December Report: Sales Steady, Revenue Up

December is when self-publishers get all misty eyed over all the newborn e-book buyers taking their first tentative steps into the market. Amazon sold well over a million Kindles a week during December, and the other manufacturers will have shifted plenty too. Most of these will have been to new entrants, who traditionally (i.e. since last year) go on a book buying binge to fill up their shiny new devices.

It certainly seemed like the market doubled on Christmas Day. Since then, a burst of sales only gets you half as high in the rankings as it used to (although the Amazon Lending Library borrows counting as sales will be a factor too). My sales didn’t double, so I’m not speaking from experience, but my sales are holding up, and my rankings are way down. Luckily, sales are the important part.

Others have been knocking it out of the park, though. Joe Konrath made $50,000 in the last week of December. (Speaking of which, I’d never actually read any of Joe’s fiction – I don’t read so many thrillers – but after getting a Kindle from Santa I picked up Origin and started it on the plane home from Ireland and it’s great, and I’ll probably gobble up the rest of his in due course).

The number of new names hitting big numbers is proliferating at an astonishing rate. Rarely a day goes by on Kindle Boards without someone hitting a notable sales milestone. It must be said that many of these newly minted authors are achieving success on the back of KDP Select, something I came out strongly against.

I haven’t revised my opinion of KDP Select, yet, but I am keeping an open mind and these numbers are giving me a lot to think about. I should also say that the primary benefits authors seem to be deriving are from clever use of “free” days and using the resultant position in the free chart as a springboard to a (much) higher position in the paid charts, and then making a lot of sales from the increased visibility.

It remains to be seen if this is a loophole that Amazon will close, or whether there is an element of self-selection going on (i.e. those not doing so well not being as public), or how all this will play out over the full 90 day period (with most authors using their 5 free days right at the beginning). I’ll probably hunt down one of the authors that’s seeing great success from KDP Select to do a guest post here, so you can hear the other side.

There were also great successes outside of KDP Select. UK indie author Penelope Fletcher was the top-selling Smashwords author on Barnes & Noble over the lucrative Christmas period (beating out big names such as Amanda Hocking), and New Zealand author Shayne Parkinson had three titles in the same Top 20. And on that note, along with Kobo’s widely rumored launch of a direct upload platform later this year, Apple are said to be relaunching their offering, possibly with enticements for authors to go direct (it’s unknown what enticements could be on offer or whether exclusivity will be a requirement).

To those who have seen little-or-no rise in sales since Christmas: don’t panic. The older heads on Kindle Boards are advising that the rising tide didn’t begin to lift (most) yachts last year until mid-January. The logic is that new e-reader owners stick to the names they know at the start, but become a little more adventurous after a couple of weeks.

My sales won’t be making headlines any time soon, but I’m happy with the way things are headed. Before I get on to the numbers, I have the usual alternative reading for those who get turned off by my rudimentary pie charts and miniature trumpet blowing.

I’ve made two of my shorts free on Smashwords as part of a promo exercise for my new release (more on that below). They should work their way to the other retailers soon enough, but, for now, you can pick up a copy that will work on any e-reader on Smashwords. They will only be free for a limited time, so grab If You Go Into The Woods and Transfection while you can.

If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can read Anne R. Allen’s Confessions of a Former Query Addict (via the always excellent Passive Guy who you should be reading every day), Joe Konrath’s yearly resolutions, as well as a series from Dean Wesley Smith on setting goals (note the important distinction he makes between dreams and goals – your goals should be something in your control).

Ok, to the numbers (note: some totals are slightly different to previous months because of the appropriate redistribution of Smashwords partner sales).

May: 153 ($70)

June: 78 ($35)

July: 256 ($425)

August: 395 ($870)

September: 148 ($265)

October: 157 ($285)

November: 261 ($560)

December: 259 ($665)

2011 Total: 1709 ($3,175)

That $3,175 figure includes $210 in donations for the free PDF of Let’s Get Digital which has now been downloaded almost 5,500 times.

To that, crowdfunding receipts of $2,300 must be added, giving me a 2011 revenue figure of $5,475, of which maybe half is profit (I haven’t calculated all my costs yet, but it’s around that).

A Storm Hits Valparaíso is out and helping with these numbers. It hasn’t been a home run – far from it – but it has had a decent start without too much promo. It shifted 56 copies in December (in 9 days). On another release, that may have been cause for disappointment, but that number doesn’t include the copies sold by pre-order through my crowdfunding initiative (to people who would normally by my new release in the opening week).

