Friday, September 30, 2011

Recent Trends in Self-publishing Sales Based on my Own Sales Data

The third quarter ends today, and even though I might sell some more books today via the magic of Amazon and Barnes and Noble, I have been wanting to sit down and look at these totals for about six weeks.

A quick run down for the past 2.75 years:

2009 POD Sales: 100% of total sales
2010 POD Sales: 96% of total sales     Kindle/Nook: 4% of total sales
2011 POD Sales: 48% of total sales     Kindle/Nook: 52% of total sales (Through the 3rd quarter)

For the first two quarters of 2011 I sold more POD books than ebooks.

2011 3rd Quarter POD Sales: 36% of total sales    Kindle/Nook: 64% of total sales

Total ebook sales: Kindle sales: 98.4% of total sales      Nook Sales: 1.6% of total sales

Some more information concerning sales.

Total POD titles available: 23
Total Kindle titles available: 7
Total Nook titles available: 1

I will tackle the issue of the Nook right off the bat. The lone Nook title I have is also my single best selling POD title and Kindle title and it has sold a grand total of 24 copies. Needless to say I am not in a big hurry to convert all of my POD titles that sell well into ePubit for sale at Barnes and Noble.

If I had any doubts that ebooks were the wave of the future, those doubts are not only gone, but the future is now.  My next non-fiction book is small and very much a niche book but it has the advantage of being one of those timeless topics. It will be my first experiment as a Kindle only book.

In the last three months, despite the economy and summer vacation (my target audience does not read during the summer) I have had the best three months ever. Not in terms of total revenue but rather in total copies of books sold. Almost exactly two-thirds of my sales were Kindle books, and therein lies the problem of sorts.

As POD sales declined, Kindle sales rose sharply in the last three months and my lone Nook book even started to sell a few copies each month. POD sales declined by 10% total from the 3rd quarter of 2010 and the 3rd quarter of 2011.

Excluding the 4th quarter figures for POD sales for 2010 and future 4th quarter POD sales for 2011, I am happy to say POD sales are up by 33% when comparing the first three quarters of 2010 and 2011, despite the decline is POD sales the past quarter.

Total sales for 2011, without the last quarter of 2011 included, are up by 37% over  all of 2010. The last quarter of the year has historically by far been my best quarter for sales so I am encouraged.

In general, it has been a really good year for the fledgling self-publishing empire! But there are some issues that require thought and planning from a financial perspective given what look like irreversible trends, mainly the rise of the ebook.

Hands down I make more money per sale for each POD book I sell. Simply raising the price of the Kindle edition does not make up for the net loss in revenue. I have found Kindle readers to be much more price sensitive than readers who purchase paperback editions. Experimental price increases in Kindle editions resulted in a significant drop in sales for the month the experiment was conducted. Restoring the original price restored and improved sales numbers. 

The issue is I have to sell nearly 2.5 Kindle books for each POD version of the same book to make the same amount of net profit. I write non-fiction for a niche market with a finite number of possible readers.

It is my hope that over time the market will sort this out and allow authors of non-fiction books with valuable content to charge an appropriate price for the information and not simply look at price alone. There has to be a happy medium in the mix somewhere.

In the mean time, I will inch up the prices of some of my Kindle books and work harder at the marketing and promotion end of things to convince readers to pay the higher price.

I would be interested to have any authors who read this blog and who would be willing to share information with others to post what their experience is changes in sales by book type have been.