December is when self-publishers get all misty eyed over all the newborn e-book buyers taking their first tentative steps into the market. Amazon sold well over a million Kindles a week during December, and the other manufacturers will have shifted plenty too. Most of these will have been to new entrants, who traditionally (i.e. since last year) go on a book buying binge to fill up their shiny new devices.
It certainly seemed like the market doubled on Christmas Day. Since then, a burst of sales only gets you half as high in the rankings as it used to (although the Amazon Lending Library borrows counting as sales will be a factor too). My sales didn’t double, so I’m not speaking from experience, but my sales are holding up, and my rankings are way down. Luckily, sales are the important part.
Others have been knocking it out of the park, though. Joe Konrath made $50,000 in the last week of December. (Speaking of which, I’d never actually read any of Joe’s fiction – I don’t read so many thrillers – but after getting a Kindle from Santa I picked up Origin and started it on the plane home from Ireland and it’s great, and I’ll probably gobble up the rest of his in due course).
The number of new names hitting big numbers is proliferating at an astonishing rate. Rarely a day goes by on Kindle Boards without someone hitting a notable sales milestone. It must be said that many of these newly minted authors are achieving success on the back of KDP Select, something I came out strongly against.
I haven’t revised my opinion of KDP Select, yet, but I am keeping an open mind and these numbers are giving me a lot to think about. I should also say that the primary benefits authors seem to be deriving are from clever use of “free” days and using the resultant position in the free chart as a springboard to a (much) higher position in the paid charts, and then making a lot of sales from the increased visibility.
It remains to be seen if this is a loophole that Amazon will close, or whether there is an element of self-selection going on (i.e. those not doing so well not being as public), or how all this will play out over the full 90 day period (with most authors using their 5 free days right at the beginning). I’ll probably hunt down one of the authors that’s seeing great success from KDP Select to do a guest post here, so you can hear the other side.
There were also great successes outside of KDP Select. UK indie author Penelope Fletcher was the top-selling Smashwords author on Barnes & Noble over the lucrative Christmas period (beating out big names such as Amanda Hocking), and New Zealand author Shayne Parkinson had three titles in the same Top 20. And on that note, along with Kobo’s widely rumored launch of a direct upload platform later this year, Apple are said to be relaunching their offering, possibly with enticements for authors to go direct (it’s unknown what enticements could be on offer or whether exclusivity will be a requirement).
To those who have seen little-or-no rise in sales since Christmas: don’t panic. The older heads on Kindle Boards are advising that the rising tide didn’t begin to lift (most) yachts last year until mid-January. The logic is that new e-reader owners stick to the names they know at the start, but become a little more adventurous after a couple of weeks.
My sales won’t be making headlines any time soon, but I’m happy with the way things are headed. Before I get on to the numbers, I have the usual alternative reading for those who get turned off by my rudimentary pie charts and miniature trumpet blowing.
I’ve made two of my shorts free on Smashwords as part of a promo exercise for my new release (more on that below). They should work their way to the other retailers soon enough, but, for now, you can pick up a copy that will work on any e-reader on Smashwords. They will only be free for a limited time, so grab If You Go Into The Woods and Transfection while you can.
If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can read Anne R. Allen’s Confessions of a Former Query Addict (via the always excellent Passive Guy who you should be reading every day), Joe Konrath’s yearly resolutions, as well as a series from Dean Wesley Smith on setting goals (note the important distinction he makes between dreams and goals – your goals should be something in your control).
Ok, to the numbers (note: some totals are slightly different to previous months because of the appropriate redistribution of Smashwords partner sales).
June: 78 ($35)
July: 256 ($425)
August: 395 ($870)
September: 148 ($265)
October: 157 ($285)
December: 259 ($665)
2011 Total: 1709 ($3,175)
That $3,175 figure includes $210 in donations for the free PDF of Let’s Get Digital which has now been downloaded almost 5,500 times.
To that, crowdfunding receipts of $2,300 must be added, giving me a 2011 revenue figure of $5,475, of which maybe half is profit (I haven’t calculated all my costs yet, but it’s around that).