Thanks to that exercise, A Storm Hits Valparaíso is already in profit. Even so, I know I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of its potential readership, and I’ll ramp up the promo this month, now that people are returning to work and their computers, and hope to boost those sales numbers some. The initial reviews are heartening, one five star in the US, and one in the UK.

I’ve priced it at $4.99, which may be causing some resistance. I’ll be experimenting with a limited time sale at some point this month (and will announce here), and will  conduct further pricing experiments in time.

I have some ad spots lined up on readers’ sites and I’m running limited experiments with some cheap Goodreads ads, free Facebook ads (coupon), and maybe some free Google ads too (another coupon). I’ll be poring over the data and reporting back on the returns from all of that and will let you know if any of it is a worthwhile use of your money and time.

I’m also doing quite a few guest blogs and interviews (something I haven’t done for a while) to help spread the word. And I’ll be cranking up my new site South Americana which didn’t get nearly enough attention since its launch late last year.

Finally, I’ll be teaming up with Wattpad in what promises to be an exciting opportunity, where I will be, amongst other things, serializing A Storm Hits Valparaíso. I’ll talk about that some more later in the month when it gets going, but the potential is huge (and something I couldn’t have done if I entered the book in KDP Select).

But, for the moment at least, Let’s Get Digital is still my biggest seller (and has been since shortly after its release). A Storm Hits Valparaíso was only out for the last 9 days of the month, so we’ll see if it can take the crown this month.

As for sales channels, Amazon US is still the lion’s share, responsible for 64% of my sales. Non-Amazon sales were around 10% this month, but I haven’t received all the Smashwords numbers yet, so that proportion should rise.

Amazon UK continues its slow and steady growth with consistent (rising) daily numbers, while the US is (as it always has been) extremely erratic with wildly varying numbers which are not always explainable.

For 2012, aside from getting more titles up, I will be seeking to increase my distributive reach. There are e-bookstores springing up all around the world, and I want to get into as many of them as possible. Some have funny requirements, others only take a feed from Overdrive (who already knocked me back, but I will try again with more titles later in the year), many require a little convincing to accept your books, and virtually all require ISBNs (thankfully free in Sweden). I will report on all of that in due course.

I will also be working on two paperback editions this month – A Storm Hits Valparaíso and Let’s Get Digital. The second might seem a curious choice, but I think some people might like to have a physical reference book while they navigate the practical steps involved, or to gift to a writer who hasn’t switched to e-reading.

The first is a little more logical. I have plenty of friends and family who still read print books, and I have crowdfunding rewards to fulfill which promised a print edition. That was actually the most popular option, which indicates a potential print market for that title. Also, I must recognize that historical fiction readers haven’t switched over to e-books (yet) in the same numbers that other genres have.

On top of that, I spoke to a few bookstores in Dublin (while I was home for Christmas) who are interested in stocking A Storm Hits Valparaíso (and perhaps some e-book gift cards). Maybe they will stock Let’s Get Digital too. We’ll see. I’m not going to expend a lot of energy getting into stores, but I thought it would be smart to do it in my home town, especially considering that Ireland is 2 to 3 years behind the US in e-reader adoption.

Despite all those projects, I’ll be cutting back on the work hours a little, having nearly burnt myself out completely before Christmas (and testing the patience of my long suffering better half). A lot of that time I’ll spend reading on my shiny new Kindle, and catching up on all the great books my friends and peers published in 2011.

That will allow me to refill the well, which ran a little dry there between endlessly revising my last release and not reading enough fiction. I tried writing a short as a break in November, and I had nothing in the tank. Not good. But since I caught up on some reading over Christmas, I can feel the synapses firing again, and have already began scribbling something.

And that’s more exciting than anything else.

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time he spends outside. He writes fiction under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

61 Replies to “December Report: Sales Steady, Revenue Up”

  1. Oh and I’m back on full comment duty, after a little Christmas break. Sorry for the lack of appearance here, the family kept (rightly) tugging me away from the laptop!

  2. A great post- thanks.
    I pubbed my first novel mid-November. I haven’t done much marketing & the book sold through Nov/Dec mainly to family & friends. I was selling about a book a day & only in the US.
    I used 3 of my five available free days with KDP Select from 12/26-28. Over 2000 free downloads worldwide in 3 days. The next three days of 2011 it sold about 150 copies & made it to top 10 in its genre. It continues to stay in top 15 in its genre.
    I did nothing other than offer it for free so I have to attribute the jump in sales to the free promo.

