So, one week later. Copies of SHIVERING SANDS are now starting to arrive with people — I found this on Kat Foisy’s blog this morning:


(If you want to send me a photo of you posing with SHIVERING SANDS? Email it to my dump address at warrenellis [at] gmail dot com, along with your website address or twitter ID or whatever, and I’ll run it and your link here)

A week since launch of the book. We’ve sold, I believe, a little over four hundred copies. Given that the production of the book involved 1) me culling from seven years of jabbering and sticking it all into a couple of RTF files 2) Ariana flowing all that into a single file and spending a couple months’ worth of spare moments fiddling with it 3) Ariana uploading the thing, ordering a proof and spending an hour checking it over… we were well into any definition of profit by the end of day one.

It is, of course, the long game that pays off. It’s interesting to look at the first week, but it’s not defining.

A persistent criticism of my interest in POD has been that only writers at my level of cultural awareness can make any kind of success out of it. And some of them will now be saying, well, even Warren Ellis can only move 400 copies in the first week of a POD project. But, for one thing, it is about the long game. For everybody. The book doesn’t go away. And, for another, if I’m not aware enough of you to order that POD project — whose fault is that, really? Because, I’ve got to tell you, I wasn’t born with a book deal in one hand and an exclusive comics contract wrapped around my other flipper. Hell, when I was starting out, there wasn’t even an internet.

SHIVERING SANDS is published through Lulu.

28 thoughts on “SHIVERING SANDS: One Week On”

  1. Verging into ‘when I were a lad’ territory towards the end there…be careful, someone might mistake you for being Northern!

    My copy arrived yesterday along with Wil Wheaton’s Memories of the Future which lulu lovingly shipped as a pair, arriving as they did entwined together in the same package.

  2. I’m sure most of us realize you weren’t “born with a book deal in one hand and an exclusive comics contract wrapped around [your] other flipper.” We all understand that you achieve all those things with a winning combination of hard work, luck, and determination — oh, yes, and talent. Never forget talent.

    The barrier that kept every other kid who thought he was a comics author from achieving exactly the same thing you did was the difficulty of achieving — and maintaining — that winning balance as one ages and and the winds shift.

    Now we have the Internet and… and the balance barrier is all the more difficult for them. Now, instead of needing to reach the right editor and publisher to get your shot, the new writer needs to directly reach each and every individual reader they wish to sell… while every other kid who thinks she’s an author uses the same tools to make the same attempt.

  3. >>>We’ve sold, I believe, a little over four hundred copies

    Keep that number in perspective too. If you were doing a signing, say, at a store and that number went, they’d be all, “Holy shit! We sold 400+ of that!!”

    Nothing to sneeze at. And there’s still the Xmas season too.

  4. Fantastic news, sir. POD is an interesting beast to tackle, having just started it my own self. Distribution and advertising become factors, for someone lesser known like myself, and those can get expensive.

    However, you’re absolutely right that it’s the long haul that counts for a POD run. I’m happy for your success thus far, and look forward to more progress updates down the road.


  5. My copy is on the way, and you’re absolutely right that the book doesn’t go away. While I was on Lulu I also ordered a second copy of a friend’s book that I first bought on Lulu almost 4 years ago. (“Iconfidential!” by Brendan Jones, the guy who writes and draws “Breakfast of the Gods!”) Who knows how many copies he’s actually sold, but as a consumer, that doesn’t matter to me… I could still get another copy to give as a gift when I wanted it.

  6. Have you ever heard of Masnick’s Law?

    “The idea that, in an argument about musical business models, it only worked for Band XYZ “because they were famous/unknown / big/small” such as Radiohead or Nine Inch Nails,” regardless of the amount of data which supports conclusions to the contrary.
    That band could never make any money off of giving their music away for free – it only worked for Radiohead because they’re famous!”

  7. I understand your points, and the overall experiment of the project.

    All the same I (hoping to not offend) dare you to do a book under pseudonym, and without this site (or any of the sort) as a launching point for sales pitches. Then you might see things through our eyes a bit better, how unconcrete POD actually is for us common folk.

  8. There’s a mighty fine line between savvy self promotion and spam. I don’t want to email every person with a blog or website I like and beg them to review/mention my book (which you can do by clicking my name). Finding the right side of that line gets a little easier when you already have an established presence, to be sure. finding that little niche of my own is where I’m at now, even if sometime sit feels like I’m digging it with a very dainty tea spoon.

  9. This is a great project and well worth doing (and monitoring)…am totally fascinated by the whole thing and am looking at doing it myself.

    The potential for ‘any’ writer is huge, for example…an unsigned writer can produce a manuscript via POD, generate sales/interest themselves (social/viral marketing – Twitter & facebook, etc).

    Once you’ve achieved a target sales/interest level you then have something to go to a publishers with in terms of viable sales figures… that your book is worth signing for…the same can be said for established writers like what Mr Eliis is…

    Am so excited about this it borders on the geeky/sad-where’s-the-kleenex-level!

    Going to have to go and have a cold shower!

  10. You fucking DARE me? After I’ve spent nearly two decades working my guts out, doing the work that’s apparently too hard for you, to get to this stage in my career? Because I need to remember what it’s like to start out? I need to be reminded of having no food? Yeah, no. Not so much.

    If you don’t want it enough, then that’s on you. That’s really all it comes down to. Someone said that to me, when I was starting out, and I do think it still holds true. Old Man Hat on: when I were a lad living by side o t’road, there were no internet and we had to get up ten minutes before we went to bed. And we had to build networks by hand and by postal service, through magazines that served as forums. And, you know, south east Essex? Not exactly around the corner from publishing houses, and not a DIY hotbed.

