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Charles Stross, Kingmaker

In the comments to the post where Charlie introduced me, I asked if anyone had a topic they wanted me to blog about. Andrew Suffield said he would be interested in hearing how the guest-blogging gig affects sales of my books. I confessed to being somewhat interested myself and I thought I'd look at the numbers. shares Bookscan numbers with authors, so I can compare sales for the week ending 2/13 (the day Charlie wrote the introductory blog post) and the week ending 2/20, which is the last one they have data for. I can also tell you that the numbers for that last week show a jump of...

::cue dramatic music::

Forty books even--22 for Child of Fire, 18 for Game of Cages.

Not that Bookscan covers every sale. Venues it doesn't report: ebook sales, sales outside the U.S.A., stores that refuse to share numbers with Bookscan, and probably a bunch of others I don't know about. Estimates are that Bookscan reports anywhere from 50%-80% of actual sales and it's impossible to judge where my books fall in that range.

To muddy things further, some other things have popped up that would have driven sales, so it's possible that not all those forty sales might have come from here.

Anyway, the point I'm making is: that's the best number I have, but it's not that accurate and it's not terribly important to me. What is important is that I've enjoyed guest-blogging here. Thanks for having me.



I account for one each of those - got them off Amamzon UK after reading an excerpt, prompted by your appearance here. Looking forward to reading them soon. Good luck Harry.


I too account for two.

And having just finished Child of Fire I can add that you are now on my "buy when next book comes out" list.


Look on the bright side, the number could have gone down after your sojourn....

Mind, a good way to promote your wares, not dependent on bookstore or publishers, is likely to be high on authors' attention level in future years.


Bought them after Mr Stross said we might like 'em if we like the Laundry books.

And you know what?

I do.


So, what's that as a percentage? What's the comparison number?


Bookscan doesn't report sales outside the U.S.A

Rightly or wrongly (Perhaps Charlie or Feorag would comment on which?) I'd perceive the readership of this blog as having a European bias, for values of bias that reflect percentages of Euro and US readers as percentages of relevant populations. If I'm right, I'd suggest that Bookscan will be under-estimating additional sales.

Anyway, it probably doesn't show up because it's a Uk sale, but I bought Child of Fire. I've only just started it because the delivery delay meant I'd just started something else when it arrived, but my impression so far is favourable for your wallet and not for mine Harry.


Charlie's praise is definitely a very good indicator for things I will enjoy, but I only bought your books after reading your post on the two modes of thrillers. "Yes," I thought to myself, "he gets it."

Half-way through Child of Fire now (busy time at work or else I would have devoured both books already), you really do. This is really good yarn that respects both the world and the characters but knows to put plot front and centre. I'm not even through the first book yet, but I can't wait for the third.


Actually, based on our existing web stats package (memo to self: hook up Google Analytics) about 70% of the blog's visitors are American. But that's at best a murky approximation based on domains from which visitors were referred, rather than geographical dereferencing of client IP addresses (see Google Analytics above).


You will be pleased to know that Amazon's bookscan figures do not include sales yet -- Harry is only seeing US bookscan figures.

Doing the math, an extra 80-100 sales/month per title is better than a kick in the teeth, and can be doubled for a realistic picture (i.e. for those shops that don't feed the Nielsen beast). It's beer money, in other words, but there's no such thing as unwelcome beer money!


ref both 8 and 9 - Thanks Charlie. That's more Americans than I thought (I'd guessed more like 50/50), but still sort of in line with my notion that a higher percentage of Europeans than Americans do visit here.


Well I bought your first book on the Kindle app on the iPad and I liked it and will read the 2nd book in the series as well. I hope you sell well enough so that you can keep writing!


Of course, there may be a skew between visitors and commenters, and you're seeing only commenters.

(Something else which Charlie's stats could tell better.)


As someone who black-holes Google Analytics traffic to the best of my ability, can I point out the existence of Piwik? I don't begrudge you the data; I just don't want to give it to Google as well.


