July Sales Report: Big Jump In Sales, Huge Jump In Revenue

From the beginning, I promised to publish my sales figures every month. I had several reasons for this. Joe Konrath was the first I know of to share all his numbers.

Several followed his lead, and that culture of openness he initiated was a key factor in my realization that self-publishing was now a viable path for any writer.

I think most writers find these numbers helpful, but I know a minority find it a little distasteful. That’s fine.

If you are if that persuasion, I have a guest post today over at the blog of Jonathan Dalar which you can read instead, called “Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt” about the tactics that some defenders of the status quo are using to steer writers away from self-publishing.

For the rest of you that don’t mind the monthly peek in my wallet, let’s get this out of the way first: I had a very good month. I’m not getting too excited. It’s still very early days. Sales could easily drop this month, especially because I won’t be releasing anything.

And there’s no promo tool out there that beats a new release. In May, my first month, I released two titles, which gave me a pretty amazing opening month. In June, with no new releases and an Amazon sale, that almost halved.

In July, with the release of Let’s Get Digital, sales tripled. Here are the numbers:

May: 153

June: 78

July: 253

I sold more e-books in July than in May and June combined. The reason for the sales bump is clear.

Let’s Get Digital, even though it was only released on July 20, sold 191 copies up to July 31.

And that picture gets even rosier when I look at revenue, which has increased fivefold on May and tenfold on June. Here are the (rough) revenue numbers:

May: $70

June: $35

July: $425

The disproportionate increase in revenue is down to Let’s Get Digital being my first title attracting the 70% royalty rate.

If I had priced Let’s Get Digital at 99c, I would have had to have sold well over 1,000 copies to make the same kind of money.

It’s far, far easier to make money at $2.99. I get over $2 per copy sold on Amazon, and up to $2.35 on Smashwords. Speaking of sales channels, here’s the breakdown for July.

Amazon US: 192

Amazon UK: 38

Amazon DE: 2

Smashwords.com: 20

Smashwords Partners: 1

Amazon US was the primary source of sales, and that split holds up pretty evenly across all titles. What’s notable here is the huge sales on Smashwords.com compared to their illustrious partners (Barnes & Noble, Apple, Sony, Kobo).

I only have one reported sale for Barnes & Noble, and none for the other partners. I can’t even find my books in the Sony store, even though they are supposed to be there.

Smashwords has some problem with Kobo at the moment, and they are not delivering books. As for Apple, that’s a black box. I have no idea if I have sold anything or not because of the delays in reporting.

There are similar delays with reporting from Barnes & Noble. I know I have made more than one sale there and I have no idea of the true number, but I wouldn’t say it’s significant.

Let’s Get Digital has been rejected twice for the Premium Catalogue in the last two weeks. The stated reason was that their partners don’t like “mention of the Kindle, etc.” This is a guide to self-publishing. I kind of have to mention the Kindle. Come on guys.

I have sent three emails in the last week or so. No response yet. Quite frustrating.

The revenue figure of $425 for July includes around $20 in PayPal donations for the free version of Let’s Get Digital. There have been over 1,200 downloads of that in the two weeks it has been out. The donations may seem low until you factor in how many people tried the free version, then went on to purchase the Kindle version.

The total sales figures for that title in its first two weeks (up to and including today) are very impressive with 217 copies sold across all channels. That’s a conversion rate from “free” to paid of over 15%.

It also means, when I factor in the donations, that I have covered over 40% of the cost of publishing that book in 2 weeks.

But what’s particularly remarkable are the UK sales figures. Towards the end of July, they were approaching level pegging with US numbers, and that has continued into August, with UK sales of Let’s Get Digital making up a remarkable 50% of my sales in August so far (up from 20% in July and around 10% in May/June).

I have no idea what’s led to this breakout, but one factor must be that it’s currently the #2 Writing Book in the UK (and has been around the Top 5 since release), and is in the Top #2000 overall.

Someone is promoting this book in the UK, and it’s not me. Whoever you are, thank you. It may well just be the extra exposure from that bestseller list. I’ll take it.

One thing that was crucial in the success of Let’s Get Digital was the huge support I got on launch day. I’m very grateful for that, and a special thanks most go to all of my reviewers.

