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Ebook sales eating print sales for breakfast

May 20th, 2015 · Nine Bucks a Pound, Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed, The Greatest Show on Dirt, Writing

I won’t pretend for a moment that my sales are reflective of book sales in the wide, wide world of literature. I am but a wee bit player in the market, a mere grain of sea salt in the ocean. That said, there is a clear trend in my sales figures over the past three years. When I released The Greatest Show on Dirt back in 2012, my sales were relatively even between print and ebook. The paperback version was priced at $12.95 and probably discounted a buck or so on Amazon, where most of the copies were sold. The ebook version (mostly Kindle, though I did experiment back then with other channels) was mostly priced at $2.99. Even so, with the electronic version nearly $10 less, sales broke down 44.6 percent print, 55.4 percent ebook.

PrintvsEbookAs you can see by the bar graph, those numbers have shifted dramatically in just two years. With the release last February of Nine Bucks a Pound, I had two books available for most of 2014. Of the 598 combined copies sold (including borrows in either the Kindle Lending Library or through Kindle Unlimited), 93 percent were ebooks. And aside from a couple of 99-cent promotions, the Kindle version of The Greatest Show on Dirt sat at $3.99 for most of the year. Nine Bucks a Pound was most often listed at $2.99, with a $13.95 price on the paperback.

I suspect there is a lot more to it than price, though that is likely a significant factor. Amazon’s “Also Boughts” (Customers who bought this book also bought these books) are a huge discoverability booster. Over time, with enough sales, those connections multiply. Once they reach a certain critical mass, sales trickle in at a somewhat steady pace. I reached that plateau for the Kindle version of The Greatest Show on Dirt sometime in 2013. It’s safe to assume I have yet to reach it for print.

But there has to be more to the story, as I’m no where near that magical threshold for either format of Nine Bucks a Pound. Yet my ebook to print ratio was nearly 9-to-1 for it last year. Much of that was due to the promotions that were run, lowering the ebook price temporarily. But I’ll guess a bigger factor is there are a lot of readers out there who will more willingly plunk down $3-4 on a new author than $12-13. I do the same, so I very much understand that approach.

Will I see the same breakdown with book #3, Sorry I Wasn’t What You Needed? It seems likely, though with the print yet to release (getting close, should be ready before the end of the month), there are no numbers yet to compare.

How do your purchases break down? Do you read more ebooks than print these days? Does it differ for novels vs non-fiction books? And how much does price factor in?

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‘Sorry I Wasn’t What You Needed’ now available for the Kindle

May 11th, 2015 · Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed, Writing

Sorry I Wasn't What You NeededA little less than 14 months ago, I started writing novel #3, working off my disappointment in the worst display of free-throw shooting ever witnessed, in N.C. State’s collapse against St. Louis in the NCAA Tournament. Three hours later I had a solid start on Chapter 1 of what became Sorry I Wasn’t What You Needed. It is now available for the Kindle, as of early this morning.

This book is a bit of a departure from my first two novels, which both centered around baseball. C.J. Neubauer, the protagonist this time around, is not a baseball fan. Not much of a sports fan at all, outside of his passion for broomball, a bastardized version of floor hockey played in the living room of his boyhood home. He’s not passionate about much, which is why, ten years out of college, he’s underemployed, constantly broke, and spends most of his nights flicking cigarette butts out the front window after yet another quarrel with his girlfriend.

The story begins on an average Friday evening, which unfolds like so many others in C.J.’s life, up until the point he receives a rare phone call from his father. Here’s the description posted on Amazon:

Ten years ago, C.J. Neubauer fled his family, trading coasts to provide himself three time zones of buffer space. Random email and social media posts yield all the contact he needs. Until a late-night phone call from his wistful father. Unaccustomed to hearing his dad say “I love you,” C.J. freezes, vowing instead to reciprocate the next time they speak. But when the phone wakes him the following morning, it’s his older brother informing him their father has committed suicide.