A Storm Hits Valparaíso is out and helping with these numbers. It hasn’t been a home run – far from it – but it has had a decent start without too much promo. It shifted 56 copies in December (in 9 days). On another release, that may have been cause for disappointment, but that number doesn’t include the copies sold by pre-order through my crowdfunding initiative (to people who would normally by my new release in the opening week).
Thanks to that exercise, A Storm Hits Valparaíso is already in profit. Even so, I know I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of its potential readership, and I’ll ramp up the promo this month, now that people are returning to work and their computers, and hope to boost those sales numbers some. The initial reviews are heartening, one five star in the US, and one in the UK.
I’ve priced it at $4.99, which may be causing some resistance. I’ll be experimenting with a limited time sale at some point this month (and will announce here), and will conduct further pricing experiments in time.
I have some ad spots lined up on readers’ sites and I’m running limited experiments with some cheap Goodreads ads, free Facebook ads (coupon), and maybe some free Google ads too (another coupon). I’ll be poring over the data and reporting back on the returns from all of that and will let you know if any of it is a worthwhile use of your money and time.
I’m also doing quite a few guest blogs and interviews (something I haven’t done for a while) to help spread the word. And I’ll be cranking up my new site South Americana which didn’t get nearly enough attention since its launch late last year.
Finally, I’ll be teaming up with Wattpad in what promises to be an exciting opportunity, where I will be, amongst other things, serializing A Storm Hits Valparaíso. I’ll talk about that some more later in the month when it gets going, but the potential is huge (and something I couldn’t have done if I entered the book in KDP Select).
But, for the moment at least, Let’s Get Digital is still my biggest seller (and has been since shortly after its release). A Storm Hits Valparaíso was only out for the last 9 days of the month, so we’ll see if it can take the crown this month.
As for sales channels, Amazon US is still the lion’s share, responsible for 64% of my sales. Non-Amazon sales were around 10% this month, but I haven’t received all the Smashwords numbers yet, so that proportion should rise.
Amazon UK continues its slow and steady growth with consistent (rising) daily numbers, while the US is (as it always has been) extremely erratic with wildly varying numbers which are not always explainable.
For 2012, aside from getting more titles up, I will be seeking to increase my distributive reach. There are e-bookstores springing up all around the world, and I want to get into as many of them as possible. Some have funny requirements, others only take a feed from Overdrive (who already knocked me back, but I will try again with more titles later in the year), many require a little convincing to accept your books, and virtually all require ISBNs (thankfully free in Sweden). I will report on all of that in due course.
I will also be working on two paperback editions this month – A Storm Hits Valparaíso and Let’s Get Digital. The second might seem a curious choice, but I think some people might like to have a physical reference book while they navigate the practical steps involved, or to gift to a writer who hasn’t switched to e-reading.
The first is a little more logical. I have plenty of friends and family who still read print books, and I have crowdfunding rewards to fulfill which promised a print edition. That was actually the most popular option, which indicates a potential print market for that title. Also, I must recognize that historical fiction readers haven’t switched over to e-books (yet) in the same numbers that other genres have.
On top of that, I spoke to a few bookstores in Dublin (while I was home for Christmas) who are interested in stocking A Storm Hits Valparaíso (and perhaps some e-book gift cards). Maybe they will stock Let’s Get Digital too. We’ll see. I’m not going to expend a lot of energy getting into stores, but I thought it would be smart to do it in my home town, especially considering that Ireland is 2 to 3 years behind the US in e-reader adoption.
Despite all those projects, I’ll be cutting back on the work hours a little, having nearly burnt myself out completely before Christmas (and testing the patience of my long suffering better half). A lot of that time I’ll spend reading on my shiny new Kindle, and catching up on all the great books my friends and peers published in 2011.
That will allow me to refill the well, which ran a little dry there between endlessly revising my last release and not reading enough fiction. I tried writing a short as a break in November, and I had nothing in the tank. Not good. But since I caught up on some reading over Christmas, I can feel the synapses firing again, and have already began scribbling something.
And that’s more exciting than anything else.