Saturday, December 28, 2013

Most Self-Published Books Don't Sell

I've heard, many times, people say things like: "Most self-published books only sell a handful, to family and friends." Or: "Don't spend money on editing and cover art, you'll never sell enough to re-coup the costs."

This kind of talk rubs me the wrong way. I don't know why. I guess because I know so many authors selling really well on Amazon. I mean, REALLY well.

Let's take a look at some numbers.

Here's a current rough estimate of how many books you sell a day to get a certain rank on Amazon.

1 day/ rank 175,625
5 day/ rank 28,711
10 day/ rank 13,161
15 day/ rank 8,340
25 day/ rank 4,693
50 day/ rank 2,151
100 day/ rank 986
200 day/rank 452
300 day/ rank 287
400 day/ rank 207
500 day/ rank 161
1000 day/ rank 74
2000 day/ rank 34
3000 day/ rank 21

(Data gathered from here. From what authors are reporting, this gets you in the ballpark.)

Looking at that chart, that means if a self-published book has a rank of 13,161 or better, that book is selling 10 or more copies a day.

If that book is priced at $2.99, that's earning the author $600 (or more) each month.

Even if that book is priced at $.99, that's still earning $105 (or more) each month.

But if the rank is in the top 1,000, that means the author is selling in the 100 copies a day range. Wow. That's $1,000 a month for a 99 cent book, or $6,000 a month for a $2.99 book. That's some serious cash! You can't tell me those authors are only selling to family and friends. These are authors selling tons of books and earning real money.

Even at just 10 copies a day, that's selling 300 books a month. 3,600 books a year. You can't tell me those are only to family and friends. These are real authors selling real books to real customers.

Now, how many self-published books are actually selling? WAY more than those nay-sayers are leading you to believe. Here are links to books that are currently ranked better than 13,161 in the Amazon store.

This list is in no particular order, and of course the figures listed here will be outdated an hour after I type it, but I wanted to document the books and their current rankings as of the time of this post.

1. Reapers by Edward W. Robertson - Rank 1,576 - $2.99

2. The Breakers Series by Edward W. Robertson - Rank 257 - $.99

3. The Cutting Room by Edward W. Robertson - Rank 2,814 - $.99

4. Whiskey Sour by Liliana Hart - Rank 2,004 - $4.99

5. Whiskey for Breakfast by Liliana Hart - Rank 2,020 - $4.99

6. A Dirty Shame by Liliana Hart - Rank 582 - $4.99

7. Dirty Rotten Scoundrel by Liliana Hart - Rank 665 - $4.99

8. Shadows and Silk by Liliana Hart - Rank 1,608 - $4.99

9. Secrets and Satin by Liliana Hart - Rank 2,364 - $4.99

10. Sins and Scarlet Lace by Liliana Hart - Rank 765 - $.99

11. Sizzle by Liliana Hart - Rank 616 - $4.99

12. Kill Shot by Liliana Hart - Rank 3,112 - $4.99

13. Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey - Rank 285 - $5.99

14. The Italian Billionaires Twin Pack by Jennifer Blake - Rank 3,375 - $2.99

15. The Seasons Series by Denise Domning - Rank 4,478 - $2.99

16. Shoot to Kill (a boxed set with four indie authors) - Rank 457 - $.99

17. Magic, Myth and Majesty (a boxed set with seven indie authors) - Rank 2,763 - $.99

18. Pirate Hearts (boxed set with three indie authors) - Rank 1,868 - $.99

19. A Highlander for Christmas by Christina Skye and Debbie Mocomber - Rank 3,355 - $2.99

20. Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead by Christiana Miller - Rank 4,585 - $3.99