Sporting a nagging conscience and a chip on his shoulder, C.J. books a flight home on his girlfriend’s credit card. All he wants is to bury his father and try to make sense of what led him to take his own life. All he has to go on is a note that reads, “Sorry I wasn’t what you needed.” Was it intended for C.J. and his siblings? The mother who walked out on them twenty-five years ago? Or someone else altogether?

Alternately heartfelt and laugh-out-loud funny, Sorry I Wasn’t What You Needed explores the familial bonds that obligate us for life—and beyond.

So, yeah, quite different from the first two. More fun to write in a sense. I wouldn’t want to be in a family like C.J.’s, but they provided no shortage of drama to propel the story along.

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Nine Bucks a Pound “humanizes the demonized”

March 2nd, 2015 · Nine Bucks a Pound, Reviews

There is nothing more gratifying as an author than reading a review by someone who really gets your book. Though it’s been a little more than a year since Nine Bucks a Pound was released, reviews are still slowly trickling in, including one this week from Benjamin Hill of MiLB.com. And Ben captured Del Tanner’s motivations as well as anyone has in a very positive review.

Nine Bucks a Pound follows Del’s career from 2003 through 2010, as he transitions from Minor League roster filler to top prospect to Major League success story. Steroid use plays no small role in his unexpected ascension, but throughout the book the question lingers: Was it worth it? His lies, and the paranoia that accompanies them, place a dark cloud over all that he has accomplished.

And later:

As a former Baseball America correspondent (and book reviewer), Bailey is well-qualified to tell such a story. He is familiar with the Minor League locales through which Del ascends, as well as the various personalities — agents, scouts, host families, coaches, players and assorted hangers-on — that populate the landscape. Additionally, Bailey did his research, speaking to (unnamed) former players about the drug testing process and to trainers about workout regimens. Nine Bucks A Pound, though a work of fiction, seems real.

Hill took the time to understand not just Del’s motivations, but that of his co-conspirators, Ryan Edsell and Ian Wicker. Having reviewed many books myself, I know it’s not always easy to really flesh a book out. He did so, and I definitely appreciate the effort he put forth. Now if only everyone in America would log on and read the full review.

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Channeling Charlie Brown for the Local Author Extravaganza

December 12th, 2014 · Nine Bucks a Pound, The Greatest Show on Dirt

Book signing events are usually better in concept than reality. It’s nice to imagine that long line of readers, queuing up for the chance to purchase one of your books, you personalize a short message, pose for a photo, keep the line moving. Then you wake up and realize you’ve nodded off at the table because no one has approached for the past 20 minutes.

I was fortunate enough to be invited out to the Lift Bridge Book Shop a couple of times back in 2012, the year The Greatest Show on Dirt came out. Sales were modest, but it’s nice to be asked all the same. The first time it was just me, at one of their Saturday Author Salons. I think I sold two copies in two hours. Mildly humbling. The second time was for a multi-author event during the Brockport Arts Festival. I had to park a good half mile away because Main Street was blocked off and there were tons of people there. I, optimistically, hauled a rather large box of books from my car to the store, wishing at some point that I’d brought a wagon to pull it in.

I say “optimistically,” but it was more like, well, I better bring a bunch, just in case. I didn’t really expect to sell 25 copies, or whatever the box held. It was like Charlie Brown bringing a briefcase to the Valentine’s Day party, to hold all the cards he didn’t get. And then after Violet and Lucy show up a couple of days later and give him a used Valentine, he decides he’ll need two briefcases the following year. Dream big, right. I sold four copies that afternoon, including one to a neighbor and one to a co-worker.

Sunday I’ll be heading back out to Brockport, to participate in Lift Bridge’s Annual Local Author Extravaganza. I’m going to keep it real this time. Well, within reason. I’ll bring 10 copies of each book. I’ll probably return with eight copies of each, but you never know. Maybe something crazy will happen and there will be a crowd of baseball novel lovers on hand. It could happen.

If you’ve still got shopping to do, stop on out Sunday afternoon between 1 and 4 and say hello. Books make great Christmas gifts.

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Baseball reader on your gift list?

