number-crunching

Just putting my December royalty figures into the spread sheet — the statement arrived just before Christmas but this is the first chance I’ve had to do more than glance at it. Time to throw out a few numbers that might be of interest.

My best-selling book is still Dolphin Dreams, which has now reached 2151 copies sold since it went on sale. Yes, very much small press numbers, but not bad going for a small press book. For the curious, around a thousand of those came from direct sales from the publisher’s website before it went made available through the distributors, and about 3/4 of the total number since release is from direct sales. For distributor sales, Fictionwise has around double the numbers going through All Romance eBooks.

Second best is the first Lord and Master book, which has sold 1829 copies. Again, around 3/4 through the publisher website, but this time three times as many from Fictionwise as from ARe.

That’s the general pattern on my books — major share is through Loose Id, with the largest chunk of distributor sales coming through Fictionwise, but a significant fraction of distributor sales through ARe, and a tiny trickle through others. (My ebook titles aren’t on Amazon, so I have nothing to report one way or the other there.) That’s one author, through one publisher; other authors report different experiences.

The second Lord and Master book has now sold 1020 copies, almost as many as the first book had after the same number of months on release. That’s pretty pleasing for a sequel, as it suggests that a lot of people liked the first one.

Promises To Keep is the oldest of my titles which are still in print at Loose Id, having been released for Halloween 2004. Yes, more than five years ago, not long after Loose Id opened. It still sells half a dozen copies a month — not a great deal of money, but rather gratifying nevertheless that people are still interested in buying an old backlist title.

A couple of points to note here: a) my books typically sell 500-1500 copies in the initial 2 year contract, b) that’s a two year contract taking only the rights the publisher has a reasonable chance of using, not a life-of-copyright contract grabbing all rights, c) I get a detailed monthly royalty statement, on time, that breaks down exactly which titles sold through which venues, and how much money I got for each venue and title. Now, obviously I’d like to be in mass market paperback and looking at numbers with another zero or two on the end — but even in the small press market, there are good and bad publishers. Anyone with a zero fewer on the end of their sales numbers should be asking themselves if there are better options. Ditto if your publisher claims that it’s too difficult to provide detailed royalty statements so that you know what they owe you. As for life-of-copyright, that’s not automatically bad, but they had better be offering something worthwhile in return.

But… even someone who can sell ebooks consistently at that level can have the occasional “sink without trace” title. I’ve got one that barely scraped past 200 after two years. I have an idea as to why, but no hard evidence. There are no guarantees in this game, just ways to improve the odds in your favour.

Back to work on the accounts. One of the joys of wandering from country to country is that one ends up having to file tax returns in more than one of them, and they have different rules. Blech…

{Note: all numbers in this assume me not cocking up entering the data into 1-2-3…)

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