My Earnings from self-publishing 1 October 2015 – 30 September 2016

I know that some people have been waiting for this, but I needed to wait for all the spreadsheets to come in before I could do my report.

It’s getting to that scary territory, where I have a bit of a will I won’t I feeling about this. On the one hand, I like being open. On the other, I realise that I’m starting to move into that “this is not what usually happens” territory.

Yet, I also believe that any writer can do what I do, and can have a similar result.

Let’s get into it.

Things that happened in the past 12 months:

  • I withdrew all my books from Amazon’s Select program and put them on all retailers. I tried out Select with two series, found it lacklustre, and when I returned to wide distribution, my sales for these books tripled, including on Amazon. Conclusion: Amazon serves mainly the US and Select is a particularly US-centric program. If you write books in a future world where the US no longer exists, you may have a problem. LOL
  • Amazon was, and continues to be, plagued with scammers and problems relating to reporting of page reads in the Select program
  • Last year, I determined that I would start something new every year. I started (and completed) the Moonfire Trilogy.
  • I got a Mac and listed direct on Apple. Listing direct at a retailer vs via an aggregator like Smashwords or D2D is usually beneficial. I found that to be the case.
  • I paid for the production of the audiobook on Ambassador 1. This is an expensive project that you shouldn’t start with money you can’t afford to lose. I’ve found it beneficial. The sales are not included in this report, because I haven’t had any payments yet, but the audiobook sells every day. As added benefit, I get to listen to Matt’s sexy voice before all of you do!
  • Advertising. My books were featured on Bookbub three times: Fire & Ice in November, Watcher’s Web in February and Ambassador in May. I didn’t do a lot of additional advertising between that and the author cross-promo site (below)
  • The Science Fiction and Fantasy promo site. This continues to grow at a rate of knots. I got so many subscribers to the promotion notification service that I had to move the list to a cheaper server. I had to upgrade my IP server plan. I automated the behind-the-scenes page creation. Several people mentioned that I should turn this into a paid service, but I think I’m going to keep it free. I am not in the business of selling services to authors, and don’t wish to be. The site, the promo and its associated Facebook groups are about community. There are enough sharks after authors’ money already.

Previous years’ reports:

1 Oct 2012 – 30 Sept 2013
1 Oct 2013 – 30 Sept 2014
1 Oct 2014 – 30 Sept 2015

So, this year:

Books published:

Ambassador 4: Coming Home
The Necromancer’s Daughter
Ambassador 5: Blue Diamond Sky
Sand & Storm
Sea & Sky

The numbers

16612 books sold (last year 6856)
(in this count, I’m ignoring the pages read in Kindle Unlimited, because it’s just too hard)

Income:
US$25631
£5589
C$1940
A$9330
€799
NZD311

And some smallfry in esoteric currencies

Roughly A$51,000

This, again, is more than double last year’s income.

Spread across venues:
11017 Amazon (of which 6739 US, 3280 UK, 457 AU and most of the rest in Germany and Canada)
1149 Kobo
1655 B&N
1116 Google
1301 Apple
111 online print, and about 120 print books at cons (Supanova Sydney and Melbourne and SciFi on the Street and Book Expo Australia 2015)

Compared to last year, Amazon sales have doubled, but sales at B&N, Apple and Google Play have more than quadrupled. Kobo has increased a bit, but it went through a bit of a dip in the middle of the year. It has since picked up rather a lot. I don’t know why this happens, but it does, on all venues.

Top selling books:

Do you remember last time I said “Watch this space?” Well, look at this:

Ambassador 2: Raising Hell: 1912
Dust & Rain: 1778
Ambassador 1A: The Sahara Conspiracy: 1696
Blood & Tears: 1530
Ambassador 3: Changing Fate: 1462
Ambassador 4: Coming Home 1388
Ambassador 5: Blue Diamond Sky: 1269
Sand & Storm: 742
Icefire Trilogy Omnibus: 604
Trader’s Honour: 412

The Ambassador series steals the show. Ambassador 1 went permafree in January, and in May when it was featured on Bookbub, I gave away more than 60,000 copies. The series has an insane sellthrough and retention rate, which is why all the books are in the top 10.

Also my numbers sold of the individual Icefire Trilogy books are the same as last year. Fire & Ice was featured on Bookbub in November and it always does really well there. The sales of the omnibus are the same as last year. Again, most of those sales were at Kobo and were thanks to their monthly promotions.

Income from major series to date:

The cumulative power of backlist.

Icefire trilogy $40,000 (10249 books sold)
Ambassador series $30,000 (10382 books sold)
Aghyrians series $16,500 (4237 books sold)
For Queen And Country $4000 (1947 books sold)

The Icefire Trilogy continues to sell very well. The new Moonfire sequel trilogy has certainly helped, and I will have some major news about it next year.
The Aghyrians series continues to sell. The main jump in income compared to last year is because I put all four books in a collection, which sells well at the non-Amazon venues. I don’t put this bundle on Amazon, because I’m unwilling to sell four long books for $9.99 or less.
Ambassador series: I suspect this will become my main earning series next year. Sellthrough and retention are all higher than for all other series. I have three more books planned.
For Queen And Country: I finished this series and did some advertising. The collections do OK on non-Amazon venues.

I also want to point out that print sales are a mere fraction of ebook sales, and this is normal for self-published authors. Yet when I go to cons, I keep meeting authors who stare themselves blind at print. Schlepping print books to bookstores is NOT a viable model of making a decent income. The only reason I do it is because I can make the layout myself, and because the sale of the books covers a tax-free holiday. Next year, we will be going to Supanova Gold Coast again. It’s nice and I enjoy it.

Some more stats:

I sold the fewest books (542) in October 2015. I sold the most (2883) in May. In no month except October did my sales fall below 800 books.

Plans:
Write more Ambassador books!
Put more Ambassador books in audio
Start a new series. At this point in time, I don’t know what it will be. I’ve got some Urban Fantasy notes, but the story is possibly too low on magic. I have some good ideas for a third icefire trilogy that picks up twenty years after Moon & Earth. Maybe I should challenge myself and write Shifting Singularity. Or maybe something else. I don’t know. First: more Ambassador books.

Watch this space.

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