November 21st, 2014 · Nine Bucks a Pound, The Greatest Show on Dirt

Got a baseball fan on your Christmas gift list? Books are easy to wrap. Get them a copy of Nine Bucks a Pound or The Greatest Show on Dirt. Or both. Include their name and a brief message in the comments field when you pay via PayPal and I’ll sign and personalize their gift. All books will be shipped USPS Priority Mail, and I’ll knock part of the shipping cost off to make the prices comparable to what you would pay on Amazon (for an unsigned copy). Buy both books and save three bucks.

Did you know you can send Kindle books as gifts? If your reader prefers to read on their Kindle, head on over to Amazon.com and look for Nine Bucks a Pound or The Greatest Show on Dirt. Just $3.99 each, no postage, no wrapping.


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Reflections on a mostly successful group promotion

October 29th, 2014 · Nine Bucks a Pound, The Greatest Show on Dirt

When I went to bed Monday night, my first novel, The Greatest Show on Dirt, ranked No. 3 on Amazon among all Kindle baseball books. That’s rarified air for me, and I stayed up a bit too late checking my sales, enjoying an unusual night when they came in at a 4-5 per hour clip. If not for an all-day glitch on Amazon Tuesday, I might have enjoyed a moment at the top of the heap, at least long enough to capture a screen shot of Dirt nudging ahead of the Derek Jeter books and Moneyball, which seems to haunt the top 5 for reasons I can’t understand.

Aside from the ‘Zon’s technical difficulties, things were soon back to normal. My one-week sale blitz was complete, the frenzy over. It was a fun ride while it lasted, and, boy, did we move some units. Okay, it may not be NY Times bestseller pace, but for me, moving 85 books (between my two novels) in seven days was dizzying stuff, even at 99 cents a pop.

Amazon Kindle Best Sellers in Baseball at the end of the promo

Amazon Kindle Best Sellers in Baseball at the end of the promo.

I’ve done 99-cent price promos in the past, with much more modest results. My hope this time around was to generate enough sales to see a carryover effect once the books went back to regular price. (The jury is still out on that, but early returns are not promising.) So this time I wanted to do something totally different. I read David Gaughran’s book, Let’s Get Visible, which is all about marketing books, particularly ebooks. One idea I came away with was a World Series group promo.

I kicked it around with a couple of writer friends, both authors of good baseball novels (Russell Rowland’s High and Inside and Jeff Gillenkirk’s Home, Away). They were both into the idea from the start. I reached out to a number of other authors, some I’ve interacted with before and others I hadn’t. I figured we needed at least five books minimum to make a credible stand. With two of my own, we were nearly there early on, but I wanted more.

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World Series promo aims to buck fall sales trend

October 14th, 2014 · Nine Bucks a Pound, The Greatest Show on Dirt, Writing

Two and a half years after releasing The Greatest Show on Dirt, I can say from my experience that sales of baseball books are cyclical. They rise about the time pitchers and catchers report to spring training and slide as the season wanes. I’ve compared notes with several other authors, who have reported similar findings. And it makes sense on a couple of levels. Every spring there’s a buzz when the new crop of baseball books hits the shelves, virtual and literal. Readers gobble up the new books, and on Amazon, where most of my books a purchased, the activity drives sales through the Also Boughts (“Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought”). It’s like a rising tide every spring, lifting up all the baseball books to a new level of visibility.

Which is nice in the spring. And not so nice by fall, when readers’ attention has turned elsewhere.

To combat this dropoff, I’ve gotten together with a number of other independent authors and publishers on a special promotion during the World Series. We will all be dropping the price of our books in Kindle format to 99 cents on Amazon for seven days, starting Tuesday, October 21, the first day of the World Series. At present count, there will be 9 books in the promo, neatly split between novels and non-fiction offerings. And there are some heavy hitters involved here, including Slouching Toward Fargo, the 1999 winner of the Casey Award, baseball literature’s answer to the Pulitzer.

