Monday, January 13, 2014

Eighteen months post publication

There have been many things that I have been impressed about as a member of the indie publishing community, but there is one thing that really stands out, and that is the willingness that people have to share data, including personal stats and sales data in order to help another writer.

Last Friday I mentioned to a fellow author in a Facebook group that I had noticed a degree of consistency in recent months with regards to my sales.  This was in response to another author referring to his own sales, and commenting how they didn't really seem to be coming very quickly or with any regularity.  They asked if I had a blog post regarding my sales.  I didn't.  So I have done one.  Here it is.

The following data is the real data straight from my KDP account.  This post is all about my first book, The Loss of Deference.  I published this book at the end of May 2012, so I am now 18 months post first ever publication.  When I think of it like that, it doesn't seem possible that it is only 18 months ago, and so much seems to have happened since then.  Since publishing this book I have written and published two others, I have a manuscript close to publication in the second quarter of 2014, and another first draft that seems to lend itself to serial release sat in a drawer waiting for my attention.  Sometimes I beat myself up a bit when I see other self publishing authors who claim to go from blank page to a finished publication in two months straight, and that one or two releases a year isn't enough, and wonder how it takes me eight months from concept to publication.  But I guess when I put it like that, I haven't done too badly for 18 months.  Anyway, I digress.  Back to the point of this article.

Let's just cut straight to the chase.  I promised you figures, right?  Honest figures.  I am not sensitive or too proud to announce that my writing career has not yet made me a gazillionaire, so this is book one, year one, in bare, unadulterated, at times depressing figurative form.

The table above is everything that happened with The Loss of Deference in the first eighteen months.  What I sold, and what I gave away.  I have left out borrows, because whilst they happen and there are a few throughout the months, I didn't find that it particularly added anything to the overall picture.
So let's just leave that to sink in for a moment.  I feel a bit like I have just shown you my credit card statement with a few of the zero's wiped off the record!  But that is the nuts and bolts of what went down so far.  In total, during the first eighteen months I sold 540 copies of The Loss of Deference on the .com and Amazon sites combined, of which 80% of those sales were from the .com site.  I also gave away 8,094 copies, of which 90% were from the .com Amazon site.  There were sales on most of the other domains of Amazon too, but in terms of seeing the greater picture that information was also irrelevant. 
So what do I take from this?  This morning I heard about another indie author who chose to reveal her stats, and lets just say they didn't look anything like this.  She had sold 10,000 books in the first couple of months, and whilst I love a happy success story, there is something about her story that doesn't fit the typical indie blueprint.  I think what I have sold in the first year when The Loss of Deference was a debut title, and for the first six months a single title, is a bit closer to the norm.  When I think back to months four and five now, and when I remember the excitement of hitting double figures in December 2012, it has been a great journey so far.  And the first cheque for £258 will never be forgotten.  It didn't pay my aforementioned credit card bill, but it felt damn good.
You can see that I have used the Select promotion with Amazon a few times throughout the last 18 months.  During these promotions I tried different techniques.  For the promotions in the figure above I tried emailing every single site/person/sockpuppet twitter account I could find in order to advertise my free book.  It was early days and I was new, so you can forgive me a bit of spamming, right?  It took me hours during every one of those promo periods, each of which was either 2 or 3 days in length to keep up with the social media element of the promotion, and in the end it didn't really amount in any huge impact or great benefit to overall downloads.  Spamming doesn't work after all!

During the September 2013 promotion, the best to date in terms of number of downloads I decided to contact only Pixel of Ink and Ereader News Today to advertise my free book.  I was lucky that ENT picked it up and I saw at least 50% of the downloads occur after the advert went out in an email.  Oh, the excitement of seeing the numbers rocket up that time!  There is no doubt in my mind that this advertisement was to thank for the increase in downloads.  This was a four day promo period.  I was a bit disappointed afterwards as there wasn't much of a sales bump, and because of this I decided to pull my books from Select, thinking that perhaps it just wasn't worth it.  Freebie-scmeebie, I thought.  But I had one Select day left so I decided, what the hell and threw in my last promo day at the end of the year just to use it up.  I gave away 185 copies and afterwards sold more than that during the same month, and since then the sales have been steady for the next two months.  Currently in January I have sold 27 to date.  I have just scheduled a free day for tomorrow as well, and will wait to see if another little push cannot keep this run going.  Yep, I'm still in Select at the moment.
The other thing that happened in September was the release of my third book.  Sales for which have definitely been better in the first few months than in comparison with The Loss of Deference.  I cannot help but assume that a greater number of books kind of acts like a greater sized fishing net and pulls in a larger number of eyes, which in turn results in all round greater interest and sales numbers.
So to date I believe that giving away my books has definitely been the catalyst for the majority of my sales, and I also think that the release of further titles has had a positive impact.  Advertising is important, and the best result for me personally has been when using Ereader News Today, which is likely due to their huge target audience (Facebook 467,019 Likes when I just checked).  The fact that 80% of the sales are in the US is no great surprise when you consider the size of the country, but the lack of impact that the advertising to date has had on UK sales, even with ENT, definitely means there is a gap in the market for the advertising of such events.  Guess I need to find out where that is.  So if you are at the beginning of your journey and feeling disappointed in only selling a few books here and there, just remember that sales take time to occur.  We can't all be selling 10,000 in a couple of months, as nice as it would be.  I started off with very few sales, and whilst they are still not great by any standard, I do feel that there has been a consistent and steady improvement.  If I made the same increases by this time next year I would be more than satisfied.


  1. ....thanks for showing us yr credit-card statement Michelle; enlightening; i'm finding all this soooooo complex; think i'll read yr article once again tomorrow, once my brain can cope with such charts & figures....

    Still can't believe I just received my second check on the novel i wrote: USD 8.25!

    Wow.... a cappuccino & muffin at Starbucks!

    1. Hi Linda, and thanks for your comment. My aim in showing this was just to let people in on the reality. At least my reality at the moment.

      Congrats on the second cheque! I got my second cheque this week too! My shout!