Saturday, January 1, 2011

End of year sales report

I’m an aspiring author with no print publishing credentials. Three months ago I published my first science fiction ebook, Dead Dwarves, Dirty Deeds, to Amazon Kindle. It is a short story trilogy about criminal scumbags in the 22nd century. It’s hard-boiled, action-packed, violent, tech noir, cyberpunk. I published it as a test before my full length novel. I used it as to get accustomed to the publishing process.
I hoped to sell 30 copies in October. Alas, I only sold 12. And even fewer in November, only 9! I spent $643.34 to produce the book. In return, I had earned a whopping $7.35 in sales. In two months I had earned back 1.1% of my investment. This did not do much to buoy my spirits.
On November 22nd, 2010, I published my first full-length novel, Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance, and things started to change. As you can see in the daily sales chart below, my sales increased when I had two books and started to advertise. (Click to view larger.)

The yellow areas indicate where I spent money on advertising. There are definitely upticks in sales. However, I cannot say with 100% surety that those sales were caused by the advertising. It’s only a correlation. But, I’m inclined to believe that a good portion of the upticks would not have happened if I had not advertised.
I have spent $205.34 on advertising, and earned a total of $199.59 on book sales. I’m almost breaking even. With some more experience running ads and vigilance of my ad campaigns, I’m betting I can start earning more than I spend on advertising.
I am not saying advertising is for everyone. But, I believe it definitely improves my numbers. And, since my numbers are so small, the improvement is significant. If you’re selling dozens of books a day, you probably won’t see much uptick in sales if you advertise as I did. (See my previous post for my earlier evaluation of advertising, with comparisons of Bing, Google, and Project Wonderful.) 
Finally, here are the total sales by book for my first 3 months (click to view larger):

My sales went from 13 in October, to 21 in November, to 122 in December. December’s 500% increase in sales is great to see but also very daunting. I do not expect to see January sales jump as much. But, I won’t complain if they do. ;)

My records
Best sales day = 10 books sold on December 31
3.93 books sold per day in December

What did I learn from the first 3 months? Two important things:
Sales will improve, even if they slump now and then. So, don’t lose hope.
Advertising helps, especially when you have low sales. If you can afford it, I’d definitely suggest that you advertise. Project Wonderful is where I had the most success with advertising. You should check them out.


  1. This is such an awesome post!! Thanks for writing about this. I'll be twittering about it because I think it can shed a lot of light on the struggles and decisions of an e-publishing author.


  2. Yep, I agree. Excellent post, easy to understand charts. Good analysis. Thanks Derek! I really appreciate the time you take to let us into your struggles and victories.

  3. Look at your sales between Christmas and now. Bigger, right? So many Kindles have been sold and given as gifts that it's having a noticeable effect on e-book sales. Looking at the period between Dec 23 and 30 on the first chart, the sales went up before your advertising resumed.

    Also as JA Konrath has pointed out, having more titles available increases visibility and sales for them all.

    That's my theory anyway. Check your sales again in a couple weeks and we might see if I'm right. Do you think the Amazon gift cards have all been spent by now?

  4. Thought provoking. Hope your charts keep aiming north.

  5. Derek,

    It takes guts to publish these numbers. Please continue. :)

  6. I've had my eye on Project Wonderful. You've convinced me to give it a shot.

    Also, you should totally send me a 500 word excerpt of either (or both) or your books for my new blog, 500 Words. It might not sweep up your sales, but on the other hand it's free. So it can't hurt. :)

    Tara Maya
    The Unfinished Song: Initiate

  7. Tara, thanks for the offer. I'll certainly send you a 500 word excerpt!

  8. Thanks for sharing the info, Derek! And congratulations on the uptick. That's what we all want to see, right? Continued good luck.

    I have to agree that I'm seeing some similarity in my own numbers -- with 3 titles of my own out there and 3 tied to my old publishers (for now). The numbers are rising, slowly, but rising.

    And you've convinced me to try something of yours, even though I've left SF behind a while ago for horror/thrillers.

    Good luck!

    WD Gagliani
    Author of SAVAGE NIGHTS and the WOLF series...

  9. WD, thanks! I'll have 3 books up soon, too!

  10. Excellent, Derek. I hope they all do well... I bought your novella, but it'll be a while before I can read it due to commitments. But I look forward to it -- sounds pretty darn good. I need to advertise more, but I'm at the point where if I advertise I don't write, and I want to get more work in the can... tough choices, if one can't just write all day... Thanks also for mentioning Project WOnderful ads -- I hadn't heard of that, and now I have something that I'll likely try myself at some point. Anyway, best of luck with your efforts -- you seem to be doing all the right things.

  11. Thanks for sharing, I will bookmark and be back again


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