How do you keep track of your book sales?

22 January 2015

In a comment to a post about one indie author’s debut year sales, Bill asked a question:

If an author wants to write a post that will probably be widely distributed, how about one on how you keep track of sales?

I’m struggling with that now. Currently, I’m using a Word file and listing that month’s income and expenses, and smaller charts breaking down sales and income for that month by book title.

Now I have an Excel spreadsheet that I’m building slowly, but organization’s not my strong suit. I’d love if an author posted their ideas.

So how do you keep track of your book sales?

Thanks to Eric for the suggestion to make this a post.

One Indie Author’s Debut Year Income

19 January 2015

From author Jessi Gage:

About a year ago, I compared royalties for traditional versus indie publishing in a blog post. I had a unique perspective to offer since I did this comparison for the SAME book and close to the same month of different years, an opportunity afforded to me when the traditional small-press publisher I was with changed hands and gave authors the chance to ask for their rights back.

View the post here to see what I made in January 2013 as a traditionally published author versus what I made on the same book in February 2014 as an indie author (both were debut months). At the end of the post, I suggest I might do a similar comparison for a full year of traditional publishing versus indie publishing.

. . . .

This comparison is for Wishing for a Highlander, which debuted the first time in February 2013 with a small press at a price of $5.99. It was also available in print for around $12 to $14 depending on the retailer.

. . . .

Wishing was for sale from January through December for a total of 12 months of 2013.

In February 2014, Wishing enjoyed a second debut, this time as an indie published title. It sold at all the same e-retailers for a reduced price of $3.99. The print price did not change.

. . . .

Here’s Wishing’s monthly sales for 2013 vs 2014. The blue bars represent units sold through traditional publishing (2013). The red bars represent units sold through indie publishing (2014).


The spike in September 2014 coincides with a BookBub promotion that ran for three days that month.

Total units sold in 2013: 3,699
Total units sold in 2014: 13,929

. . . .

Total royalty earned in 2013: $5,139.69
Total royalty earned in 2014: $21,827.29

Link to the rest at Jessi Gage and thanks to Magda for the tip.

Here’s a link to Jessi Gage’s books

The Other Cost of Self-publishing (or How To Do it All Wrong and Still Get It Right)

18 January 2015

From author Ben Reeder:

Recently, fellow Missouri author Lisa Medley posted a blog post about the cost to self-publish her first book. Now, some folks have given her a little flack for paying for things she didn’t have to, and the amounts she paid and so on, without understanding the context of her choices. They’ve claimed some of her expenses were mistakes. But while she made some different decisions than I did, I think I’d rather have made her mistakes than mine. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Lisa through a local writers’ group, and I was thrilled for her when Harlequin picked up her Reaper series a few years back, right around the time I was first published by Pendraig Publishing, a small press out of California. Oddly enough, we both had some similarities in our experiences, in that we both got picked up by publishers, and we were both disappointed by the results. And we BOTH went to self-publishing.

Now, here is where our experiences differ. First off, Lisa writes in the VERY competitive romance market, specifically in paranormal romance. I write urban fantasy and zombie fiction. Technically, the zombie novels are post-apocalyptic sci-fi. And I will tell you from a total lack of experience but from knowing folks who know the business…romance is an expensive genre to write in. Sci-fi and fantasy…not so much. So it stands to reason that though we’re both following a similar path to publishing, our costs were different.

Lisa broke her costs down pretty thoroughly for her first book, and I thought I would do something similar for my first self-published book.

. . . .

So, on with the show. Here’s how the expenses for Zompoc Survivor: Exodus played out.

Zompoc Survivor Exodus

Write the book: Time and energy, $0

Recruit beta readers in place of an editor: Time and energy, mention in acknowledgements, $0

Make cover myself: Time, effort, $0

Format myself on Smashwords & Amazon: Time, effort, headaches, stress, $0

Get ISBN number from Createspace for print copy: $0

Let Amazon assign ASIN instead of ISBN to e-book: $0

Createspace proof w/ slow boat to China level shipping: $6.36

Advertising via spamming on promo groups on Facebook: 2-4 hours daily, $0

10 copies from Createspace: $35.50

Prize shipping:  $30

Total cost:  Time, effort, Sanity, hair loss, $71.86

Now, notice one HUGE thing I did different from Lisa: I did a LOT of the work myself. Formatting, cover, editing, all me. Some folks might think this is a great idea. But while some folks have pointed out on Facebook that Lisa paid for some things that might not have been strictly necessary, I am here to tell you, she made the better decision!

