Friday, December 02, 2011

Self-publishing numbers: dollars and cents

For the last few weeks I’ve been posting about my self-publishing numbers and, as promised, today I wanted to talk a little bit about what those numbers mean in terms of money earned.  Generally, I’m not a huge fan of talking dollars and cents.  Like most of us, I was taught that it’s not polite to talk about money.  So I’m not going to go into exactly what my income from self-publishing has been.  But the one thing that frustrated me the most when I first started looking at writing as a career was that there was no information about how much money I could expect to make.  No one was sharing.  Sure, everyone’s numbers were going to vary, but I knew there have to be some averages that I could expect.  So I do want to share some of my numbers, especially my first few months self-publishing, in hopes that it can give other authors looking at this option some idea what they can expect. 
When I first stepped into the digital self-publishing arena about 18 months ago, I wasn’t expecting much.  Up until then, self-publishing had pretty much been synonymous with selling books out of the trunk of your car - not my idea of fun.  However, I had a good friend, J.R. Rain, who was seeing amazing sales with this format.  I think he nagged me for a good three months before I finally agreed to give it a try with one of my unsold manuscripts.  But, like I said, I wasn’t expecting much.  A couple of bucks here and there.  Maybe enough to take the family to dinner once a month.   However, extra money is extra money, right?  So, what did I have to lose but a couple of days to make a cover and format my manuscript for ereaders?  So  I tried it out.

Month #1
I put two short stories up on Kindle in May 2010.  That month I sold 159 copies and made $82.68.  I was pretty pleased.  Clearly it wasn’t going to pay my rent, but it was enough to take my family out to dinner.  Twice even, if we used coupons. 
Month #2
In June I sold a total of 169 copies (yay, 10 up from last month!) and made a total of $128.69.  I could leave the coupons at home this month!
Month #3
In July I did a little playing around with pricing, upping the price of both stories.  I sold fewer - only 140 copies - but I ended up making more, a total of $271.80.  Not bad for some extra cash.  Hey, I could take my family out to eat once a week with that.   So, at the end of July I decided to add a some full length novels to the mix, manuscripts that I’d written but had never sold to NY that were just gathering dust on my hard drive.
Month #4
In August, with the addition of the novels, I made $973.42.  And, off of Amazon UK, which had just become a self-pubb option that month, $9.19.  Ohmigod, maybe I could pay some bills with this.  Electric?  Check!  Water? Check! Groceries?  Check!  Woohoo!
Month #5
And in September is where I started to see some real rent-paying potential.  I made a total of $4,944.42 this month.  I was blown away.  Instead of sales slowing the longer my books had been out (like I usually saw with print books), they were growing by leaps and bounds each month. 
And for anyone who is curious – I had done ZERO promo at this point.  None at all.  I didn’t even post about the new books to my newsletter/Facebook/etc.   These were all readers that had found me via browsing Amazon. 

Month #6
In October of 2010, two things happened for me. 
1) I got the rights back to all of my backlist, which included seven full length novels and one novella.  I put all of those books up for sale on Kindle. 
2) Barnes & Noble’s PubIt! came on the scene, so I quickly put all of my books up there as well. 
At both venues I made a total of $8,988.60 that month.  I was honestly sure there had been a typo somewhere in the vendors’ accounting.  No way was this for real. 

But it was.  And things just started snowballing from there.  The more books I added, the more sales for all of my titles grew.  In late 2010 I put some of my titles up on Smashwords as well, which distributed them to Apple, Sony, Diesel, and Kobo.  My sales started out small there (much like at Amazon), but slowly grew over time. 

In addition to the unsold manuscripts that were given new life and my previously published backlist, I’ve also added new, original titles to my roster of self-published books.  These have been amazingly well received by the ereading community.  My latest ebook, FEARLESS IN HIGH HEELS, is currently (as I type this) sitting at #10 on the Barnes & Noble Bestseller list!  It’s sold over 2000 copies in its first three days, so I couldn’t be happier.    
Obviously everyone’s sales are going to be different, but I hope that this info helps somewhat in knowing what to expect when you’re starting out in self-publishing.  I hear a lot of authors getting discouraged about slow sales to start with.  Don’t be!  Like I said, I made $82 in my first month.  It’s totally normal to start out slow.  Don’t worry.  Just keep writing.  :)     

~Trigger Happy Halliday


Kate said...

nice! very, very nice!Yay for you.

Robin Kaye said...

Congratulations, Gemma! I'm tickled pink for you. I'm also a little green, but that will pass quickly enough.

Terri Osburn said...

Thanks again for sharing this info. I'm amazed at how the numbers grew with no promo, but not surprised they took off once your backlist was out there.

Are you running the new stuff past any kind of editor? Line edits, copy edits, or anything like that?

Cheryl said...

Great for you but I wish your ebooks were available through my library because its not easy tracking down a print copy now.

Vivienne Westlake said...

Wow, Gemma! That is awesome! Congratulations. It's amazing the difference between August and September (I assume from having more books available for sale).

Gemma Halliday said...

@Terri - Yes! I do have an editor that I work with. I also have my grandpa proof when the editor is done. He's great at finding the little errors.

Gemma Halliday said...

@Cheryl - I am in the process of getting all my books back in print. So hopefully your library will be able to order them again soon!

Liane Spicer said...

Thank you so much for sharing, Gemma. I'm thinking of taking the plunge myself - once I get those rights back - and this kind of info helps a lot.

Diana Orgain said...

Gemma, you have no idea how refreshing it was (and exhilibrating) to read your post. Thank you so much for the honesty and encouragement.
Keep writing -love your books!

Jesi O'Connell said...

Holy moly, that's great! That's well beyond rent-paying potential, that's rent-paying plus a whole lot more. (Well, for me it would be, lol.) Very heartening to read this--I have neither name nor backlist right now, but boy you're inspiring me to get going on it all. Congrats to you, this is very awesome. Enjoy some killer dinners out. :)

Gemma Halliday said...

Thanks ladies!
I will admit that I think already having a backlist has helped me gain momentum a lot faster than if I’d had to write all those books one by one while self-publishing them. But before self-publishing, I was very solidly mid-list, not a bestseller with a huge following by any means. And I know other self-published people who have had great success as newbies. So I don’t think you need to have a huge “name” in order to do well.

Romantic Heretic said...

Congrats on the great sales, Gemma, and thanks for that bit of information about sales and how they work.

I put my first self pub up earlier this week and so far I haven't sold a thing. It might be because it's in a genre where most self published work is of hideous quality.

But this give me hope. Thank you.