People often ask me how the writing’s going. I interpret the question pretty broadly. As in, how’s the new writing going? Fairly well, thanks.
And: how’s my first novel doing?
There’s no short answer to that question. At least, no short accurate answer.
A Time and a Place has been available just over two years now. I usually tell people that I’m not quite in Stephen King territory yet but it’s going reasonably well, and that my excellent publisher tells me that the book has paid for itself, which I hope leaves the impression that it’s achieved some measure of success.
Whether the book truly can be considered successful depends on who you’re asking, I think. I suspect that any big-time publisher might condemn the book as a complete and utter failure. Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code sold eighty million copies. Compared to that, A Time and a Place has not exactly taken the world by storm.
The aforementioned big-time publisher might—I say might—concede that the critical reception for A Time and a Place (professional and otherwise) has been reasonably favourable, but they would probably also feel compelled to point out the rather small sample size.
Some novelists, I suspect, might suggest that merely completing and publishing a novel constitutes success because doing so is goddamned hard. While I accept that, most novelists would also admit that that’s not enough. Almost all of us (if we’re being honest with ourselves) would admit that we define real success as massive book sales and wide critical acclaim. On those scores, A Time and a Place can not exactly be considered an unmitigated success.
Still, to be fair (especially to those who helped me with the book), it’s probably performing perfectly fine considering it’s a first novel by an unknown author published by an independent press. I assume all responsibility for any lack of greater success. And I am well aware that the freakish success of an author like Dan Brown is pretty much a complete fluke.
But I’ll let you be the judge. Here are the facts. Let’s start with sales.
As of my most recent Royalty statement, for the first quarter of this year, covering up to March 31st 2019, A Time and a Place has sold a total of 454 books.
Of those, my publisher sold 333 print editions, 98 e-books, 1 e-library edition, and 22 audio books.
Of the 333 physical copies my publisher sold, I sold 134 of those myself after purchasing them from my publisher (at a discount). I gave away 13 books as gifts, another 2 were kinda gifts (I thought the people would pay but they never did), and 1 copy was stolen after a reading at a library (she picked it up off the table when I was across the room. I didn’t confront her. I dunno, maybe she thought it was free). I have another 18 copies sitting in my basement to have available for readings and book fairs and so on.
I earn 50% of net on any e-books sold, 10% on print (possibly more if I sell them myself, depending how much I charge), 50% on e-library copies, and 50% on audio books. A Time and a Place has earned me a total of $5989.68 since July 2017 when it first came out. Factor in the cost of purchasing books at a discount from the publisher to resell, all the marketing and promotion I do to supplement what my publisher does, along with treating myself to attending one writer’s convention per year, and I’m not exactly getting rich. Actually, technically I’m in the red, if I’m honest about how much I’ve spent on writing related activities since I began all this.
So yeah, I don’t think I could call A Time and a Place a huge success financially so far.
It’s fared better on the critical front. Reviews have been mostly positive.
On Goodreads, it has been rated 42 times, accompanied by 23 reviews. It currently averages 4.35 out of 5, consisting of twenty-four 5 star reviews, thirteen 4 star reviews, four 3 star reviews, one 2 star review and one 1 star review. It’s been added to 100 bookshelves, including 45 To-Read shelves.
23 of those 45 ratings have been accompanied by reviews. The reviews range from positive: “Mahoney writes with a practised wit,” “I loved this mesmerising audiobook with its non stop action and adventure,” and “A brilliant, often hilarious, thoughtful and amazing read,” to not so positive: “The second half of the book got a bit muddled for me.” “I think that the author was a bit too ambitious,” and “…one of the least likeable protagonists I’ve read in some time.”
On Amazon.ca it has been reviewed four times. All of those have been 5 star reviews.
On Amazon.com it has been reviewed twelve times (one 3 star review, two 4 star reviews, and nine 5 star reviews).
On Amazon.co.uk, it has been reviewed two times (both 5 star reviews)
Barnes and Noble has two reviews, one 3 star and one 5 star.
On Library Thing it has garnered six reviews (two 5 star, two 4 star, one 3 star and one 2 star, averaging 3.57 stars).
There are a few other reviews out there as well, mostly positive, a couple less so, on blogs and Audible. Some are replicated on Goodreads.
Out of the approximately eighty people who have rated the book, I personally know, am related to, or have met (at least once) around twenty. The rest are complete strangers to me. Personally knowing or having met those who have rated the book has been no guarantee of a positive review; three acquaintances have given A Time and a Place three star reviews.
A Time and a Place has also been reviewed professionally by Publishers Weekly, who gave it a largely positive review when it first came out employing such words as “skillfully,” “entertaining,” and “great” to describe the writing, but the reviewer also discouraged me from getting too fat a head by suggesting that “occasional segments… distract or feel a little overdone.”
The book is currently being carried in seventeen libraries around the world according to WorldCat, in libraries ranging from Austin, Texas to Madison, Wisconsin to Rangiora, New Zealand, and at least three Canadian libraries that I know of, possibly more (despite having only sold one e-library edition; most libraries appear to have purchased print editions).
Does any of this matter? Of course! Otherwise I wouldn’t have written about it. 🙂 Also, I just thought some folks, especially fellow writers just starting out, might find it interesting.
Does it REALLY matter?
Of course not.
But it sure is a great way to procrastinate.
One final thought. Here’s a great Ted Talk from Albert-László Barabási on how to increase your chances of success in any field, writing included.