I have 38 reviews across the two main Amazon sites: 36 five star reviews, and 2 four star reviews. I’m sure that encourages interested readers to at least sample the book, which has a huge knock-on effect on sales.

But what about my other books? My other two current titles are short stories, and they are never going to sell like full-length non-fiction. It’s just never going to happen.

Even so, in three months, I have sold 298 short stories, with zero promotion aside from the actual launch. Normally, I sell 1-2 copies a day of each, across all channels. There is a spike across all stories when I release a new one. But when Amazon run a sale (like they did again in the second-half of July), I sell no short stories at all, which is understandable.

Tomorrow is the three month anniversary of the launch of my first self-published title. Here is the breakdown of the 515 e-books I have sold since then.

IYGITW (May 4) – 188

Transfection (May 21) – 110

Let’s Get Digital (July 20) – 217

For anyone keeping track, If You Go Into The Woods is a handful of sales away from breaking even.

Transfection has covered around 30% of its cost, and Let’s Get Digital has covered around 40% of its cost. I’m pretty happy with that.

I was able to give Let’s Get Digital a much greater promo push because the audience is much easier to target. Stories are trickier, but I am confident I can raise their baseline sales level in the long-term.

To do that, I will need to promote them better, and I have a few ideas. But before I bother, before it’s worth the time and effort involved, I need to have more of them out.

When I have, say, five stories up, and then bundle them into a collection for $2.99, I will see a much greater return for my efforts, and have some sales that tap into that crucial, lucrative 70% royalty rate. Until then, I am happy to have them ticking over.

While I am both pleased and proud at the success of Let’s Get Digital, ultimately I want to make my name as a fiction writer.

To that end, my immediate efforts are going to focus on getting my South American historical – A Storm Hits Valparaíso – ready for release. I would love to have it out next month, but it may be October.

I need to do one more pass, but it may need significant work in some parts. I won’t know until I start working on it, which will commence today. I’m looking forward to it. Very much. I think this book has the potential to outsell all my other releases combined. But only if I get it right. This is the time for patience and discipline.

I only want to release my very best work. That’s the pact I have made with my readers. You may like my writing, you may not. But I can promise you that everything I release will be published to the highest standards, and the story will be the best that I can make it.

I actually pulled this novel from three agents that were still considering it, after I started to post good numbers on my own. Why? It’s quite simple. I thought I could make more money by self-publishing.

For more of my thoughts on that, and the tactics some are using to smear self-publishing, you should check out the guest post I mentioned above. Here’s a taster:

There is a lot of disinformation out there about self-publishing. I chose that word carefully. Some people are consciously spreading inaccurate information about self-publishing to steer writers away from it.

In the software industry, they called this FUD: fear, uncertainty, and doubt. The idea was that you would create enough question marks about a competitor’s product so that the customer would stick with yours.

Read the rest at Jonathan Dalar’s blog.

Thank you to everyone who bought, reviewed, or helped to spread the word about any of my books. I really couldn’t have done this without you.

75 Replies to “July Sales Report: Big Jump In Sales, Huge Jump In Revenue”

  1. Okay, I know we’re having a literary feud and all (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.), but those numbers are freaking fantastic! Way to go and a big fat congrats! You truly deserve it.

  2. Congratulations, Dave, that is really great. Let’s Get Digital deserves all the success it gets. I left a review on Amazon UK.( For some reason it is under the name W J King.) I totally appreciate what you say about wanting to concentrate on fiction though. I look forward to reading A Storm when you are ready to release it.

    1. Hey Bill,

      “Storm” is my real baby. I wrote it on and off for three years – a lot of it in South America. I finished it in 2009 in Czech, actually. It’s been through quite a few drafts since then, and it’s nearly there. A general clean-up from top to toe, with some minor surgery here and there, and it should be good to go. It’s written in a very different style to anything I’ve released so far. A lot of action, a lot of dialogue. Very fast-paced. A huge cast of characters, with a narrative spanning a long period of time. It was very difficult to write. I really took Hemingway’s advice on this one: “open a vein, and bleed.”

      Of course, as it’s a totally different genre again, I will have to work hard to build up an audience there too. But I never really liked doing things the easy way!