21. Operation Breakout by Mark E. Cooper - Rank 5,007 - $4.99

22. King of Swords by Russel Blake - Rank 6,177 - $3.97

23. Jet by Russel Blake - Rank 1,858 - $2.99

24. Z-Risen by Timothy W. Long - Rank 3,716 - $3.99

25. Just Good Friends by Rosalind James - Rank 5,842 - $3.99

26. Just For Now by Rosalind James - Rank 1,094 - $.99

27. Circle of Thieves by C. Greenwood - Rank 2,940 - $2.99

28. The Godling Chronicles by Brian D. Anderson - Rank 8,910 - $2.99

29. Breaking Free by Theresa Reasor - Rank 4,260 - $2.99

30. SEAL the Deal by Sharon Hamilton - Rank 3,935 - $4.99

31. Westin's Chase by Cristin Harber - Rank 1,550 - $3.99

32. Secrets Collide by Kathleen Brooks - Rank 1,072 - $3.99

33. When Love Intrudes by Christi Snow - Rank 3,654 - $2.99

34. Cold Day in Hell by Jerrie Alexander - Rank 6,509 - $2.99

35. Ashes by Kelly Cozy - Rank 2,593 - $.99

36. With Werewolves Trilogy by K Matthew - Rank 4,059 - $.99

37. Power Revealed by Leah Berry - Rank 5,964 - $2.99

38. Random Acts of Crazy by Julia Kent - Rank 2,923 - $3.99

39. For Love or Legacy by Ruth Cardello - Rank 1,379 - $.99

40. Omega Rising by Joshua Dalzelle - Rank 5,263 - $.99

41. Omega Force by Joshua Dalzelle - Rank 8,168 - $2.99

42. Busted by Jean-Luc Cheri - Rank 3,276 - $.99

43. The Sitter Gets Fired by Jean-Luc Cheri - Rank 4,956 - $.99

44. A Special Favor by Jean-Luc Cheri - Rank 7,511 - $.99

45. The Perseid Collapse by Steven Konkoly - Rank 4,891 - $4.99

46. Mud and Gold by Shayne Parkinson - Rank 2,083 - $2.99

47. Settling the Account by Shayne Parkinson - Rank 2,565 - $2.99

48. A Second Chance by Shayne Parkinson - Rank 3,115 - $2.99

49. Peaches Monroe Trilogy by Mimi Strong - Rank 631 - $7.55

50. Another Chance by Ariadne Wayne - Rank 1,848 - $2.99

51. A Modern Witch by Debora Geary - Rank 622 - $3.99

52. Witches of Bourbon Street by Deanna Chase - Rank 2,524 - $3.99

53. Demons of Bourbon Street by Deanna Chase - Rank 4,644 - $3.99

54. Angels of Bourbon Street by Deanna Chase - Rank 3,410 - $3.99

55. Redeeming the Amazon by L.V. Lewis - Rank 7,696 - $1.49

56. Betrayal of Thieves by C. Greenwood - Rank 1,927 - $2.99

57. Magic After Dark (Boxed Set with six authors) - Rank 150 - $.99

58. Once in a Lifetime (Boxed Set with four authors) - Rank 344 - $.99

59. Moon's Flower by Marie Hall - Rank 6,829 - $2.99

60. A Crucible of Souls by Mitchell Hogan - Rank 5,098 - $7.99

61. Hot Property by Susanne O'Leary - Rank 1,134 - $2.99

62. King and Kingdom by Danielle Bourdon - Rank 1,797 - $3.99

63. Heir in Exile by Danielle Bourdon - Rank 2,150 - $3.99

64. The King Takes a Bride by Danielle Bourdon - Rank 2,654 - $3.99

65. The Wrath of the King by Danielle Bourdon - Rank 2,939 - $3.99

66. The Royal Elite by Danielle Bourdon - Rank 4,585 - $3.99

67. A March of Kings by Morgan Rice - Rank 468 - $2.99

68. A Grant of Arms by Morgan Rice - Rank 1,551 - $2.99

69. A Song of Swords by Michael Ploof - Rank 2,148 - $4.99

70. Fledgling by Nicole Conway - Rank 394 - $.99

71. Secret Girlfriend by Bria Quinlan - Rank 4,656 - $3.99

72. The Academy by C.L. Stone - Rank 729 - $3.99

73. Guardians by Lola StVil - Rank 4,583 - $4.99

