500 eBooks and Beyond

Today, I cleared 500 eBooks sold since I started selling them in late Dec, 2010. I feel a special gratitude to people like Tim Pratt, Joe Konrath, and Robin Sullivan, who post their actual detailed sales numbers online. Their examples have been helpful to me as I try to sell books and understand trends.
I will try to emulate these people. Unless there’s some particular reason that I can’t tell you how I’m doing with my sales, I’ll post updates with numbers.
  • Books sold in Dec: 36 (mostly via a promotion on my website)
  • Books sold in Jan: 31
  • Books sold in Feb: 88
  • Books sold in March: 271 (my podcast gave an artificial boost that month)
  • Books sold as of April 17: 91
Total: 517
In verifying these numbers, I realize that I had underestimated my previous sales and was actually over 500 a couple of days ago. :)
These numbers represent sales across 8 titles: Prophet Books 1-3, Prophet complete trilogy as a single volume, Cowry Catchers 1-3, and Crossroads (the Panamindorah short story collection). I have been gradually posting these titles since Dec. They have not all been available that entire time.
I sold the books via Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. In Dec and early Jan, I was also offering the books from my website via Paypal, but I decided that was too much extra work and possibly bad for business. Paypal paid better, but drew sales away from places where sales rank helps to get the books noticed (Amazon and BN). I sell about the same number of books on Amazon as BN, with a much smaller number of sales coming from Smashwords.
In addition, I’ve sold 122 units of the fullcast audio version of “Professionals,” a Cowry Catchers-related short story sold off my website via Paypal over the last year.
Finally, I sold about 40 units of “Night in the Crystal City,” a Prophet-related audio short story that is no longer available.
That is the sum total of my adventures so far in sales.
Some observations:
My biggest single moneymaker is still “Professionals” – a 3,000 word fullcast audio short story that has grossed about $594, netted me about $375, and provided the voice actors involved with about $135 royalties between them. In addition the artist earned a flat $45 for her illustration. “Professionals” had less overhead to overcome than any of the eBooks (no editing costs, no full cover art, no illustrations beyond the one). Also, it’s been around for almost a year, while the eBooks have only been around for a quarter. Still, that’s food for thought. At this point, my shortest thing has made the most money.
With the exception of Feb, when I asked for a push from the podcasting audience for the first book of Cowry Catchers, my best-selling eBook has been the single volume complete trilogy of The Prophet of Panamindorah. Prophet and Cowry Catchers 1 are generally neck and neck, but Prophet stays ahead by a few units. This is hilarious to me, because I considered Prophet a throw-away book – something I’d give away for free to get people to buy Cowry Catchers. It’s solid writing and a fun story, but Cowry Catchers is head-and-shoulders above it by comparison. So why does Prophet sell more units? I suspect it’s a combination of the popularity of YA and the fact that Prophet is complete. People like completed things.
Here’s something that really makes me wonder if I’m doing stuff wrong: Prophet is unedited. I and my friends combed through it to make it as perfect as possible, but I did not purchase $500/book professional editing services for it, as I did for each book of Cowry Catchers. Yet no one complains. Not a single reviewer has said anything like, “Wow, this is great, except it’s riddled with errors” or “You can really tell that this is self-published. Needs an editor!” Not one... This makes me wonder if I should be having Cowry Catchers edited. Am I throwing away my $500-$650/book? If my readers don’t care or can’t tell the difference, should I be putting those books in such a steep financial hole? They have a lot to fight up against before they will ever start making money. The illustrations I don’t question. They’re a huge financial hole, but I would buy them anyway because I love them. They are for me as much as for the readers. The editing, though, is strictly for my readers, and if they can’t tell the difference, I think I might be throwing my money away. My editor only catches a handful of cringe-inducing errors per book. I am glad to have them caught. Still... Prophet surely contains some of the same errors, and no one seems to care.
On the flip side, I have no doubt that Cowry Catchers will eventually dig itself out of its financial hole...pay off its student loans...as it were. :) And I know that it looks as good as possible.