      Thanks for the review,


      1. Now I am really looking forward to Storm. By the way, just to make a liar out of me, Amazon finally got round to using my real name on the review. They never changed it for ages and now when I mention it in a public place…

  3. Hi David,

    Glad to see your sales are increasing. I bought a copy of LGD and think it’s an excellent book – I then bought your short stories off the back of it. I look forward to your new releases. And thanks for sharing your numbers, as a newbie to self-publishing, it’s really helpful to follow your progress and see how you are doing it.

    Cheers mate,

  4. Thank you so much for the guest blog, Dave! I’ve been following your blog here almost since it started, and it’s been a real inspiration to me.

    It’s awesome seeing actual numbers broken down like this in terms of what you’re making, what the percentage to break-even is, and the trends you’re seeing in sales. I’m not sure I could be that soul-baringly honest with my own finance figures, but it’s educational to see it nonetheless.

      1. Hard for me not to be a little green at those numbers. But actually making money from writing is fun. I still need to turn a few pages to get a payout, but that’s in the future.

        When I priced my book, I set it at 1.99, with a 35% royalty rate. I dropped the price to see if I could get a sale. Got a few in July. But right now my sales are down 100%. I need to promote without looking “Spammy”. Or get a good review, I suppose.

        But CONGRATS on the numbers. They may not exactly pay your mortgage fully…but they sure help. 🙂

  5. David, these are fantastic figures. Congratulations and well done on all the hard work and for sharing with us. You are a true inspiration (as well as a brilliant writer.)

    1. Thanks Margo. You never really know if a book is going to sink or swim. The nerves are crazy on release. The launch went very well, and the sales are holding up very nicely into this month. Now to get the novel out!

  6. David, I’m new to this blog after discovering it through comments (some really smart and insightful ones) left on other blogs. First, congrats on your sales. Second, if you don’t mind, I have two questions:

    1) Why did you choose to sell to B&N through Smashwords and not directly through Pubit?
    2) If you’ve only recently started self-publishing (in May?), why are you advocating self-publishing in book form? How can you tell others what avenue of action they should take over another when you’re just starting yourself, and you’ve yet to see long-term results?

    The first question, I’m just curious, and the second question, I’m not trying to be a jerk or anything. I’m genuinely interested. I’ve read your opinions and analysis on a couple different topics, and I was really impressed.

    1. Hi Cristina,

      Thank you. To answer your questions, first of all, PubIt don’t allow international self-publishers. They allow international publishers, but not us. They have been saying they will let us in “soon” since December, so I don’t know when it will happen, if ever. It’s more than a little frustrating, as it’s far harder to sell books there through Smashwords for all sorts of reasons.

      With regard to Let’s Get Digital, that’s a fair question, and one I considered myself at length before deciding to publish it. It all happened quite organically. I decided from the start to blog about the whole process of an unknown, unpublished writer attempting to make a go of self-publishing. I posted each step along the way on my blog from writing the story, to editing, right through to marketing techniques that were working (and not working) for me. I promised my blog readers that I would put all the steps together into a free PDF so they could download it and have it all in one place.

      As I was going through each step, I found that there was lots of great information out there. However, there was lots of bad information too, and it was a lot of work to sift the good from the bad. I thought it would be useful to gather all the right information into one place, and that was part of the reasoning behind blogging about it in the first place. On my blog, and in my book, I make it very clear the debt I owe to people like Joe Konrath and Dean Wesley Smith, as well as the hundreds of other bloggers out there who share all their information on a regular basis.

      While I was posting all these practical steps, as I did them, some readers started following along, and the blog really grew in popularity. I only started it in April, but it has gone from 50 views a day to over 1,000. I had 25,000 views in July (that’s the only metric I get). In between posting the “steps”, I also began writing posts about my reasoning behind deciding to self-publish. I spoke about the grind of the query system, and how it was getting more and more difficult to get representation or a book deal. I started analyzing the reasons for that. I started blogging about the rise of e-books. How midlisters were going it alone. Why the disruptive power of the internet has led to this rise in self-publishing.

      I suppose I was blogging about why I was self-publishing as well as how I was doing it, and people seemed to respond to that.

