My Fifteen Minutes of Fame: Sales, Bestseller Charts & Mistakes

Yesterday I officially launched my first e-book: If You Go Into The Woods. If you haven’t heard already, you can read more about that here.


First off, I want to thank everyone that bought a copy. Sales were brisk throughout the day (and I even sold a few while I was asleep – can’t do that in a bookstore!). I have access to hourly updates on sales, and it was very exciting to watch my little book struggle out of the self-publishing soup and race up the charts.

I’ll reveal exact figures at the end of the month, but I’m not bathing in champagne just yet. If I have eight days like yesterday, I will cover my costs, then everything after that is profit. However, I think it will take a lot longer than eight more days.

There are nearly a million items for sale in the Kindle Store, and at my highest point, for a few hours I was just outside the 5,000 top selling items in all categories. Even more thrilling was cracking the Top 40 Kindle Short Stories, however briefly.

It was fun taking screenshots as I leapfrogged writers like Kafka, Jack London, Virginia Woolf, and some guy called William Shakespeare. Eventually my way was blocked by Edgar Allen Poe – he refused to budge – and my sales tailed off. I’m still in the Top 100, but sliding back now.

Goodbye fame, I never really knew you.

I got two reviews, both honest, fair, and positive, their only gripe being that there wasn’t more. If that’s the only complaint, I’ll take that, because I will be able to sort that out in a couple of weeks with my next story. You can read the reviews here.

One eagle-eyed reader went over the whole text and pronounced almost 100% error free (one minor a typo, a repeated period that crept in while I was formatting). That was gratifying too, and a testament to the work of my editor, Karin Cox. The typo is corrected now, and the version will update tonight.

If you have purchased If You Go Into The Woods, and enjoyed it, I would ask that you consider leaving a review, as long as you keep it honest! False reviews are easily spotted, leaving red faces all round.

If you haven’t purchased it – and are interested – you can get it at Amazon, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, and Smashwords. Soon it will be up on Google, Sony, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple iBookstore, and – amazingly – as an app. More news to follow.


One of the most exciting things about self-publishing is that everything hangs on you. If you are published by a trade house and they screw up your marketing, editing, formatting, or cover, you have a bogeyman to blame when sales are disappointing.

But when you self-publish, it’s all on you. You hire the cover designer, editor, and take care of the formatting. You promote your stuff, no-one else.

When things go well, this is great, you can feel responsible for a large part of your success (although in my case I’m pretty sure that amazing cover my sister did was responsible for most of my sales).

But when you mess up, you can only blame yourself.

I made two mistakes (aside from that typo that crept in during formatting – not my editor’s fault). Neither were biggies, but I was glad I made them on a short story rather than a novel.

First off, I didn’t realise that Amazon’s product description didn’t allow special characters (like the ones in Jiři Beranek’s name or his home town of Časlav). I got them right in the e-book – it takes a little extra coding – but after my product description went live, all the special characters had changed to question marks. It looked terrible.

Personally, I would think twice about buying a book from an unknown writer who had typos in the blurb, and mine was full of them. That meant that I had to hold back on announcing the book was on sale until it was fixed.

One frustrating part of Amazon’s system is that if you make any changes to something as small as the product description, you have to re-publish the book. This takes over 24 hours, and you can’t edit the description again while it is republishing. This, I didn’t know.

I made the changes as soon as I could, but soon realised they wouldn’t appear until the next day. This meant holding back the release of my book for one day, which was very frustrating.

But what was amazing to me was that I sold two copies of the book while it no cover uploaded, and a blurb full of typos. One of those purchasers even left a nice review.

The second mistake I made was 100% my fault. I had 24 hours to get that description right, and I wrote it and rewrote it and checked it again. I had two ‘final’ versions coming up to the time I would be able to edit it again, and couldn’t decide between them.

At the last minute, I combined the two, taking the best points from each. Even though I checked it several times, I didn’t realise there was another mistake until after I had alerted the world my book was there. It wasn’t the most obvious mistake, but a keen eye would have spotted it, and it probably cost me some sales.

The Next Push

A large part of my success on the first day was down to contacting family, friends, old acquaintances, and former colleagues, and them spreading the word even further – so I would like to thank everyone who helped spread the word by email, Twitter, and Facebook. You did a great job – I think we boxed off our own little part of the internet at one point.

The next step is all on me. I have to get the book out to reviewers, as they can really drive sales. I just have to wait until the typo is updated, and then I can begin submitting to them. Most self-published books they see are full of formatting errors and poor editing.

I figure if I can show them something with a great cover, formatting, and editing, I will already be ahead of the game, and they will approach my stories with a positive mindset – which is more crucial than you realise.

I have lots of other marketing planned, but the number one thing a writer can do promote his books is to write more. I have one release ready to go – just waiting on the cover – and I will probably put that out in a couple of weeks. Here’s a quick taste:

TRANSFECTION is a 6,000 word technothriller, starring molecular biologist Dr. Carl Peters who makes a discovery that shocks the world, only to find his life under threat. His story takes in militant vegetarians, university politics, the media, genetically-modified food, radiation, a shadowy conspiracy, and homelessness.

It’s a departure in style and content for me, and was a hell of a lot of fun to write. I think it might be my best story so far. Watch this space.

As for what comes next after that, you will have to wait and see. I’m working on a few different stories at the moment, and one that could be a killer if I can just figure out the ending. And I’m going to try and do that right now.

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

0 Replies to “My Fifteen Minutes of Fame: Sales, Bestseller Charts & Mistakes”

  1. Maybe I spoke too soon.

    I have had another surge today, and I have cracked the Top 100 Short Stories in the UK (just ahead of the complete works of Mary Shelley & Turgenev). In the US, it’s even better and I’m hovering just outside the Top 50.

    It can’t last. Could it? Surely not.

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