Occasionally people ask me about my book sales, these people fall into a couple of loose categories, curious friends, and other writers who really want to know… Mainly I find that in the case of writers it is often because they’re new to self-publishing and occasionally a little starry-eyed. One tries not to shatter illusions, or infer that your personal experience is the experience of all. But for those who think that writing a book and self-publishing will be their way out of the rat-race, I feel an obligation to temper there expectations a little. Success is also something you can only measure by your own expectations, and after several years of self-publishing, my expectations are perhaps a little jaded, unlike my enthusiasm which remains undimmed.
Jim C Hines, an American author whose blog I follow because he writes really fun interesting novels, and also because he is a social activist on a number of subjects on which I share similar and very firm opinions. Basically, he is a very fine fellow and I recommend both his blog and his novels to anyone. But among other things, he also produces a candid annual report on his income as a writer and has been since 2007, which makes for interesting reading and if you look through them all you can track his career as it has developed from being a part-time writer all the way up to going full time a couple of years ago and growing a beard ( which is apparently the thing to do when you become a full-time writer.) Jim is not self-published ( at least not exclusively) and his experience is not the experience of self-published writers. But he is very open and his experience and the financial side of being a writer.
In the spirit of those Jim C Hines annual reports, and because people do often ask me about book sales etc. I thought I would share a little of my own experience, though you should bear in mind I am a self-published writer of genre fiction, a small fish, in a puddle, basicly, but some of you may find it interesting reading.
This April has been a bit of a watershed for me, for a number of reasons. Firstly I did my first ever convention as a writer, which was by varying degrees terrifying and wonderful at the same time. this was at Scarborough Scifi convention SCS which I was invited along to by the good people at 6E publishing as we were releasing the first Harvey Duckman Anthology at the convention, in which as you might be aware I have a Hannibal story. But I was not only there to launch Harvey Duckman on the unsuspecting world, but I was also there showcasing my own novels, which I sold a few copies of, and gave out cards and flyers on mass.
Further to this for the first week of April, I was giving away the Kindle version of A Scar of Avarice on Amazon, the novella being a cross over of Passing Place and Hannibal universes, this was a not so subtle ploy to showcase both.
I also bit the bullet and started using AMS to advertise my novels, both in the US (myself) and the UK (thanks to 6e, as using AMS in the UK is a nightmare if your not an Amazon vendor).
In short, I had a lot going on in order to push my books and had it gone badly I suspect I may have ended up a tad disheartened.
Now the first thing you need to realise is that I have been self-publishing since Cider Lane came out back in 2015, and in that time I have released three novels and a novella, none of which, apart from A Scar Of Avarice, is linked to the others. Sales on the month of release tend to do well, but after that, they drop off steeply. There are months that I haven’t sold books. generally, these months are in the long gap between releases, when I am not trying very hard to push books and if I am been honest my drive as a self -publisher has run out of fuel. But a lot of things have changed in the last few months, including my approach, aims and goals. Which is why when I looked back on April this morning this was the pair of graphs I was looking at.
Okay, clearly I will need to explain a little about what the graphs are actually saying.
- The upper graph is Amazon book sales, both paperbacks and kindle
- The lower graph is Kindle Unlimited page reads
- The different colours refer to different titles or editions
- This doesn’t include direct sales at Scarborough
- This also doesn’t include Harvey Duckman Anthologies
- I’ve also taken out the free copies of Scar ( there were about 65 in total of those)
To be clear, this is a damn good month for me. Every single one of my titles sold multiple copies. Every single one of them also had at least one copy read on kindle unlimited on which I had a total of 3336 page reads for the month, which is the most I have ever had in a single calendar month. Total sales on Amazon discounting the free novella was 20 books, if I guestimate the pages reads into books (it varies on each title, so it’s less than straight forward, passing place is a long book, the novella isn’t ) those amount to about 11 books. And if I add in the books, I sold at Scarborough, which was roughly another 10 (I would have to actually count paperback and do maths to be sure) that’s 41 books sold.
The point here is this, just sitting around waiting for books to sell gets you nowhere. You might not think 41 books is a lot of sales but baring in mind this is now over 4 months since the release of the first Hannibal novel, those 41 sales are not sales to people who have bought my books in the past, these are new release sales. Three of those sales are Cider Lane a novel, not in a genre I actively write in: or blog about, that came out four years ago. Eight of them are Passing Place which is itself almost three years old now. All in all, this was a very successful month for me. The question, therefore, is why…
Which is a difficult question because for most of the month I have been using AMS advertising, which accounts for some of these sales, There are also the direct sales at SCS which is an entirely new thing for me. It has also been Indie April, and I have been busy helping the Indieverse and a couple of sales have gone to other Indie authors, or have been because other Indie authors have shared my posts etc. There are also all the cards I handed out at Scarborough. There are all the free novella’s I gave away that have hopefully caused a few readers to consider buying some of my other books. There is the high position the Amazon charts that my books have achieved, and there are Harvey Duckman readers, enjoying The Cheesecake Dichotomy and then perhaps deciding to give my novels a try.
In short, it has been a hectic month, with a lot going on, but importantly I have done well by my terms, and hopefully, May will build on this.
So if you’re an indie writer, and you want people to read your work, my advice is simple, keep on pushing, working hard and doing what you can to get people to give you books a try. Hard work pays off.