First off, the editing. This is something no writer should try to handle on their own, in my personal opinion. Here, let me get on my soapbox and shout that out with a megaphone and some neon lights. DON’T DO IT! If you love your readers…if you want to ever HAVE readers, don’t edit your own work if you can avoid it. Even if you can’t avoid it, at least get some good beta readers. See, I was very lucky when I went searching for beta readers. I asked other successful writers who they had beta read their work, and I went to talk to those people. Best bad decision I ever made, that. One of those beta readers now has her own business as an editor and proofreader. So, I wasn’t smart, I was lucky.

Second dumb thing I did that ended up turning out okay: the cover. For my cover, I went through some of my photos and found one in my files that I could alter to the point you couldn’t tell who it was or where they really were with ease because of the composition of the photo. Then I took it from color to black and white and ran it through a water-color wash and BAM, instant iconic image for my cover. Then, I did one other smart thing. Remember how I talked to other successful authors about beta readers? Same thing here. I found out what worked and made the changes they suggested. And it worked. Of all my covers, it’s by far the most amateurish, and it shows. But again, luck favored me in many ways.

Link to the rest at The Official Page of Ben Reeder and thanks to Chris for the tip.

Here’s a link to Ben Reeder’s books

2014 Book Sales Numbers

18 January 2015

PG received the following email from author Randall J. Morris:

I thought it would be cool if you allowed a bunch of authors to link to a blog post where they shared their 2014 book sales numbers. Kind of like the leaving your day job post but nowhere near as monumental. Here’s a link to my 2014 book sales breakdown blog post if you decide to make a post like that.

Here’s a link to Randall’s 2014 numbers.

Feel free to add a link to yours in a comment to this post or just include them in a comment.

A Look Ahead to Self-Publishing in 2015

18 January 2015

From Publishers Weekly:

Self-publishing saw another successful year in 2014, with authors like Deborah Bladon and Jen McLaughlin hitting the New York Times bestseller lists, fanfic authors like Sophie Jackson receiving six-figure advances, and many millions of titles being published across the industry’s numerous platforms. The view of self-publishing as an outlet of last resort for desperate authors is also changing—the negative stigma that’s long been associated with the industry is being discarded for a more progressive outlook, along with the acknowledgement that self-publishing and traditional publishing can coexist and even benefit one another. And self-publishing platforms are increasingly serving as a kind of testing ground for traditional publishers, which are snapping up successful indie authors and offering them, in some cases, million-dollar advances.

. . . .

A year ago, we predicted that the self-publishing industry would mature in 2014, with writers taking ownership of their role as both authors and business owners. As 2015 begins, we once again anticipate a year of growth, despite some concerns about market saturation. For this year’s preview, we talked to a number of industry insiders about the current state of self-publishing, the trends they’ve noticed over the past year, and the current challenges facing indie authors in an increasingly crowded market, along with some of their predictions for 2015.

. . . .

As more and more authors go it alone, they are increasingly treating their self-publishing ventures as businesses. This means realizing that their publishing efforts must be part of a broader business model that takes into account everything from branding to media outreach to editorial collaboration—which is an important development, according to Beat Barblan, director of identifier services at Bowker.

“There has been a realization over the last year, I would say, that, in order to be successful, self-publishers must see themselves as business owners and recognize that writing the content is only the first of many steps,” says Barblan. While he notes that “content is still king,” he points out that even good content will have trouble finding an audience if authors aren’t publishing professionally—paying attention to the services a traditional publisher offers like editing, marketing, e-book conversion, and cover design. “Authors have realized that when choosing to self-publish they are not eliminating the role of the publisher: rather, they choose to assume the publisher’s responsibilities.”

. . . .

 The need for a long-term outlook by indie authors is echoed by Smashwords founder Mark Coker: “Now more than ever, indies must focus on their long-term game plan. Avoid the temptation of making short-term decisions that harm your long-term opportunities. Understand that as an indie author you are an essential participant in the publishing community.”

. . . .

Authors have also taken note of the opportunities offered by serialization. By releasing their work a chapter at a time, authors can keep readers hooked while incorporating feedback from their fans as they go—a format that’s been successful for a number of indie authors this year. This publishing model also allows for increased author revenue—publishing 30 chapters priced at 99¢ lets authors potentially enjoy 30 times the revenue compared to a single title at the same price point.

“Serialization is here to stay,” predicts Wattpad’s Gardner, pointing to the more than 14 million stories shared serially on the site in 2014. “With so many writers sharing stories chapter by chapter, reading is becoming episodic. The reality is people still love to read, but prefer to do it in short bursts, often on the go.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Should You Self-Publish? Five Questions to Ask

16 January 2015

From author Claire Cook via Unbound:

I wrote my first novel in my minivan in the parking lot outside my daughter’s swim practice when I was 45. At 50, I walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of the movie adaptation of my most well-known novel, Must Love Dogs, starring Diane Lane and John Cusack.

