August marks the anniversary of my decision to start self-publishing. I entered the fray with LAUREN’S EYES, a book which had been previously published in mass market and to which I had reacquired the rights. I added three romantic suspense novels in August and began promoting all four books. More titles followed through the course of the year, and I now have nine books available (two of which are YA paranormals co-written with literary author Heather Doherty).
This month, as I celebrate a year of self-publishing, I thought I’d take my cue from some of my fellow indie authors and share some sales information. My hope is that those of you who are new to self-publishing with perhaps one or two books up and who aren’t yet seeing strong sales, will take heart. It does take patience and experimentation. It also helps to have a series. And naturally, the more books you have out, the better. As you’ll see below, many books making modest sales can generate a nice income.
Okay, let’s get to it.
I know many indie authors have taken off like rockets on Amazon. I have to say that my trajectory was less dramatic. Nevertheless, I am very pleased with the upward trend. Here are the raw numbers:
My sales through Smashwords and its distributors (Apple, B&N, Kobo, Sony and Diesel) were significantly more for the period, but those dollars are harder to neatly separate into monthly earnings. Payment is made quarterly, and the reporting from distributors lags several months behind, making it hard to draw accurate comparisons with Amazon’s real time reporting. Also, I had Smashwords hang onto my money until I could get an ITIN number from the IRS to establish my tax treaty rights, the result being that most of my earnings for this past year were paid to me recently in one lump sum. Since I don’t have the data to make a nice chart showing the gradual growth in sales, I’ll just speak generally about my Smashwords experience.
Bearing in mind the lag in sales reporting I mentioned, I am showing sales of 7,920 paid units through Smashwords and its distributors. (Total downloads were actually 45,626 units, but 37,706 of those ‘sales’ were unpaid units. The vast majority of those freebies were downloads of a free novella designed to stimulate interest in my Serve and Protect romantic suspense series.)
Contrast those 7,920 units with the 2,083 units sold at Amazon, and you can extrapolate from there, throwing in a little extra for the sales not yet reported. Not a bad year. And – woot! – I just surpassed the 10K mark!
Obviously, in retrospect, my decision to jump into self-publishing could not have been better timed. The Amazon monthly sales chart really tells the tale. The Christmas 2010 rush on electronic reading devices translated into a sharp increase in sales in early 2011. No doubt the addition of more titles to my catalogue contributed to ongoing growth. It also doesn’t hurt that many of my books are romance, which sells well. Nor does it hurt that I’ve spent more than a dozen years honing my craft and have worked hard to try to get my self-published titles noticed.
That said, I’ll be the first person to admit that luck has a lot to do with it. I’ll also be the first person to say that I know countless indie authors whose book sales totally dwarf mine. But if I’ve learned anything, it’s that no two authors’ journeys are the same, and I am very grateful and happy with my own lot.
I hope the sales data I’ve shared today will help motivate other authors in the indie trenches who are still struggling. Hang in there and keep plugging away. Be patient. Don’t despair. This is not like traditional publishing; you’re in it for the long haul now. Keep writing and adding to your catalogue. Put forth the best product you possibly can, with a high quality, professional cover. Then do it again. And if after a sufficient length of time has passed, sales still aren’t growing, try changing something up. Tweak your product description or how your book is categorized. Experiment with prices. Try a new cover. For once, all the controls are in your hands. Use them! And good luck.