Transparency In Indie Publishing, Mar. 2012

March has been an interesting month. As I predicted last month, sales of Into the Badlands dropped again in March, leveling off around mid-month to an average 14 copies per day. Here’s the entire history of copies sold and borrowed, from the month the book went live:

  • 2011-09: 46 sold
  • 2011-10: 60 sold
  • 2011-11: 165 sold
  • 2011-12: 411 sold
  • 2012-01: 1,055 sold
  • 2012-02: 684 sold, 10 borrowed (694 total)
  • 2012-03: 380 sold, 31 borrowed (411 total)

To illustrate this movement, I’ve included this nifty graph:

Another view of this is sales rank. You can see from this screenshot how the book has sold over time (click to enlarge).

There are a few deductions I’ve made from this trending pattern thus far. First, January was awesome! February was pretty good too. The book had a nice rise just after Christmas, but has dropped since then. It’s back down to pre-Christmas sales numbers, selling the same quantities in March as it did back in December of last year.

One way to look at this is that the book has peaked and is on its way back down to the bottom again. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. The book might very well have peaked, but I’ve got a good feeling that it’s finally stabilized. By mid-March, sales leveled off to around 15 copies per day and stayed fairly steady along the way.

Will it remain steady at this rate? Hard to say, but I doubt it’ll drop back down again to September and October numbers. Back then the book was new and unknown, so the low numbers are anomalous. Now that it’s maintaining a decent ranking (5,000 to 8,000) I think it’ll stay on the radar for some time, maybe from now on.

There’s one more piece of information to take into consideration here. I raised the price of the novel to $3.99 sometime around March 20th. This means that even with the price increase the book held steady at 13 copies per day for the entire month.

So this provides a segue to my next talking point: pricing.

Around mid-March I read a great article on pricing by Dean Wesley Smith, along with another article by David Gaughran. Maybe four months ago I read an article on Joe Konrath’s site about pricing too. This all got me thinking. When I released Into the Badlands back in September I priced the book at $2.99. After that I released a collection of short stories called Walking At Night. I monkeyed around with the pricing on Walking at Night ($.99, $1.49, $1.99, $2.99), but it made little difference in overall sales.

Into the Badlands, however, had never moved from the $2.99 price point since I’d released it. I began to consider the work I’d put into the book, the fact that I thought it was pretty good (and most readers seemed to agree), the fact that it was edited, and the fact that I really didn’t want to devalue my work. It also seemed to me that $3.99 was still a pretty good price for a novel, considering how many traditionally published books were selling for $12.99 and up.

So after careful consideration (and a little sweating) I made the decision to raise the price of Into the Badlands from $2.99 to $3.99.

Afterward I waited for sales to plummet…initially they did. But I was committed to waiting it out for at least 30 days, so I let things ride.

It took a couple days, but sales slowly picked up again. Finally by the end of March the book was moving 19 copies a day. I was more than pleased; I was ecstatic.

Writing used to be just a hobby for me. Once I realized there was interest in my work and folks were willing to pony up a few bucks for it, I decided to make it my part-time job. That doesn’t mean that the work means any less, it just means that I’m devoting the time and energy to running it like a business. If anything it means the work is going to be better.

Part of writing as a business involves pricing the work. The goal is to charge a fair price while not leaving money on the table. I think the $3.99 novel achieves this. Time will tell, so I’ll be re-evaluating this decision at the end of April.

It would appear that raising the price of Into the Badlands might have cost me sales of 1 book per day (down from14 per day to 13 per day). But for that 1 book I’m possibly losing I’m making $.69 more on all the remaining books (13). Here’s the simple math.*

  • 14 x $2.10 = $29.40
  • 13 x $2.79 = $36.27

The difference is $6.87 more per day, while selling 1 fewer each day. Extend that out to 30 days and you end up with 30 fewer books sold, but over $200 more earned.

While these numbers assume certain constants, one can still see how a slightly higher royalty can have a significant effect over the long haul, provided sales don’t plummet as a result of the higher price.

I also raised the price on Walking At Night to $2.99. I’m selling fewer copies than I was at $1.99, but I think I can live with that. I’m not making much on the collection anyway, so moving fewer units seems to have little impact.

As a result of all this thinking, I’ve come up with a new pricing schedule. Depending on how sales go I think I’m going to use this for the foreseeable future:

  • $1.49  – short story bundles (3 or more)
  • $1.99 – novellas
  • $2.99 – short story/novella collections (50,000+ words combined)
  • $3.99 – full-length novels

Right now I want to stay away from the $.99 price point, but charging $1.49 for one short story seems overpriced. So, combining three short stories together at $1.49 seems more reasonable. For edited, serious work I think these prices are pretty reasonable overall. Of course ultimately the readers will vote with their wallets.

I also made Into the Badlands free for a day in March. I wrote in detail about that here.

So here are my up-to-date sales numbers for both of my titles as of March 31, 2012 (including borrows, which account for less than 50 copies combined):

  • Into the Badlands: 2,842 copies
  • Walking At Night: 152 copies

In all, that’s just shy of 3,000 books sold in seven months. I’ll be honest here and say that I’m flabbergasted by those numbers. As of 3/31/2012 I’ve earned $5,900 in royalties. And to think I thought I’d be lucky to sell 100 books…ever.

If I had to choose any part-time job to have, this would be it. I’m living the dream.

Last month I predicted sales would fall and they did. I also predicted things would level out, which appears to be the case. This is where I make predictions about next month. I think next month I’ll see a slight increase in sales. It won’t return to January or February levels, but I think April sales will beat March.

The Desolate won’t be available until June, so Into the Badlands won’t benefit from any cross-promotion for at least another two months. Until then, I’ll refrain from making too many predictions about how its release might affect sales of my backlist.

All in all, I’m very pleased about March. Although sales were down from January and February, I still moved over 450 books and earned more than $950. That’s nothing to take lightly. I’ve got my fingers crossed that April sales will see an uptick (or will at least break even with March). Time, of course, will tell.

* * *

* These numbers ignore delivery costs and sales in lower royalty regions. These are best-case numbers and will be a little higher than reality.

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3 thoughts on “Transparency In Indie Publishing, Mar. 2012

  1. eternal Domnation April 2, 2012 / 11:17 am

    I am so happy I found your post, thank you. Your candid approach is incredibly refreshing and your update both informative and motivational. I truly appreciate it, thank you. I look forward to following your journey and, oh yea, picking up your book (on Kindle)!

    • Brian April 2, 2012 / 12:34 pm

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment on my post. One of the problems indies have, in my opinion, is that we really don’t have much context by which to gauge ourselves. I’m not talking about subjective concepts such as “success”, but rather quantifiable metrics.

      By publishing my numbers I hope to provide other indies with some hard data they can use to make decisions. I also feel that discussing my experiences with pricing decisions, KDP Select, free promotions, editing, and more will provide some additional anecdotal benefit. I hold a belief that artists shouldn’t compete with each other, that they should help each other be successful. It’s not a zero sum game; the world is big enough for all of us to get a piece of the pie. That belief is what drives me to take the time to write these articles in hopes that someone will find some value in them. I’m really glad you found something useful here. And thanks for picking up the book too!

      Oh, and by the way, David Gaughran does this sort of thing too, but he’s much better at it than I am. http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/

      Take care,
      Brian

      • eternal Domnation April 2, 2012 / 12:55 pm

        Well I’d be thrilled to add a few more numbers to the mix . I agree – not a zero sum game, at all. we can help each other, and I’ll say it again – you are already doing just that. Thanks for the link, too, and I’ll check back in after I have read Into the Badlands.

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