Friday, September 7, 2012

How much can you make self-publishing through Kindle?

As of the end of July, I've sold, "loaned," and given away 1,012 copies of "At Home on the Mekong" in just over nine months. By the metrics of real publishing houses, this is nothing — but I'm content. Back in October I was unsure I would sell enough to make $10.

U.S. sales data, October 2011 to July 2012
Month Sold KOLL Free Revenue
October 3 0 0 $1.05
November 9 0 0 $3.15
December 27 2 156 $12.90
January 39 2 72 $20.32
February 21 1 33 $36.30
March 8 0 0 $14.52
April 18 0 112 $33.47
May 14 0 116 $24.90
June 16 4 44 $32.25
July 9 0 1 $16.59
Total 164 9 534 $195.45

Initially the book cost $0.99. I raised it to $2.99 in February, and sales unsurprisingly declined.

What did surprise me is that more people didn't "borrow" the book after the price increased. I expected people to turn to the free option when they could save $3 rather than $1.

The aforementioned KOLL, or Kindle Owners Lending Library, lets Amazon Prime subscribers permanently "borrow" a book for free every month (and other benefits). Authors get a share of a monthly fund, which has been $600,000 lately, for every copy you "loan." It's been just over $2 a share for the past few months. That implies almost 300,000 active Prime subscribers.

That all means I make more when people borrow rather than buy my book. That seems weird, but that's life in the series of tubes.

But I digress — the price hike helped make up for the decline in sales, but on average my royalties were about the same. Also, many of my "U.S." sales are actually overseas, and I only get 35 percent of the cover price instead of 70 percent. But there's not that much data, and it could just be that my sales are in an irrevocable decline. But that's not an idea I want to dwell on.

Another takeaway is that I had to give away three copies to sell just one. That's something else I don't want to dwell on.

But don't forget the United Kingdom!

U.K. sales data, October 2011 to July 2012
Month Sold Free Revenue
October 0 0 £0
November 4 0 £1.04
December 19 33 £4.94
January 31 30 £11.24
February 16 25 £21.12
March 6 0 £7.92
April 5 46 £6.60
May 6 27 £7.92
June 6 26 £7.92
July 4 1 £5.28
Total 97 188 £73.98

In Great Britain I only had to give away two books to sell a single copy. Yay?

Also, every sale in the U.K. store is a solid pound and thirty-two pence for me. (How awesome is it to get paid in pound sterling?) Every royalty is 70 percent.

But what about advertising? I spent a little over $100 on Facebook ads (most of that offset by a coupon) between mid-March and mid-May. That was spread out over multiple campaigns targeting different countries. It looks like it might have helped — I got 400 clicks through to the Amazon page for my book — but a lot of that money targeted the United Kingdom, which was remarkably steady for sales regardless of ad spend.

Then there's the rest of Europe.

Other sales data, October 2011 to July 2012
France Germany Italy
Sold Free Sold Free Sold Free
0 4 4 10 2 0

This just reaffirms that the French are cheapskates, and that Italians and Germans are awesome. Or at least six of them are. Also, Italians don't seem interested in getting things for free — perhaps that explains their current economic crisis.

I haven't actually gotten any money for those sales. You have to rack up $10 in sales in a nation's store before Amazon cuts you a payment. But one more sale in the German store and I'll be able to say I earned a fistful of euros.

So in answer to the headline of this post, I've made a little over $300. It may be peanuts, but it's a lot of peanuts: 70 pounds retail or half a ton wholesale.

As Amazon announced a flurry of new Kindles yesterday, I hope the market grows and more people buy my book — or borrow it!

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