  3. Hey Dave,

    Happy New Year. Trust you had fun over the holidays.

    Nice of you to share your sales data. Especially encouraging to those of us with nonexistent sales. I just snagged a free copy of Transfection. Can’t wait to read it. My books are currently enrolled in KDP Select, and I have already scheduled one of them to run on a free promo between Wednesday and Friday. So you should consider snagging a free copy of that as well. Here’s a link.

    The Mediator

  4. Here’s an observation, David. Average advances for first novels with traditional publishers are hovering around $3000. Since process of payment can drag out over a year, and then they have to wait a minimum of six months, but usually closer to a year to see any royalties, then that $3000 is pretty much a year’s income for a first time novelist. So you’ve already beat the average AND you don’t have to wait to see a continuous income stream. Not bad. Not bad at all.

    1. I’m happy with the way things are going. And, obviously, the titles I released in 2011 will still be earning for me in 2012 with no additional costs required. The shorts would never have been published the traditional way (bar in magazines where the money is tiny), Let’s Get Digital would definitely never have been published, and Storm was rejected by everyone anyway. So either way, I’m ahead. The rest is all gravy…

    1. Thanks Ty. It’s exciting to watch the numbers grow. Nothing spectacular, but I earned $100 in 2010 on a short story sale and got nothing else except for a huge pile of rejections. The most rewarding aspects have nothing to do with sales and money – getting nice reviews, getting emails from readers, connecting with other writers – but the checks are nice too, and keep coming (and growing).

  5. I’m intrigued by Wattpad… but I don’t think I would serialize my current novel. I don’t know how providing it for free, serialized, would affect the T&C about not providing the work cheaper in other sales channels (A provision of both the regular KDP and Pubit Terms and Conditions). However, I think this might be the PERFECT venue for my story about Jill that I was already planning to serialize. She’s an occupational therapist with a $100,000 debt problem.

    Hang in there in 2012, David. I’m with you about the KDP Select thing. I have one title to my name. I need more of a catalog of titles before my marketing efforts will really pay off. 🙂

    1. I’m approaching it with an open mind. I guess the idea is that they get so hooked on the story that they shell out for a copy so they don’t have to wait a week to read more. But also, it’s targeting a market (younger readers) I usually struggle to reach. I don’t view someone reading my book for free there as a lost sale, rather it’s one more person that has heard of my work who probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

      It seems that work that lends itself well to serialization does best there. Given the age profile of the users, YA and paranormal stuff seems to be most popular, but there seems to be readers in all genres.

  6. Wow…lots of good information…thanks! I will have to digest this later, but I think you are doing great. Again, thanks for sharing.

  7. Thank you David for all the stats! I love numbers. What results have you seen on the Goodreads auto ad? I have zero response. How did you tweak the wording? Goodreads audience is readers who purchase more than Facebook or Google. Re: getting paperbacks stocked in indie stores. I sell the most % face to face. This accompanies not readings but conversations and performance events that I am getting down to an “act” per say…
    Regarding recharge your battery: exercise, listen to new music, notice the sunsets, make notes in a journal, vegetables and fish for brain food, and laugh hard. Love your work and thank you again for sharing.

    1. I only set up the Goodreads ad a few days ago. It’s too early too tell, but I’ve had a few clicks an ads. I like the flexibility of the system, but I’m a bit geeky with this stuff and like playing around with it. I’ve no real idea if it’s going to bring meaningful results, but my investment is small, and at worst I’ll get a little branding out of it. I only pay when someone clicks, so flashing my name and book cover a few thousand times a day is free.

      1. Hey there,
        I know others have said ads don’t work, but I do think Goodreads ads might. I’ve put several books on my to be read list because of those ads and read a couple straight away. I consider myself a fairly average consumer. Now I will say the ones that caught my eye the most had a really catchy ad blurb or book trailer. I consider it a worthwhile investment.

  8. This is the first I’ve heard about Wattpad. I trust your judgment, and so I started Googling about these guys. I’ll be blogging about this tomorrow, after I do some more research. It seems as if Wattpad has a huge audience in YA. I’ve read all 3 of your short stories. I enjoyed them, but they’re not the kind of book that seems to be successful on their site.

    What makes you think you can make a splash with Transfection and If You Go Into The Woods?

