My Self-Publishing Journey: Q1 Numbers

Happy New Year!

I promised a while ago that I’d share with you how the numbers are adding up for me on the self-publishing journey. I think it’s WAY too early in the journey to draw any conclusions about potential success. As Dean Wesley Smith observed in this post, it takes time to build a self-publishing business. But I also know that before I started, I’d have loved to know what to expect at the beginning. So here’s how things are going for me. Remember, your mileage will vary.

On the small press front, VEILED MIRRORΒ  came out on August 25th in paper, and on September 21st in digital on the Wild Rose Press website and Nook. It didn’t become available for Kindle until mid October. I don’t know how many copies, in which formats, were sold from the Wild Rose Press site, but now that the holidays are past, I’ll be contacting them for that info. Royalties through the end of December: $26.37. Six additional copies were sold by hand, or on commission by Mysterious Galaxy Books at TusCon for additional income of $12.80

LIGHTBRINGER came out in digital format for Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords in mid October, and in paper early November. It was listed on All Romance Ebooks in late November. Digital sales from all sources are 19, for an income of $46.74. I sold 12 paper copies from various venues, including Mysterious Galaxy for an income of $53.32.

WITH HEART TO HEAR, an erotic fairytale short, was released on December 22nd in digital format only. I sold 16 copies on Kindle and Nook in the last ten days of the year. There was a glitch (now fixed) with the listing on All Romance Ebooks which resulted in no sales. I haven’t put it up on Smashwords yet. 2011 income from WHTH: $6.40.

Grand total from all sources for 2011: $145.58

It’s important to understand what effort has been made to encourage these sales, too. During this time I’ve given 16 books to reviewers, family, and friends. I see this as an investment in word of mouth. It’s already paying off in reviews. I have continued blogging twice a week (with my blog linked to facebook, linked in, and twitter) but very little other social media activity. I spoke at my local RWA chapter, TusCon, and at World Fantasy Convention.

These numbers will look pitiful to those accustomed to the traditional publishing pattern of sales in the thousands right after release, which then trail off over the next few months. As I understand it, the sales pattern is exactly opposite with self-publishing, with the number of units sold per month increasing over time, especially as new books are released. That being said, I’ll need to expand my exposure if I want that to be true.

Next time I’ll write about how I plan to grow my self-publishing empire.

32 Comments

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32 responses to “My Self-Publishing Journey: Q1 Numbers

  1. You make a great point, Frankie. Most of us have to slog long and hard for those first months before all that hard work starts to pay off. But keep your shoulder to the wheel, put out another book, keep promoting and your sales will grow. Don’t get discouraged.

  2. Frankie I think those numbers are a great start. When you consider you haven’t booked a blog tour and paid ads it’s a solid beginning. I think the hardest part is getting reviews so you’ve done a great job of that.

    • Thanks, Renee! Darcy Chan did well by buying a listing with Kirkus and paid ads on ebook sites (she spent about $1500), but I think I’ll wait until my next book is out before investing even more money. Do you, or anyone else out there, know of any statistics on which activities are actually effective in improving sales?

  3. Thank you for being willing to share with us!

  4. Thank you for sharing. I just put up my first ever self pubbed book the end of December. I’d say my sales so far are in line with yours. I do think it takes perseverance and a constant stream of product. It’s also important to stay positive.

    Well done!

  5. Frankie, Following your self-publishing journey has been inspiring. Thank you for the continued transparency. I am a believer that there is enough money to go around and that your book sales and sharing them with us will only come back to you as good karma.

    • Thank you very much, Tara. I’m glad what I’ve written has helped.

      • I agree with Tara, there is absolutely enough to go around. There is room for everyone in the Indie world because the Indie publishing model is not constructed around external controls, but around internal control. It’s also reader- and content-driven, a model for business that has unlimited growth potential.

        Imagine if the Indie model makes it possible to expand the audience of readers outside those currently reachable by the trad models? With tablets, smart phones, computer/tv integration, social net, game connection… major growth beyond the audience Nielson & PW are tracking currently and referring to as “readers” is not just possible, but probable. A business model that operates on a framework of abundance (Indie) versus a framework of lack (traditional) has more momentum and more ability to make use of existing technologies in ways that trad can never catch up to… partly due to the centralization of the trad model, and the absence of a reader- and author-centric vision, which Indie has.

  6. Thanks for sharing your numbers! I’ve been doing some number crunching too, and am surprised and pleased with the results for my first 2 months. However, I’m finding it very difficult to quantify what impact social net, marketing, blogging or word of mouth had on sales, other than to assume that some sales I had, especially in December was due to the holiday buying season alone. Or possibly impacted by having 2 stories out. To break it down: I published a short story on 11/1 (Be Careful What You Wish For), and another on 12/24 (Gabriel’s Release). December was a banner month. But November was not bad if you consider I had only the first short story available and sold 40 copies. In December I sold 60 copies of that same story and then 87 copies of the 2nd short in the week between 12/24 and 12/31, for a total of 187 copies sold in the first 2 months. (Side note: 27 copies combined during the first 3 days of January). I did not expect to sell that many copies in my first 2 months. While I’d love to believe that my writing is better than the next person, I’m pragmatic and do realize that I’m selling short stories at .99, which makes it very affordable, and I’m also selling in the erotic romance niche, which I understand sells well in the eBook markets.

