In March I posted about how teaming up with two other indie author moms got me my first orange bestseller tag on Amazon. Since then, it’s been hovering above 20,000 in rank, usually above 15,000 in the Amazon Kindle store.
All that sounds awesome, but what does it really mean?
If your definition of success is to be a bestseller, or to hit a certain rank, then those are the numbers you want to see. If your goal is more focused on sales and income, than it’s important to see what it takes to get there, so you can aim for the right thing.
Many people making lots of money from their books have never had a bestseller tag. Many people with those tags or rankings don’t make much money from those books.
I wanted to share some real numbers, because so often I find myself frustrated with people talking rank, or bestseller status, or other external markers that have very little to do with what is actually going into their bank account.
So, if you have a financial goal for your writing, here is what I earned on Amazon for the first few months of 2018:
As I mentioned before, March was the release of my book that is part of a YA sweet romance series with two other authors. The entire series in is KU. The third released in April, and having a complete series boosted things a little more. We released each book at 99 cents then upped it to 2.99 when the next one came out. In March I sold more books than in April (85 versus 61) and there were more page reads in April since it was a full month (83k versus 38k in March).
In March 96% of my earnings were from the YA and in April it was up to 98%. My other work is sci-fi/dystopian and earnings actually went down in March and April, so I have to assume there has been no crossover whatsoever. The other two authors in the series have had a little more success with gaining more readers for all their work, since their other books are also YA romance.
Now, I had a fair bit of ad spent in March and April to reach those sales numbers. This information can be lacking from those “I made 5 figures this month!” posts. While sales can and do happen organically (keywords/word of mouth), most successful businesses, whether it’s fast food or ebooks, need to advertise.
In March I made about $113 in net profit after ads, and April was $230. So I’m a little above a 100% ROI, which I’m pretty pleased with. I have a baseline, and now anything else I try will be judged based on these initial few months of data.
Important note: I am still in the red for the year, since I have been spending in other areas since January (website, newsletter, covers, editing…) Overall, I’m about $1400 in the negative. If I want to break even this year, I’ll need to make a bit more than $200 after ad spend per month. Also, I am not in a situation where I need this to make a profit by any particular deadline (= I plan to stay at my full-time non-writing job for the foreseeable future), so I am not terribly concerned about that $1400. Though I don’t have thousands to burn either…
Would upping my ad spend to $500 get me $1000+ in sales? Maybe! But since I’m in the middle of buying a house and I only recently figured out Facebook ads, I am going to keep things in the $5-$10 per day range for now.
Even with keeping things at this level, I would love to assume that I’ll make more than $400 ($200 after ads) in May, since I have an adult romance series launching and that tends to do pretty well in KU. While I can pretty confidently expect to hit $200 in sales just from the YA (already at $122 and not quite halfway through the month), I have no idea what will happen with this new series. I am doing it on my own versus with others, and it will be interesting to see how much that impacts the results.
One of my goals this year with all the different genres was to see what I like to write the best and what sells the best. While there are a lot of unknowns in terms of why some things work and others don’t, overall it’s starting to make sense to me. Tracking sales and ad spend is a big part of that.
If your goals are financial, I hope these real numbers have shed a little light onto what kind of ad spend and sales numbers lie behind rankings and bestseller tags.
We hope to make this a recurring series here on the blog, so if you want to share some real numbers, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!