Here’s the lineup:

The Book of Baseball Literacy, by David Martinez
The Greatest Show on Dirt, by James Bailey
High and Inside, by Russell Rowland
Nine Bucks a Pound, by James Bailey
The Ringer, by Jenny Shank
The Rules Abide, by Jim Tosches
Slouching Toward Fargo, by Neal Karlen
Sol White’s Official Base Ball Guide
The Suitors of Spring, by Pat Jordan

Learn more on our site, The Baseball Reader. Our slogan: “It’s a long offseason. Load up your Kindle.” And for 99 cents a shot, why wouldn’t you?

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Spitball literary magazine latest to review ‘Nine Bucks a Pound’

June 21st, 2014 · Nine Bucks a Pound, Reviews

Spitball Spring 2014Spitball Magazine, the organizer of the Casey Award given annually to the best baseball book, included a short review of Nine Bucks a Pound in their Spring 2014 issue, which was just released (arriving at my house the first day of summer). Here’s what they had to say:

Here at Spitball we are pretty sick of hearing about PED, which makes James Bailey’s accomplishment with his new baseball novel, Nine Bucks a Pound (Sun Field Press), all the more amazing. It is the modern story of a deal between the devil and Del Tanner, a first baseman in the Minnesota Twins organization, who injects batting power-increasing illegal drugs long enough to boost him out of the minors. Bailey’s goal of presenting a believable character whose motivations are understandable, if not excusable, is realized; even if Tanner’s downfall is predictable. Other well-drawn characters, plausible dialogue, and a sure feel for the landscape of professional baseball round out the pleasures to be had in reading the book.

Not bad. I hope they keep it in mind when the time comes to compile the short list of Casey candidates this winter.

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Dinosaurs, prime numbers, and fanboys

June 18th, 2014 · Writing

I read slowly these days. Actually, I read at the same speed I’ve always read, I just take forever to get through books because I spend so much time working on my own. I used to get through about a book a week. Nowadays it’s more like a book a month or maybe longer. I can’t even remember when I started Thirteen Moons, but it was at least two moons ago and I’m only half done. Though in fairness I have taken time out to read two other books. Thirteen Moons is well written, it’s just boring, which is why it gets bumped when something more enticing comes along.

The latest book to bump it was Dinosaurs and Prime Numbers, by Tom Moran, which I discovered last Friday when I followed a link to a story about how the Guardian (a British newspaper) honored it as their first self-published book of the month. Several reviews on Amazon compared it to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, one of my all-time favorite series. So I bought it and started reading. I had to figure out how to synch my Kindle with the Kindle app on my phone (it wasn’t difficult), because I kept wanting to read it whenever I had a free moment. I was hooked from the start all the way through the finish.

I turned into a fanboy, thinking of people I know who might like it as I read. When I finished I posted reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and a pitch for it on Facebook. All for a book by a guy I’d never heard of five days ago. I’ve had a couple of readers evangelize about my books a bit, including one who bought half a dozen copies of The Greatest Show on Dirt to send it to friends of his. (I thanked him with a free copy of Nine Bucks a Pound when it came out this spring.) Every once in a blue moon I get an email or a Tweet from someone who writes to say they enjoyed one of my books. (That definitely makes an author’s day, by the way.) But I’m not sure I’ve moved any/many readers like I was inspired to spread the word on Dinosaurs and Prime Numbers.

So, well done, Tom Moran. You’ve given me a new goal: turn a reader into a proselytizing fanboy.

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Maybe Jeff Pearlman!?

June 4th, 2014 · Reviews, Writing

Back in 2010, I reviewed a book for Baseball America called Top of The Order: 25 Writers Pick Their Favorite Baseball Players of All Time. What struck me at the time was the randomness of the contributors, some of whom had no discernible connection to the game aside from being a fan. One might make a legitimate case that ought to be enough, but my point was as a reader I wanted access to something I couldn’t get from simply being a fan myself.

I wrote:

The concept of “Top of the Order” is a good one: “25 writers pick their favorite baseball players of all time.” Original, never-before-published essays on 25 baseball heroes. How can you go wrong?

I mean, what if you lined up Roger Angell, Donald Honig, Peter Gammons, Rob Neyer, and Joe Posnanski? Maybe mix in some newer voices like Josh Wilker and Will Leitch. All writing about their favorite players, providing insight or some kind of personal connection.

