I’ve decided to do what some other self-publishers have done and keep an honest record of just how well my stuff is selling. I doubt I’ll do this forever. (Edit: a friend of mine pointed out that I sound like I’ve been keeping a dishonest record up to this point. What I mean is that there will probably come a time when I stop posting my numbers. I didn’t post them before because I didn’t see the point. Seeing how some people view indie/self-publishing, gave me a point.) I just think these numbers will serve as a nice wake-up call for those who think they’ll put something out there and it’ll start selling well immediately. It really depends on so many factors, and the more factors you’re aware of, the better prepared you’ll be to make the decision to self-publish.
And because there’s more than April to report, I’ll go ahead and explain the entirety of my earnings up to this point.
WARNING: This is a long post. I’m putting the rest under a More tag.
I first self-published the short story, Master of Roads, a dark, fantasy romance, in January, 2012. I did very little marketing, got some positive reviews, including a very nice one in InD’Tale magazine, and then, nothing. I didn’t publish anything new due to various problems. I tried “platform building” in the meantime, then realized “platform building” when you don’t have any content is like trying to build a house on nothing but air. And then I became disillusioned by that whole marketing scheme. Before I knew it, a year had slipped by.
During that year, I sold 5 copies ($0.99 each) on Amazon of MoR. Through Smashwords, It was downloaded 73 times, but only purchased once. With a 35% royalty rate at Amazon, those purchases totaled up to $1.75. Smashwords total? $0.47.
So, the grand total I earned from my single short story in 2012 was…$2.22.
On to 2013.
This year, I haven’t used social media to connect with anyone, on the level the marketers I’ve read say I’m supposed to keep it. I hate marketing and try to avoid it when I can. I do my best to avoid spamming others and mostly use Goodreads as a reader. Now and then I’ll do a little self-promotion in certain groups I’m a member of, in the condoned areas, but nothing really heavy.
In January of 2013, I sold 1 copy of MoR (Sony, with Smashwords as distributor). I also sold 1 copy of MoR on Amazon.
Total earned for January, 2013 through all channels? $0.41. (Because MoR sold through Sony and not Smashwords, Smashwords takes a distributor cut on top of Sony’s cut. So, the profits are less for me when someone buys from a channel I use Smashwords to reach. The amount I earned from MoR that month was $0.06.)
I didn’t have any sales in February.
In March, I published Shining Armor and part one of TBW. IIRC, I also set MoR to free, therefore, I won’t be discussing downloads of MoR from here on, which, as expected, went up once the risk of losing a dollar on possible garbage was gone.
Numbers for March:
Shining Armor: 0 through Smashwords (I got nine downloads by giving it away for free); 3 copies through Amazon at the 70% royalty rate.
Total earned for March 2013? $6.12.
In April, I published TBW#2. And now, the numbers.
Nothing through Smashwords. Everything that’s been downloaded there has been set to free or was part of a coupon offer since I like the fact that Smashwords offers so many different formats.
In April, people bought 3 copies of The Baker’s Wife (part one). At the 35% royalty rate, I earned $2.10 total.
So, the total amount I’ve earned so far, 2012 and 2013 combined is (drum roll)…
Yup. That’s Amanda Hocking money there.
Now, here are the factors I’m keeping in mind:
1) I’m new.
2) I don’t push myself, marketing-wise.
3) I don’t have a large backlist that would show I’m serious about this, or give people a variety of things to choose from.
How am I solving this without resorting to what I see as the evils of marketing? I’m currently following Dean Smith’s advice (though not his price structure…not yet). His advice to those who are just starting out (as opposed to mid-listers who have a large backlist they can just upload to Kindle) is to “…write like an old pulp writer. Hard and fast and get it into print.” (Dean Wesley Smith, Think Like a Publisher, 2012 edition)
He also advocates getting into as many channels as possible. For e-books, that means Kindle, Smashwords, Apple’s iBookstore, Diesel, Sony, etc. (B&N is currently up in the air until either Microsoft buys it or B&N dies). I’m not sure how KDP Select is going to figure into this plan. I’m kind of torn on it.
But that really belongs to a different post.
To wrap up this one, indie/self-publishing will not make you instantly rich. In fact, there’s a chance you won’t even earn enough money in the first few months to pay for editing and covers for the next ones you want to publish.
If I were in this for the short term, all these numbers would depress me. But I don’t expect to get paid for years. I have faith in my stories. I believe that someone will fall in love with at least one of them and perhaps tell others about it. That’s what happened with Loki (for the curious it can be found on FP.com or Smashwords*). I still smile whenever I see the nickname “Little Mouse” (whether in reference to Sigyn or some other love interest) in a Loki story someone has posted online, and wonder if they were inspired by my early effort at storytelling. Either way, I figure, if Loki, Son of Laufey can get so many downloads, and touch the lives of so many people, why not the stuff I’ve been writing lately?
There’s a chance I’m wrong, but I’m willing to take the risk.
If you’ve gotten to this point, thank you for reading such a long, long post. I promise the other number reports will be shorter.
*PLEASE NOTE: Loki, Son of Laufey, is not a sweet romance. It’s my one and only sensual/spicy romance, though I do hold back more than most spicy romances would. It’s also a tragedy. Just thought I’d warn you.
(Disclaimer: I don’t get any money or remuneration of any kind from anything I’ve linked here, nor do I have any monetary ties to any organizations, businesses, or people mentioned. All links are provided for informational purposes only.)
Update, May 17, 2013: It turns out that I missed a UK sale. I sold one copy of The Baker’s Wife (part one) through the Kindle UK store in April. I earned $0.71 US cents.