    1. Hi Sean,

      In short, because readers aren’t homogeneous. While the profile of their readers is younger than most sites/forums, and while that audience, as you suggest, tends more towards YA, I’m pretty sure I can find a reader or two out of seven million people. My stuff might be niche (especially in that demographic), but there are enough raw numbers there to make even my niche well populated. Wattpad approached me, and they will be giving my work some promotion starting in a few weeks. I’ll be interested to see what that can do. For me, it’s not so much about the shorts (although, interestingly, sales have risen since I listed the freebies there), but about serializing my novel. Will kids dig a historical adventure set in 1800s South America? We’ll see, I guess.


      1. They’ll dig “Storm” if they give it a chance. The tricky part is that “A Storm Hits Valparaiso” isn’t quite as much of an impulse read as some other stuff on there. I think you’re right about niches. I might throw a story onto Wattpas, but I want to do some more digging first.

        Congratulations on getting approached by Wattpad. That has got to be an ego-booster. Thanks for taking the time to answer my question.

  9. David, you already know what I think of Select from KB. It has pushed my sales like nothing else. I have used free days with 4 novels. 2 saw huge jumps in sales. 1 a fairly good jump in sales from 1 a week to 1 to 2 a day. 1 no jump at all which convinced me to re-title the novel and totally rework the blurb.

    However, a lot of us are not using all our free days that fast. I’m spreading mine out over the entire 90 days since I feel that 2 days free may be the optimum period for being free. I may decide to bring the remaining two titles into Select. Or not. I haven’t made up my mind. The same with my new historical novel which will be out in March. I may immediately put it into Select or I may hold off until it has some reviews.

    Anyway, congrats on such a good year. This year can only get better, I suspect. 🙂

    1. JR, you were just who I had in mind when I spoke of hunting someone down for a guest post. If you are interested… mi casa es su casa.

      You have done astoundingly well out of KDP Select, and I’m delighted that so many authors are getting a spotlight on their work and reaching higher reaches in the charts than ever before. The timing especially bodes well for all of you going in to peak season for indies.

      Spreading your free days was extremely prudent. It will be even easier for you to attract free attention when the crowds are a little thinner.

      I really am keeping an open mind on KDP Select, and I think most writers on the fence are similar. I’ll be happy to admit I was wrong if things keep panning out this way for those in the program, while those outside it struggle for discoverability. I think it’s too early to pronounce judgement yet, and I think if Amazon close that free loophole, it will alter the equation some. But maybe they won’t.

      I’ll be interested to see how the borrows pay out. And, to be honest, my misgivings were more about the precedent it sets for subscription models and how we are recompensed than the particularities of KDP Select today. Exclusivity was a major issue for me too, but I know it’s not for many writers. I’m sure the program will evolve, and I’m happy to revisit my view as things progress.

  10. I have one book with KDP Select and, like a dummy, I used all five free days at once. It’s too soon to tell if it will do well. This is the one book that wasn’t selling on Nook, so I decided to give it a shot.

    Thanks for sharing, David. I need to check into Wattpad.

  11. I put thirty quid’s worth of advertising on Goodreads and it ran for months. Quite a few click-throughs, no sales direct (but then quite a lot of people don’t realise it’s possible to upload ebook to GR or buy ebooks from them).

    That said, when Amazon accidentally made my book free it shifted 4 and a half THOUSAND downloads in five days. My short story has (I think) a better cover but hasn’t shifted anything like as many free downloads (covers here if you’re interested –
    Could be coincidence but it did make me wonder…. They say you get much better results with paperback giveaways via GR but I haven’t tried it myself (paperback still in formatting!)

    Right, back to the editing…
    Happy New Year, all!

  12. David, I highly recommend Konrath’s Jack Daniels series, and, in general trying new genres. I did: I’m one of those 56 who bought A Storm Hits Valparaiso, the historical novel I’m going to read.

    When you have some free time, it would be interesting to know your first impressions of the Kindle, and how it changed your reading habits, if at all.

    1. Initial thoughts: much lighter and smaller than I thought. I was genuinely shocked at how light it was. It’s super comfortable in the hand in any position really, and a joy to read from. The screen looks a lot different than I expected, it’s like holding a piece of (clear, legible) cardboard in your hand. Turning pages is simple, and even the on-screen keyboard (non-touch) is surprisingly easy to navigate. Ten out of ten so far, and this is coming from someone who was a real skeptic…

      Too early to tell on reading habits. I had a seven hour journey and flicked a couple of times between the Konrath book and a non-fiction book called “That Bear Ate My Pants” by Tony James Slater (which is hilarious) – which is normal enough for me. And it was a real joy not taking 2 books on the plane. The guy in the (squashed Ryanair) seat beside me was fumbling with an oversized hardback and looked really uncomfortable and kept stealing glances at my Kindle. I had to smile. That was me two weeks before…

        1. Oh yes, I was aware of that, but I do virtually zero reading on my laptop now that I have my Kindle. If I had an iPhone, the syncing would be real handy, but I really don’t want the internet in my pocket when I am out and about. I spend enough time on it as it is 🙂

  13. Good work David and as you can see, a lot of people – like me who are just starting out – want to see those numbers. So keep them coming and your marketing experiences too.

