Running the numbers on your business is tedious and boring but it can make a huge difference to the business of writing. Maggie Steifvater recently wrote some fantastic tweets about how number crunching determines what she writes, because at the end of the day what we create as artists and writer’s also needs to be marketable. Crunching sales numbers is vital to understanding if what you’re writing is marketable, especially as fads change.
I want to spend my time writing, not marketing and crunching numbers. But as an Indie Author its one of the things I need to do. It is always a good feeling when you check your store stats and see that you’ve sold books or a giveaway has generated a lot of movement, and it’s always a downer when sales peter off. Either way it is important to look at the final numbers once in a while. It’s something I put off for some time, but I finally did it on the weekend. I learnt some valuable things so let’s talk real figures for a moment.
Across my entire range of books, since I published The Kingston Chronicles in June 2017, I have moved over 600 books across all my channels. That’s no where near a “successful” number, especially when you consider that most of these “sales” (roughly 88%) were free promotions on online channels. But it does tell me something insanely important for me to know: there is genuine interest in what I’m writing, and that on some level I’m reaching my target audience (or at least an audience).
As an Indie Author you need to know this. In comparison if I’d only moved say 10 books since I’d first published anything, it would indicate that whilst my family is supportive, I’m either not succeeding at my advertising strategy or there’s a problem with my content (content problems can either be interest based or quality based). Either way you need to fix it if you want to be more successful in the future. There’s no point continuing to do things the way you’re doing them, if they don’t work.
Furthermore, by running the numbers I can assess which sales channels are working for me and which ones aren’t. It gives me data to make informed choices about how to improve my reach and perhaps which channels I might be wasting my time in. I work a day job as well as doing my indie author thing. I don’t have time to waste on something that isn’t working.
For a little more context let’s break that 600+ number down a little more. I currently share my books with the world across three basic platforms: Amazon, BookFunnel, and physical sales direct to the reader through books in physical stores and my personal appearances. For the sake of this article, I will focus on the digital sales numbers.
So, what are the numbers?
I’ve sold 69 paid copies of my books and given away and 517 free copies.
406 of these sales (paid and free) moved through Amazon.
151 free copies moved through BookFunnel (largely The MacKay Chalice, which you receive for free by joining my newsletter).
10 free copies have been given away through Goodreads (I wrote more about how Goodreads Giveaways work HERE and I plan to write another article on the subject now that I’ve had some time to assess how it may have affected my sales).
These figures tell me Amazon and BookFunnel are sales engines its worth me investing time in. It also tells me doing a Goodreads Giveaway didn’t really work for me. This year I’m looking at taking my books “wide” (which means selling digital copies in multiple places rather than just Amazon). When I run the numbers again in a year or so, I’ll hopefully be able to see if that was a successful venture. Indie Authoring and marketing strategies are largely trial an error so taking time to look at the numbers and see what’s working and what isn’t is key to moving forward in your career.
What else has running these numbers taught me? On average I’ve sold 122 books a year. I might not have made my costs back considering most of these were free, but it’s nice to know. Sometimes you don’t sell anything for months at a time. When that happens its easy to feel like you’re wasting your time or you’re never going to make it. Having solid numbers behind me tells me I’ve accomplished something, and that I should be proud.
It’s also taught me that The Kingston Chronicles series is considerably more popular than The Lady of Zion series. Now there are two reasons this could be. Firstly, until quite recently I haven’t been actively advertising The Lady of Zion, and secondly, The Lady of Zion can be a little controversial in the opinions held by some characters, and is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Now if I’d been actively advertising/promoting The Lady of Zion as much as I had been The Kingston Chronicles this data has the potential to tell me something else. It could have told me that people just don’t like The Lady of Zion series, and it wouldn’t be worth my time to pursue spin off books once the immediate series had finished. It would indicate that pursuing The Kingston Chronicles and its planned spin offs (or books like them) would be a better use of my time.
So, if you haven’t been checking your numbers I highly recommend you do so. It will help you plan better for your profession future, allow you to set realistic goals, and give you an idea of which steps to take to progress. If you are paying for advertising services and can make correlations between where you spend your money and how it affects your sales, you can make smarter choices to save money, or invest it more wisely. How’s the saying go? “It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it”.