On a regular basis I am asked some variant of the question, “How is your book doing?” Here, let me answer that. Warning: numbers!
Today is May 14, 2016. The Ventifact Colossus has been out for just over four months. In that time it has sold 513.91 copies. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you bought one of those. Thanks!
Now you may be saying to yourself, “Dorian made that up; how can he have sold 91% of a book?” The answer to that is Kindle Unlimited. KU is a service Amazon offers that’s like Netflix streaming for books. You pay a monthly fee, and in return you can download as many books as you like, provided those books are (like mine) included in the KU program.
The way authors get paid for that is by pages read. The Ventifact Colossus is 626 “Kindle Edition Normalized Pages” long, and the payout is (with some month-to-month variance) about $.004 per KENP. So, when someone reads my whole book as a KU download, I make about the same amount of profit as I do from a traditional e-book sale.
So far, readers have read 46,267 pages of the book through Kindle Unlimited downloads, which is about 73.91 “complete reads.”
Of my 513.91 sales, the breakdown is as follows:
- 107 copies of the print book
- 165 copies of the e-book at full price ($3.99)
- 168 copies of the e-book at discounted price ($0.99)
- 91 copy-equivalents read on Kindle Unlimited
TVC was also downloaded 4,691 times during my free giveaway, but as useful as that was, I don’t count those downloads as sales.
Those 107 print copies are actually quite a few more than I was expecting, as a percentage of the total. Most of those were sold early, many to friends who wanted a solid physical book written by someone they knew. More numbers:
First two weeks: 70 print books, 106 full price e-books (including KU reads)
Sixteen weeks since then: 37 print books, 134 full price e-books (including KU reads)
Since May 1: 1 print book, 36 e-books.
That last one is more indicative of the ratio I was expecting.
As for the question “Is 513 sales a good number?” I don’t have a good answer to that. Maybe? It’s impossible to discover how many copies self-published books typically sell. I’ve read estimates that most self-published books don’t top 100 copies sold over their lifetimes, and that the average is in the 200-500 range, but none of those estimates are sourced in traceable data. All I can say is that The Ventifact Colossus falls somewhere between “abject failure” and “Hugh Howey.”
As for the question “are readers enjoying the book,” I’d say that so far signs are positive. My Amazon and Goodreads scores are quite respectable, and include some blush-worthy praise from people I’m sure I’ve never met. Where there has been disappointment, some readers have lamented that the book is too “G-rated” for their tastes. (I would say PG/PG-13, but they have a point. I am intentionally writing the series such that parents should feel okay letting a 12-year-old read it, even though I am also trying to interest and capture an adult audience. It’s a fine line, and I don’t pretend to be walking that tightrope without an occasional wobble.)
A couple readers also seem irked that the end of the book is a cliffhanger. I don’t think it is; as my friend Ed opined, there’s a difference between a cliffhanger and foreshadowing. I would hope that readers would notice the “Book One of…” at the top of the cover, and realize that not every mystery and subplot would be neatly wrapped up by the end.
It is a near certainty that my average review scores will go down significantly, now that 4,000+ people out in Internet Land have downloaded the book. But that will be fine; having more reviews is better, even if they’re not all glowing. A score of 4.4 over 200 reviews helps a book much more than a score of 4.9 over 11. For better or worse, many readers want to feel as though they’re getting in on something big.
While I’m here, a quick update on Book 2, “The Crosser’s Maze.” I still feel as though I’m on pace to finish the first draft in July or August, which means a release sometime early in 2017. I’m 110k words in, and I’m guessing the draft will come in around 150k words. (For reference, The Ventifact Colossus was about 127k words.)
Feel free to leave comments or questions!