  14. Congrats on a great first year, David.

    My sales are nowhere near yours, but I have seen a modest uptick over Christmas as well, so the Christmas bump really does exist. Let’s hope the mid January bump is real as well.

  15. Thanks for mentioning me, David! Barnes & Noble readers have been very good to me.

    2011 was quite a year for me – I’m not sure my feet have yet touched the ground. 🙂 I’m looking forward to seeing what 2012 holds. So far I have a good feeling about it.

  16. David,

    I’m also a non-participant in Select, not so much for philosophical reasons but due to having only a single book out at the moment with non-Amazon sales accounting for around 30% of volume. With sales of Deadly Straits rising, I didn’t feel it was worth the risk. Like you (and everyone I suppose) I did see a dip in sales rank. Strangely, that was coupled with a tremendous (+300 %) sales increase across all platforms. B&N sales increases were particularly noteworthy, I’m assuming because Select sapped some of the competition.

    I’m pretty happy with the way things are going at the moment and think great things are in the offing for all of us. It feels pretty good to be self-published at the moment. Thank you for another great post and best of luck with A Storm Hits Valparaíso (currently in my TBR pile).

  17. I am not sure how this self-pub thing is going to pan out. For a home-based business, your 5 grand in the first year is promising. But how long do you give yourself before you start making a living wage.
    I am using 3-months long-service leave to launch Bent Banana Books for my own titles and other self-pub authors. I have been working 60-hour weeks to get four titles up this month.
    As I explained to you in an e-mail, I am going down a different path to most.
    I also have one of my plays to help put on and another play to write to acquit a grant. Good luck to all self-pubs out there. Earning 55k nine to five is a lot easier than this other task we have set ourselves.

    1. Bernie,

      Anybody going into this with an expectation of making a living wage (or more) probably needs a stern talking to. This is an incredibly difficult path. Success will only ever go to a few. Self-publishing will allow more writers to make a living wage – for sure – but on the other hand, more will probably be competing for those slots. I would like to think that self-publishing is more of a meritocracy than the traditional system, but some would probably scoff at that sentiment.

      As for me, I made $100 in 2010 (a short story sale to a magazine). This year was significantly better. I don’t like to make goals about sales or money – they are outside my control. What I can control are things like how many guest posts I will do, how many shorts I will write, how many novels I will get up etc. etc. I’m confident, however, that sales and revenue will continue to rise as I continue to build my audience with each title I release and each promotional push I give those new books.

      I should also point out that the four titles I released this year have all been paid for (and are in profit), and will continue to sell this year even if I gave up writing today, with no extra costs on my side. But, I won’t be giving up anything. I will be writing more and releasing more, creating new ways for readers to discover me and my work all the time.


      1. I agree with the meritocracy idea with my only concern being self-pubs having to spend so much time marketing themselves. One thing I noticed in a eBook humour section was though it was dominated by moonlighting celebrities, the professional writers were getting the most reviews (and possibly sales). I hope down the track a mechanism develops where writers can write and have other (good) people do the marketing stuff for them if that is what they want. This stuff is all in a state if flux, but I would hope in two year’s time, your eBooks are selling for $9.99 rather than you worrying $4.99 might be too high. How do we make that happen?. If we all put our heads together over the next critical 12 months, I think we can. You are doing heaps of pro bono work on this blog so the law of karma is on your side. I wish gmail would put my avatar up but that crawly thing looks alright.

        1. Marketing is the thing everyone is trying to crack, or discoverability if you want to use the buzzword du jour. The way I see it, it’s all about word-of-mouth (and always has been). There are millions and millions of conversations about books happening every day on Twitter, Facebook, readers’ forums, blogs, by email, and, yes, in real life too. How do you get people talking about your books? That’s the tricky part. Blogging helps. Being active on social media helps. A snazzy website or book trailer can help. Competitions help. Giveaways help. Guest blogging helps. Helping others helps. Being approachable helps. Answering readers emails (properly) helps (as does including your email address in your book). Mailing lists help. Cross-promotion helps. Ads help. Free helps. Trying new things helps. Professional looking books help a lot. Great stories help a huge amount. And more of them help most of all.

