Thursday, February 3, 2011

January 2011 sales report

When I first started self-publishing, I had no idea what to expect in the way of sales and royalties. I couldn’t find any solid information about the subject, other than JA Konrath’s blog, where he gave actual sales and royalties numbers. But, he was an experienced author with a backlist he could publish, and I was a newbie with one ebook. I didn’t have any other nobodies out there to help me guess what I could make.
So, I’m going to give you my sales numbers so you can see what a no-name newbie author can expect. I’m also writing science fiction, which is not the most popular genre out there right now. I expect that a newbie author writing in a popular genre, such as thriller or paranormal romance, could expect to earn more than I have.
The end of January marks the first four full months of my epublishing career. Since late September, I’ve published three books and I’ve seen sales slowly grow. The following chart shows my monthly sales. (Click a chart to enlarge it.)

As you can see, sales are growing. From 13 in October, to 21 in November, to 130 in December, to 295 in January! All told, in four months I’ve sold 459 books! This includes 19 sold in Amazon UK, 5 on Nook, and 4 on Smashwords. This is really exciting for me, but it certainly isn’t blockbuster numbers like Amanda Hocking is getting. But, there you have the range of possibilities. From my few hundred books sold to Hocking’s hundreds of thousands.
But what does this mean in terms of dollars, you ask? Well, here’s another chart for the financial fanatics out there. This chart shows my royalties for the last four months.

I made $4.20 in October, $27.63 in November, $180 in December, and $304.16 in January. So, in four months, I’ve earned $515.99 in royalties. That’s a nice bit of change. If my sales don’t increase from January’s numbers, I can expect to earn $3600 this year! Woot! That’s a darn good success, if you ask me. It means I’ll be able to earn back my $2400 investment with some profit left over.
Time for another chart. This one is for the really nitpicky because it shows daily sales since October.

As you can see, I had a very slow start, but things started picking up in late November after I published my second book. Sales bumped up again after I published my third book in January. Once again, the number of titles you have available directly impacts your sales numbers. If someone likes one of your books, they’ll probably buy another. So, my advice is to write more and publish more. But, of course, don't skimp on quality!
And, there you have it. My first four months are going quite well. I’m very optimistic about future sales. I hope to get two or three more novels published this year, which should give me good boosts in sales. I’m also collaborating on a science fiction anthology with a dozen other new authors, and I hope this will get me (and the other authors) a bunch of new fans.
It looks like 2011 is going to be a really good start to my self-publishing career. And I’m hoping it only gets better in 2012 and later.


  1. Hey Derek,

    Great breakdown of the numbers. When you look at it in terms of growth, it looks really exciting. Your sales are clearly growing exponentially, so then the question becomes--when does it level off, what's the ceiling? For how long can such tremendous growth continue?
    I have a feeling it will be a long time before you see things plateauing. Thanks for sharing these details, it's incredibly helpful.


  2. Congratulations Derek and thanks for being transparent with your numbers.

    I self-pubbed LIE MERCHANTS, my first novel, just before Thanksgiving weekend last year. Since then, I've noticed that my sales are ramping-up, albeit slowly. I sold 5, 7, 14 copies in November, December and January, respectively.

    This month, I've sold 2 so far. That's not bad for a first-time author with only one ebook for sale on three platforms (Kindle, Google and B&N). By the way, ALL of my sales have been through the Kindle store.

    If your numbers are any indication of what could be a "snowball" effect, then it seems one of the most important variables in self-publishing is to just do it. Get something out there that you are proud of and publish.

    Joe Konrath made an enlightening post today on his blog with respect to his January sales. It is encouraging to see him (and others) making meaningful money on books that NY rejected. Given his success, surely all those sales aren't by people who are just giving Joe a pat on the back for helping them (like us), but readers that are being genuinely entertained.

    Thanks again.

  3. Thanks Derek! I always love your charts. Congrats on the increase in your sales. It really does make a difference to have more than one book out. I am surprised to see that the book you sell the most of is the one listed at $2.99.

    Thanks for all the breakdowns.

    Angeline Kace

  4. Excellent numbers for January! We're on the up and up! I think you can expect your numbers to continue to increase, imagine what it'll be like if it does?! Best of luck and keep up the good work! Also, thanks for sharing, it's nice to compare!

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  6. That's so exciting for you Derek! I'm sure your increasing success will help the Twelve Worlds Anthology, also! (I was one of your editors but the updated list shows I'm not anymore. I still plan on reading yours!)

    What do you use to make your charts? I'm interested in tracking my own progress when the time comes :)

    J. E. Medrick

  7. Great post. Over the last six weeks I published four of my fantasy books that I couldn't get a publisher to buy. I'm seeing the same thing. I sold a handful of copies during the first month. Now, in the first two days of February I've sold thirteen books on Amazon. I've had almost 300 downloads of the free book.

    I think the freebie has definitely helped. Part of it is also the fact that I now have multiple titles out. Plus, it just takes time to find your audience and build on it. The strange thing is that I did a little bit of advertising back at the beginning and it translated into almost zero sales. Meanwhile, the increase of titles available and the free promotion have made a significant difference. I shouldn't be surprised though, because that's what Konrath has been saying for a long time.

  8. Thanks, Derek! I also admire your snazzy charts. Your book on formatting has been helpful so far, and well worth the price.

  9. I'm always thankful when other writers are willing to share their experiences. I noticed yesterday that there was a post about January sales from various writers on kindleboards. Most reported low sales, which of course can lead a person to have second thoughts about self-publishing. But as we have all heard...this is a marathon, not a sprint.

  10. @ Viser and other authors: don't forget that Barnes and Noble has the PubIt store, like Amazons. Its very easy to sign up for. Though I do admit it has been buggy as heck, I still get decent amount of sales from them.

