Okay so arriving at my Publishers Weekly desk today, I found the following:

And what do you think was in these two boxes?

Several other people we know were shipped copies from Amazon as well.

So…in the end, this was just a writer promoting a book via sending out copies. Nothing sinister. We’re guessing that jumping up the Amazon chart was a byproduct, not a goal. The real, bigger story is just how many copies does it take to shoot up the Amazon chart, anyway? It probably isn’t 1000.

UPDATE AND FINALE: aaaaaaaand we just got this email from Ivory Madison herself:

Hi Heidi, I would never have known it hit #10 or had proof if you hadn’t noticed and taken a screenshot, so I am really grateful. I wasn’t even sure you knew who I was last week. By the time I heard about your blog post the next day from Ed Catto (who, by the way, is reviving the Captain Action franchise at http://www.captainactionnow.com/about.html), I rushed to pull it up and it had fallen to #23, but was still #1 in “Comics & Graphic Novels,” as well as #1 on subcategories “Superheroes” and “DC Comics,” so I got screenshots of those, too. You broke the news, even to me.

The real end result of all this, is that the picture that’s going over my desk is of Chavez giving Obama my book. That will be the enduring change to my life. That really made my week, more than the Amazon thing. Thanks to you for that and to Christian Dumais for noticing this important piece of international diplomatic news. I also enjoyed reading the comments, from savvy marketing plans to the guy who had people passionately claiming that Huntress: Year One is better than Watchman. I disagree, but if any of those people are in San Francisco or New York (I’m bicoastal…although my Amazon ranking issue was not related to any bicoastal content in Huntress), send them to me and I will take them to lunch.

Okay, so as you know, I founded Red Room (http://www.redroom.com), a community of authors, and I do know something about book marketing. The problem is that even when you know what to do, having the time or money or organizational skill to do it is another thing.

Many successful authors send out coordinated email blasts to friends linking to Amazon in the hopes that a high response rate will not only help sales and create buzz, but can also give a book a temporary spike in ranking, which can create even more buzz. Around the time of an email blast like that is a good time to also send out review copies and gift copies to loyal fans, industry types, opinion leader friends, whomever you think will like it and talk about it.

So I sent out emails encouraging friends to buy the book, and I have bought a lot of copies from random comic book shops and bookstores I’ve walked into, and from Amazon, over the past two months, which I’ve paid for out of my pocket. I finally got it together in these past two weeks, kind of late considering the book was released two months ago, to send copies to a list of friends and colleagues I thought might review it or talk it up. I’m glad this had the added effect of giving me rankings screenshots that no one takes seriously, but are fun. Amazon says they hope we find their rankings “interesting!” which indicates it’s more like gossip than statistics.

I haven’t checked yet with DC Comics to see what my overall sales are, which is much more important than a momentary Amazon sales ranking, and I’m kind of afraid to ask because I don’t think they’re very high. I’ve been really lucky having so many people get passionate about this book, and lucky I found the time to do a little promotion, although I did screw up many of the emails I sent out. I even got on Twitter. If anyone does know how to get Ashton Kutcher’s attention to promote my book, please do.

Also, I saw the piece today on Anne Cleveland and loved it. I promise to read you every day now. Thanks again.


  1. Why use Amazon for promo copies? We ship promotional copies for authors all the time at the publisher I work for. An author can set up an account and get a special discount. And that’s only if the marketing people turn down the request to give them away gratis. Using Amazon would cost thousands more for a mass promo like this. Does DC really have a worse discount for their creators than Amazon?

  2. OK, an author had Amazon send a copy of a book direct to your office.

    Out of curiousity, was there also a press release included? A cover letter? Any sort of documentation as to what you were receiving, and why? A “Here’s my book, please review it!” note as a gift message?

  3. Even if it is possible to get copies directly from DC, I’m guessing DC would not send them to a whole bunch of separate people you want them sent to. They’d send them to you and you’d have to address them, send them out, etc. Amazon might well be the easiest and most convenient way to do something like this.



  4. Good point Christos. The money saved getting them direct might not be worth the expense of having to route the orders yourself.

  5. I suppose you could send an email as introduction before the book arrives, but that could be dicy unless your recipients are on the ball and not totally frazzled.

    Curious to see how this turns out, actually.

  6. If you do a cover for DC, you get like 5 copies of the book mailed from their offices. If you do interiors, I normally get like 10 to 12 copies from Quebecor after they are printed. Marvel as far as I know doesn’t give you shit. I remember Mike Wieringo saying he had to go buy his own copy of a Spider-man comic he was doing when he was alive, but things may have changed at Marvel. I doubt it.

    There is no professional discount for copies from DC. That made me laugh out loud. Normally real book publishers all have an outlet that you can contact and you can order quantities of your book direct from them for like 35 to 45% off the cover. Some offer 50% but it depends on the publisher.

  7. Sorry about the triple post — I had to remove two of them and the attached comments. Charles Knight (I think) had brought up the Redroom/PW partnership…I know PW wrote a story about Redroom a while ago, so I’m pretty sure it predates this matter.

  8. “but things may have changed at Marvel. I doubt it.”

    they haven’t. we have one of the marvel-colorists over here. she buys the marvel-books, she has worked on, in one of our local comic shops.

  9. Just to defend both companies a bit: Marvel does send comps to writers and artists, though not very many, and generally a few months after the book appears. Whenever I’ve done work for DC, I’ve gotten a full box (25 copies, I think), usually very quickly. The quantity sometimes gets prorated if a lot of creators are involved.

    If you’re a creator and you want to buy a large quantity of your own books, your best bet is to partner with a comic shop and have them order the books for you from Diamond. The discount they get is going to be at least comparable to a traditional author’s discount — probably better.

  10. >> Marvel does send comps to writers and artists, though not very many, and generally a few months after the book appears. Whenever I’ve done work for DC, I’ve gotten a full box (25 copies, I think), usually very quickly. The quantity sometimes gets prorated if a lot of creators are involved.>>

    I’ll second this, noting that I get a box of TRINITY a few days before the book hits the stands, and I haven’t seen any MARVELS: EYE OF THE CAMERA yet, but I expect I will in time.


  11. amazon stats are weird. when my band uploaded our record onto amazon, for a day we were in like the top 100 downloads — above the national, even! that situation, however, quickly corrected itself.

  12. hmmm… at BN.com, we offer the option of including a message. (Free, but gift wrapping costs extra. Myself, I’d gift wrap it, to add to the mystique/experience of getting the book.) Since these orders were done individually, it wouldn’t be too difficult to type a quick note (or cut-and-paste) for inclusion (250 character limit).

    For those reading, you can send copies to my cubicle at the B&N home office on Fifth Avenue. (Thanks, Sue! Thanks, Simon!)

  13. Several comic book publishers other than the big two do offer their creators the opportunity to purchase books (beyond comps) directly from the publisher at a wholesale rate. Often that’s how small press creators get copies to sell at conventions and on websites. I can see how that system works for small publishers and creator but not so much for the big two.

  14. I just went to Amazon to see what kind of discount they were offering on the book, and they only had it available through third-party vendors. Did Ivory Madison buy out Amazon’s supply?

  15. I just went to Amazon to see what kind of discount they were offering on the book, and they only had it available through third-party vendors.

    Here’s Amazon.com’s display for the book from earlier today. Note the in stock date of 4/26/09.


  16. woo hoo. I got two copies in the mail and all I did was post that I liked the series on 4thletter! (and couldn’t find issue 6).

    Very cool thing to do. Very cool.