Written by: Self-publishing is not for sheep

May 2020 Sales Report

Here we are, presenting the sales balance sheet of May… Gee, time goes by so fast!

Let me remind you my income comes from Amazon sales (eBooks, paperback and Kindle subscription). In May, I have published the first book of Defined Zone, a two volume feel-good novel, and the fourth book of Archibald Skye’s Adventures. I did not remove the sales of the book I’ve co-written in April with Theo Lemattre (part of the income goes to Theo, of course) and I’ve worked really hard to be able to give you an exact figure, but then we’re talking less than 300 euros of income for this specific title in April, both our copyright and the income of Panda Jones included: I must confess I did not make such a big deal out of it!

But let’s go back to the May publications:

  • Defined Zone Book 1 – Hot Chocolate Makes Everything Better — it’s a feel-good, I’m tackling a new genre here, entirely new for me that is, which means I have to conquer a new market. I hadn’t expected a lot of sales, having first to build a new readership. It was actually quite to be expected that things should start slow. I rely mainly on my fantasy readership, which I don’t intend to abandon at all, but this novel had been on my mind for quite some time. Besides, it’s also very interesting to observe the effect of a new genre on your readership; people don’t necessarily follow, apart from the “heavy consumers” and you just cannot expect the sales to be similar to those of the books you usually publish.
  • Archibald Skye Book 4 – Can you find the meaning of life in marshmallows? — So here we are considering the fourth book of the series and if you read my various posts on sales balance sheets, you will know sales tend to drop with every new book of a same series. This is partly due to the book having been very spoiled in Amazon reviews, because people have gone wild, out of frustration probably. I have no problem with marks or reviews, but spoilers are a shame, because readers who actually meant to read the book came across the comments and criticized the spoilers, saying that because of it, they wouldn’t buy the book anymore. But then, this fourth book is also special, because, even without spoiler, it is very Machiavellian, the main character undergoes a huge evolution and not everyone took kindly to it (which suits me just fine, because it takes all kinds). Lastly, one crucial information was missing when I published this book, which I had actually intended to keep secret until the end of 2020, but finally decided to reveal earlier: I have planned a crossover including several of my heroines, among whom Archibald Skye, for 2021. At the end of Archie’s adventures, part of the readership was a bit puzzled by the ending and well, yes… it’s an end that opens onto a crossover, so it’s perforce a little different as it does end the series, but not quite. But then I hadn’t communicated on the 2021 publications, and especially on this crossover… my mistake!

I’m telling you about my mistakes, so you won’t make the same errors, should you ever be in the same kind of situation :).

May sales for ebooks, paperback formats and Kindle subscription

My books were on offer in May, hence the sales figures that exceed the 200 copies a day at the beginning of May. 8 of my books were on sale at 0.99 € each, so the number of copies sold was necessarily quite high, but the royalties didn’t keep up, because of course I earn much less on a 0.99 € copy than on a 5.99 € copy. However, let me remind you that Amazon’s promotions offer great visibility and help you move up in the ranking. I always agree to all Amazon promotions, if only for visibility. I usually put visibility and ranking (which also makes you more visible) BEFORE royalties, because I believe royalties are a consequence of being visible and well ranked on Amazon.

Detail by paperback sales for May 2020
Detail by title of digital sales and pages read in the Kindle subscription for the month of May 2020

Totals for May are:

  • 3,369 eBooks sold (2,739 the previous month)
  • 303 paper books sold (283 in March)
  • 2,050,600 pages read via the Kindle subscription (2,487,667 last month) which represents 4,556 books read in full
  • a total of 8,228 books purchased/read via the subscription for the month of May (8,550 in April)

A quick reminder on how income actually works (please bear in mind that these figures are not valid for self-edited eBooks or the novel I’ve co-written with Theo Lemattre, but then again, although I am quite aware that for many authors who read this post, it still represents significant income, in my case, compared to the rest of my income, it does not. I’ll therefore provide a general overview of the income related to the other novels):

  • I earn 3.92€ (or 3.93€, or 3.91€, depending on the size of the eBook; if it is a little longer, loading on the reader costs a penny more (loading price varies from 7 to 9 cents depending on my books) and this lowers my income by 1 cent, which is peanuts, but I’d like you to have all the details) for each 5.99€ eBook.
  • I earn between 2 and 3€ per paperback sold, depending on the format, the number of pages (which together determine the cost of printing and which I use to determine the sale price)
  • for the Kindle subscription, the income matches the number of pages that are actually read. This number is standardized by KDP, so that you won’t actually end up with a larger number of pages just because you’ve skipped three lines between each paragraph. It does not correspond to the number of pages displayed on your product page on Amazon; you will find it in your KDP account. I guess they rely on the number of words, 100,000 words being about 500 KENP pages. My novels are about 450 pages long (between 85,000 and 105,000 words, depending on the series). There is a KDP money fund (part of what customers pay for the Kindle subscription goes into this fund, which is fully paid to the authors every month) and one is paid according to the number of pages read, compared to the total number of pages read in the course of the month. The fund for the month of May amounted 28,400,000€: if the number of my pages represents 0.01% of the total number of pages read in the month, I will receive 0.01% of the total amount of the fund. Note that my income usually lies between 0.0041 and 0.0044€ per page read, that’s between 1.85€ and €1.98 for a 450-page book (approximately 85,000 words) read via the Kindle subscription.