      In June, I realized that I didn’t just want to throw up a PDF of my blog posts on the practical steps involved in self-publishing for the first time. I figured that if that was essentially going to be a “book” with my name on it, that I should do it right. So I looked at what other books were out there, I examined all the stuff I had learned, and I tried to put together all the things that I wished I had in one easy accessible place when I started. I thought a lot of the existing titles focused on the “how” but not so much on the “why”, and that very few had an international focus.

      When I started self-publishing, that was the culmination of a very long period researching the topic, and the industry as a whole. I think I was able to make that step with a little confidence because I understood the logic of e-books, and that allied to the disruptive power of the internet, their dominance was inevitable. But I also saw a lot of people spreading myths about self-publishing, trying to scare writers away from it.

      As such, I thought it was essential for the book to cover the “why” first and then the “how”. Adding the “success stories” of more experienced self-publishers was a natural step.

      Some people may prefer to read a guide written by someone with more experience than myself. I understand that. So, I put my story right up front in the book. This is the first paragraph:

      “This is the part of the book where I am supposed to demonstrate my expertise, list a big string of credentials, talk about my years of experience in New York publishing, and list all books I have written. But you know what? I can’t. And yet I can still publish professional-looking books like the one you’re reading right now. And if you keep reading, I’ll teach you how. The first thing you need to learn is this: anybody can do this.”

      The rest of the introduction goes on to detail my background, how long I have been writing, my publishing credits, and how long I have been self-publishing.

      I guess the short answer to your question is this: The whole point of the book is that anybody can do this. I wanted to show writers that with a little bit of research, a little bit of money, and a lot of hard work, they can produce professional looking e-books. It doesn’t take years of experience. I have only been doing this for three months! If you are smart enough to write a good book, you are more than capable of learning everything you need to publish well in a short space of time. I hope “Let’s Get Digital” is tangible proof of that. I’m very proud of it, and very pleased with the response to it.

      I’m sorry this answer was so lengthy. It was a good question, and a fair one, and I wanted to give you a thorough answer.


      1. David,

        Definitely no need to apologize for the length. I really appreciate you taking the time to offer such a thoughtful reply, especially when it seems that at least part of the answer is found in the book itself. I know I said this in my above comment, but I really enjoy your take on things writing/publishing related.

        I recently started on my first query go-round, and I’m already wondering if I’m making a mistake. I definitely need to read Let’s Get Digital, which I’m hoping–given I’m in my last year of a really strenuous degree program–I’ll be able to do sometime before 2013. (Kidding. Kind of.)

        1. Cristina,

          I wouldn’t say there is anything wrong with querying per se, especially if you don’t have the time right now to devote to self-publishing. I spent 18 months querying. While it was ultimately fruitless, I did learn a lot about the business along the way, and rewrote my novel a few times based on some great feedback, so it wasn’t a complete waste. I only stopped querying because I didn’t think an agent could get me the kind of deal I wanted, and I felt I could make more on my own.

          So, I wouldn’t necessarily advise you to stop querying. I would say that you shouldn’t take just any old offer. There is always a Plan B, and it’s not a bad one. You aren’t committing yourself to anything by querying.


  7. Most embarrassingly I’ve not yet read LGD (I have bought it!), and of course was unable to help with the promo due to personal circumstances, so feeling suitably guilty. 🙂

    But the numbers are very respectable. And love the graphics.

    One thing I wonder, though, is the relative merits of the 99 v 2.99 price option.

    Clearly a good decision in this circumstance, where you had a clear target audience that you were connecting with via the blogs, etc. But would that work across the board?

    You say “It’s far, far easier to make money at $2.99.” and cite the example, “If I had priced Let’s Get Digital at 99c, I would have had to have sold well over 1,000 copies to make the same kind of money.”

    Agree entirely for LGD. But would this apply to a fiction work? Bob Meyer made the point recently that he would have to sell a fraction of John Locke’s million sales to make the same money with a higher priced/ higher royalty product.

    We’ve agonized over this with our own title, and the pending new release. No way of knowing for sure, but our guess is that as an unknown name with an unknown book we would never have got into the higher echelons of the Kindle charts if we’d opted for 2.99 rather than 0.99 for Sugar & Spice. And no question that it was getting into the higher echelons of the charts that attracted impulse buyers that really accelerated sales, attracting more impulse buyers, and made the book the breakout success it became.

