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Thread: Publishing Diary: First Year Sales

  1. #1
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    Publishing Diary: First Year Sales

    Well, it’s been almost exactly a year and I thought it was high time to have a go at one of these diary things. It’s taken me a while, because I’ll admit I found this place a bit disconcerting when I first joined and it has taken me a while to feel like I ‘fit in’. But now I feel confident enough to share my experience.

    Anyway, I really hope this post helps people. I’m generally pretty honest about sales and what I’ve tried, and just in general really.

    I’ve had bad months and good months. I’ve used all the social media stuff that’s available and tried just about every avenue available for a self-published author. But, this is probably pretty boring for those of you who want to nosy at sales. So, here you go!

    http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y14...ps09b28fd8.jpg

    Quick timeline breakdown:

    7th August 2012 release The Blemished
    27th (I think) January 2013 release The Vanished
    3rd Feb 2013 reduce The Blemished to 0.99 and send out Bookbub advert
    end of March settle all books at 2.99 and $2.99
    March 2013 release Fractured Novella Elena for 0.99 and run free promo for 2 days
    May 2013 release Fractured Novella Maggie for 0.99
    21st July release The Unleashed for 2.99
    25th July-30th July reduce price of The Blemished and run a bookblast promo coupled with a Facebook advert and a few cheap spots on indie-book websites

    Total sales to date: 5419

    I'll split the rest of my spreadsheets into the next few posts. I think the images are sized okay, but let me know if they need to be smaller. If I make them much smaller you might not be able to read it so I might have to type them out instead. Or just provide a summary.
    Last edited by sarahdalton; 08-02-2013 at 05:57 PM.

  2. #2
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    Here are the breakdowns per book:

    The Blemished (2013 only)

    http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y14...psd746f8c3.jpg

    The Vanished:

    http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y14...ps75f2e636.jpg

    The Fractured: Elena

    http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y14...pse8068f59.jpg

    The Fractured: Maggie

    http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y14...psa662f3ed.jpg

    The Unleashed

    http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y14...ps9a40f756.jpg

    I hope you can see those okay. ETA: I think you can click on the little lens icon and zoom in on Photobucket.

    Most of my sales come from Amazon US. I've currently got 2 books ranked higher than #5000, which isn't exactly bestsellers, but it's pretty good for YA. It puts me in the top 20 in the Children's Sci-Fi and the top 30 in Teens Dystopia. It means I hold my own against the trade published books (on Amazon. In ebook format).

    My UK brethren don't seem interested and I can't figure out a way to promote to just the UK. Bookbub is what launched the book in the first place, and there doesn't seem to be a UK alternative. Shame really because there are lots of characters with regional accents that are probably going right over people's heads right now!

    Paperback sales are generally my mum buying copies to put in my old school's library and give to my grandparents. They do little more than prove validation to family and make my book look more professional when people are browsing Amazon. They also make your ebook look cheaper. And you can give away signed copies for promotions.

    Plus -- I like them on my bookshelf!

    I'll go into promotions in the next post.
    Last edited by sarahdalton; 08-02-2013 at 06:00 PM.

  3. #3
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    Promotions.

    As you can see from the figures, every time I release a book, even a relatively short novella for KDP Select, it helps my sales. The old cliche words. Write more books.

    What's worked for me:

    - bookbub -- it's the best promo out there. But they're picky. If you don't get accepted you can keep trying but I'm not sure it's meant to be. They like books with nice covers, good blurbs and good reviews, but most of all the book has to appeal to their audience. So it's their call. Don't dwell on trying to get featured. Move on.

    - 2.99 regular price -- I had my first book at 3.99 for ages but it didn't sell very many copies. That was before I released a second book, but I think 2.99 is a sweet spot for many self-publishers. I guess that most of my readers are in their teens, seeing as it's YA, and cheap is good for them. Seeing as they don't have jobs and whatnot. I'd like to charge more, but I'll be honest and admit I'm worried about ruining my good sales streak by raising the price.

    - Facebook -- When I added my books to Elle Casey's giveaway this spring she ran some statistics based on entrant feedback and it showed that readers DO read my facebook posts. I was a bit taken aback. I'd always thought it a bit of a waste of time. I like the 'promote this post' buttons too. For just a few pounds you can reach thousands of people and gain a few followers. I don't think it results in direct sales, but it gets you seen. Use it sparingly though.

    - Covers -- They fit the genre yet stand out alongside the others. I've had lots of compliments. You need a good designer, but more importantly you need an awareness of what works in your genre. In my case I have to figure out what's cool, which isn't too bad for me because I spend my time in teenage land anyway, reading YA books and watching Vampire Diaries. It helps if you're a fan of the genre you write in.

    - Blurbs -- Elle Casey's stats revealed that readers pay attention to the blurbs, and they seem to like mine. I doubt they're perfect, but they convey the genre and the tone of the book. That's what you need to do. It's really hard. Concentrate more on the tone than the sentence construction.

