11 June 2012

A Study in Sequels

Not to worry, I'll be putting together a more comprehensive post on sales information sometime after the end of this quarter. Today, I wanted to do a small comparison just between two of my sequels, Friends in Deed (FID) and Death Brings Victory (DBV). Since both are sequel novels (following Heroes Die Young), I figured it would be a true apples-to-apples comparison. There is a slight price differential between the two, which I'll be discussing later, but for the purposes of the comparison, it's slight enough that it shouldn't be an issue. Cover art is also different, in that the book shown below on the left was done by my publisher and the other (on the right) was done by the wonderful and talented T. K. Toppin (who I wholeheartedly recommend for your own cover art needs, if you should ever be in the market for it). Again, for the purposes of comparison, shouldn't be an issue (even if I personally think DBV has the better cover...).


So, here we go:

My latest novel (DBV) has been out since March, so I only have data for about one quarter. Even so, it's sold 15 copies over on Amazon and another 4 on Smashwords (sadly, due to technical snafus, it just went up on Barnes and Noble's site a few weeks ago, so no sales from there yet). Total sales for the last quarter, 19.

For (FID) the earlier sequel, which came out in January 2010, I have multiple sets of information. The first quarter it was available, it sold 9 copies through its various online outlets. Via my publisher, there's no breakdown of where copies sold, though based on royalty percentage, I'd hazard a guess that 4 of those copies sold through the publisher itself. This leaves the other 5 through places like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.

Since e-book sales have started becoming more commonplace in recent history, we can also do a comparison of the same quarter, this past one. Compared to the 19 total copies of DBV this past quarter, there were 8 copies of FID (not counting 2 paperback copies) paid for in the first quarter 2012. It's hard to know when those copies actually sold, but likely from the previous quarter considering the timing issue of payments made from Amazon to the publisher (which is the timing upon which royalties are paid).

For comparison, the full year of 2010 brought about 28 e-book sales for FID (compared to 19 copies of DBV for one quarter of 2012).

A couple of things could be said about this. FID is priced at $4.99, where DBV was priced at $3.99 (and has been priced at $2.99 for the last two months...one aspect of self-publishing being that I can toy with pricing until I find the sweet spot). So, does the lower price boost sales? Perhaps. Of course, it could be that sales of my first two novels have gained me several new fans, who are primed and ready to buy the newest novel when it comes out. It's not for me to decide, just to offer facts and let the reader of this post draw their own conclusions. It's possible that I'd sell far more copies at a 99-cent point.

So, that's the comparison of sales numbers. But how about royalties? Although it's not all about the money, it sure does bring a smile to my face when I get paid to do the things I enjoy...

In this past quarter, those 19 copies of DBV have brought in royalties of just over $58. Some of that, I'm still waiting on payment for, but the vast majority has already made it into my pocket. The 9 copies of FID sold from the first quarter 2010 netted me just under $10 (which was paid in full with that royalty statement, but most of the time, the publisher delays payment until the following royalty period if you don't meet a $25 threshold...versus a $10 threshold from both Amazon and Smashwords).

For comparison, the full year of 2010 (28 e-books) netted me just under $27 (this counts the 4Q2010 royalties that were actually paid in 2011).

So, recapping the facts as I've presented them, I sold fewer books (19) in one quarter than (28) in a full year, yet I more than doubled the royalties received ($58 vs. $27).

Looking at the facts behind the scenes, this isn't all that surprising, even considering that DBV is priced lower than FID. Royalties through my publisher are based on net receipts, which are the payments they receive from the online retailers (unless those sales come through the publisher's storefront). So, where I would receive around 70% royalties from Amazon (the percentages vary at Smashwords, depending on the outlet the books sell at), the publisher would receive the 70%, and then I would receive 30% of that amount. So, while I make $2.05 a copy (at a sales price of $2.99) on e-books sold at Amazon, my projected royalties on those same sales through a publisher would be 30% of the $2.05, or $0.62 each. So, for 19 copies, my comparable royalty payment would have been a little under $12 (compared to $58).

On a side note, I commented earlier about possibly selling more copies at the 99-cent price point. I've seen enough evidence of my own to know that it does tend to boost sales, though it also tends to deflate royalty rates due to only a 35% rate on those price levels from Amazon (oddly enough, Smashwords tends to give higher royalties on the sub-2.99 prices). So, sales do increase, but royalties decrease...all about the goals you have for your books, as I've mentioned many times before.

But I digress...

Financially, then, it doesn't seem to make sense to use a publisher. This isn't to say that it doesn't make sense in other areas (for example, the publisher for FID attends several Sci-Fi conventions in Canada which I don't currently have access to, and of course, there's still a stigma about books put out by the author themselves, whether anyone cares to admit it or not). Every author deciding whether to dive in on their own should read my series of posts on self-publishing (this link is to the final segment of the series, which has links to the previous two posts on the topic). But for my own situation, I'm able to do most of the editing on my own, as well as most of the formatting for e-book readers. For other authors, a publisher may have what they need, and they'll just be giving up royalty money to do so.

And of course, e-books are long-term, so a single quarter may not show the full story. It's possible that DBV may not make another sale for the rest of the year (I certainly hope that's not the case, but...). If that turns out to be the case, I'll still have sold fewer and made more money in a year doing so......but I'd still be one sad panda.

Again, I'll be putting together another compilation of sales statistics for all of my books before long. Until then, be sure to check out the two books I've been discussing here, Friends in Deed and Death Brings Victory. Both are awesome titles, and well worth your investment of time and money. And if you've already read one or both of these novels, I'd appreciate if you could (if you haven't already) type up a little review over on Amazon, Goodreads, and any other spot you can find.