    For our new release we’re opting for the cheaper price again, on the same principle (although this time we’re going head to head with an Amazon sale, so our expectations are appropriately subdued).

    We may actually end up making less money than we could, but I think for new writers trying to build an audience the key task is to reach as many readers as possible and establish themselves.

    What are your pricing thoughts for A Storm Hits Valparaíso?

    1. Hi Mark,

      Comparing my sales to yours is like comparing apples with all the oranges in Seville.

      And yes, I had a clear target audience. I also knew that non-fiction tends to be priced higher. I didn’t want to go higher again, because it was only 60k. If it was longer, I may have. Not sure.

      So, the genre was tolerant of higher prices. In fact, I felt a 99c price tag on a “how to” book could devalue it in the eyes of the reader. And I’m sure that I never would have hit 1,000 sales at 99c. No way.

      I think you have to approach each book in isolation, and price it according to your goals. I have 99c short stories out, so I think that affords me some breathing room with longer work.

      As to your situation, it’s really hard to know. There is one school of thought out there which says that John Locke left a lot of money on the table. That he should have raised his prices when he had colonized the top of the charts. He would have slipped down the rankings quicker, sure, but he would have made a lot more money on the way down.

      I probably fall in that camp, but you can never really know for sure. You could make the argument that Mark Edwards & Louise Voss could have made more if they had raised their price once they had solidified top spot in the UK. But, they held on there for a month. If they had raised the price to higher, maybe they would have dropped straight away.

      Nobody really can be sure.

      Joe Konrath has done pretty extensive testing on all $2.99 and below price points (but not above), and he seems certain that $2.99 is the sweet spot for most of his books, but he will run a 99c sale on a title now and then to give the sales a shot in the arm.

      Robin Sullivan starts all her books at Ridan Publishing out at $4.95 but has experimented with a variety of price points with varying results. For some writers, they made more with a lower price point for the lead into a series, but for others, sales actually dropped on a lower price – probably down to perception of value.

      I think it will really vary from genre to genre, writer to writer, and even book to book. There may well be more price competition in a genre like thrillers than there is in fantasy.

      Obviously, you have had huge success at this price point. And as you said, audience building may be more important at this stage than maximizing profit. Also, as this will be the first in a series, perhaps a good strategy would be to keep this one low, and price succeeding books higher. That has worked well for many.

      The good thing is that the price is never set in stone. You can always trial a different price, and revert if it doesn’t work.

      For me, I’m going to try $4.99 with A Storm Hits Valparaiso. I think there won’t really be many competing titles. I think the readers of that genre are less price sensitive. And I also have several ways to allow readers to try my writing at a lower price. It’s a length work – 120k – and I think historical fiction readers will understand that such a book takes a long time to produce because of the extensive historical research, and are prepared to pay more.

      But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe that price will dampen sales. If so, I can always cut. That’s the beauty of being in control.

      However, if had a novel out at 99c which had sold very, very well, and this follow up was not the next book in a series, I would think twice about my approach, for sure.

      It’s a risk, but if it pays off, it could be really great. If it doesn’t I haven’t lost that much to begin with, as I don’t have really significant sales yet, and I can always relaunch at a lower price.

  8. Kick ass! Sounds like you’re making a name for yourself in this nasty world. I understand fiction is your thing, but Let’s Get Digital has serious legs on it. I hope the buzz keeps spreading about it, because it is a very informative book. Congrats.

  9. Hey, these numbers are awesome and I know they will continue to grow. Yes, Let’s Get Digital wasn’t literary,but this book has exposed you to host of potential new readers. PJ

  10. Congrats! Those are great numbers for just starting out!

    And thank you for your transparency – when I get to the same point that you’re at, I also plan on sharing my numbers because it’s been such a huge help to me when other authors have done it.

    1. I found it hugely helpful when I was trying to decide. The media really just reports the same names: Hocking, Konrath, Locke, but there are so many others that have had huge success, and more again that are making a living from self-published books or are on the way to doing so. Without the generosity of those writers sharing their figures, I would never have had the courage to self-publish.

  11. Hello, David.

    I’m very glad to hear of your increasing success, it gives folks like me even more juice to keep writing and searching. I’ve told everyone I know about Let’s Get Digital, but I admit to being excited about the South American novel. My degree is actually in history, so I love anything based on fact.