    - 0.99 sales -- but these need to be promoted or you'll just lose money. They work really well with a bookbub, quite well with a bookblast and better when coupled with a book release. Only do it for the first in your series. It really helped boost my sales of The Unleashed. I even made it to #2 in 'Hot New Releases' on the Amazon list for Children's Sci-fi

    - Goodreads giveaways -- they just generate a bit of a buzz. It might not directly increase sales, but they get you more eyes on your product. Plus it's fun and feels good.

    - Blog tours -- After I released The Unleashed, I figured I'd do my own blog tour. Feeling a bit confident and sure of myself, I emailed about 20 bloggers (some are old contacts) and only had 1 reply! I recommend using a blog tour company. Google around. There are some better for certain genres.

    One thing you can't control is how Amazon sells your book. Their algorithms can put your book alongside really popular books using the 'also bought' function. I've never been a 'hot new release' before so that really helped me out.

    In terms of social media. I see lots of writers selling well without huge numbers of followers. I admit that I've used author marketing clubs to 'flesh out' my numbers to look more popular. Now I'm wondering if I ever needed to. Seeing as my Facebook is public, people can view it without 'liking'. I don't spam and I don't just talk about my book.

    I have a great website put together by my other half -- he's a programmer. Only thing is I don't update it enough. I forget how to add images and then leave it too late.

    I also have a mailing list but I haven't put enough time into developing it. Some authors have had great success with mailing lists.

    I really do think you need to be on Kboards if you want to do this properly. Yes, it's more positive about self-publishing, because the regular posters earn their living from it. But, they list the best places to advertise, and they get there first. They post really great tips. It's encouraging to read people's success stories and there are links to editors, proofreaders and cover designers.

    But -- this board keeps my head on my shoulders and stops me getting carried away. It teaches me about how self-publishing it perceived by those outside it, and how certain terms are redundant.

    Awareness is something you either have or you don't. I guess I'm pretty realistic about my books, where their strengths and weakness are, how I can improve, and how I can move forward in the future. It's probably the most important aspect needed by a self-publisher. But unfortunately you can't buy it.

    I'm rambling off tangent now. Moving on. Let me know if you have questions.

  4. #4
    Engineer Sonneteer Norman D Gutter's Avatar
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    Awesome sales, Sarah. I won't be able to see your charts/tables/whatevertheyare until I get away from the office (Photobucket is blocked). But it all sound very awesome.

    Trying hard not to be jealous, but it's not working.
    NDG
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  5. #5
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    Sarah, you've always fitted in, and I'm sorry you felt that you didn't when you first got here.

    Those are great sales and you've given us some really useful information--thank you so much for posting it all! But I'm afraid you're going to have to either remove or resize some of those charts, even though they're lovely: they're just too big, and with so many of them in one thread they really slow down loading times for those of us without swift connections. I'm so sorry! The maximum allowed is 400 x 400 pixels.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Norman D Gutter View Post
    Awesome sales, Sarah. I won't be able to see your charts/tables/whatevertheyare until I get away from the office (Photobucket is blocked). But it all sound very awesome.

    Trying hard not to be jealous, but it's not working.
    NDG
    Thanks Norman! No need to be jealous. I've still got a long way to go, and we're all on our journeys. Who knows what could happen in the future!

    I meant to go a bit into detail about my motivations and hopes for the future.

    After writing the book I originally thought to query agents. But I saw the way things were moving in dystopia and figured that it was now or never, really. So I made a pretty quick decision to go for self-publishing. I'll admit I was a bit impatient. I wanted the story out there for people to read. I didn't really have any high hopes or ambitions at this point.

    I researched quite a lot. Luck would have it that a publicist came across my blog and gave me a bit of advice about contacting reviewers before publishing. I also sought out beta readers and tidied up the novel. I put the book on Goodreads and decided on a publication date. I made a book trailer and bought cover art.

    The first review blew me away. It was 5 stars and really enthusiastic about the series. All the ARC reviews turned out to be great and the book was featured on a few blogs. Even still, I didn't really sell many copies for the first six months. Not until I released the second book.

    But as I was encouraged by reviews I became more ambitious and thought about things long-term. After the bookbub ad started things off for me I began to think about writing as a full-time self-published author. I'm not quite there yet. I need to sort out my EIN thingy because I sell better in the US. I'm really bad at the practical and financial side of things but I'm getting much better. I've already filled in one tax return and learning as I go.

    I'd like to be selling around 2000 books per month before I think about quitting my job. With 70% royalties and most of my books at 2.99 you can do the maths. Only thing is that once the dollar is converted into pounds it's much less. My circumstances mean that I need to wait awhile. But I'd like to be full-time by early next year. I'm working on a new book right now. I'm going slowly though. There's a bit of research to do. I also want to set aside some money for more thorough editing and proof-reading. I've been relying heavily on betas recently.

    Another good thing that's come out of this journey, is that I've learned how to make book covers. I've even sold pre-mades and been commissioned to cover the Cursed series by Monica Wolfson. It's been great fun, but it does take a bit too much time for me to do more of. I felt very stretched when writing The Unleashed. I work part time and don't have children so I have a lot of time to myself, but even with all that spare time I found myself working every weekend and it's not good long term.

