My eBook Sales 2011

It’s the last day of the year. After 6 months of flogging my wares on the internet, what do I have to show for it? Time to take stock.
So far, I have published 5 eBooks:
5 June: Ovolution and Other Stories (an anthology of SF stories) 25 (12)
3 August: Bird Watcher (a short story) 8 (0)
28 August: St Patrick’s Day Special (a thriller) 35 (0)
16 October: Ooze (a short story from the anthology) 3 (0)
1 November: Bartlett Rebooted (a story from the anthology) 3 (0)
4 December: Ooze (free on Smashwords) 120 (120)

20 December: St Patrick’s Day Special (US edition) 1 (0)

On 4 December I re-released Ooze as a giveaway on Smashwords, and on 20 December I released a US edition of St Patrick’s Day Special. This new edition uses US spelling conventions but makes no concessions to US idiom or word choice. My ‘automobiles’ are all ‘cars’ with bonnets and boots, for instance, not hoods and trunks. A large part of the strength and charm of the story is the Irish idiom used.
The figures attached to the titles above are sales (with freebie copies in brackets). If you add up all the figures, the total comes to 195 (132). That’s 63 books sold for money. Amazon kindle sales in US/UK/DE/Fr/ES/It breakdown as follows: 43/11/0/0/0/0
I’ve put a lot of effort into spreading my name on twitter, Facebook, my web site and this blog. Also, a huge promotional effort for St Patrick’ Day Special in the run-up to Christmas consumed almost every waking moment and resulted in 7 sales.
My books are well written, professionally edited and well formatted for eReaders. Prices are $0.99 for all but Ovolution, which is $2.99. So what am I doing wrong? Could it be that the covers are not strong or exciting enough? I’d be grateful for any suggestions.
And happy New Year, everyone.

UPDATE: March 6. On advice from friends I have unpublished the US edition. Apparently it was a confusing distraction. I think it’ll probably remain for sale on the iPad and Nook for some time to come, but it’s no longer available on Amazon.

16 thoughts on “My eBook Sales 2011

  1. LV Cabbie says:

    If you read Konrath’s blog, you will see that it took him at least a full year before he began to sell his works. The same holds true with some of the other Big 5 Indie authors.
    I’ve had indie books up on Kindle since early this year [2011] and the sales are slow.
    But, I’m not going to give up.
    There are a lot of tips out there but the one I think works best is:
    find the audience for your books and join their discussion forums and groups. Don’t make the mistake of trying to hype your stuff, just join in the conversations and see what feedback you get.
    Remember, indie publishing means that YOU have to do the work that traditional publishers and agents did for you before.
    Also make sure you have effective tags – those key words that direct people to your writing.

  2. David Gaughran says:

    I’ll echo what the others have said. A huge part of this game is luck – which can go both ways. A talented writer doing all the right things can struggle to get lift off, and someone who hasn’t spent as much time honing their craft, or trying to promote their work, can have phenomenal numbers.

    The book I spent the least time working on has been my biggest seller. While the book I spent five-and-a-half years perfecting has been pretty slow out of the traps.

    What does that tell us? Nothing really, except it’s all a crapshoot. Even the mega-sellers like Konrath have titles that are doing poorly. Even guys who have huge hits like Scott Nicholson have other titles which have sold relatively little which they feel are stronger books.

    So what do we do? Keep at it. Keep writing, keep connecting with readers, and keep examining every aspect of what we are doing to see where we can make improvements.

    It looks like word-of-mouth hasn’t even started for your books yet. If I was in your shoes, I would be trying to give away as many free copies as I could to get the ball rolling. Perhaps a LibraryThing giveaway, perhaps making it free on Smashwords. Maybe both – one this month, one next month.

    The reviews you have gotten have been GREAT. So I really do think that putting your books into the hands of more readers (any way possible) is the way to go.

    I think covers could be looked at, and maybe blurbs jazzed up a bit. If you want to get a review on the whole package (for free) from a bestselling writer, you should consider submitting one of the titles to “Why Is My Book Not Selling” a relatively new blog by Victorine Lieske (who made the NYT list with her self-published debut) who gives constructive criticism on her blog (and so do most of the commenters) on the whole enchilada.

    Meanwhile, I’m going to get reading your stuff. I have a Kindle now, so things will move a lot quicker.

    Oh, and you just sold another book 🙂


    P.S. That blog is

  3. JJ Toner says:

    Thanks Dave and Christopher. I’m writing another, better book, second Ben Jordan book. I think that’s the way to go. I will take a new look at my blurb. I’ve run out of ideas for the cover. And I will try Victorine. Thanks again, guys.

  4. Katie McVay says:

    I’m in the same boat — kept reading about all these writers with awesome sales, while I’ve sold maybe 150 copies since self-pubbing in August ’11. Had done my due diligence with the cover and editing and all that. Did the social media thang, gave books away, had contests and such. Had some success and won some fans, but kept wondering what I was missing. Dug deep and realized what was missing was my own definition of success. I got caught up in other people’s success (mostly involving world domination and millions of sales), thinking that’s what I wanted for myself. Turns out, it wasn’t.