For a long time, Plan A worked for me. I was one of the lucky authors.

. . . .

And then my career stalled out. The traditional publishing world, which had nurtured me so well, didn’t seem to be able to get it moving again. So long story short, I eventually decided that rather than hang around and whine about it, I’d move on to Plan B: self-publishing.

. . . .
Do you have a better option? I now think of my years as a traditionally published author as the best internship ever. I kept my ears open and learned from the pros. I internalized the voices of several fabulous editors and had time to figure out who I am as a writer. If you’re just starting out and you can get in the traditional door, it will enhance your skills as well as give you street cred, so my advice would be to go for it. If those doors don’t open for you, shake it off and move on to Plan B. As I meet more and more self-published authors who have built their careers from scratch, I’m both humbled and inspired by them, but also really grateful that I didn’t have to do it myself.

. . . .

Is it all about the writing for you? Several books ago, a surprised new editor said to me, “Wow, it’s still all about the writing for you, isn’t it?” Absolutely. And the day it isn’t, the day I’ve lost that passion, I hope I have the good sense to go find something else I can love just as much as I’ve loved writing books. I put my heart and soul into every book I write, and I try to become a better writer with each one. My readers know that, to the best of my ability, I will never let them down.

Link to the rest at Unbound and thanks to Andrew for the tip.

Here’s a link to Claire Cook’s books

Sky Gazing

14 January 2015

From Hugh Howey:

You may have heard the sky is falling. You may have heard that the self-publishing gold rush is over. There have been a number of forum threads, blogs, and articles about this lately. I’ve been mulling over whether there’s truth to the claims that everything is getting worse for indies. And naturally I have few thoughts:

My first thought is that self-publishing is maturing, which means it’s beginning to share some of the cynicism seen among many traditional writers. There’s a big difference in the subject of this cynicism, however. Forums for authors with traditional publishing aspirations have long been peppered with threads about the query grind, the rejection letters and emails that pile up from agents and publishers, and the desire to quit and give up on the hopes of ever making it as a writer.

For self-published authors, the situation is in some ways better and in some ways worse. It’s better in that their works have made it out to market where they had a chance of being purchased by readers. It’s better in that they probably spent more time writing the next work and less time writing query letters, pitching the last work, or doing endless rewrites according to the whims of some half-interested agent.

But it can be worse, because the self-published author feels that much closer to success. Their works are available in the largest bookstore in the world. Why aren’t they selling? Rewriting blurbs, hiring another editor, changing the cover, playing with the price and promotions, all of these things make the lack of success harder to bear in some ways. These decisions fall on a single set of shoulders.

The recent rise in cynicism and pessimism stems from two sources, I believe. The first is a change in expectations. Five years ago, the thrill was in joining a crowd as it overran the gatekeepers. There were suddenly ways around and ways through. Now, anyone could be published. For the aspiring author, the ability to reach a single reader or just make works available felt like a win. A few years later, getting through the gate no longer has that new-car smell. Now people want and expect to be able to earn a living here.

. . . .

And here is the second source of cynicism and pessimism bubbling forth from the self-publishing community: The natural failure rate, even if it’s lower for self-publishing, is now being seen for the first time. Traditionally published authors have (at least somewhat) understood the odds for years. The natural waves of rejections, failures, successes, outliers, and mid-listers have been rolling through for a long time. Self-published authors are just now seeing it.

Keep in mind that three sources of pent-up works hit the market all at once: long-queried manuscripts, manuscripts sitting in drawers, and rights that reverted to authors back when this was more likely to happen. After this sudden wave, we should expect to see — several years later — the first of those authors getting frustrated and/or quitting. And we are.

Link to the rest at Hugh Howey and thanks to Ashe for the tip.

5 Self-Publishing Truths Few Authors Talk About

14 January 2015

From Suffolk Scribblings:

One of the hardest thing to watch on social media is an author, usually a debut author, getting excited about their upcoming book launch and knowing they are about to get hit around the head with a hard dose of reality.

They’ve done the right things, built up a twitter or Facebook following, blogged about the book, sent copies out for review, told all their friends about the upcoming launch, pulled together a promo video and graphic, maybe taken out some adverts. The first few days after launch are filled with excited tweets, mentions of early positive reviews and chart rankings. Then, after a few days, maybe a few weeks, the positive tweets stop and an air of desperation sets in as the reality of life as an indie author hits home.