    I'll be making my own covers for future books, so that's going to save me some money. I want to write in YA fantasy next, which is a big ask as I don't actually read that much fantasy! I'm just hoping the concept is good enough.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Hack View Post
    Sarah, you've always fitted in, and I'm sorry you felt that you didn't when you first got here.

    Those are great sales and you've given us some really useful information--thank you so much for posting it all! But I'm afraid you're going to have to either remove or resize some of those charts, even though they're lovely: they're just too big, and with so many of them in one thread they really slow down loading times for those of us without swift connections. I'm so sorry! The maximum allowed is 400 x 400 pixels.
    Thank you, OH.

    Ah, ok. I might try making them accessible on my photobucket page so I can link to them instead.

  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW stranger's Avatar
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    Hey, congrats on the success.

    My long term masterplan is to get onto Bookbub, but I don't think any of my books will get accepted right now. I've been hesitating even applying but your thread inspired me to submit one of them.

    So quick question, what category did you go for in Bookbub? Your books are YA dystopian, right? So they could go in the YA category, Science Fiction or even maybe Fantasy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by stranger View Post
    Hey, congrats on the success.

    My long term masterplan is to get onto Bookbub, but I don't think any of my books will get accepted right now. I've been hesitating even applying but your thread inspired me to submit one of them.

    So quick question, what category did you go for in Bookbub? Your books are YA dystopian, right? So they could go in the YA category, Science Fiction or even maybe Fantasy.
    I think it was YA. I pretty much always go YA when faced with that dilemma. I think that's where it fits best, although there are probably more science fiction elements in my books than a lot of YA dystopia.

    Good luck with bookbub. You could also try bookblast. They are really cheap and I did notice a nice little bump in sales. But it's bookblast.co not bookblast.com.

  10. #10
    practical experience, FTW stranger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sarahdalton View Post
    I think it was YA. I pretty much always go YA when faced with that dilemma. I think that's where it fits best, although there are probably more science fiction elements in my books than a lot of YA dystopia.

    Good luck with bookbub. You could also try bookblast. They are really cheap and I did notice a nice little bump in sales. But it's bookblast.co not bookblast.com.
    Thanks.

  11. #11
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    Sarah! I'm so happy that you have finally taken this step. I've been thinking for about the last week about encouraging you to do this very thing.

    You have much valuable advice and experience to share and these posts reflect that. I bought Unleashed and can't wait to get at it as soon as I finish the book I'm currently reading. So thanks for sharing with us and congrats on your awesome sales!
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    phoenix blazing Parametric's Avatar
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    Fantastic numbers. It must be satisfying to see an upward trend. I'm experimenting with a different self-publishing model and opportunities like Bookbub and Select are not open to me, but I'm hoping that the universal wisdom holds true for me too - every new release builds higher. Congratulations on a big July. So much for the summer slump!

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    Thank you, Ann! I really appreciate your support.

    Thanks, Parametric. I'm intrigued about your self-publishing model. Did you have a diary thread? I'll have to hunt it out.

    Before I released The Unleashed and reduced The Blemished to 99p I was having a bit of a slump in sales. Nothing major, but definitely a noticeable reduction.

    Yesterday was great, 92 sales in one day, that's crazy good. And then today things have slowed right down again. Weird.

  14. #14
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    Sarah, congratulations! Thank you for posting your numbers. Really good to see someone having success.

  15. #15
    phoenix blazing Parametric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sarahdalton View Post
    Thanks, Parametric. I'm intrigued about your self-publishing model. Did you have a diary thread? I'll have to hunt it out.
    No diary yet, but I'm in the early stages of a short story strategy. I'll report back further down the line. It's always good to see exciting numbers and I'm hoping you do get to go full-time in the next few months.

  16. #16
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    What a super collection of posts Sarah! You've done so well, you're inspiring us all. Best of luck in the future, here's hoping you'll be full-time in the new year.
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    Congratulations on your success.

    You are an inspiration and proof that you can succeed at self publishing through hard work and commitment. It's nice to see that it can be done.

  18. #18
    Writing! Writing! Writing! Requiescat In Pace
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    Continued well wishes and many kudos for a job well done!
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  19. #19
    Thanks for sharing and congrats on your success! I hope things continue to go well for you and that you can write full time soon.

  20. #20
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    Congrats on a great year. I'm sure that this is only the beginning for you and wish you the best of luck on your journey.

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    Governments should be afraid of their people." - V for Vendetta

  21. #21
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    Hey Sarah. Just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading your advice on post #3 of this thread. Thanks for that.

  22. #22
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    Thanks guys, really appreciate it!

    I'll come back and report on any new stuff that works or doesn't work. And monthly sales obviously. I've got a couple of books accepted into Storybundle too, so I'll let you know how that goes.

  23. #23
    Ooh, I've heard good things about Storybundle. I'll be interested to hear how it works for you.

    Mega congrats on your awesome sales!

  24. #24
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    Great stuff, Sarah. I'm enjoying reading about your journey, and hearing what has and hasn't worked for you is helpful. I wish you all the best going forward.
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  25. #25
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    Awesome. Congrats on the sales thus far. :-D
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