    Just in case no one has told you: you have changed the life of at least one fellow writer. Thank you.


    1. Hey Landon,

      I’m excited about the novel too. I’ve really struggled not to “alter” the history to fit the narrative. That makes writing it a lot harder, but I’ve always preferred historical fiction which didn’t wander to far from the record. Of course, there are always huge gaps in the record, and that’s where the novelist can really go to work. But it all has to be believable, authentic. That’s the real challenge.


  12. Thank you David. Your breakdown of where the success lies is encouraging for those of us who are, only now, embarking on the digital journey. As for those who do not like to ‘talk money’, they are not required to read this. We are, after all, free agents. Personally, I appreciate the ways you are helping the rest of us with the information you gather, both on your own account and in general.

  13. Nice job and thanks for sharing your numbers. I just finished LGD and really appreciated all the info and positive approach to epub. A work in progress for sure… I’m up to about 50 sales of Game of Sails, without pushing it very much. That will come in September, after I finish up a heavy month of racing.

    I just posted an Amazon review. Hopefully the great numbers will continue!

  14. Very excited to see the sales increasing for LGD. I have posted about it on the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards and have had some positive responses. Will try the writers’ sites such as Query Tracker where writers are still sending out to agents (might as well self-publish while waiting for an agent to bite!) I have also forwarded PDF copies to writing friends who do not have e-readers and they have been most grateful for all the useful info.

  15. it’s great to see a book about digital publishing doing so well. You are doing such a great service for all of us, while at the same time solidifying your own place as one who others will turn to for advice. bravo to you and all of your hard work. you deserve every accolade and sale.

  16. Congrats, Dave! (Once again – seems to become a regular thing whenever you publish your sales figures…) And also thanks for being so open about it.
    Turning over your figures in my head, it looks like LGD didn’t lose much of its momentum in August so far.

    1. Nope. It dipped a little after the initial promo burst – as expected – then started creeping up again – mostly down to the UK – and is selling a solid 10 a day now, sometimes more. The UK sales are really consistent, and the US seems to go in bursts. All works for me!

  17. Congrats on the success.Regarding your comment on Kobo: I released my book “The Traveler’s Companion” in March and it’s still not in the Kobo store. I checked with Smashwords and they referred me to an update that stated they were having problems with Kobo, mainly that Kobo was overwhelmed by all the submissions. Smashwords reported that they would only send 1,000 books at a time. I considered pubbing with them myself rather than waiting for smashwords, and had them email me their requirements. I haven’t committed to that yet, I would actually prefer smashwords do it, but I’ve heard from a few sources that Kobo doesn’t “like” self pubbbers and has intentionally made it difficult for them.

    1. I think they only send books every 2 weeks. And if you consider that they publish a hell of a lot more than 1,000 books every week, then if something doesn’t change, they will never clear this backlog.

      And I hope that’s not true about Kobo, that would be quite short-sighted, and will ultimately cost them money.

  18. I have read LGD cover to cover (bought it so that I could read it on Kindle), and the only reason I haven’t done a review yet is because I want to do it via video… thus I need both good lighting and a little lip gloss! I’ve read several other eBook info guides, and your combination of detailed advice with encouragement, anecdotal evidence, and a discussion of your decision-making process is a welcome addition to the brand-new genre. The reason you’re selling so well is that you are making regular contributions to the community, and folks know your name. (Unlike a certain character in your short stories, which I’ve also read!)

    And as John Locke recommends, you are creating real relationships with fellow writers and readers. You can’t beat that kind of P.R. As long as they are priced reasonably, many of these fans and friends will buy anything you write. You are making yourself a brand name, and building up loyalty amongst buyers.

    Congrats on your great sales numbers, and thanks for all the help, David. You are a veritable ePioneer!

  19. Great to see David. I wish I had your numbers! haha! 🙂

    Although, July was my best month too… but far far less in sales compared to you. The good news lining all this is that even though it’s summer and even though Amazon did one of their sales, we still sold books, right? You saw an increase, as did I. On KB, there seems to be a healthy split between ups and downs. And we cannot forget those signing book deals… it’s wild right now.