    Christ, just the idea of having a book that DID NOT GO AWAY, COULD ALWAYS BE ORDERED and WHICH COST ME NOTHING would have been like alien treasure dropping into my hands.

    A million fucking message boards, email, Twitter, any number of free tools, being limited only by time and your imagination? If I’d had the internet in 1988 I WOULD OWN AN ENTIRE COUNTRY BY NOW AND WOULD PUT HUNDREDS OF YOU TO DEATH EACH DAY JUST FOR FUN AND IT WOULD BE THE LAW

  11. Of course you have built and earned your castle. But you have to admit that does make some things easier by comparison. You and Gaiman are probably the only twitterers who can repeatedly cause a webfail and break the intrawebz in half. Blue collar scrubs such as me and my circle work from very different blueprints. Your cult of followers is undeniable. Nothing wrong with that.
    And even with the ready tools abounding everywhere, very few creative-types really understand just how to self-market. Not everyone can wear the hat of the time-honored salesman.
    I am betting on POD myself. I know I am not alone in seeing tons of room for self-improvement along the way of the process. But I do think ingenuity is the only way to undig graves. From the perspective of someone like me, there is much more of an uphill fight involved in that.

    (and please don’t kill me, Warren)

  12. Hi.
    I’d just like to emphasize one crucial factor about Warren and his POD book: constant, elbow-deep interaction with the internet and fans. For him it’s been hard work, and I was an early appreciator of said work. I still talk to people and name-drop Warren only to have it ‘THUNK’ on the ground.

    The internet is big; the real world, even bigger.

    But let me tell you: Wil Wheaton, Cory Doctorow, John Scalzi, Charles Stross, Neil Gaiman (and many others) ALL actively deal with the internet– somebody in an earlier post said advertising costs money–community is free, dialogue costs you as much as you are willing to think about it, linking to your favorite blogs/websites takes mere moments; all these things don’t take much and can pay you back in spades.

    POD has been an obsession of mine since I worked at a dinky .com back in 2001; now my worlds of book selling, design and POD have come together: my bookstore has an Espresso Book Machine, and I’m running it. I haven’t told my bosses yet,but I plan to rule the world with it.

    Warren has always publicly pushed the envelope in thinking about how to deliver creative media (didn’t want to call it ‘content’): web comics, web zines, POD, etc.

    I like his thinking, and agree that if POD had been around in the 80s, he would’ve owned a country by now; I would’ve been constantly skirmishing at his borders with my own morass of luckless fools conscripted in my own nation.

    The game’s about to change; my mission is prove that, aside from LULU, your nearest POD option could be as near as your local Indie bookstore. Imagine: walk into a bookstore, view samples, change your mind, discuss with your ‘designer’ all the options, physically print there, digitally distribute through the regular book distributors, actually shake somebody’s hand as you leave.

  13. POD is cute, but how about e-books for those of us who would like to bestow some of our hard-earned cash on you, but can’t be arsed to fiddle about with the obscurities of shipping bits of dead trees to obscure little elbonioid countries in the butt-end of Europe?

  14. In my previous comment I didn’t mean to imply Warren hasn’t worked for his visibility, and in fact he’s more web-aware that others like say, Scott McCloud who give advice on web stuff without necessarily having to have done the legwork, which is something you can’t say of Warren “Present on every damn internet community” Ellis.

    Still, people need to actually do the work if they want the results, there’s really no way to estimate how well you’ll do by looking over Warren’s shoulder. And the work is “getting followed by >10000 people on your website of choice” not uploading some files to a POD service

  15. I may get some crap for saying this, but it’s amazing to me how many people will complain about an avenue of publishing that they had completely locked off to them before. If you don’t think POD is good, fine. I suggest you take that three book deal you were just offered.

  16. “The barrier that kept every other kid who thought he was a comics author from achieving exactly the same thing you did was the difficulty of achieving — and maintaining — that winning balance as one ages and and the winds shift. Now we have the Internet and… and the balance barrier is all the more difficult for them. Now, instead of needing to reach the right editor and publisher to get your shot, the new writer needs to directly reach each and every individual reader they wish to sell… while every other kid who thinks she’s an author uses the same tools to make the same attempt.”

    What a whine. Yea, the new writer has to reach each and every reader, but he has as long as he’s alive to do it (and even after). Decades. And he only has to produce one thing. Or he can produce more and more and have that many more chances of hitting it big. And he has a new chance every day. Where before, he had a limited number of editors or publishers. Once he’s rejected by them enough times, they would not look at his new stuff cause they already know what he puts out.

    The difficulty was different but it used to be a lot more final a lot quicker. And you have both options now. That makes the barrier lower, not higher.

  17. as far as i recall, and i am old and my memory is going- you have always been interested in how people communicate, how new tech can be used to communicate, and you have done so. you have worked hard to stay in touch with us, your degenerate followers.
    so, aside from the piffling matter of your insane fucking talent, the reason you are successful as you are is because we know who you are, what you are doing, and we feel that we know you and want you to do as well as you deserve.

    that’s just my opinion, i could be wrong.

  18. If you want to create something, today’s marketing channels like Cafe Press, POD, and the iTunes App Store give you a lot. As Warren says, it’s easy, it’s there forever, and it doesn’t cost you anything.

    Having been a comics self-publisher, and now an iPhone developer, the trick is that you have to always be selling and marketing your work. Just being on these marketplaces isn’t sufficient. Nobody really knows about my iPhone app, iBuddha, so sales are fairly slow. Just like having a listing in Diamond’s Previews catalog isn’t sufficient for getting lots of buyers for our comics, you have to reach the shop owners and readers. In any of these fields, you gotta figure out how to reach your audience, and do it a lot.

    The machinery for production and distribution is easier than ever in just about every creative field, but the bottom line is that you have to craft your reputation and fan base just as carefully as anything else you create.

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