Monday, August 8, 2011

SoOoOoo What Are YOU Selling?

I read some interesting posts and opinions when I went searching on the Internet to find out exactly what those Amazon sales rankings equate to in actual sales. If you come from a sales background, like I do, you quickly realize talking numbers is just that, talking numbers.

Sales people do it to judge their own career and to see how well others in the same industry are doing. For them, it's like talking about the weather. A sales person who calculates their paycheck on a basis point percentage can do math in their head quick and know what people are earning.

What? Talk about income? Isn't that taboo? Didn't our folks say we should never ask someone what they are making?

How are you supposed to know if your boss is paying you well? How else would you learn the man in the next cube gets paid 20% more for the same job just because he has a weenie and you don't?

What's a body to do? Quit? Get mad? Complain? Sure, 'cause that always works, right?

Get a sales position! It's a great equalizer in gender comparison for income earnings across almost any field. You're paid solely on what you produce and not based on what equipment you have (or don't have *snort*). I've heard the discrepancies between earnings for gender is much less than when I entered the work force twenty-five years ago, but I have no modern comparison. I saw the writing on the wall back then and quickly got into sales.

Now, decades later, here I am – a writer who still focuses on sales. No matter how we may like to kid ourselves, money is a big motivator for any job.

How does one measure success? Is it by the happy, warm glow you get from helping others? Umm… since when does that "warm glow" pay the bills? 

Is it the satisfaction of delivering a well-told story and reaching readers…. Yes, as long as you don't like to eat and have someone else who can support your creative ass.

I have medical bills that get paid because my husband works. I'm incredibly grateful he's supporting me through my illnesses and the new career I've tackled while sick: writing. The medical bills have far exceeded what I've earned for the past two years, mainly because my insurance company refuses to pay for most of the "radical" treatment and would prefer to pay for a wheelchair or an institution, neither of which I'll succumb to at the age of forty.

Last month was a turning point for me. 

Not because I've miraculously gotten better and no longer require $1500-$2000 a month in additional medical care, but because my earnings from writing, for the first time ever, have exceeded my medical care.

Whoot! I feel like a real writer now. I've recently completed a bunch of interviews lined up to air in September, where people asked when I felt like a "real writer". A part of me felt it was when I landed an agent. In a moment of complete honesty, I can more accurately say it's when I started to earn money. What I consider "real" money, and not a few hundred a month.

Will it last? I have no idea. I plan on writing my little heart out over the next few months to help keep the proverbial ball rolling.

Here's what you all came here to see; a break down of my titles and what they've sold by month:

Gross Units
Another Sip (free read - half of book two in my fantasy series)

Released 7/16/11


Total AS:

Johnny Living Dangerously (erotica novella)

Release date 2/4/11

est. 135.00
est. 120.00

Total JLD:

Just One Taste (short story w/half of book one)

Release date 2/20/11

est 0.00
est. 0.00

Total JOT:

More Than Tolerable (erotica novella)

Release date 2/24/11

est. 150.00
est. 160.00

Total MTT:

Vampire Vacation (fantasy series, book one)

Release date 9/24/11

est 1,080.00
est 1,280.00

Total V V:

The Hunt (fantasy series, book two)

Release date 6/28/11

est 75.00
est 3,100.00

Total TH:

Total all ebooks, paid and free: 45,042 (est.)
Total paid ebooks: 14,359 (est.)

*Side note-- what made the sales in March drop for JLD? Changing the teaser price from 99 cents to 2.99  
**This is where I took JOT off sale at Amazon for six weeks because I was trying to get them to acknowledge the listing was up for free at Smashwords (so I did "sell" some during that time but SW reports the free reads as one big number, no monthly breakdown). Turns out Amazon didn't care when it was free at SW, but they did when it was free at B&N. So when it went free in May at B&N I put it back up for sale at Amazon and then they "found" the lower price eventually.  
*** V V was priced normally between 3.99 and 4.99. Previously, I had experimented with lowering it to 99 cents. Sales spiked for a few days and then went back to where they were. March is when I changed the cover and raised the price. I saw a 700% increase in sales at Apple with the new cover and about 30-40% at Amazon and B&N. But when May rolled around with the free read, I decided to follow what other hit authors were doing and priced the first book in the series at 99 cents. 
**** This book was priced at a friendship rate of 99 cents for the first two weeks. Sales did drop a little when it went to its normal price of 2.99, but they didn't tank. So far so good. Not sure how long sales will last.

