Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I can't even give it away

In the other world I inhabit I'm regarded by certain ignorant people as a pretty astute businessman. The evidnce for their touching faith in me is that I've started a number of companies over the past twenty years and a few of them are quite successful in a modest sort of way.

Accepting that I must indeed know something about business I've decided that it is time to turn my financial brain to a forensic examination of the publishing revolution I started when I launched this blog.

As you know, back in October I invented the new Read On Demand publishing paradigm as a vehicle for promoting my novel A Half Life Of One. I figure now is the time to see if the metrics make sense from a financial perspective.

Let's look at the sales side of the equation first. Analysing my stats I figure that four people have actually read A Half Life in its entirety. Maybe another four have dipped in and might perhaps return to finish the book. Let's say that's five readers in total.

What has it cost me to capture that modest readership?

Well, the main marketing promotion I launched has been via the International Blookreader Award for which I've offered total prize money of £175 (307 dollars; 257 euros; 35,577 Japanese yen). What I hoped to do here was attract readers to this site and finesse them across to the Half Life blog. So far the competition has attracted two entries, which is somewhat less than I'd hoped for. On the other hand, if it stays this way I may not have to pay out all of my marketing budget.

However, let's assume the competition attracts another entry before the closing date of 31st march that it is sufficiently literate to deserve a prize. That means in hard cask I will have shelled out £175 to attract five readers. That's £35 a reader. See, I told you this was a whole new paradigm. Be honest, when have you ever been paid £35 to read a book?

It gets better.

The blog has been going for five months. Because I've striven to generate new, original and, occasionally, witty content I've had to spend a fair bit of time wracking my brains for something to say. Let's say about two hours a day (truth is, some days a lot longer - a whole lot longer). Add in another hour a day compulsively checking my stats. That's three hours a day for roughly 100 days.

Now, imagine I was a plumber. I think a fair price for my labour would be £35 and hour. That's 61 dollars or 51 euros or 7119 yen. An hour.

So my labour costs generated in attracting my 5 readers is £10,500. Which is a lot of dollars and euros and an incalculable amount of yen.

I'll ignore my other overheads such as heat, light, power etc since they might make the numbers look silly. Ditto the opportunity cost to my wife when I could have been spending my time adding value to my other businesses.

In short, I have spent £10,675 attracting five readers to a novel I was happy to give away for nothing. That's £2135 a reader.

Conclusions? Two main ones, I guess.

Firstly, A Half Life of One is the most expensive book ever written.

Secondly, I'm not sure I've got the economics of this right, but it seems to me if I attract any more readers I'll rapidly go bankrupt.


  1. Maybe we need pictures, or a soft pillow and reading lamp. There is something to be said for curling up in bed with a good book, and I haven't yet invested in a notebook, so...well you get the picture. Alas, don't give up. I'll wrestle the kids away from the computer one day and give it a go. Then you can say that your books readership is on the upswing.

  2. Hi Sue

    don't worry, as long as there are people like you around to encourage me I won't give up.

    Don't let the kids near my book though - it's a bit adult in parts I'm afraid.