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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've just finished totalling up my figures for this year and comparing them to last year's. Last year the total number of books I sold was 81,000 (39,402 books sold through B&N, 41,990 sold through Amazon). This year I sold 37,792 (8223 through B&N, 29,569 through Amazon). I also had a good number of sales through Apple, but because I think the number SW reports for Apple includes freebies, I won't bother listing it. I have thirty-five titles; some sell well and some are total bombs that only sell a few a month.

Obviously my unit sales are down by over fifty percent. The actual money I've earned is only down by a third because I'm charging more for many of my books now (and because of increasing iTunes sales). But since I've added seventeen new titles this year, earning less than last year is something of a disappointment.

There are a good deal of asterisks here. To begin with, my 2011 earnings were inflated by early sales at B&N, where erotica writers were selling ridiculous amounts for a while, before B&N fiddled around with the bestselling lists and perhaps some algorithms. (Some erotica writers have continued to sell well over there, so obviously whatever B&N did could be overcome with the right stuff-- but apparently I don't have the right stuff. ;)) I sold 17,000 books on B&N in two months in 2011, which clearly skewed the numbers for that year by quite a bit. Also, at the beginning of 2012 I can see I was doing well mostly because a couple of freebies took off and did well for me, and it's harder to turn freebies into gold now. So the changing market certainly plays a part. And finally, thanks to the Crohn's I didn't write much in the second half of 2011, and I think I lost some momentum. I've been healthier this year, and writing quite a lot. Hopefully my health will continue to improve in 2013, so I can keep writing.

It seems to me that it's harder to get a new book noticed than it was earlier in the year. For a while, when I put up an erotic romance, it usually took off and did well, selling five or six hundred units a month pretty reliably. That no longer seems to be the case. I'm also not finding a lot of traction with my m/m titles. Putting books in Select and doing a freebie doesn't seem to do much (I haven't tried notifying freebie sites for this name because most of them won't feature erotica). My plain romance sales under my other name are doing poorly, hardly selling at all. (I'm updating my romance covers, but the two that have been re-covered this month haven't sold much since the new covers went up). However, I haven't been pushing that name much.

What concerns me is that I've seen my sales drop off pretty significantly in the past month or two. I would like to get my sales going in the other direction. Thus I am going to try the following: Making the first titles in two series permafree (if I can get Amazon to cooperate!); get the remainder of my books up on iTunes (I only have four of my erotic titles up there now); get my books up on ARe; put together several collections; and keep on writing new titles. I have set up a newsletter, and I'd like to set up a Facebook page, if I can figure out how FB works.

Anyone else seeing your numbers go in the wrong direction? What are your plans to improve your sales?
 

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A million theories, a million "sky is falling" threads, a million "I'm selling like mad" posts.

My theory, and I'm stickin' with it:

- authors have seen that the market for porn went nuts when readers realized that they can download the stuff so discretely online. So they made up pen names and started into erotica = much more competition in an exploding genre  (from what I gather, this is also happening in children's books and YA)
- freebies replacing paid sales, 'nuff said

What do do about it? Damned if I know.
Perhaps one idea might be to increase prices and spend money on paid ads (not on blogs, but "real" media, if you forgive the word) to get eyeballs. Big money. On media that has proven distribution numbers in your target market.

However, right now there seem to be few options but to run with the herd, keep discounting or giving books away for free, in order to creep up that ranks list.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
A million theories, a million "sky is falling" threads, a million "I'm selling like mad" posts.
Well, I'm not either, really. I'm a freelancer and I expect my sales to go up and down. (I admit I'd rather they go up when I have college tuition to pay, though!) I'm just reflecting on the fact that it's been harder for me to sell this year, and ruminating on what I want to do about it.

much more competition in an exploding genre
I agree that this is almost certainly part of the problem for me. I write fairly vanilla erotic romance, and tend toward beta heroes, and I don't think either tends to "pop" well for readers. There is a lot of erotic romance out there, and it's important to differentiate ourselves, so we stand out from the pack. It could be I haven't done that adequately. I shall give the matter consideration. :)
 

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Hi, those are interesting numbers on your books sold. My "Beatle Who died Long Ago" sold 36 books this month and I am thrilled.
I use NovelRank.com to get Amazon numbers. How did you get all this information on your book sales? My other books are with a publisher and I have no idea how they are doing. I am at the mercy of Argus books as to how many have sold. Is there an independent way to get these numbers of books sold?
 

