What a First Year Looks Like

First off, a disclaimer:  this is what my first year looked like. One of the things about self/indie/any publishing is that all years (first or otherwise) look different.

I put It’s in His Kiss up on Amazon a year ago this week and then jetted off to RWA. I was shocked when I came back and people had bought it! I completely did not expect that.

But, if you’ve been following my blog, you know that KISS (and the up coming next work that’s not titled yet) are side projects for my own fun. I write elsewhere for my agent and career and that has to come first.

Why am I sharing this? So that you understand when I tell you I did zero marketing, had zero network, and basically had no way to pimp this project.

What had I expected? To sell 250 copies this year if I was lucky.

Any and all sales are directly from word of mouth and Goodreads, Amazon and Twitter readers have been very, very good to me. Am I buying a new car? No. But every single sale I got is most likely because a reader suggested/favored/reviewed KISS. And I am really thankful for that.

But you guys want to see stats, right. Well…. here we go!

The majority of writers are constantly saying, “Don’t become obsessed with numbers.” I completely agree. They are what they are. Especially if you’re not out there able to promote your work. The numbers are just going to do their thing.

That being said, I grew up in a small, family business and I can’t imagine closing out a work day without balancing the books. Those writers who say, “Oh, I never look at my sales. Just my sales report when Amazon sends it” — I don’t understand that.

Each morning, I get up and log the sales numbers from the day before. On that day’s note, I add any important information: Did someone write a review on a standalone site? Was my book picked up somewhere for mention? Did amazon start a big sale that drove buyers away from smaller books that week?

So, my spreadsheet is by day. Then it auto-splits out by month and week. We’ll get to that.

Let’s talk sales!

 

Not a surprise here about the sales. I write sweet romantic comedies. Yes, it’s funny.  Yes it’s a quick read (enough to know it’s time to go in from your sunbathing… the perfect tan clock *grin*) … but mostly, it’s just a cute, easy read you can fall into and enjoy in one sitting. That’s what I’m trying to build. One sitting, smile-makers.

Romance sales typically uptick in the summer and after the holiday e-reader rush. You can see, my sales were no different.

To break it down more:

By season, still pretty clear when the biggest sales times for me were – Maybe I shouldn’t have even looked at my numbers in the fall!

But, there’s a downside to sales: RETURNS.

I’m going to say just a quick word about returns before the chart.

Returns are going to happen. They hurt, but they happen. Ignore them.

I had decided that my self-pubbing adventure would have to pay for itself. So, every time someone returns a book, that’s a one-step-forward-one-step-back to publishing the next project. Ok, again, it happens.

Of course, for returns, some hurt and some don’t. I’ve actually had two reviews that raved about KISS. How cute it was. That not everyone can tell a full story in a short and not leave you feeling like you didn’t get everything. How funny Jenna is. How hot Ben is. And how, because it was so short they feel like they shouldn’t have to pay the 99-cents so they RETURNED THE BOOK THEY JUST RAVED ABOUT.

The product description clearly lists it as a short work. Right below the title it says “39 pages” (although, Amazon doesn’t use industry standards. By publishing standards, it’s 44 pages).  And every single review mentions that it’s short, quick read… So, when people rave and enjoy it and get an 45 minutes worth of joy out of it, and the return it. Yes. That hurts because I’m completely upfront about the length and people know that going in.

Think of it this way: 45 mins is roughly 1/2 a movie… That’s the equivalent of $5 at the movies. But you get the whole thing and you get to keep it. I’m begging readers, not just for my stuff, but for all writers: If you buy it and read it, please don’t return it. People are trying to make a living AND be able to afford to pay their editors, formatters, proofreaders, and cover designers to bring you more stories.

Ok, so moving on. It’s clear that returns are usually in line with sales. To see that, the visual!

And lastly, people have asked which day I get the most sales. Thanks to the magic spreadsheet, I was able to figure that out. It was a bit of a surprise:

I’ll be a little admit, I was a little surprised. I didn’t expect Saturday & Sunday to be my two lowest sales days. But why Wednesday (usually followed fairly closely by Thursday?) – I’m assuming it’s because the new releases all happen on Tuesday and most readers who aren’t actively waiting for Tuesday remember and check out everything on Wednesday. Yes. I’m totally making that up because I have no better reason. 🙂

So, that’s my first year. I’m excited to keep working on the next project. It’s basically ready for an editor, and as soon as my sales hit that magic number it will head off to one.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear other writer’s First Year Stories! Share away.

Also, I typically try to post a super-short once or twice a week here if you’re interested in quick love bites 😉

~~Caitie~~

Comments

  1. Great post, Caitie! Thanks for sharing your first year adventure. I published my first novel at the end of October last year, so I’m not yet to my one-year anniversary. So far, I’m on target to hit my sales goal. Really, though, I’m just excited to know people are reading and enjoying my work. I like how you break down sales by season: that sort of data could really help when it comes to timing ad buys, etc. Thank you!

    • The seasons thing did make me wonder about releasing the next book in October like I was considering. I may wait till December since I can’t get it out sooner.

      I know everyone says “more sooner is better” — but it does make you wonder!

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