1 bought a game of cages, its in the pile of books 'that your not allowed to read, they are for holiday'

also got a book by ben aaronovitch 'rivers of london' liking it so far


It appears to require PHP, which rules it out.


I'm a brit, but I usually get here through Google Reader, which I guess makes me look like an American. Just to muddy the waters a bit more.

I've got Child of Fire on my wishlist, awaiting funds to cover an amazon splurge...


I may have missed it, but to me a crucial aspect of this question is the proportions. If Bookscan said your sales per week were 500 books before and 544 after, that's not a terribly big change. OTOH if they said they were 50 and then went to 94, that's a HELL of a jump. And if they were 10 one week and 54 the next week, that's not just a jump, that's leaping tall buildings.


Checked Amazon UK - Child of Fire is out of stock there.

Interstingly top of the list of authors "Customers Also Bought Items By" for Game of Cages is some guy called Stross :)

still sort of in line with my notion that a higher percentage of Europeans than Americans do visit here.

I'm a bit curious as to what you count as Europeans, because that doesn't seem to add up for me.

(Only English-speaking Europeans? I suppose you could consider that the natural comparison, but...)


You can count me for one UK purchase of Child of Fire as well. I have a bad habit of putting things in my Amazon cart and coming back to it at a random later time. But today, when they offered my my third Amazon Prime trial, I took it, and the book should be with me tomorrow. I'm sure it will be done by Monday!



I had never heard of HC before, but I bought both books from Amazon UK on the strength of Charlie's recommendation. I enjoyed both, so much so that I read them in a single sitting.

I've previously enjoyed books recommended by Charlie.

So occasional blog recommendations from a trusted source do work, on me at least. I'd loose interest if the recommendations were too frequent.


I heard of your books via this blog, too, decided to check them out and was totally blown away by their sheer awesomeness. But I guess that sales from have no chance to show up in the statistics. Worldwide exposure through a blog is a definite plus, though, I'd imagine.


Fair enough. Thanks for having a look, anyway.


Harry : bought both your books as Kindle ebooks based on CS' recommendation (prior to this blogging stint). Not the first books I've bought on the host's suggestions and I've seldom been unhappy with the results. Hoping to see many more from you -- greatly enjoyed the first two. Bookscan numbers not counting ebook and non-US sales are a ridiculous deficiency in today's market and obviously shouldn't count too heavily in the perception of your popularity (among this audience in particular).


Yep. Sorry, Harry, I hadn't come across your books before Charlie introduced you, but after that it took me maybe five minutes to order both from the Bookdepository. Got them awhile ago, and am almost through Child of Fire by now. Good stuff.


In the context of potentially skewed locale statistics, I should note that I have a script running fairly frequently to automatically pull the plaintext of all the websites linked to in my aggregated RSS (of which this is one). It's not enough to provide undue server load, but were you to compute based on the location of IP addresses in your httpd's logs it'd probably be enough to skew somewhat significantly over a long period of time (to the order of about seventy five hits a day from one or two IPs in the same general area). I don't think it affects google's statistics because I use lynx (so javascript doesn't get executed).

Moral of the story: statistics are even more skewed than you probably thought!


Two books purchased for our household. Connolly has been fun to read. As to origins - I am American. Hubby reads the site, too. He is more the boffin than I, as I have my first in English. (Trying for the idiom, there.) I keep up with science, though, having spent an equal amount of credit hours in computer labs and working on things like the Apollo project. Until a few days ago, I never knew how to fold a fitted sheet.


You've scored another one - my local bookshop (Big Green Books in Wood Green) are doing a "please buy an extra book from us to help us pay off our bank loan" campaign, so I stuck Child of Fire in.


and these sales do not include the ones that didn't use amazon ... as mine, bought in a small bookshop in France. Long live to you, and big sales too !


Put me down for 2 more of them from Amazon UK as another Brit. Did anyone out there buy them in the states based on our gracious hosts recommendation?


Tim and Ryk, I'm perfectly comfortable sharing the "Stross bump" in Bookscan terms, but less so with my other sales. I will say that the weeks previous to my guest blogging gig showed very steady sales with little variation (so steady, in fact, that I was a little suspicious of them) but the 40-book bump is well outside the typical range. Not that I'm a statistician.