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Meg, no matter what I think it is great to look at how one is doing and making some decisions to make improvements. I'm working on perma-free for the first book in my series since that series is complete and I'm planning on more books for 2013 because the last book in that series took me too freaking long to write. It sat for months uncomplete because sales just steadily dropped during the year and I was like, 'why bother'. No more of that for me. My motto for '13 is Don't Worry, Be Writing. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
How did you get all this information on your book sales? My other books are with a publisher and I have no idea how they are doing.
My books are all self-pubbed right now, so I can access the sales info on KDP. If you're with a publisher, you pretty much just have to guess at your sales until you get a report from the publisher. Don't rely too much on Novelrank; it's not a particularly useful gauge of anything except ranks.
 

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I'm too much of a novice to have any worthwhile input for you. Still, I wanted to tell you how impressed I am with your thought process and openness to new ideas. The idea that you've had so much success and still keep yourself open to new concepts and changes in the market tells me that you will always find a way to succeed.
 

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In the early-mid nineties (remember them?) I started an online book business. We lived in northern Australia where the weather is hot and the purchase choices are not, and I decided to offer specialist (non-fiction) books for people like me, who had no access to quality bookshops to get the books they wanted (or didn't even know they wanted because they didn't know these books existed). I bought libraries from collectors (often deceased estates) and sold them online. I researched pricing and the markup was often at least 400%. Sometimes more. People had no idea that these books were worth so much to interest groups around the world. Later (like, a year or so later), ABE opened up and I could buy these books online from second-hand booksellers around the world who were happy to have these specialist (and to them worthless) works off their shelves. I bought books for $20 and sold them for $500. On one occasion I flew to New Zealand to buy in an auction.

Then the world woke up. Everyone started doing it. Everyone started checking second hand book values on ABE, and prices went up. Worldwide booksellers became household names. And what had been a gold mine for small sellers like me became a hard slog in the face of overwhelming competition.

Moral of the tale?

There is a honeymoon period for everything when prices will be crazy and business amazing. This doesn't last. Be happy that you experienced it and keep working.
 

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It was good while it lasted. I've had exactly the same expereince. Terrific sales in 2011 and early 2012, and a gradual decline, even with perma free books and free runs. The post Christmas sales boom of the past tow years never happened for me. Paid ads never worked for me either. Total waste of money. I guess too many people are doing it now and our 'employers' such as Amazon have bigger fish to promote, but then without epublishing and indie publishing I wouldn't have even had this much.
With sales going south I might increase the price of my books as well. at least I will get an extra doller when one does sell!!
Wish I had some suggestions but all there is is to keep writing, or try some other way of making money for a while, which is what I am doing.
 

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A difference in genres? A difference in strategies? It's hard to tell. Your post is a good reminder to those of us whose sales are still going up that it won't necessarily last forever and that we have to keep an open mind about changing what we're doing.
 