    My suspicion is that the holiday helped a great deal and that the archangel romances (of which Gabriel’s Release is the series prelude) will probably do very well when I release them. As for where the copies sold… those sales were from Amazon, B&N, ARE/OmniLit, and Smashwords — listed in order of most sold to least. I was surprised that both Amazon and B&N gave me almost the same amount of copies sold for Gabriel’s Release, where my first story had sold far more at Amazon than B&N (that is, until Gabriel’s Release came out) after which it started doing better on B&N. Reviews do seem to help, and I also know that I lost sales on Gabriel’s Release because of a server problem Amazon was having with the book cover not displaying properly during the week following Christmas. I guessed this because my sales on B&N were double the Amazon sales while the problem persisted. I likely would have sold more than 87 copies during that week. Which is wonderful … and boo hiss on Amazon for not being able to fix the problem right away. Oh well, as you say, it’s a marathon not a sprint.

    Since my first story is only now going into the Apple/Sony/Kobo/Diesel channels and the second story won’t hit those for 2 weeks, I have no idea what to expect from sales there. Either way, my numbers are motivating me to just keep writing good stories and to never, never quit! (props to Churchill).

  7. Frankie, I am so pleased you are willing to share your numbers. Roxy, too. It really helps give me an idea of the range of sales to expect. Much appreciated.

    • I love hearing about how other people are doing, too, so it seems only fair to share my numbers. I’m glad it’s helping!

      • So do I. And I believe very strongly in transparency. It’s very helpful to hear about the process and have an idea of what you can expect. In addition to your blog, authors like Dean Wesley Smith, Kris Rusch, Eisler and others have been sharing their info about being in the indie world (and traditional markets simultaneously), making the entire process feel more solid, and more possible to take on! The Indie world really seems to operate as a welcoming community. None of this process has felt so secretive, so exclusionary as the traditional publishing path has always been. (Before Indie, authors were deathly afraid to tell you anything about their contracts or royalties). To have hard data of any kind can mean the difference between giving up before you begin or daring to do what you were once told was impossible. That’s the most difficult thing to quantify, but probably the most valuable.

      • Many traditional publishing contracts had non-disclosure clauses in them. Authors could only share info anonymously on sites like Show Me the Money. I am so happy to be able to share my progress with you, as others have shared their into with me. We don’t need to be self-protective. I don’t believe that one author’s success will diminish another’s. We’re free to lift each other up.

  8. Frankie, you should be able to monitor your Wild Rose Press sales on line. They have a site and a password you should get from RJ or Rhonda. Thanks for sharing. I uploaded my first book in October and second in November at amazon. Still struggling.

  9. Caroline Mickelson

    Thank you Frankie (and Roxy too) for sharing. I’m early in the journey into the indie publishing world but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the generosity of those who share information about the process. Keep writing great books and I know you’ll have the success you envision for yourself. I believe in you and your talent.

    • Happy to add my $.02 worth πŸ™‚ I benefited last year from hearing others experiences and want to see others who might be on the fence have as much info as possible to make their choices. As someone else commented above, there is plenty to go around. The Indie model operates in a climate of abundance, not a climate of lack, as with traditional. That’s certainly not the only difference between the two models, but it changes the experience for the author exponentially.

      • Thank you, Caroline! It’s wonderful to have someone as talented as you are in my corner!

        As Roxy observed, I benefited from knowing that other authors like Konrath, Stackpole, Rusch, Smith, and Eisler were making indie publishing work for them. It gave me the courage to jump in. Now I know of even more authors who are achieving their dreams by going indie. Sometimes I have to work at keeping my perspective about a slow start, but I believe that in time my sales will grow and I’ll have a very respectable income stream.

  10. I really appreciate the post, my work is in the beginning stages, but I have already considered both traditional and self-publishing. It’s really great to see how your numbers are translating to actually numbers, thanks for putting that out there for us.
    -Kate

  11. Thanks Frankie, for the heads up. Very helpful. Best wishes for continued climbing sales.

  12. I really enjoyed this post. I’m contemplating the world of self publishing and this information is awesome. Thanks.

    • Thanks, Ceri! In case you missed it in an earlier post, David Gaughran’s LET’S GET DIGITAL is a very good overview, and he has the testimonials of 30 self-publishing authors in an appendix. I recommend it.

  13. Brinda Berry

    Thanks for posting your numbers. It’s a brave thing. I do think it’s early for anyone to make ANY judgments based on these.

    • You’re welcome, Brinda, and thanks! It does feel a little like I’m taking my clothes off in public, but if no one shares their info, how will we know if what we’re doing works? I’ve benefited from others sharing, I should add my data to the pool.

  14. Thanks for this post. I’m at the beginning of my own indie journey, so I found lots of encouragement reading about your experiences.

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