fun and enlivening. More to follow.

Alice said...

Thanks for the comments. I'll be saying in my next blog post - please be aware that I'm no expert in this. I am going through the process and finding out as I go - but I think no-one really knows exactly how it will work out. For me it has been really hard work and difficult - but also fun and enlivening. More to follow.