  11. Derek, thanks for the excellent information and charts. This absolutely shows how important it is to have more than one book for sale.

    I currently have one children's book out called Bloated Goat. So, by default, I'm in trouble.

    Here are my sales figures since publishing for Kindle in 9/2010, for NOOK in 11/2010, and for Smashwords in 12/2010:

    KUS = Kindle US, KUK = Kindle UK, N = NOOK, S = Smashwords

    09/10 = 1 (1 KUS)
    10/10 = 0
    11/10 = 67 (45 KUS, 18 KUK, 4 N)
    12/10 = 104 (66 KUS, 8 KUK, 30 N)
    01/11 = 102 (22 KUS, 8 KUK, 69 N, 3 S)

    So, simply put, my Kindle sales are going down and my NOOK sales are going up?

    Why? I'm not really sure. I self-promote equally on the appropriate forums.

    I believe part of the reason is Bloated Goat has fallen out of the rankings on Kindle (due to fewer sales), so no one can find it unless they manually search for it.

    On NOOK, with sales really good the last few months, the ranking is favorable enough to pop up while people are browsing.

    I really have no idea what to expect for February. It is Feb 3rd right now and I currently have 4 sales, all on NOOK.

    Manley Peterson
    Manley's Bookshelf

  12. Congrats on that curve, Derek! And thanks for the info as always.

    I've got some info that might be helpful for anyone thinking of serializing. King's X is an open ended series, with plenty of action and intrigue throughout, so it was a good candidate for the format. And of course, the idea of getting multiple titles out early to jump start the book's online presence makes a lot of sense.
    But there are draw backs as well as benefits.

    The books were released one at a time, with the first 3 of 4 going live between Dec 15-24. The conclusion was released on Jan. 11. Each priced at 99 cents.

    Sales are going well. Steady but not explosive. 74 copies in the last 2 weeks of December. More than half of those were for the first book, with the other two coming later. Also many of these initial sales were the "friends and family" jumpstart.

    In January I sold 130 copies. Still mostly the first book, but with pretty steady follow up on the others (meaning, I assume and hope, that people are actually reading it, liking it, and coming back for more.) And some really great reviews have been trickling in.

    The funny thing is, while I get the occasional spike one day and the occasional "goose egg" on another, the sales have been remarkable steady. About 4-5 books a day for six weeks.

    I also got featured on Scott Nicholson's Indie Book Blog, just yesterday. Hopefully that will help find some exposure. Although, here's a helpful tip, when you change a successful logline, sleep on it before you put it online! Mine now says something about being an "intoxicating cocktail of genres" which may be the dumbest thing ever written about this particularly book. It makes it sound like "Bridget Jones Diary." That is stuck on Amazon for 5 days, and it's also up on Scott's site. I think I may have wasted the great opportunity he very generously gave me by being "cute" when what was called for is sharp and "to-the-point."

    The draw backs. Sales are contingent on the first book, and the tail catches up in a percentage (how many come back for more of the same story). You have to wait til readers finish one to see if they'll buy the rest.

    Also, there is more King's X to come and I don't want it to be all 99 cent novellas. I will need to figure a way to seamlessly change the format once the next installment is written. Which means, I believe, I will lose my ranking and reviews, etc.

    I still think this was a good idea, and that a 99 cents series is a good way to start off if you plan to follow it up with many more books. If it is all about establishing a presence, then I think I'm off to a good start. I sold five books overnight, in fact. That's today's quota I suppose.

  13. I've been pumping your format for Kindle book like mad, over on LinkedIn and the WD online community. =) Basically, whenever someone asks about publishing their own ebooks, I link them to that book and Zoe Winters' book on self-pub. Between the two books ($3.99 + 99 cents), any novice should have enough information to get started.

    Hope it helps!

  14. Congrats Derek -- and thanks for sharing the numbers!

    I think the interesting thing here is that unlike traditional publishing where you make your initial money and sales within the first few weeks of publication (generally speaking), epublishing seems to take a different route. Very encouraging to see you can actually grow your sales month over month.


  15. Derek,

    Thanks for sharing! Well done.

    I 2nd Manley's point that it really helps to have multiple books up for sale. Robin posted numbers over in the comments on JA's blog (end of BV's comments) that show how important a 4th and 5th book can be.

    I wish you continued success (I really enjoyed DDDD.)

    @KevinMc: Sounds like good advice!


  16. All, thanks! We all seem to agree that we must keep trudging on to get good sales. I’ll continue to post monthly sales results so you can get an idea for how others are doing. I’m really looking forward to how my sales are doing at the end of the year, when I should have 2 more novels published.

    Graham, yes, the self-publishing route seems to promise increasing sales over time, while the print publishing route seems to promise decline sales after the first few months due to the shelf-life of your book. I really can’t see much reason at all to go for a print deal any more. Joe Konrath talks about this a lot on his blog.

    Kevin, thanks a lot for pumping my book! What is the WD community? I’m sure it’s helping! I sold 97 copies of Format Your eBook for Kindle in One Hour in the first month of release!

    Stephen, I’m really I interested in how your King’s X serialization goes. If you get good results, I might try something similar.

    JE, I use Microsoft Excel for my charts. They have lots of snazzy chart features, as you can see!

    Angeline, according to some other self-publishers, novels seem to do better than short stories. My novel is at $2.99, and my short story collection is at $0.99. So, yes, it does seem odd to me that the $2.99 novel sells better than the $0.99 story collection.

  17. I think it's not hard to understand novels selling better - if those people are anything like me, they devour books! I'll pay more for a longer, more satisfying read!

    J. E. Medrick

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