Tallying Book Sales

I finally got around to tallying up book sales.

When I first began writing books, I planned on going the traditional publishing route: write queries, find an agent, hope that said agent would be able to interest an editor or two, spend more time hoping that editor would be able to put together an offer (assuming that the marketing gods in her company were pleased with the manuscript).

In 2010, after researching agents who displayed a healthy track record in epic fantasy deals, I queried a fair number of them. I received no answer from the majority of them. From the minority left over, I received short no-thank-you notes. It was at that time I stumbled on the website of curmudgeonly self-publishing demigod Joe Konrath. I had never heard of Konrath or his books before. His blog, however, was an interesting mashup of thoughts on the advantages of self-publishing vs traditional publishing. The takeaway was that a warm wind of change was blowing from the Amazon jungle.

Shrugging fatalistically (after all, we’re all going to die one day, aren’t we?), I took the plunge and self-published The Hawk and His Boy in November, 2010. I sat back and waited for accolades and applause. Instead, I heard the peaceful sound of crickets chirping as no one bought my book. Inspired by this, I rooted around the web and found some review bloggers, joined the Kindleboards community, and published a collection of short stories.

Eventually, I ended up publishing the three books in the Tormay Trilogy, two collections of short stories, several stand-alone stories, the trilogy as one massive 1000-page tome, and an Italian translation of The Hawk.

So, where did all that mucking around with self-publishing get me after precisely 20 months (Nov 2010-June 2012)?

63,819 books sold, as of the end of June 2012. That doesn’t count books given away or books leant through the Kindle Lending Library.

Not bad. There are many indie writers doing much better and there are many doing much worse. Myself, I suppose I’ll keep trudging along, chipping away at another book or two and not paying attention to the trickle of sales. Over time, a trickle will fill a bucket.

11 thoughts on “Tallying Book Sales”

  1. Good for you! I envision your sales rising exponentially! True, i haven’t read a lot of your genre of books, however, i believe there is depth and authenticity to your characters and their world. they are both very believable and speak on a human as well as a spiritual level. I am constantly making comparisons to this or that as i read and, consequently, it is taking me forever to read (The Tormay Trilogy). i hope this does not sound shallow (pretentious, mendacious, mandiloquent, etc.) but i find I need to take small bites and ponder/digest… odd for me, because i usually slurp up a good book, reading through the night to the end, if necessary! Another thing i keep doing is asking, “How on earth did he come up with this idea? How magnificently that is described! Whoa!

    1. Thank you. Those are very kind remarks. I wrote that story very very slowly, sometimes painstakingly examining sentences and discarding word after word, so I certainly don’t mind if you want to read it slowly. To be honest, though, I sell few books these days. The bulk of that sales number occurred last summer and fall.

  2. Sixty-three-thousand-eight-hundred-and-NINETEEN?!? That’s no small peas. I’m especially impressed with the nineteen.
    That’s very cool, and very encouraging for those of us who are standing at the beginning of the self-publishing journey (still wondering if we should even bother). Thanks for sharing that.

    1. Yeah, that last nineteen was a hard slog. I find it encouraging too. It was a surprising lesson in being able to follow through with something creative and have it be gainful at the end. I don’t hold it up as the norm, though, and I’m not at all convinced I can repeat the same trick. But, one must try.

  3. Bravo!

    By those numbers, your books have been read no fewer than 300k times. You ask, “What? Has Doug been drinking again?”

    I think it was Johnny Carson who once said there have always been only 5 fruitcakes in existence. People simply keep sharing them year after year, never taking a bite themselves.

    I am certain I have met approximately five times as many people who tell me they have read my novel, than my sales reflect. And they have detailed knowledge of the plot to prove it. In the small town where I live, all 150 inhabitants have read the ten copies I signed and sold locally. I think the difference between our novels, and fruitcake, is that they will never become stale.

    Best luck in your future writing endeavors.

    1. I agree on the fruitcake issue. One of the five has repeatedly shown up at our house in the Christmas mail. Perhaps fruitcakes are simply a highly cost-effective way extra-terrestrials gather data on humans? They’re probably very high-tech inside, beneath the ossified candied fruit. Always transmitting data back to the mother ship.

      300K? You must be thinking in terms of print versions, no? I could see that sort of thing with a paperback, but mine are only in ebook format so far. Just working out the last wrinkles right now with Createspace.

  4. If you need any guidance with those wrinkles, let me know. I have been very pleased with the Createspace experience. I am about to send in my next manuscript to print. And you know what that means? Soon, you will get a request to read it! Quid pro quo at it’s finest.

    1. Thanks. I got hung up on one very confusing function of Microsoft Word: it’s inexplicable urge to add in an extra blank page after a Section break. Took me the longest time to figure out what was going wrong. I think I finally beat it and the first proof should be in the mail soon.

  5. Congratulations, Christopher! That’s pretty impressive, in my book. My works are still in my head or thin outlines – at least until I’m done with my MBA. My good friend, Damon Courtney, has sold only about 400 copies of the first book in his trilogy and my wife and I just completed a beta read of book 2. He had planned to publish it this month, but I think we gave him too much to chew on. Then, another round with the editor… so probably September at this point. Still, his experience is very encouraging to me as is yours.

    Besides making Hawk and His Boy permanently free and creating an omnibus, what do you think led to your (not so) modest success? Do you have any figures on the impact of the new Alex Aparin covers?

    1. Thanks, Richard. Well, to be honest, I’m still puzzling over the answer to your question, as that’s something I’ve been asking myself as well. I think one easily identified factor was getting all three books of the trilogy published fairly quickly. The subsequent publishes of books 2 and 3 really bumped the sales frequencies up. I really didn’t do a lot of marketing and social media, other than sending the books out for review to book bloggers (maybe secured about a dozen reviews from people like that), gave away about a hundred books on LibraryThing (I’m fairly convinced that’s a waste of time), modest presence on Goodreads. I think it’s more down to having a decent story (sheesh, at least, I hope/think it’s decent), luck, and getting pulled up by the Amazon algorithms.
      As far as Alex’s new covers, I don’t think they’ve had much impact. I do not regret getting them in the slightest! My one sneaking suspicion, though, is if I had them when I first published I might have done better. No way to tell. Just a guess. Is he still working on yours?

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