. . . .

1 You need talent to succeed but it’s no guarantee

The days of being able to publish an average story with an OK cover and finding success are over. There are many, many talented writers out there producing fantastic books who are struggling to find an audience. I know so many brilliant authors struggling to get themselves heard. An excellent story, professionally edited, well presented and with an enticing blurb is the bare minimum entry criteria, and just because you meet it, it doesn’t mean you will be successful.

. . . .

3 You are unlikely to sell thousands of books in your first year

I’ve yet to find the source of this statistic but it’s said the average ebook sells 100 copies. Not at launch, not in the first year, but over its whole lifetime. Now within that total sample you will get million sellers and zero sellers and your book could be anywhere on this spectrum but the reality is, despite excellent reviews and lots of promotion, your book will probably just tick along at best. Unless you manage to gain a promotion slot on a service like BookBub – especially difficult these days since the big publishing houses have started using their service – or you manage to generate great word of mouth – even more difficult, your sales won’t return to that initial launch peak for a long time, if at all.

4 Even giving your book away is hard work

In the past you used to be able to boost your profile by running a free or cut price promotion, but three things have changed since those heady days. Firstly, free books are not included in the overall charts, and although you do get a boost in ‘popularity’ rating, it’s not as big as it once was. Secondly, people’s kindles are full. Many have more books on them than they’ll ever read, so it’s now hard to even give away a book, let alone get anyone to read it. Thirdly, with Kindle Unlimited, Scribd, Oyster and the like, the big spending readers of the past now have access to unlimited books for a few pounds per month, lessening the allure of free books.

Link to the rest at Suffolk Scribblings and thanks to Scath for the tip.

First Year, Seventh Book

13 January 2015

From author John Ellsworth:

Well, it’s almost over–my first year as a published author. During that year I wrote and published six books and wrote a seventh, now undergoing final reads and edits. Here is what has happened to me this first year out.

I have sold 30,000 books and given away 170,000 books. That’s right, I discovered Bookbub about halfway into my first year and made submissions. Of my book, The Defendants. It was offered for free and it had right at 50,000 downloads in two days. Three more freebie Bookbubs followed. All told, 170,000 books downloaded. Results: 30,000 sales, probably directly attributable to the giveaways.

At least I think. To be very honest, I don’t know how it happened. Here’s some history.

I have been writing for publication since 1967 when I wrote my first novel. I published in 2014. That’s quite a dry spell, you might say. Some might be inclined to quit. But after serial rejections in the hundreds, I kept writing. Because writing is like my therapy.

. . . .

I first published in 2014 when I was 72 years old. That’s right. During that same year I had cataract surgery on both eyes and had back surgery (spinal ablation) when the osteoarthritis got so bad I couldn’t stand upright without spasms. So I did the next best thing: I sat. I retired from my law practice and I sat. I got bored, so I bought a Macbook. The heavens parted: I love that computer. So one night I wrote my first sentence of my first novel. And then my life came gushing out in these 500,000 words. More and more, as if it was feeding on itself, the stories refused to stop coming out.

So, I did what a blind invalid should do: I wrote them down. And put them on Amazon. And people bought them.

Link to the rest at John Ellsworth

Here’s a link to John Ellsworth’s books

Polarization of Authors?

13 January 2015

From agent Kristin Nelson:

NINC is a terrific conference that caters to authors who are already multi-published. After attending last week, it’s clear to me that this conference is leaning more and more toward supporting authors who are exploring the indie-publishing route.

There was a decidedly anti-traditional-publisher sentiment in a lot of the panels that I both participated in and attended. This is not a commentary on the conference, by the way. It’s merely my observation. I think a lot of attendees would probably agree with my assessment.

But this is what worries me. I sense a widening division between authors who traditionally publish and authors who self-publish. And there’s no need for that. This is not an either/or question, nor is there only one right path to publication. (By the way, for what it’s worth, editors from “traditional” publishers much prefer the term “commercial” publisher.)

The conference vibe seemed to rest on a few assumptions:

1) That authors who stay with traditional publishers are stupid for doing so (not necessarily true) and that they can’t make a living/career by solely writing while partnering with a commercial publisher.

. . . .

2) That indie publishing is the only route for an author who wants to be in control of his/her career (not necessarily true, as agents negotiate a lot of things in contracts).

Link to the rest at Pub Rants and thanks to Al for the tip.

UPDATE: As of 10:00 AM US Eastern time, the Pub Rants site appeared to be down.

SECOND UPDATE: As of 4:30 US Eastern time, the Pub Rants site was back up.

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