    I can’t complain about my sales because I just released my actual first novel. My three projects before that were short stories and a series that had been originally published online (and my other project is a poetry thing I’m experimenting with – epic horror poetry). Still though, the sales I’ve gotten from those projects have allowed me to jump start my push for my current release…


    1. Without the release of another title, I would have seen a slight dip. But then again, without Amazon’s killer sale, those titles probably would have seen a slight rise.

      But the big difference was being able to release a full-length work. They just sell better. And being able to price something at $2.99 and hit that 70% really helps.

      Epic horror poetry? Now that sounds interesting!

  20. Congratulations on the sales! Very impressive and well-deserved.
    Thank you for sharing your numbers with us and your thoughts on pricing strategy and how you’re faring with the other distributors. Priceless info for any author out there navigating the self-publishing waters.

  21. I always take Joe Konrath’s numbers with a grain of salt–and I’ve seen him quoted with widely differing “figures” about his sales. For example, this video has Konrath claiming he makes ” about 50 grand a month”.
    (sorry, poor audio)
    At that rate, I calculate Konrath to be a a millionaire twice over. Compare that statement to this:
    from a few months before.
    I think Konrath’s found success, and that’s good. But the starry-eyed dreams of becoming rich via self-publishing are, like “legacy” publishing, still the province of a small percentage of authors. The rest? They may make a living; some may make a very good living. But wealthy? Almost none.

    1. Hey James,

      I don’t know the ins and outs of Joe Konrath’s sales figures, but I don’t see the the variance in the two examples you have quoted.

      The blog is from December 1st 2010. November was when e-books really started taking off. Konrath said he was making 26k a month.

      The video was uploaded in June 2011, but I don’t know when it was shot. I presume it’s from too long before then. He said he’s making 50k a month.

      That makes sense to me. He’s talking about the RATE at which he is earning rather than the average. If I say I am making $400 a month, that’s the rate I earned at in July. If you had asked me in June, it would have been a lot less.

      I could easily believe that his sales have doubled in six months or so, given that e-reader ownership doubled in the same time, and he would have released new titles.

      Regarding the general point about many writers making money from writing or not, you should read this post from Dean wesley Smith:


      1. Thanks for the link. I didn’t say making a living from fiction writing is a myth–or even becoming wealthy from it. I said those making lots of money (like Konrath’s claim) are very, very few, and likely to remain so, for a host of reasons.

        It’s entirely possible Konrath’s monthly sales $ more than doubled in about three months (December 2010 to his April 2011 blog post), but I’m doubtful. Is Konrath selling hundreds of thousands of copies of his books? Maybe, but that would be…extraordinary, and mean he’s selling more books now every month than JK Rowling and Stephen King combined. If that’s true, then he’s not only a millionaire at least a few times over, but he’s also on track to be the greatest selling author of all time.

        1. If someone was going to lie about their e-book sales, they would get found out very quickly. The “churn” is much lower at the top. Authors have a good idea of what the guys around them are selling. If someone started telling porkie pies, it would come out fairly quick.

          I’m not sure how you are calculating he would then be a millionaire several times over. Dec 2010 was his best month at the time. He said he cleared 26k. Each month before would have been less. He’s not saying the average for the year is 26k, or that the average now is 50k, when he says “I’m earning 50k a month”, I’m pretty sure he means he cleared 50k the month before.

          Most of his books are priced at $2.99. To make 50k, he would only need to sell around 24,000 books. Not only do I believe he is selling that amount (remember he has 40 titles out, so that would average to 600 books a month per title), but I also know of at least four other indies who are selling more than that monthly amount: Amanda Hocking, John Locke, J Carson Black, and Bob Mayer. I’m pretty sure Stephen Leather is too. There could well be more.

          I have no idea how many books Rowling and King are selling.

          As to how many, or what proportion are making lots of money, it really depends how you define that. In any profession, there will be less people at the top of the pay band than at the bottom. Writing is no different.

        2. What you also have to remember is that e-books exploded in that period. According to the AAP, in February 2011, e-books were the #1 selling format, capturing 29.5% of the market. There numbers don’t even include self-publishers. The growth between November and March was stunning. I know plenty of writers who had insane growth in that period.