74. A Thankful Love by K. Victoria Chase - Rank 9,371 - $2.99

75. Chocolate, Lies and Murder by Sibel Hodge - Rank 6,102 - $3.99

76. Fourteen Days Later by Sibel Hodge - Rank 9,799 - $.99

77. Trafficked by Sibel Hodge - Rank 5,192 - $2.99

78. Fashion, Lies and Murder by Sibel Hodge - Rank 1,405 - $.99

79. Money, Lies and Murder by Sibel Hodge - Rank 5,279 - $3.99

80. Voodoo, Lies and Murder by Sibel Hodge - Rank 6,851 - $3.99

81. Six Months in Montana by Pamela M. Kelley - Rank 5,629 - $2.99

82. Don't Look Back by Christine Kersey - Rank 3,610 - $3.99

83. Elei's Chronicles by Chrystalla Thoma - Rank 7,931 - $.99

84. After the Storm by Maggie Dana - Rank 11,307 - $2.99

85. Supernatural Six (boxed set with six authors) - Rank 329 - $.99

86. One More Day by M. Malone - Rank 3,804 - $2.99

87. The Things I Do For You by M. Malone - Rank 8,160 - $4.99

88. He's the Man by M. Malone - Rank 5,792 - $4.99

89. The Alexanders Boxed Set by M. Malone - Rank 1,614 - $.99

90. Destiny by P.T. Michelle - Rank 12,836 - $4.99

91. A Taste For Passion by Patrice Michelle - Rank 8,032 - $.99

92. Sacrificed in Shadow by S.M. Reine - Rank 5,597 - $3.99

93. Colt by Jude Hardin - Rank 3,717 - $2.99

94. Fatal Reaction by Belinda Frisch - Rank 8,658 - $2.99

95. Loving the Marquess by Suzanna Medeiros - Rank 8,547 - $3.99

96. Dimitri by Roxie Rivera - Rank 3,140 - $3.99

97. Yuri by Roxie Rivera - Rank 2,601 - $3.99

98. Nikolai by Roxie Rivera - Rank 2,208 - $3.99

99. Sergei by Roxie Rivera - Rank 2,050 - $3.99

100. A Very Russian Christmas by Roxie Rivera - Rank 1,521 - $.99

101. In Kelly's Corner by Roxie Rivera - Rank 6,046 - $3.99

102. Seduced by the Loan Shark by Roxie Rivera - Rank 7,475 - $.99

103. Just This Once by Rosalind James - Rank 1,568 - $.99

104. Just For Fun by Rosalind James - Rank 6,751 - $3.99

105. Just My Luck by Rosalind James - Rank 4,559 - $3.99

106. Welcome to Paradise by Rosalind James - Rank 4,484 - $3.99

107. Nothing Personal by Rosalind James - Rank 2,276 - $3.99

108. Lord Runthorne's Dilemma by Sarah-Jane Steele - Rank 8,368 - $.99

And, a bunch more here, with the top 100 Indie Books listed in the Amazon store.

I could go on and on, posting links, but I don't want to waste my time. My point is, self-published books DO sell. Lots and lots of them are selling.

This goes right along with what I've been saying all along. Customers don't care if a book is self-published or not. They just want to read a good book.

12 comments:

  1. Great post and thank you for the mention on your list. I would also add that The Godling Chronicles at this time is at a low point before a new release. Book Four alone sold more than 8000 copies its first month and climbed into the 100's on the amazon charts. And since Aug. 2012 the series as a whole has sold more than 150,000 copies. And there are many other indies like me.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Obviously if your book is ranked 13,161st then there are, by definition, 13,160 other books doing at least as well. Many (possibly most) are self-published. So yes, clearly, thousands of self-published authors are selling 10+ books a day.