Let me explain a few things. First, I don't have my print sales listed up there, those are only ebook sales. Print sales of Vampire Vacation have been limited to under 200 copies. The ebook & monetary figures for June and July are estimates, our bookkeeper has not tallied all the numbers yet. Calculating profits can be tricky (not something that should be estimated like I did above). Revenue varies from 35% to 70% depending on a few things (like selling at Apple or selling at a $2.99 price tag or above).

Also, most of the sales numbers up there are from Amazon. A few months ago, B&N gave them a run for their money with more sales each month earned for the company (not just my sales). Then, in April, they started listing free reads on the same bestselling lists as paid reads and our numbers as a whole tanked.

Dumb move, B&N! Smarten up. If we don't sell books you don't make money, so move the freebies to another list and all your sales figures will bounce back. Of course I've written to them, but who the hell am I and why should they care to listen? Idiots. They'll be the next to crumble if they don't wise up.

I'm moving forward with all the company's new releases to only be distributed through Lightning Source (wholesale pricing model versus the agency pricing most retailers offer to direct uploads). These individual retailer accounts with Apple, B&N, Amazon, AllRomanceeBooks, Smashwords, and now Kobo are killing me with uploads. 

You only see six titles up there, by our small company has thirty and when you multiply that by all the various requirements across multiple retailers you can see how managing our small catalogue of titles quickly becomes a daunting task. You make one correction and you have hours of work on your hands to re-upload everywhere.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out once my free reads went up at Amazon the sales really started happening. I've known other writers doing the same thing and it works, but the buy rate is different for each of us. I'm thrilled mine sits at currently 35% for the first book (meaning 21,692 free reads downloaded on V V and sales in that time frame were 7,497; indicative of 35% of the readers have opted to purchase the rest of the book). On the second book, the buy rate is currently 30% from the free read.

**Note to anyone reading this who is unaware of my sales strategy. I gave away a very short story titled Just One Taste (2500 words), and tacked on half of Vampire Vacation (book one in my fantasy series) for free. Since it worked so well, I did the same thing with Another Sip, but didn't have time to write a short story. I simply labeled it as "Part One" of The Hunt (book two), and gave away half for free. My logic is simple: if the reader likes it they will buy the rest of the book. If they don't then at least they gave it a shot.

Before I end this post, I'd like to thank the very important people who have helped me make it as a full time writer – the readers. Without you taking a chance on an unknown and trying my work, I'd still be dreaming, and wondering if this pipe dream could really happen. Thank you! I cherish every note, email, comment, and status update.

So, now that I've bared my soul with sales figures for all the world to see, care to share? What are you selling? And more importantly, what has worked for you?


Wicked Writers is running a summer long contest to win a free Kindle!! All you have to do is comment with your email on any post from now until Labor Day weekend. 

We'll be keeping a tally of commenters who include their emails and then the names will be randomly picked - more comments per person means more entries! Ping backs to Twitter, Facebook, and links to other sites including a mention with a link to us will also count.


  1. C.J. thanks for sharing that. I find it fascinating. As a whole, your price and stategy have been very helpful to me. Since I got Quinn, my free book approved on Amazon my sales have soared. Quinn downloads in a ten day period are 12,138 and so sales of Katrina alone in the first week of Aug. have already doubled what they were the whole month of June and are just over the total for July. Going well. With all your hard work, while not feeling well, you deserve every success. Still you are like the energizer bunny, I don't know how you do it, but I am glad you do. Thanks for all your help.
    Elizabeth Loraiane

  2. Fantastic post, CJ. Thanks for sharing your sales info. The whole process is daunting and exciting, especially with trailblazers like you who share the facts?