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My sales are completely dead and I was selling about 250-300 copies a month. Then downhill to about 15. I have no idea why. Reviews are good. Who knows? I am planning to do some paid promotions and simply write more. I am also switching genres and going with a different pen name. That's my strategy, whether or not it will help...don't know:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Your post is a good reminder to those of us whose sales are still going up that it won't necessarily last forever and that we have to keep an open mind about changing what we're doing.
On the flip side, when sales are going down, that doesn't necessarily last forever, either. We can't control some things-- algorithms, the vagaries of the market, sheer luck-- but we can change what we can control, and see if that helps. Sometimes it does. After all, most bestsellers started small. :)
 

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JRTomlin said:
A difference in genres? A difference in strategies? It's hard to tell. Your post is a good reminder to those of us whose sales are still going up that it won't necessarily last forever and that we have to keep an open mind about changing what we're doing.
I agree. I'm experiencing a big sales boom now but all I'm telling everyone is: "Yes, but winter is coming."
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I'm experiencing a big sales boom now but all I'm telling everyone is: "Yes, but winter is coming."
If you're doing well, you should never expect it to continue, just be happy if it does.
Granted. The world doesn't owe us a living. Still, there are certainly things one can do that may help boost sales. I intend to fight tooth and nail to try to get my sales back up again. That college tuition won't pay itself. :D
 

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It's very mysterious. I'm in the "sales fell off the cliff" category, making 20% on two books of what I used to make from one book.

My best guess for the decline is the flood of self-published books and the surplus of freebies (to which I have added). It's either that or people got wise to me. :)

 

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MegHarris said:
On the flip side, when sales are going down, that doesn't necessarily last forever, either. We can't control some things-- algorithms, the vagaries of the market, sheer luck-- but we can change what we can control, and see if that helps. Sometimes it does. After all, most bestsellers started small. :)
An excellent point!

I've changed all kinds of things on the books that didn't sell: cover, blurb, title, etc. and there are always new books to release. Things going south doesn't mean it's forever.
 

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I think, in a sense, the self-published author is the victim of too much information. We can tell, almost up to the minute, how many books have sold, in different countries around the world.

While this is great in many ways, it makes the peaks seem way higher than they really are, and the valley's way lower. Everything is emphasized, and enlarged.

Maybe authors need to judge their sales by the quarter, or maybe even the year. From 2011 to 2012 I saw a nice jump, but I had to sit back and look at the long view to really appreciate it. Monthly numbers, by themselves, kind of made it difficult to see.

I think authors also need to decide if they want to build a long term fan base, or chase the next hot genre. The former strategy might be best for long-term success.
 

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I think authors also need to decide if they want to build a long term fan base, or chase the next hot genre. The former strategy might be best for long-term success.
This gives me something to really think on. I was seriously considering changing genre after I release the last book in The Gastien Series in early 2013. I thought maybe I should write in the romance/erotic romance genre. It sells a hell of a lot better than drama. BUt I love drama (my series also happens to be historical fiction, but that isn't necessarily where all of my drama will fall). So, do I try to make some money or write what I most love? Hard decision.

All I know if right now I can be selling a few books and then drop of the map for a few weeks, no matter what I do. And I never get good traction where I earn a decent amount in a month. Yet, the readers I do get seem to love my books. They email me,, contact me through social media and tell me my series moved them more than anything they can remember reading. That means a lot, too. I am so frustrated I could scream at times.
 

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Caddy said:
This gives me something to really think on. I was seriously considering changing genreI release the last book in The Gastien Series in early 2013. I thought maybe I should write in the romance/erotic romance genre. It sells a hell of a lot better than drama. BUt I love drama (my series also happens to be historical fiction, but that isn't necessarily where all of my drama will fall). So, do I try to make some money or write what I most love? Hard decision.

I am so frustrated I could scream at times.
I used to get very, very frustrated, then I took a step back. I've made the mistake of publishing in, essentially, three different genres. All stand alones. In some ways, a few of my books have done well. But they don't support one another the way they should.

So, in 2013 I'm going to fix that. I'm publishing a new sci-fi series very soon (which should appeal to my hard sci-fi fans) and then putting out a sequel to Witches in the middle of the year. And from now on, whatever i write will relate to something I already have out.

So don't get frustrated. Be a consultant for yourself. The thing about sales is that one small change can shift things dramatically.
 
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