A quick update concerning the amount of the KDP global fund. In February, it represented 23,900,000€. It had by then been stagnating for about six months, sometimes hovering around 24 million, then it would go down to 23 and up again to 24… In March, it made a huge leap: +2.7 million€. It soared up again in April with +1.3 million€ and added another 500K in May. Lockdown and the current health crisis of course explain this surge. In times of crisis, people usually turn to books, because they’re an affordable recreational option (even though video games are in good position too, they’re more expensive and people don’t purchase them quite so easily; and then there’s also the initial cost of the game console that has to be taken into account) and in times of lockdown, well… the book is king and has increased its market share, just like streaming platforms and video games.

Detail by May 2020 revenue market

Like I said earlier, my books were on sale a lot in May, which certainly accounts for the fact that despite the large number of sales, my income has not been as significant as during the previous months, when it amounted to 20K. Which of course is still quite an extraordinary amount, isn’t it? 🙂

I’ve had a gross income of 16,323 in May 2020 (I spare you the commas and currency conversions). When you’re self-employed, you have to withdraw 22% for social insurance and income tax. I am affiliated to AGESSA, which means I do not get the full amount, far from it! I don’t need all this money to live. I use most of it to invest in translations, pay the people I work with and support projects of other independent authors I believe in.

I will change a little the format of sales analysis for the month of June (to be published in July), not least because in June, I have tried lowering the prices of the first volumes of some my series to observe the effect on sales and the possible revival of sales for the following volumes. I won’t be able to quibble over detail any longer, I’m afraid, what with the co-written book. The next balance sheets will have to be done more accurately. I’m also thinking about a more readable format, as the screenshots of the diagrams are not always big enough to be easily read on your smartphones or computers. I’ll have to update all this. Especially since big changes in the figures could take shape in the coming months… A quick preview below!

We are discussing with broadcasters (I say “we” because I do not manage all this on my own, there’s a great team working with me and accompanying me on the various projects) the possibility to be available in bookstores by the beginning of next year. Several strategies are currently being considered:

  • turn to a broadcaster with a team of salesmen, who will pitch my books (the cost is very high in that case) to bookstores, so called GSS (Specialized Superstores such as FNAC, Cultura) and so called GSA (Food Superstores such as the general interest section of Leclerc, Auchan …). My books would then be available on the shelves.
  • turn to a broadcaster who prints on demand (this represents a lesser cost compared to the first option), but then, of course, your novel is not pitched by salespeople, you’re just available for order in sales spaces, unless the bookseller orders your works himself and puts them on the shelf, which in my opinion still means I’ll only be “available for order”
  • keep option 2 and turn to a broadcaster that does printing on demand, so that I’ll be available for order, but take care of the commercial part ourselves, first with the GSS and GSA, not that we wish to favor them at all costs, but they do cover a good share of the market (just over 40%) while representing relatively few partners. We would then go on and tackle bookstores, starting with the most important ones. I’m usually contacted once a week by a bookstore that wishes to know how to get my books; I could already explain them the procedure and I wouldn’t always have to answer “they’re not available for bookstores at the moment”.

As far as foreign markets are concerned (USA, English-speaking Canada, UK, Germany and India), translations are currently being finalized. I’ll be able to launch them before September and enjoy some of the summer in the meantime! Again, this will obviously impact income; I’ll have to go into more detail afterwards. I think I’ll still post the screenshots, if only so you can see I’m not talking rubbish, and then I’ll add Excel files screenshots, where we track sales per title, month etc.… Just so it’ll be easier to follow.

Here you are, my lovely pandas! Now you know everything! Let me point out these figures are not for showing off, they’re meant to inform you and show you that some people live on self-publishing. While it is actually possible to do so, it’s also important you should give ourselves the means to succeed and become more professional on the subject. If everyone were to become more professional in the self-publishing field, society would undoubtedly view independently published authors quite differently. Wouldn’t it be normal for you to professionalize, if you wanted to make a living as a self-published writer? Do you want writing to become your full-time livelihood? Is it actually your job? You just have to be professional on the subject, then.

Kisses to you, my pandas!

Illustration by the wonderful @blandine.pouchoulin

Last modified: 6 April 2021
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