          But there is one giant variable: luck. You can shorten the odds by doing all of the above, but that viral wildfire of word-of-mouth will only come to a lucky few. And it really is luck. You can do all the right things and it can never happen for you. But giving up is one thing that is sure not to work.

          People might read that list and panic (and I could have added 100 more things). But you don’t need to be doing all of that. You don’t even need to be doing most of it, or much of it. But I think you need to be doing something to try and kickstart word of mouth. Find what you enjoy doing in that list, and go hard. Even better: invent a new thing.

  18. Congratulations on a very successful 2011. I found your blog a few weeks back, and it’s a great read and a great resource. I’m about to take the plunge and self publish my first ebook and your writings have really helped me plan and work out how to go about it. Thanks!

  19. Thanks for the shout out! Your stats are encouraging. The freebie KDP certainly worked for me. After 2500 free downloads of The Gatsby Game, sales have started to really take off. The book hadn’t been moving much during the previous month. The best advertising is word of mouth, and if people like what they read, they’ll tell their friends.

  20. Dave

    I noiced that ASHV is only at one review, I take it you didn’t do any type of “giveaway-for-review” promo’s. Worked well for Joe and Blake on “Stirred”, Granted they have humongo audiences but still, imagine they picked up a few new readers from it. I’m not a mystery-thriller reader at all and probably would have never have bought Stirred w/o it but it was a great way for me to discover it. Just a thought. I bought ASHV and plan to have a review up as soon as I get through it. Opening chapters were great. I’ll also be sure to let all 5 of my blog followers know too, lol.

    Also, “Origin” was a great, fun read.


    1. Hey Dave,

      I did that for Let’s Get Digital, and gave away 20 advance copies to early reviewers. I was planning to do the same but (a) my publishing schedule was way too tight and (b) I figured people would have less time around Christmas to read a 400 page monster in 48 hours and get a review up. It’s something I will return to for future releases though.


      P.S. I’m sure they picked up new readers through it. The way they did it was more open (i.e. not limiting it to 20), which I guess works better when you have a huge backlist that those new readers can then wade through. But it’s a great technique. I’m all for clever uses of “free”. On that note, I am serializing ASHV on Wattpad right now:

      1. On the subject of giveaways, I know you are a busy man, David, but I have some print copies of 7 Shouts to give away in exchange for reviews on Google eBooks. It has a few typos eliminated for the expanded eBook which you can read 20%. inline
        I am looking for two reviewers Northern Hemisphere, two from the Americas and two from the Southern Hemisphere. Anyone interested can click on my name and email me through the website. It will be first in best dressed and I will post the copies ASAP.
        Here’s a bit of the blurb: An hilarious journey awaits as Australian journalist Bernie Dowling and his readers trek through the Aussie “slanguage” to try bravely to separate reality from urban myth, fact from legend.
        From their base on the Brisbane urban fringe, the adventurers pass through the school bush dance and the fish throwing festival.
        They confront the big issues: the rise and fall of a Prime Minister, the U.S. Presidential visit, the awesome radishes grown by son Kevin.
        The scientific voyagers discover The First Russell Crowe Law of International Celebrity and The ANZUS Law of Fame.

  21. I am a huge advocate of WattPad. I’ve done a few things with them and I’ve enjoyed myself immensely. I’m leery of Kindle Select for a number of reasons, admittedly most are personal rather than business orientated. The move was evil genius on Amazon’s part, and if I was a better seller on Kindle (since May I sell between 1.5-3.5k books a month) I would’ve had a serious internal struggle between morals and money. Konrath, an established, talented, bestselling author, the original poster child for self-publishing, made a ton of money using Select … who the hell suspected a different outcome? How many saw NO change after using Select and missed the Xmas bumps via other retailers? I would suspect the numbers of those who missed out are a lot higher than those who made a substantial amount of money by enrolling. *eyes cross* Now with rumors flying around about Apple announcing something similar to jump start life into iBooks, I’m having visions of a very different digital publishing landscape for 2012 than I had previously anticipated. Apple rearing its head at the turn of the year does explain why Kindle dropped the bomb that is Select so quickly. The scheme felt rushed (though I know some high profile indies had been spoken to before hand and the scheme was snubbed by trad publishers before it was opened out to KDP). The terms, the way it was announced, the confusion over acceptable excerpts and review copies (which are crucial in indie marketing plans) … everything just felt rushed, and quite frankly, not good enough. One could speculate it also explains why they asked for 90 days rather than a shorter and more attractive time period to really go for the jugular. For example, 30 days would have had people on the fence going all in. And let’s not overlook that the marketing tactic of FREE is not as effective as it was 12 months ago. Plus, I am convinced the uptake of backlist titles after consumers pick up a free book on Kindle is worse in comparison to other retailers due to the nature of the Kindle demographic that actively shop indie. And, we now have hoarder behavior, readers picking up books and not reading them. The free stats indies post now don’t come close to what I had when my debut book was free. Surprisingly, indies are not adapting well to the freedom/power/options we now have (imho). It seems choice really is a dangerous thing. I see strangely reactive behavior instead of innovation, and sadly most are dependent on Kindle algorithms to sell. In reality, Kindle Select contradicts the concept of independence and having control over your work. Exclusivity is for hardcore brand names. Konrath exclusive on Kindle? Fantastic! Joe Blogs Mr No Name exclusive on Kindle? Pie In Sky behavior that will stunt an author’s growth and potential readership whilst fattening Amazon’s purse. Rarely will such a thing benefit an unknown talent, that is common sense, we know this, so why have so many jumped ship? To be clear, I’m not against Select, I just think it was poorly done, and that KDP users rolled over and settled for less than should have been offered by Amazon. Well, any potential comebacks from B&N and Apple might be better constructed and more attractive despite their smaller market shares. You never know. I’m waiting with bated breath. The next few months will be fascinating to watch indeed. Was happy to see your numbers remaining steady, David. So few understand the importance and beauty of a steady build. The satisfaction consistency can bring. You have pretty much the same outlook as me with regards to distribution; increasing my potential reach and discoverability by looking into more retailers rather than shrinking my availability. And thank you for the mention! I was pleased to be on that SW list. I had a long break to recharge over the festive season, so I missed the announcement when it came out, but I was stunned. I have just realized this response is huge and may come across as slightly rant-y, not my intention, lol. P

    1. Not ranty at all, you make a lot of sense, but maybe could have done with a para break 🙂

      By the way, HUGE congratulations on having the top-selling Smashwords title on B&N over Christmas. I have been watching your sales just grow and grow over the last few months. It’s a beautiful thing.

      I agree with pretty much everything you said. Perhaps all this is a dastardly (and very smart) plan by Amazon simply to be able to plug the line: “Find it on Amazon.” If they have X more titles than everyone else, that’s a selling point. If they are the only place you can *always* be guaranteed to get the latest book from Konrath etc., that’s a selling point. They make a big play of having more stuff than anyone else, and having it cheaper than anyone else. Select plays into all of that. It’s all very smart, and all very good for Amazon. Is it good for indies? Well, it’s clearly not the most profitable approach for you, I don’t think it’s the best approach for me, and, while there have been notable successes outside the likes of Konrath the jury is out on the community-at-large.

      It looks like it may have prodded Apple into doing something. I’m sure Smashwords will be working harder than ever to make their proposition enticing, and we’ll see if B&N do anything. 2012 is going to be another interesting year.

      Keep rocking those sales!

  22. OK, the tiime limitation make sense and yes, the audience and backlist no doubt made it successful, much more so than a new author could expect I guess.

    IMHO I think the KDP Select success this season has been mostly limited to authors with backlists: like the free and buy other titles. I still think the exlusivity would be detrimental to a newb starting out with title “one”…like me this spring.

    A serialization experiment, Now that’s going to be damn interesting. never a dull moment here.

    Check this interview out, from DBW, Passive Guy saw it first: Traditional Publishing Business Model Broken


    1. Very interesting interview – thanks Dave. It certainly signals *something* of a change in attitudes, but I didn’t hear one word about increased royalty rates for writers. It seems the publishers just want to take (lower advances) without giving anything back in return (higher digital royalties). I would be happier with a system with lower (or even no) advances if that meant more equitable royalty rates but they can’t have their cake and eat it too.

  23. Respectfully, I think they’re going to have their cake and eat it too…for the near future anyway. All the benefits of e-pub for us indies (high royalty/low overhead) is benefiting the Big 6 who’re pushing everything they can onto the format.

    I was thinking that when I read it that they were looking at higher digital splits against low or no advance, which could be feasible based on what else they might offer (legitimate marketing push/wide foreign translation, etc) to both retain and attract talent but I guess they don’t feel the (pain) need to bend just yet on the $$$, Not when their own digital offerings (including a lot of backlist and out-of-print) are helping to keep the coffers full as we saw this year.

    Very interesting to see how long this rhetoric lasts against increasingly poor paper sales and the migration of talent to indie this year. I don’t think they’ll feel any squeeze unitl the big names start dropping off their lists and even then, they have their hooks (and their high cut) in those big name backlists.

    But like you said elsewhere, every single indie e-pub sale is a dollar they will never make!

  24. Think about this: If Patterson hired a team of e-pub experts and went indie tomorrow, yeah, it would suck for you to lose all his future sales…but would you throw yourself out of your NYC high rise office if you had his 100+ backlist titles with “electronic media ancillary” still under contract?
    And all published for close to nothing in cost at 9.99$ to 14,99$…which people are clearly buying en large as evident by their increased margins in e-book categories.

    I don’t see paper continuing as is but I don’t see an inevitable fall for the Big 6 either. I see them finding ways to milk e-pub.

  25. You supplied an excellent overview on marketing, David. I would like to add a comment on word of mouth which is an end product, not a strategy in itself. To be flippant word of mouth means never having to blog again.I think this is important to understand because as you say it is all the strategies you listed which create WOM.
    It does not pay to dwell too much on luck. I congratulated an editor friend when his paper won best in the group. He replied “it is amazing how lucky you can be when you work hard.”
    I would like to go back to the beginning of marketing for self-pubs and not go to the next step without achieving the first which is Have A Good Product.
    In 25 years in journalism, I have learned to grin and bear it when newbies are precious about every word in their copy and refuse to accept constructive criticism. (destructive criticism, run a mile). Embrace a bad review, deconstruct it and see what is right or wrong within it.
    I have not too many pearls of wisdom to share with new authors but this is one I am certain of: learn to be objective about your baby and admit it is not the most beautiful in the nursery.

  26. Well, to stay on topic, my “readership” is way up, “sales” not so much. One thing I wanted to mention in general that may have been brought up here before,is that everything from Smashwords and their affiliates, (B&N, Kobo, Apple, etc) is reflected in Amazon “sales” ranking. My 2nd book always surpassed my first, but the first has surpassed it by a big bunch.So I read some fine print. I am thinking of putting the third in KDP Select. My only hesitation is that B&N loves me, but, if I do it, it would be a good control case. Congratulations on your continuing success.

    1. I think if you were going to do it, the time to do it would be (a) when you are selling nothing on other channels, or (b) right at launch. The second option might annoy some readers, but it’s far better than doing it when you are selling well somewhere – i.e. just taking it off B&N for 3 months and killing any momentum. I know some writers like Debora Geary are offering to convert Amazon purchases to EPUB for their Nook readers. It’s time consuming, but will keep those readers on your side. I know others got some negative reaction. It’s tricky…

  27. Another wonderful post! Thank you so much for all this wonderful information! I’ve learned so much from you since discovering your blog, and decided to venture into self-publishing on Kindle because of the information from you, Joe Konrath, Bob Mayer, and several others.

    I’m one of the authors whose free promotions on KDP Select finally landed my books after the free promotions ended on the Amazon Best-selling Kindle Books list in the Children’s and YA category. Seriously, I nearly passed out when I saw it. This just happened yesterday and has continued today, so I’m crossing my fingers it will last. 🙂

  28. Hi David,

    Happy new year to you.

    Excellent post as usual. I’m looking forward to reading your upcoming interview with a successful KDP author – that should be interesting. I am also planning on making my current book free for a couple of weeks when I release my second book to hopefully boost some extra sales. As I only have one book out at the moment, I can’t say I’ve done a vast range of experiments on the marketing side of things. But when I release a couple more books I’ll get creative and find some ways of giving those sales a boost. I know many people say the more books you have out there the better so wish me luck on the coming year 🙂

  29. You’ve shown what can be done and shared it with all to see.
    I discovered your blog over recent weeks and it has given me the encouragement I need. It’s great to see that there are plenty of other newbies out the as well. I’m currently reading ‘Lets Get Digital’ and its opening my eyes to the impact ebooks are having. I’m close to self publishing my first children’s book and hope that this year brings me the success that I’ve worked for over the past years.
    Thanks for your inspiration and I’ll be an avid supporter of your blog as my journey continues.

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