Self-Publishing Confession: I have no idea why this book is selling.

My book Unseen World has had a wild ride since it first became available to purchase back in 2009. Lyrical Press, then a startup ebook publisher and now an imprint of Kensington Books was its first home with this cover art:


Anyway, the darned book didn’t sell. You couldn’t give it away, which is weird, because it’s really a pretty fun read – but then I’m biased. Anyway, Lyrical Press gave me my rights back – more publishers should give the rights back to books if, for example, that publisher closes their doors less than two years after opening to great fanfare. That was a pretty classy move on Lyrical’s part.

Unseen World came back two years later – this time in print with Snowbooks in the UK. It had this cool cover:


Guess what … it didn’t sell. I think it actually sold worse than it did when it was published by Lyrical Press. But … to Snowbooks credit, they too gave me back the rights to all three of my books published by them. The Snowbooks titles are still out there for sale if anyone wants them.

Flash forward another three years. I’ve just learned that Strange Chemistry Books is closing its doors. I’ve had two books published by them and I’ve got three books with the rights back. So I said to hell with it … I’m going to self publish Unseen World with a different title via Kindle Direct Publishing and with this cool new cover art that I whipped together.


And the strangest thing is happening … the frigging book is selling. For the life of me, I have no idea – maybe it’s that I’m selling it for 99¢ that people are deciding to take a chance on it. There haven’t been many reviews either on Amazon or on Goodreads, but there are a few more five star ratings so that’s nice. As of this morning, here is where it’s sitting:



Like … wow. I really don’t know why it’s selling, but Marshall Conrad has been in the top 50 for Superhero books for nearly two months now and in the top 100 Dark Fantasy for nearly thirty days. It’s up there alongside big name authors like Stephen Blackmoore or Charlaine Harris. It has to be the price, right? Maybe? Okay, I’ve experimented over the last month and raised it to as high as $3.99 and it still held its own, remaining in the top 100 for Superhero fiction. I keep raising and lowering the price but it still seems to sell.

What kind of voodoo science is this? I just have no idea why it’s selling. I’m grateful though, you have no idea. Because after Strange Chemistry closing and my sales for Poltergeeks and Student Bodies being fairly abysmal, I was wondering if I should just walk away from all this. Very simply, the strong sales for Marshall Conrad have  been a ray of sunshine in an altogether crummy year for me professionally.

Nevertheless, I’m pressing on. I’m self publishing a new work THE NORTH and it will become available on October 6th. This time I am going to publish via Kindle Direct Publishing and a print version will be available via Create Space. And maybe it will sell. It’s got zombies, action, gun play, armoured vehicles and for the first time … no teen angst in a YA book. None. My characters are too busy trying to stay alive. You can preorder it right now, if you like … just click on the cool cover art. In the mean time and in between time, I’ll post updates on my self-publishing adventures. To everyone who has been buying Marshall Conrad … thanks so much. To everyone who might consider reading something new, THE NORTH won’t disappoint. Have a great Friday, all. 🙂



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Posted August 22, 2014 by Sean Cummings in category "Blog


  1. Pingback: Self-Publishing Confession: I have no idea why this book is selling. | The Passive Voice | A Lawyer's Thoughts on Authors, Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing

  2. By TheSFReader on

    Hi Sean, I don’t remember how I came to this blog post, and I think your “Marshall Conrad” is too Horror for me.

    However, Poltergeeks and Student Bodies seem right my alley. Will you get the rights back for them too ? Do you plan to re-publish them ?


    1. By Sean Cummings (Post author) on

      Hi … Marshall Conrad is straight-up urban fantasy, just not YA. Think Harry Dresden but who can fly. As for Poltergeeks and Student Bodies, the minute I get my rights back I will begin the process of self-publishing them as well. There’s also plans for the third and final book in the works.

      1. By Mirtika on

        OH, you said the magic words: “think Harry Dresden.” I’m off to read the sample. The covers of the last two are quite nice.

  3. By Leslie Smith on

    The subtitle is why it is selling, the word “Superhero” is a high value relevant search term. A genre book that can be found easily through search will get more eyeballs regardless of cover image. If I search by relevance (the default setting) for the generic term superhero in your book is currently 41st which is pretty damn high.

      1. By Leslie Smith on

        You are appearing on the 4th page of general book relevance search for “Superhero” but more interesting if you limit the search to kindle edition you are on the top of the second page. This would have a great influence on perceived importance of your book, the weight is most definitely because your have Superhero in the title as well as being in the superhero genre. Your are 15 of 7915 in the relevance rank, way above Marvel, DC, etc. To show the difference this makes, change the search sort to “New and Popular” and you disappear down the rabbit hole, far past where any normal human would browse.

        If I were you I would tweak the book description copy to try and push your book a bit higher. Change the last line “All in a day’s work when you’re trying to save your city from a simmering evil that’s about to be unleashed.” to “All in a day’s work when you are a superhero trying to save your city from a simmering evil that’s about to be unleashed.”

        This tweak could bump you onto this first page of the relevance search algorithm.

          1. By Leslie Smith on

            Ha! Thanks for the job offer, but already in publishing, currently trying to finish off our spring 2015 list of covers.

            Keep in mind that findability (in the Amazon/Web world) and good word of mouth are the two most important factors in the success of a book, and this is coming from a cover designer. Tweak your copy (include suitable subtitles if possible), have a good book, and you will be successful.

            Best regards
            Leslie Smith

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  5. By Lorraine Reguly on

    I know you didn’t ask for my opinion, but since you have no idea WHY your book is selling, I’ll let you in on a secret. By looking at the person on your cover, I know.
    Here’s why it’s selling: The picture is something each and every person can relate to. That’s it.
    Everyone gets depressed at some point in their lives (some on a daily basis) and this is an emotion that EVERYONE can identify with.
    If it’s one thing I’ve learned from blogging, it’s that people like to help others, hear success stories, and know that the people experiencing success are humans with real problems, too. Openness and honesty are what have me “successful” during the past 1.7 years.

    So there you have it, sir. Pretty simple, huh?

    1. By Sean Cummings (Post author) on

      Heh .. you might be right. I wanted a picture of a hooded guy with a raging headache and I found it on Pond 5 🙂

  6. By Wolf Pascoe on

    Marshall Conrad has an awesome cover. Can you say more about your method (software/web resources, etc.) when you “whipped” it together? (Do you have a design background?)

  7. By Sean Cummings (Post author) on

    I’m probably a terrible designer but I do know Adobe Illustrator fairly well. I bought the background image on Pond 5 and then imported it into Adobe Illustrator. Then it was a matter of finding a font that seemed to work and I think I liked the airy, cloudy font that was all caps. So there you have it. It took maybe an hour to do. 🙂

  8. By Kathy on

    Your cover for the book is SO MUCH BETTER than the other two. That and your description are enough to make me want to buy/read it.
    (As to how I found this. Via Zite and a post from someone on discovering books on Amazon. The post featured your book as an example.)

  9. By Carolyn on

    Your self-made cover is far superior to the ones designed by Kensington and Lyrical.
    Well done, for your work and for your perseverance.

  10. Pingback: Sell More Ebooks: Discoverability Counts |

  11. Pingback: Adventures in Self-Publishing: There’s Gonna Be A New Marshall Conrad Novel | Sean Cummings

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