  22. I can see some indie authors outselling the bigger names on the Kindle. For one, the pricing is right. Why spend more on an eBook than you would on the print version, as is the case of many books from the major pubs? As a reader, I get pissed when I see such discrepancies, especially when the price is significantly higher on the eBook version. And I’m less inclined to buy from publishers I think are milking the readers for every penny they can get.

    When it comes to eBooks, I think readers are a bit more willing to experiment and step out of their comfort zones and regular genres.

    When I first got a Kindle (and even now), I WANTED to find new authors, not to read the same stuff from the same people who have dominated bookstore shelves for years. And judging from sales, I’d say I’m not alone.

  23. Congratulations on your sales, David! And thanks for posting your sales numbers – I think open communication about sales has actually helped to create a very motivating environment for both readers and writers trying out the new self-publishing experience.

    1. When you work for a big company (or any company really) they encourage you never to talk about your salary. There are reasons for that of course, they don’t want people to find out that the may be being underpaid. In traditional publishing, people rarely talked hard numbers, and when Joe Konrath started posting them, it was considered rude, or uncouth, or bragging. For me, it was just another attempt to control writers by hiding the financial stuff.

      We don’t have to do that anymore. We are our own bosses. I think sharing helps.

  24. Those numbers are pretty good especially since June was a bust. I think your price point for your novel sounds right. For a book that requires research (and a lot of it) I would expect a higher price point as a reader. Plus your readers will be pooled from a specialized lot and I think when that happens it is normal for it to be a higher price. I also think you’ll end up with loyal readers.

    1. Hey Josie,

      Like with a lot of things, I’m shooting in the dark. But, I think I have reasonably solid reasons for attempting this price. If I went out at $2.99 or $3.99, I would probably never know if a higher price could have worked. I think five bucks is still a good deal for a meaty novel, and I think readers are willing to pay it. We shall see, of course!

  25. Thanks very much for all the great posts and providing us with your numbers David. They are much appreciated. Any success you get is well deserved!

  26. I Bought LGD, I really enjoyed it. I am like you I have never spent a dime on advertising and my sales are going up. It is so great to be following you on this journey.
    Cara B

  27. David, I’m not finding _Let’s Get Digital_ in the iBookstore. _Transfection_ and _If You Go Into The Woods_ do appear, however.

    About Konrath: I’m not sure I’m ready to say he’s exaggerating–it’s just that I’m not finding that the numbers add up. But as Socrates said, I am often mistaken.

    I think Margaret Atwood better explained the idea I was trying to express–that I see a lot of assumptions about book income boil down to “since a few authors are at the top, and I know a lot at the bottom, there must be an enormous middle” theory of book sales. This seems expecially true of fiction writers (I’m one, too). I hope to god there *is* a big middle, because I’d like to earn money too.

    1. James,

      Let’s Get Digital has been rejected twice from the Premium Catalogue by Smashwords (I don’t go direct to Apple). The stated reason was for “mentioning the Kindle”. I’m not joking. I’ve sent several emails but apparently their customer service team is pretty backed up at the moment.

      I don’t know how many writers are making reasonable money and what percentage they make of the whole. I really have no idea. I do know that I know lots of writers that are making reasonable money. All self-publishers. Most are those who either couldn’t crack the traditional system or it didn’t work out for them. Those who came from trad publishing are earning much more on their own. I think self-publishing affords more writers opportunities to make a living wage from writing, or to at least pay some of their bills.

      1. “The stated reason was for “mentioning the Kindle”. I’m not joking.”

        Wow. I’m sorry to hear that, and it gives me pause. If they’re filtering content in that way, it might foreshadow more difficulties to come.

        “I do know that I know lots of writers that are making reasonable money. All self-publishers. Most are those who either couldn’t crack the traditional system or it didn’t work out for them. ”

        Agreed, and me too. By “reasonable money” I’m seeing friends making enough to sometimes pay the bills and keep writing. The people I see doing best are those in–no surprise–mystery/thriller and children’s genres. Those I know attempting “literary” fiction are often encountering the same deafening silence in the e-world as in the legacy world.

      2. …and you know, what I’m most excited about in the new era of self-publishing is that there are many, many more opportunities for writers to actually gain access to readers. It’s hard work, but the barriers are lower.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *