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.

David Gaughran

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