30 July 2011

Reality Check - July 30, 2011

You've no doubt seen the success stories of those who self-publish their e-books...people who sell a million copies, are able to write full-time and make a living at it. And no doubt, you've heard them pitch the idea that writers would be foolish not to do it this way...

And it makes you wonder, maybe I should do it too...

So, to test this theory, I've self-published two pieces, first (back in December) my Aston West novella Seeker...and then (2 weeks ago), my latest (non-Aston) novel, The Cure. The first, I've priced at the ultra-low 99 cent level (for a 20K word novella), while the latest is available for a more moderate $2.99 (for around a 60K word novel). With these two data points, I'm hoping to give a more accurate reading for would-be self-published authors (and myself) as to whether this golden goose is really as shiny as we'd be made to believe.

A few things to realize about me (for comparison purposes):
-I have been previously published, though by a small press without widespread bookstore distribution, with two books under my belt (Heroes Die Young and Friends in Deed). I also have developed a small niche following based on my series of short stories featuring Aston West.
-I do not have hundreds of thousands of followers on my blog, nor my Twitter feed nor my Facebook fan page. I believe that all of these together net about 1000 people, maybe.
-I do market myself, through my social media outlets, through online groups and webpages, and through visits to conventions from time to time.
-I have a full-time job that I use to fund my writing exploits, so I don't have a lot of spare time to write or market (but I make do with the little time I have).
-I'm generally able to get a new novel finished in about a year or two (see the aforementioned full-time job information), though I've been attempting to better that.
-My two self-published titles are only available in e-book format, though I'm expecting to eventually self-publish a print version of The Cure (and am in talks on bringing Seeker to print as well)

So, all that being said, here's the breakdown so far:

Seeker has been out since (late) December 2010, on Amazon (Kindle) and Smashwords (who has then distributed to such spots as Kobo and B&N (Nook). It's averaged around 2-4 sales most months. With the price point of 99 cents, royalties are low, around $2-3 a quarter (which because of the minimum payment requirements, are being stored up until I sell enough). The sales totals for this book come in around 40 books in the last 7 months. For comparison, my first quarter sales of my two small press books (which are priced at $2.99 and $3.99/$4.99 (depending on the store)) ran 12 and 5 copies each...I have not yet received the second quarter statement.

[For those keeping score at home, my novella sold 13 copies in the first quarter...but at a much lower price point...royalties, however, weren't that much different, which is another post for another day]

The Cure has only been out for two weeks, so more concrete sales numbers will be forthcoming in future updates...though I can say that the "initial rollout" sales are fairly consistent with those I saw with Seeker back in December (and ironically, are running fairly close to the sales of Seeker in the same two-week period). I will note here that after The Cure came out, I did see an uptick in sales of Seeker from June, from 2 to 4

So, I don't really know how often I'll give these updates, but stay tuned for more. And hopefully the numbers that I post will give you a feeling of what to expect from a foray into self-publishing e-books.