SO Numbercaste launched to great praise. I’d say it’s the most successful book launch I’ve done so far, except
- It’s only my second book launch
- It’s my debut novel
- It’s also the first thing that I’ve actually asked people to pay for
It all worked out fantastically well, much better than I’d hoped for: my writing career is sorted for (at least) the next two novels now. But this is still a postmortem, not a playbook.
A WAVE OF PRESS
Numbercaste had a wave of really good press – especially for a scifi debut novel coming from Sri Lanka. Taylor Dibbert wrote about it (and me) for the Huffington Post. Lanka Comic Con ran a detailed piece. A few local journalists have written to me and met me for interviews.
BestSciencefictionBooks.com featured me in their August roundup – right next to Jeff Noon’s A Man of Shadows and Rob Reid’s After On and Felicia Yap’s Yesterday. These are great up-and-coming authors with some serious press around them, so I’m thrilled to be included with them.
LAUNCHING VIA SOCIAL MEDIA
I’ve always treated FB as both a personal and professional communication tool. It did wonders for The Slow Sad Suicide, and it didn’t let me down this time, either: the Numbercaste launch was basically me putting up a post explaining that the book was now available.
(I’d been posting snippets from the book on Facebook anyway for over a year now, and there were people following its progress there: it was the logical choice).
A few hours later, over three hundred likes, shares and comments had filled my notifications bar, and my inbox was being flooded with people asking how they could get their hands on a signed print copy. Numbercaste shot right up into the top 100 for hard scifi, worldwide.The reception and spread was just stunning.
From my status:
To folks discussing it in Sinhala, on Sinhala forums:
To it spreading to other corners of the world:
To getting me into Comic Con:
But the bestseller list isn’t the most important thing. The most important thing is that Facebook let me broadcast to a large audience and (importantly) let me talk individually, 1-1, with the people who messaged me about Numbercaste, without any hassle on either end. It basically freed a lot of time for both me and my readers.
I understand the utility of having a launch in a lovely cafe somewhere, but I’m also a fan of not moving anywhere unless I absolutely want to. I don’t really want to spend time getting someplace, then having to sit and nod at strangers and make small talk. I’d rather people read what I have to write and left me to figure out what to write next from the comfort of my home. I’d like my readers, too, to be able to consume what I write from the comfort of wherever they want to be. It was a win-win.
(That’s the wonderful Pamudu, by the way: she and Nisansa Dilushan de Silva probably have the only First Editions of Numbercaste).
Back to the discussion . . . early on, I made the decision not to invest in a print run. Conventional wisdom, especially in Sri Lanka, is to print something – publishers usually run between five hundred to a thousand copies. I chose Kindle because:
1. Despite the hype, people really don’t buy as many books as everyone thinks they do
2. Selling an English novel in Sri Lanka is hard. Selling an English science fiction novel doubly so.
3. Thus, I’d end up trying to sell a warehouse full of books to recover costs on print.
I briefly considered talking to a publisher to get around this process. Could I control ebook pricing and let them handle the print? But no, that wasn’t happening, and the bizarre hoops you have to jump through put me off. I’m not a huge fan of gatekeepers.
So I stared a bit into the abyss, and decided I’d rather write than sit around trying to sell my manuscript to an agent, or a paperback to a random window shopper.
By the time the book was ready, though, I’d heard of KDP beta and Createspace and all these other Print on Demand services. I picked Amazon’s own – better integration with the platform – and now Numbercaste is now available in print worldwide. The process is not without its own paint points, so while I’m convinced PoD IS the future, I’m going to have to experiment to find out which particular PoD service is the best.
- I’m very happy with where Numbercaste is, right now.
- Press doesn’t convert to readers. It is a thing of posterity, a way of remembering success, and should not be confused with actually getting people to read you (this is something I often told startup people when I was a tech journalist – press =/= customers)
- Social media, like email, lets you operate from a distance, which is wonderful for those of us who would really rather sit somewhere and write instead of talking to people
- Now I need to go away and write the next book, because I don’t want to be a one-hit wonder.
That’s about it -dusts hands>. Thoughts?
By the way, if you’d like to read about the actual writing of Numbercaste, I’ve done a detailed blogpost here.
If you’d like to stay in touch about new releases, other great scifi that I come across, and the occasional free book deal, send me your email. I don’t spam and I won’t share your contact with anybody else.