Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tracking book sales with Amazon's CreateSpace

If you are a self-published author, you probably sell your book(s) on Amazon. If you are like me, Amazon is your primary source of sales.  Making sense of sales figures based on Amazon's Sales Rankings can make you pull your hair out!  Just what do those rankings mean in terms of actual copies of a title being sold?

I used Dog Ear Publishing to get one of my books into print and have been very pleased with everything Dog Ear has done except in one area - providing me information about sales.  Dog Ear pays me the quarter after the quarter the sales took place in.  For example, royalties for sales in the fourth quarter are paid at the end of the first quarter of the following year.  I don't really have a problem with that but I do have a problem not finding out how many books I have sold until three months after the fact.

Successful self-publishing authors, as well as authors who publish the traditional way, are responsible to promote and market their own titles.  Without reasonably current figures on the number of copies sold, how can an author measure to determine if the marketing concepts being used are effective?  Six months is a long time to continue to use an ineffective marketing strategy and it could spell doom for the book.  From my perspective, it is not an unreasonable request on the part of the author to have up-to-date numbers on how a book is selling.

In an earlier blog I mentioned that I use RankTracer to track the sales of my book published by Dog Ear, Game Strategy and Tactics for Basketball. RankTracer provided me with a free two month trial to test the company's service and I have been pleased with the results.  I will sign up for the service to continue to track the estimated, and that is what RankTracer does, estimate sales, of that particular book.  TitleZ also offers a means to track Amazon Sales Rankings, but again, it does not provide hard numbers on the number of copies a book has sold.

CreateSpace on the other hand provides exact numbers of books sold on a month by month basis.  At any time of the day, I can log on to my Member Dashboard and see exactly how many copies of a given title I have sold up to that date for that particular month.  The totals are accurate to within several hours and that is reasonable enough for me.

Marketing efforts can now be measured a bit more effectively.  Information such as which day of the week does the title sell the best, which week of the month does the title sell the best, etc, can now be tracked and used to advantage to better market the book.  Special campaigns such as an e-newsletter might have an impact, or not, on sales.  Seeing as close to immediate as possible updates on sales figures for a given title can help the author determine the effectiveness of the promotion.

To me, this is one more advantage to using CreateSpace over other author services or means of self-publishing.  There are other ways to track sales figures with reasonable accuracy on Amazon.  Setting up your own imprint and dealing directly with Lightning Source will allow you to gain access to Ingram's distribution numbers for your title.

CreateSpace also provides some information on how the copies were sold as well.  For example, if you purchase copies for resale to a retailer, CreateSpace keeps track of the number of copies purchased by the author in a different area on the website.  You use the link for sales totals to keep track of the total number of copies sold.  Information is provided to show if how many copies were sold on Amazon, to the author, etc.