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Publetariat Dispatch: Numbers, Numbers, Numbers – To An Indie Author, What Do They Mean?

Publetariat: For People Who Publish!

In today’s Publetariat Dispatch, indie author M. Louisa Locke discusses her sales figures and what they signify—or don’t.

9,093; 2.99; 2,049; 99; 15,570; 440; 7135; 4,882, 10,281; 1517; 94; 54; 18; 89; 229; 28; 18; 5; 10.264; 539; 20,505; 1577…

For a writer, supposedly dominated by my right-brain, I seem to have become obsessed with a left-brained fixation on numbers. On reflection, I think this obsession with numbers may be related to the important role marketing (or selling-depending on how you define it) plays for me as an indie author. L. J. Sellers had an interesting blog post on Publetariat the other day, where she argued that one of the reasons that self-published authors seemed more motivated to get out there and sell their books than traditionally published authors is because the “…steady income and the sales data provide a great incentive to spend time everyday blogging, tweeting, posting comments, and writing press releases.” I tend to agree. That daily Amazon count of books sold (and the fact that I saw a dip yesterday in blog hits and sales) probably has a lot to do with the fact that I am writing this blog post today!

So what are the numbers I am obsessed with and what do they mean? First, in the past fifteen months I have sold 9093 copies of my historical mystery, Maids of Misfortune, at a selling price of $2.99. I have sold 2049 copies of my short story, Dandy Detects, at the price of 99 cents. The combined income from the sales of my book and short story through January (don’t have February figures yet) has been $15,570. This means that I have made as much in the past year selling my writing as I was making as a semi-retired teacher. It meant that I could retire completely in January so that I could become a full-time writer, a life-long dream.

The next set of numbers deal with trends in my book sales. The first seven months my book was on sale, I sold 440 copies. The next seven months I sold 7,135. It took me those first seven months to get reviews, get my website and blog up and running, learn how to promote the book, and get it put in the right Amazon category. Those seven months taught me patience. The next seven months showed what could happen if all the work you do to promote begins to come together and demonstrated the reality of the ebook revolution. I sold 4882 books in the months of December and January alone, and ninety-six percent of them were from the Kindle store. I was clearly one of the indie authors who benefited from all those new Kindle and iPad owners.

But December and January sales were also an aberration, and in the month of February I sold far fewer books, 1517 in all. So while I averaged 94 books sold a day during January, my average for February was down to 54. Yet, this drop did not bring me back down to pre-holiday levels. The holiday bump in sales (which ebooks in general experience) increased my sales significantly from before the holidays. In November I had average only 18 books a day, so I am now selling three times the number of books than I did before the holidays, and there is no indication that this increased average is going to disappear.

The next set of numbers reveal something about my use of social media. I have 89 facebook friends, 229 twitter followers, and I have posted 28 times on my blog, The Front Parlor (over a fifteen month period). I am clearly no social media maven. But twenty of those posts have been reposted to Publetariat (giving me a much wider audience), and while I only average 18 hits a day on my blog, this is up significantly from my average of 5 hits a day in 2010. In addition, what these numbers do not reveal is the number of times I have commented on other people’s blogs, on Kindle Boards, or yahoo groups, or the number of people who have run across Maids of Misfortune on the various review sites and lists where I worked hard to get it placed.

In the end, however, I believe that the last numbers may have the greatest meaning for me. I finished teaching my last classes in December of 2010. In January, 2011, I carved out nineteen days to write and wrote 10,246 words on my next novel, Uneasy Spirits, averaging 539 words a day. In February, although I only got in 13 writing days, I wrote 20,505 words, averaging 1577 words a day. What does this mean? It means that all that left-brain number-crunching has given me the time and confidence to let my right brain loose, to fly on those wonderful flights of fancy. Those word counts are the best numbers of all.


This is a reprint from M. Louisa Locke‘s The Front Parlor.

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