One of the things I’ve set out to do with my e-publishing efforts is to be transparent about the process and to share what I learn with others. That way, even if my books don’t set the world on fire or pay for a car (or even busfare), I can help other writers learn from my mistakes and successes and get off to a better start.
So, since Godheads has been on sale for a little over a week, and there’s a new free story clogging up the internets, let’s look at how the numbers are shaking out.
Over on Smashwords, Godheads has sold 10 copies since release, and another 5 sample downloads have been made. That’s a significantly slower rate of sales than Hotel Flamingo, which did 14 copies in the first day and 7 more over the course of about a week. Similarly, Flamingo attracted 250-odd page views on release, while Godheads got only 80 or so. Both of them got the same kind of push through Twitter, LJ, Facebook and just emailing everyone I knew and asking them to buy it, but Godheads had a much weaker result.
What to make of that? Did all my friends hate the last book and decide to just ignore the new one? Well, possibly, but I’m not going to assume that. In the end, it’s about what else people have on and what catches their attention, and perhaps May is just busier than November. But I also do think that perhaps some of the novelty has worn off, as has some of the utility of word-of-mouth from the dedicated readers, and that just reinforces the need to start promoting more assertively. I’ve been almost-deliberate-but-mostly-just-lazy avoiding promoting Flamingo until Godheads was done, but now that I have two books, it’s time to bounce the attention back-and-forth between them to build the combo meter.
Speaking of Hotel Flamingo, it got a sudden uptick of 40 page views when Godheads came out, which was also around the time of my EWF panel. Not sure which one of those things was responsible – it’s hard to synch up events when the recording body is on the other side of the IDT – but either way it’s good. Those 40 views led to a grand total of one new sale, though, bringing the total through Smashwords to 50 copies. That’s not wonderful; at this rate it’ll be another six months before the book breaks even. Again, promotion may help.
My free stories, on the other hand, are doing just fine. ‘The Descent’ has clocked 350 downloads from Smashwords, 30 through Sony for its ereader and more than one thousand through Barnes and Noble! None of which earns me a goddamn cent, true, but it’s nonetheless gratifying to think of that many people reading my stuff – and, perhaps, contemplating spending money on other stuff one day. ‘Watching the Fireworks’ has only been up for a few days, but it’s been downloaded 24 times, and should keep gaining attention – and, since it’s a completely different genre to everything else I’m doing, may get some attention from a different reader group discovering it through tags and metadata.
Alright, so that’s Smashwords. But what about the big dog, Amazon and the Kindle Store? For months I waited for Smashwords to finalise their negotiations and distribute to the Kindle Store, which is the number one marketplace for ebooks; eventually I got tired of waiting, created new versions through Amazon’s epub services and put them up their myself. Godheads is currently (let me check the site quickly) the #40 957th most popular book in the Kindle Store; Hotel Flamingo is a more disappointing #114 820. But still, that’s out of a list of more than 750 000, so that’s pretty cool. And what kind of numbers do those rankings reflect? 4 copies of Flamingo and 5 of Godheads. The bar, she is not set especially high. A lot of books on the Kindle Store are just rotting away in a server, unloved, untouched, never to be downloaded again. Gloomy, really.
Furthermore, those sales don’t do me as much good as the Smashwords one, as I discovered today while checking my royalty details. I published both books on a 70% royalty rate, which is standard, but looking at the sales figures I saw that some of the sales only attracted a 35% royalty. I thought something was screwy with the settings, but they were fine; then I dug further into the Terms and Conditions (you know, the stuff you never bother reading) and discovered the truth. That 70% royalty is only available for sales into Amazon’s home territories – the USA, the UK (amazon.uk) and German and nearby countries (amazon.de). Sales to anywhere else in the world only qualify for a 35% royalty, which is kind of a kick in the balls if you’re an Australian writer writing about Australia with a predominantly Australian audience. Apparently the lower rate is to offset the cost of Whispernet, Amazon’s ‘free’ 3G delivery system that sends books to your Kindle; outside those territories, someone’s gotta pay for that bandwidth, and apparently the writers are the ones who take it in the shorts.
I’m annoyed about that, and more so given that it’s not something you realise until you do some digging, but it’s not as if I’m going to yank the books out of there. I’ll just encourage people to go with Smashwords instead, if possible, which pays a higher royalty and is a lot more transparent about the whole process. They’re far from perfect, and I’m not always pleased with some of the formatting of their ebooks, but they do a lot more to keep their writers informed about how it all works and to do what they can for them, which has more appeal than Amazon’s hands-off approach.
For that matter, I plan to take a bit of advice from Chuck Wendig, who sells his ebooks Irregular Creatures and Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey through both the Kindle Store (as .mobi files) and through his own site Terrible Minds (as PDFs). Sales of the PDFs are lower than the ebooks, but they’re respectable and he gets all the cash, rather than a variable cut. So I’m following his lead and putting together my own PDFs of Flamingo and Godheads that people can pick up directly. Not sure how I’m going to arrange that as yet – whether using a Paypal widget or just telling people to shoot me an email – but I’ll get it worked out soon enough.
(For the curious – my Smashwords files use Times New Roman, my Kindle Store files use Book Antiqua, and I was using Century for the PODcom files but am switching to Adobe Garamond Pro because the punctuation marks in Century are awful. These are the things I think about during lunch breaks.)
Anyway, that’s what I’m working on this week, along with uploading some updated files to Smashwords, sending out copies to reviewers, and working on a new flash piece about doll heads. And talking about genre and gaming at Continuum 7 over the weekend. More on that later.
5 replies on “Numb3rs (see, it just looks dumb)”
Hey, thanks for being so open with all this info. It’s incredibly helpful (and I had no idea about the Amazon royalty slash to territories outside the US.)
On my to-do list is setting up an actual store, but sodded if I know where to even begin. Selling from your own site sounds like a good way to go, while keeping Flamingo and Godheads on SW and Amazon just for the sake of it.
Incidentally, if you can, sort out some way to comment on these posts from the main page – and keep a comment count there as well. For a half-minute I thought you’d turned commenting off before I realised that I needed to click on the post title and then scroll down.
I’ll see what can be done with the comments. It would be a lot handier that way.
I’m pretty sure there are online store templates / services out there, both simple and complex. The key thing for me would be how automated it could be and how integrated with PayPal. I’ll look into it at some point.
Thanks for putting all this info out there, Patrick. It’s good stuff. I’d be interested in hearing your ideas about how you build on the audience you already have – presumably the intention would be to try to get some attention overseas as well as in Australia?
I feel vaguely guilty about not having done my part with a Flamingo review (as well as other stuff friends have written) but I’m waiting until my Kindle arrives because reading fiction on a PC screen annoys me, for some reason.
Sorry, just noticed this comment now. Got to set it so it alerts me when one is left.
Anyway, yes, overseas attention is an absolute must. I need to be sending both books out to reviewers and readers in the US, which is where the fat Kindle dollars live. Which I will do, once I find some appropriate forums, and once I stop being lazy.
I haz a relevant!
In terms of simplicity and cost, it is very hard to beat e-junkie for electronic distribution.
It hooks into your PayPal account and automates all the electronic download for you.
Costs $5 a month. (The PayPal fees are extra – about 50c for your price tag.)
Let me know if you want any tech wrangling.