Tuesday, August 2, 2011

July Sales Recap

The newest edition of The Sales Voyeur Series!
(I guess I should make that an official title of some sort...)

Wow. It's been 4 months since I published Spoil of War out and I don't think I've ever worked as hard for this kind of return on investment. Not working on promoting the book so much, but in learning more about self-pubbing, reading countless blogs and scouring what little public anecdotal experience about actual sales I can find. As well as watching and comparing the release of indie books vs traddie books (I am soooo trademarking "traddie").

All useful knowledge, I'm sure. The trick is analyzing it all and turning it into actionable data. Despite all my work and all the information I've been storing away, I really haven't made much headway in how to apply my learnings in any meaningful way.

Is there a pattern, a key, some common denominator that ensures any book released into the wild will not only make a go of it and survive but thrive and multiply its success?

Short answer: no.

Long answer: yes, luck.

Longer answer: luck and time.

Best answer: luck, time and money.

Today, I'm recapping the struggle of a single novel sent out series-less, penniless and alone into a harsh and competitive land as we wait to see if it will soar free -- or get sucked up into a jet engine when it tries.

The big change for July was upping the price from 99c where it had been for 3 full months to $2.99. Evidence seems to indicate there are 3 types of readership out there:

  • Those who snatch-and-grab at anything that looks even remotely interesting if it's free and/or 99c - stocking up now for later reading.
  • Those who bargain hunt and are more discerning in what they choose. This type is generally open to reading indie work at low but not necessarily rock-bottom prices as they've learned to be wary.
  • Those who follow more traditional buying patterns and purchase the e-versions of authors they already know and like and/or are recommended via traditional publishing houses and marketing venues. Books priced above $5 are usually attractive to them based on this buying behavior.
Raising Spoil to $2.99 meant it had to start over trying to find a new audience, moving from the first type of reader to the second. By the end of June, it had 100 books in its "also bought" list on Amazon. The majority of those associated books were 99c. And the majority of books on those books' lists were 99c. So how to convert?

Darned if I know.

Spoil wasn't doing badly at 99c and, left there, would probably have continued moving up the ranks a bit. Had I had other books in the hunt (discounting the Extinct anthology because multi-author anthos are whole other beasties), I would probably have left it as a 99c loss leader just to attract readers. But I wanted to experiment with the price, even knowing it would take a beating numbers-wise.

It did. Copy-wise, that is. But how about profit-wise?

Simple math tells us that a 35% royalty on 99c equals about 35c. A 70% royalty on $2.99 minus delivery fees equals about $2.03. (That's assuming buyers in participating territories; some copies sold from Amazon, such as those to Australia, I believe, can only make 35% royalties. Yeah, it gets complicated.)

Keeping things simple, in general, means that to make the same money I did in June when I sold 184 copies at 99c, I would have to sell 32 copies at $2.99.

So I set a reasonable goal of selling 32 copies, or at least 1 per day across all venues. I sold 68 copies total. Coincidentally, I sold 68 copies the first month out at 99c too. And no, I have no idea what to make of it. Yet. Trending takes time.

Marketing-wise, the only things different in July were:
  • I became active on the Kindleboards forum
  • I made a couple of promo announcements on the nook boards. 
  • I put up Spoil in Smashwords' Summer Sale at 1/2 off (made 5 sales from that campaign).
  • Otherwise, no ads and minimal promo on my part. 
Other indie authors who've been selling for a year or more note that July and August are generally poor-selling months. Other other authors claim this July was their best month yet. Again, we need a lot more data across a lot more genres and longer timeframes to come to any solid conclusions.

The ego-loving bit in me is disappointed the book hasn't taken off virally and isn't selling hundreds or thousands of copies in a month.

The addict in me is disappointed that my pleasure center isn't appropriately rewarded every time I click on the report buttons to see current sales numbers.

The realist in me knows that I've been quite fortunate getting the sales I have. Many others are not faring as well as Spoil is. So thank you to everyone who has bought it!

Show Me The Money

Here's a breakdown by venue and month.