    However how many are below that? As of today Amazon.co.uk* is selling 2,442,631 ebooks, 1,024,675 of which are fiction. So statistically those 13,161 that are selling 10+ a day are a drop in the ocean and the statement "Most self-published books only sell a handful" is true.

    Not that that's not a reason to try. The odds are certainly better than the lottery and if you have any kind of talent, work ethic and self-promotional ability you can improve your chances hugely.

    However if you're going to "look at the numbers" then look at the numbers as a whole. 13,161 is a lot, but it's a tiny fraction of 1million+.





    (*.com navigates differently and I haven't figured out how to get the same info)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Shuggie - Yes, it is true that "most" self-published books don't sell a lot. It's also true that "most" traditionally published books don't sell through their advance, don't earn enough for the author to quit their day job, and don't stay on the book shelves for more than a few months. I'm not arguing that the statement isn't true. I'm arguing that it implies something that isn't true. It implies that only a handful of indie authors are selling well. It implies that you won't be one of them if you self-publish. It is deceptive, and it irks me. That is all. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To be fair - I looked back at what I'd written and thought that it applies equally to both self- and trad- published books so it's not an argument against self-publishing. (not that I intended it to be anyway).

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  4. Thanks for mentioning Random Acts of Crazy! This whole "self-published books don't sell" meme makes me laugh and laugh whenever I get my direct deposit from Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Apple, etc. every month. Um, OK, then…I guess I earn play money? Quit my job because of imaginary payments? LOL

    You're absolutely right that readers want to read books that meet their expectations -- and many self-publishers have the privilege of being discovered by readers who are thrilled to find books that resonate. That's what readers want, period -- whether the book is traditionally published or self-published. It's all about the audience. People who claim self-published books don't sell aren't paying attention. Maybe posts like this one will help.

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  5. Thank you so much for posting this! I was getting upset about all the negative news about self-publishing.

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  6. Thanks Victorine for this article. I may be banned from Kboards (twice at least) but I still use a proxy and follow posts there. Betsy thinks I'm "disruptive" and my "tone" isn't right. I'm practicing my tone on long winter evenings in the shower, thinking of all the snarky females on Kboards who don't get banned. Tough stuff. I do admire your writing and your persona. Mike Angel aka David H Fears

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  7. Haters gonna hate. Doesn't change the fact that I make money from my SP books. :D

    ReplyDelete
  8. This is "the long tail" in action. To quote from the ol' Wikipedia:

    "As a rule of thumb, for such population distributions the majority of occurrences (more than half, and where the Pareto principle applies, 80%) are accounted for by the first 20% of items in the distribution. What is unusual about a long-tailed distribution is that the most frequently occurring 20% of items represent less than 50% of occurrences; or in other words, the least frequently occurring 80% of items are more important as a proportion of the total population."

    ReplyDelete
  9. So basically, if you can outsell roughly 98.7% of the competition, you can do very well on Amazon.

    It's certainly possible for self-published authors to make lots of money on Amazon, but it's damn hard for anyone to achieve those sales numbers consistently no matter who you are or how you're published.

    If your target, let's say 10 copies a day, requires being inside the top 1.5%, then it's likely the goal isn't sustainable unless you're relying on something more than chance or standard distribution. Nobody just happens to outsell the average by that great a margin. It's very hard to do.

    ReplyDelete
  10. The only authors that have ever had sustained sales over the years are the authors who write a lot, publish a lot, and give readers what they want. (Think popular genre fiction authors.) Self-published authors that are doing this, are making huge mounds of cash.

    Selling tons of books has never been an easy feat. I'm not trying to say it's easy. But doable? Heck yes. Lots of authors are selling well. And self-publishing earns you way more than signing with a publishing house.

    Check out this article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeremygreenfield/2013/12/30/top-five-ebook-publishers-in-2013/

    ReplyDelete
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