And thank you to everyone who has bought and tried my books. I'm glad you enjoyed them. Please tell your friends! As an author just starting out, word of mouth is what determines success or failure.


I purchased an ebook copy of Child of Fire due to Charlie's recommendation, also I live in Washington state.

Just started it last night.


Count me as another one who heard of HC through "People who bought books by Charlie Stross also bought..."

Amazon's factor analysis is simple. But with a big enough statistical universe it is pwerful. And fuck oh goodness do they ever have a big enough statistical universe.


Hi Harry,

I bought your books based on Charlie's recommendation and enjoyed them both. I'll certainly buy your new ones.




I saw your Big Idea piece on John Scalzi's Whatever, and thought 'this looks good', but did nothing to get them. After you appeared as a guest blogger here, I read both books.

I enjoyed them both. Keep them coming!


I bought Child of Fire from the Google ebookstore and enjoyed it a lot. Strangely they aren't showing the second volume as being available, can you prod somebody to fix that?

The premise reminds me of the 3x3 Eyes manga (in a good way), both have the "low fantasy" feel and they could be set in the same universe with magic based on summoned beasts and paper charms. Of course the execution is very different, and the twenty palaces society wouldn't be happy about how things are being handled in Hong Kong.

BTW, I was intrigued to see some pictures from shooting the Child of Fire trailer online, that's the first time I've heard of such a thing. Times are changing :-)


I purchased both as Kindle ebooks. Might not have noticed you otherwise.


Klaus, I did prod someone about it a short while ago. Apparently, Google had a problem with the file Random House sent them for Game of Cages and it hasn't been sorted yet. I'll send another note to see if it can be fixed.

Thanks again, everyone.


Harry: Fair enough. I see no reason myself to care if anyone knows (I think NovelRank, for instance, allows anyone to track anything in terms of Amazon sales, anyway), so I'll say that a 44-book bump would, for me, represent roughly doubling my current per-week sales on Bookscan, for all titles. Unfortunately access to BookScan happened too long after the release of GCA and Threshold for me to have any feel for what their sales were like at their peak -- twice that, three times, five times? No clue.

I guess I can derive a peak after I get the hard sales numbers and make a few curve assumptions.


Klaus, check the Google bookstore in about two weeks. RH has a number of files they need to send and, you know, big companies and all.


Harry: By the way, in addition to the bit about my sales, you should know that the steadiness in sales should be expected. Once past the immediate release peak, a popular book should show a very long "tail", which means that you should only see a clear decrease over a pretty long period -- months, not weeks. And since sales are distributed across hundreds of bookstores in the nation (with a population in hundreds of millions), there's a LOT of damping on any "noise" effects. One person's sudden impulse to buy four copies (one for them and three for their friends) is cancelled out by three other people who decide NOT to buy this week but next week instead, for instance.


With my statistician hat on (another of many I need in this job) - I'd agree with you, which means that a spike matching "locum temens on $popular_author's blog" probably is significant, not just for your existing catalogue, but for sales of future works.


Well, I've been looking for a new book to read that is available from Amazon for the Kindle so I shall try Child of Fire and you can mark down another +1 for the Blog effort


I bought the ebook of Game of Cages on Kindle the day I read you mention it. NB I'm in Japan, not sure how that whole licensing thing works.


Quite a lot of the books I buy come from reading recommendations by authors whose work I already know I like. However, there's often a lag of a week or more between that recommendation being written and me reading it, and more weeks or even months between me reading the recommendation and me buying the book - for all of the time in between, it just languishes in my ever-growing Amazon wishlist.

Assuming that I'm not unusual in this, then any analysis of how many sales something like this drives is going to be even more vague.


Bought Child of Fire not because of the recommendation, or the guest blogger status, but because of the good sense and wit of the guest blog content.

Really glad I did buy the book. Very Dashiell Hammett, and it annoys me that more people ape the English Oilman. Looking forward to the rest.



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