    What is it you want? A million mediocre books sold in a short period and fifteen minutes of fame? Or a long, healthy career with lots of great books? That takes TIME. Come up with your own definition of success–not someone else’s. Yeah, sales are great–but good reviews and awesome fans who help spread the word? That’s the cat’s meow for me…and what I truly believe leads to a long, healthy career. The rest is just puddin’.

    My tactic now is to start small, start local, and grow from there. I don’t expect to make much money from my first book, and use it now as my “calling card” for future books.

    Keep at it — usually eventually everyone who sticks with it connects with their audience.

  5. Bob Neal says:


    As David Gaughran said, book sales are a “crapshoot” and mainly involves “luck”.

    The “huge numbers” of writers you hear of making lots of money self-publishing is actually a very, very tiny number–I’d estimate much less than 1% of publishing authors.

    Which, coincidentally, is about what it’s always been, whether “traditional” or “self” publishing.

    The unfortunate truth is that book sales for nearly all authors isn’t something you can strategically “build” and “grow”. It just doesn’t work that way, no matter how many times you use spreadsheet graphs to track it. It has never worked that way.

    So–what can you do? The answer’s simple: you’ve got to write fiction for reasons other than money, especially at the start.

    And for god’s sake–put aside the snarky assurances of Konrath. He spent years building a back list, capitalized (through tremendous luck) on early e-book sales, and is a dismissive ideologue. You’ll do better by keeping your own counsel, and writing like your life depended upon it.

  6. JJ Toner says:

    Thanks Katie and Bob for those two thoughtful responses. I do write because I like to, and now, after a lot of hard work and a steep learning curve, I believe I’m starting to get good at it. My definition of success? That’s tricky. I don’t have the time to build a long career – I’m retired already. I suppose I’m working up to a really worthwhile novel, something I’d like my grand-children to read some day (they’re nearly 3 now).

  7. Darren Kirby says:

    Hi JJ,

    Lots of great comments so far, and I echo nearly all of them. Briefly, my story: I have a short story up for sale and am rapidly finishing up my first novel. I would love for it to do gangbusters and sell thousands of copies each month right away, but I don’t think that will happen.

    What I’m going for, and I think you can do that same even though you are retired, is to be a solid, prolific writer. Write the things that you really enjoy, that make you laugh, that get you going. Have you stayed in the same genre for the ones you’ve written? What about hopping to another genre and giving that a try? If nothing else, you’ll stretch yourself and that should make all of your future writings, even in your chosen genre, that much better.

    It sounds like you have a number of short stories along with novels. Have you packaged those up to sell as a set? One thing that I’ve learned in my day job is that you should look at every conceivable way to sell your works. Sell the shorts separately, then as a set. Maybe you write more shorts, and you can create a collection with the same theme – package them up for a themed collection and sell that. Have a series in your novels? Why not package the first 2 together and sell a “double novel” for a special price?

    What this does is give you more virtual shelf space because you have more product available. It’s all just packaged differently, but people consume their reading differently from each other. The medium is the same (ereaders) but the content can be varied.

    Keep at it, and you’ll get to your definition of success. And as long as you’re having fun, that’s worth a lot in itself as well. Cheers!

  8. JJ Toner says:

    Thanks, Darren. Yes, I’ve done most, if not all, of your suggestions. My first book was an anthology of fun-SF short stories, My second is a detective thriller (different genre) and I have published 3 short stories as stand-alones, 2 from the anthology and one other (not SF). One of my shorts, Ooze, is free on smashwords here

  9. Hubert says:

    I could give you all kinds of advice on the matter, having written three short books, selling one and giving around three thousand away. I think, though we would both get more laughs than readers from any of my advice. I keep giving myself one piece of advice continuously. “Never give up, next year might be the day.” Keep a large supply of linament for your neck and keep writing. Good luck in all of your efforts.

  10. JJ Toner says:

    Thanks, Hubert. “Never give up” is probably my motto. Searching for my readers online feels to me like trying to start a fire in a downpour with damp matches. There’s good fuel on the fire. If I could get that first spark…

  11. Solace Winter says:

    Get a few good book reviewers that dedicate their sites to these sort of things (@moonlightgleam and @princessgrace10 are two good ones and probably can at the very least point you in the right direction). Prices are good but start with higher prices. Word of mouth pays, as does following more people on twitter. When I see some authors saying they’ve sold thousands this year, or this month (2011) most of them have 20,000+ twitter followers. It helps. Reviews, reviews, reviews. You have 7 reviews on St. Patrick’s Day Special, and while they are good reviews, what that tells the potential reader is that your friends wrote the reviews. Even if they didn’t. I rely heavily on reviews on Amazon. If a book has 5 reviews I may add it to my wishlist because it sounds interesting, but it’s not something I will salivate for. A .99 book does not mean bad, but it needs something that makes me NEED it. Hope this helps!

  12. Dave P Perlmutter says:

    I am a first time writer, I say writer, never have written anything like what I am doing at the moment. My story is in fact true and I have wanted to put it on paper, well a blog for the past 20 years. I have 7 chapters edited and many in draft. I will put it for sale as an ebook this year. I have had many decent comments and gaining followers to the blog, had nearly 4k page visits and nearly 900 twitter followers. This is not my full time job at all, just a hobby. Visit my blog if you wish and lets keep in contact and good luck. I believe that alot is down to marketing…



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