Total copies sold in 4 months: 397
Total amount made: $249.44 (£153.14)

 More Real-World Stats

How do these stats compare? I spent an inordinate amount of time compiling some interesting but overall not very helpful anecdotal statistics left in a Kindleboards thread about July sales. At the time I compiled them, I captured 93 responses.

46 respondents provided sales totals for individual titles. 47 respondents did not break sales figures down individually but provided aggregated totals across all the titles they have for sale. Where overall number of titles was not provided, I assumed the number was equal to the count of titles in the author's sig line. This is not scientific, folks, and it's not meant to be anything other than a curiosity to hmmmm over.

You'll see a range for number sold first, then the number of people reporting sales within that range. For example, in the first group, 10 people reported they sold between 1 and 10 copies of a single title in July. Another 10 people reported they sold between 11 and 50 copies. Etc.

Sales Numbers For Individual Titles:

1-10 - 10
11-50 - 10
51-100 - 6
100-200 - 7
200-300 - 4
300-1000 - 1
1000-2000 - 1
2000-3000 - 2
3000-4000 - 4
30,000+ - 1

Sales Numbers Across Multiple Titles

1-100 across 2-6 books - 14
101-200 across 2-8 books - 8
201-1000 across 2-5 books - 6
~900 across 17 books - 1
1000-1500 across 5+ books - 4
2500-4000 across 2-7 books - 6
4000-10,000 across 4+ books - 6
12,000 across 8 books - 1
~20,000 across 5 books - 1

So that's it for the July recap. On Thursday, I'll reveal my super-secret publishing/marketing project. Keep your expectations low.


Mac said...

From someone dragging their feet with the idea of self publishing...I appreciate that you are sharing your experiences. -- RMW

C.S.Poulsen said...

Phoenix, your information is valuable material. How do we balance our writing/reading/marketing/ and keep up with those who are actually there and doing it? If you come up with the magic formula to increase sales, let all of us know. Looking forward to thursday's message. Hope the goats are doing well.

Jennifer said...

This is great information. There is so much buzz about e-pub, but it is great to see real information and numbers. Thanks for sharing your analysis.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

@Mac: It's a tough decision for all of us. We all want to believe we're the ones who are going to make the huge bucks. And once we've got a book out there, then you have to decide how much time you're willing to devote to promoting it. It's OK for self-pubbing to be a last-resort strategy, I think.

@C.S.: I think the magic formula is to spend more than you make ;o).

The goats aren't happy with the heat (they have dark skin and black hair), but they're managing. Have you started your herd yet?

@Jennifer: The buzz sometimes doesn't tell the whole story, does it? It's hard to ignore the mega successes,so it's important to temper the louder voices with what more typical sales look like.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Hi Phoenix,
This is a wonderful insider's look at the real world of e-pubbing. Super for us getting ready to plunge.


When you e-pub can you put in a sample chapter of the next book coming down the line?

Two ways to price market - low hoping for volume, higher hoping to attract premium buyers.

I'm surprised the author can control this so easily and alter price so quickly.


Have you done any "press releases" to media? Local girl published for local newspapers? Most local (smaller) papers, radio stations and even some tv stations love to get content on this type of thing.

Also letters to the editor are a great way to self promote, as long as there is some meat in the letter. Writers' newsletters etc. may be a stream to feed into the historical readers.

Think marketing a high tech product to a not so high tech group on platforms other than the cyber space group.

Your local libray may want to promote a chat with the author. Using power point you can put up sample pages for dicussion. Grass roots stuff but I hope you'll give it a thought.

Local groups may want to use your book as a fund raiser if you partner with them.

Many different avenues are open. Most communities take interest and pride in local talent.

Design an short lecture series on your book, package it, showing the plot arc, the character development etc. Maybe if you can get a local sponsor (newspaper or hospital or service group) to promote it to their membership and a share of any sales to their charity of the moment you may get exposure.

Just a few thoughts. From what I'm reading it takes more than Amazon and cyber space to promote sales.

Wilkins MacQueen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.