  3. Congrats on all the fabulous sales, C.J. You've worked your ass off for them and they are well deserved.
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thanks for commenting, Elizabeth. I was very happy to hear your sales have picked up with the free read. May it only get better!

    Thanks, Boone and Marissa, I appreciate you stopping by and commenting. May the days only be brighter for all authors.

  5. Ah, yes, the sobering but also exhilarating side of our business. I am glad to see that your sales are doing so well, C.J.

    The model is definitely sound and I like how you're using Lightning Source. I still remember my amateurish efforts putting things up on Lulu and Smashwords. I've had to combine those sales with what I make on hits from my sports writing just to make it seem like I'm getting anyone to read my fiction (sad, yes).

    Hopefully, with RHP, if I can get just a quarter of your worst month, I'll be light years better than the half-vast efforts I did before.

    Thanks for dragging us along for the ride.

  6. Congrats on the sales. And a fantastic post. Thanks for sharing, C.J.

  7. Great post, C.J.! I haven't looked too far into sales for e-books, as I'm not there yet, but it's always refreshing to see real numbers versus vague figures. Thanks for sharing! :)

  8. Thanks for posting this, CJ. I'd love to share my numbers once I get some. LOL. I'm excited to get started - 11 more days until "A Trace of Love" releases! - I am thinking about changing my game plan a bit. I have ideas for short novellas about the main characters in "Dark Heirloom" that I want to write and publish as a free read or a 0.99 read for the fans.

    I've been talking to my publisher and I've been blessed with a flexible one who seems to genuinely care about her authors. She's willing to bend a few of the "rules" in the name of marketing strategies. So we'll see I do.

    Right now I'm trying to focus on getting more books out. I think that's a large part of it too. You have six, I have two. I have some catching up to do. ;)

  9. Greg - my man, you'll do great, I have no doubts what-so-ever. It's the "when" we never know.

    Thanks Nickie and Riley! Appreciate you commenting and stopping by. *hugs* Wah-pesh! get back to work! ;-P

    J.D.-- Good news with your publisher, congrats. Nice to see you found one being flexible with their authors. Not to split hairs, but I don't technically have six books out. One is a freebie short story and another is just half my second book given away. A new ISBN may look like for title "count" but neither one is actually a whole new book.

    The two erotica novellas were short too, one was 17.5 and the other about 20k words.

  10. Those are some great numbers. How are the costs in regards to those numbers? I'm always a cost interested person.. lol.

  11. Overheard is generally pretty low on an ebook. No print books to store, no shipping fees, no minimum print run you have to pay for at a printer -- great overall, comparatively speaking.

    My original print cover cost me $150, but it wasn't the first cover I paid for (the first one I didn't use cost me $250). The third cover which I designed myself, cost about $20-$25. The editing on both full-length books ran a little under two thousand and I did all the lay out and formatting myself.

    I don't even want to think about advertising prior to the book's launch, which didn't pay off. It's safe to safe the original three thousand dollar budget my husband and I agreed to when I started this career didn't last long when all the small things started to add up!

  12. This is so awesome, C.J.! I love your strategy. I was thinking of doing a short novella release for free right when my book releases. I think this is an awesome idea! So glad you're now able to keep money after those health bills. Geesh, do I know all about that. Congrats on your success, I will deff be keeping an eye one and your books =)

  13. Great job C.J.! Keep up the good work.

  14. Thanks Trisha! I wish you the best with your free novella, if you can convince your publisher to tack on half the book for free, I highly recommend it.

    Thanks Olivia! Couldn't have done it without you.

  15. True, the majority are short stories and freebies, but that's still more of a selection than what I have. LOL.

  16. wow, what an informative post.
    thank you very much.
    much continued success to you!

  17. Lots of great information. I've just started wading this way, so thanks for posting all this.

  18. Thanks Carole and M.Pax! Appreciate the comments. Can't begin to tell you how many hours it took my to compile everything.... And then read it over and over and over.... Well, you know, you're both writers!

  19. Great info. Thank you for sharing.