Okay, what if you didn’t get those guys, but still had some pretty good writers? Roger Kahn, Pat Jordan, Jim Bouton, Jonathan Eig—maybe Jeff Pearlman. How about an ex-player turned writer, like Doug Glanville? Not bad. Get W.P. Kinsella to write the foreword. Sounds promising. Who else have you got? Some music and film critics? Eh. A couple of fiction writers? Okay. The lead singer for The Hold Steady? Gosh, why didn’t you say so?

The day it ran I received the following email:


Maybe Jeff Pearlman!?

That Pearlman guy is the best baseball writer of his generation. The absolute best. :)

Enjoyed the review.

Jeff Pearlman

I took it then, and still do now, that he was being tongue in cheek with the “best baseball writer of his generation.” Still, I felt mildly awkward, for essentially having been called out—albeit in a sporting, non-dickish way—for belittling his contribution. Though my review overall was fair—not gushing, but my criticisms were focused mainly on a couple of the essays that just didn’t seem to work, including one which discussed players’ “sculpted buttocks”—I’ve always felt a little bad about it, if only for the offhanded remark about Pearlman.

I knew next to nothing about him then, and even that wasn’t so much known as assumed from the little awareness I had of his career. He was the guy who wrote the John Rocker story for Sports Illustrated. He had written a book about the 1986 Mets being bad guys. He had written a book about Roger Clemens and how he fell to earth. Ergo, he was a writer who liked to either take guys down or chronicle their fall. In my mind. Based on virtually nothing.

In the years since, I’ve become a regular reader of Pearlman’s blog. Aside from a blog about indie publishing, an N.C. State sports blog, and Carolyn Hax’s advice column, it is the only site I make a point of regularly visiting, on average 2-3 times a week. (Unlike me, he updates frequently enough to warrant regular check-ins.) I can’t even guesstimate how many times I’ve felt like a complete twat for making assumptions based on things he’d written (that I hadn’t even read, other than the Rocker thing 15 years ago), but it’s probably at least equal to the number of times I’ve read his blog.

Judging by the entries there, we had/have a lot in common. He’s three years younger than me, so most of his pop culture references are square in my sights. Politically, we’re both left of center. He’s mentioned several times being a gawky, scrawny, not-popular-with-the-ladies teen who spent most of his adolescence obsessing over sports. Check. Honestly, had he gone to my high school we probably would have been in the same fantasy baseball league together (and, yes, I started playing in high school).

Most of what Pearlman blogs about has little to do with sports, which is one of the reasons it keeps drawing me back. I get sabermetrics and all the new-fangled stats, but I don’t care enough to keep reading about them over and over. Or about how prospect X is the 37th best prospect in the minor leagues, yada, yada, been there, read that. I guess at this point I’d rather read something different. Something about everyday life from someone I can relate to. That’s why I used to regularly read Josh Wilker’s Cardboard Gods site when he kept it up.

I recently re-read Pearlman’s Top of the Order essay. His player was Garry Templeton, because as Pearlman put it, to an impressionable 9-year-old from lilywhite Mahopac, N.Y., he was “the ultimate badass.” It was actually quite entertaining and well written, and had it come earlier in the book, before I’d been thrown off by Vic Power and Michael Jordan, I probably would have appreciated it more then. When he writes of his adolescence it reminds me of scenes from some of Jonathan Tropper’s novels, particularly The Book of Joe. I imagine occasionally what a novel by Pearlman would be like. I’m convinced it would fall in that Tropper sweet spot, filled with dysfunction, snark, and awkward hilarity, though I see no evidence he’s planning to ever write one.

I’ve given up reviewing books for the time being. Mostly it was the time hit; it took too much time away from working on my own writing. But one thing I don’t miss is trying to feel like an expert on things I wasn’t as knowledgeable on as I should/could/might have been. Sometimes in order to really thoroughly review a book, one needs to read another book or two on the same subject. When time permitted, I did this. When it didn’t, I did my best. Sometimes that involved making assumptions based on limited knowledge. Sometimes that wasn’t the best approach.

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