I thought I’d share some numbers to give those of you still on the fence about self publishing some idea what Kindle sales numbers and borrows look like for a debut, virtually unknown author. Keep in mind, I write in the popular mystery genre – second only to the romance genre – but my books feature some LGBT characters. Though my first two books are devoid of overt sexual situations and the first one contains a murder that happens ‘off site’ that isn’t graphic at all, they’ve been mostly ignored by the mainstream mystery audience, yet I’m not hurting for either sales or borrows. Your mileage as a more traditional mystery writer or a cozy mystery writer will likely be better with an interesting story, a good book cover and just a little attention to marketing. Those of you writing in the romance genre will do even better than the mystery writers with a good cover, a good hook and a great story. Other genres don’t do quite so well but everything but literary fiction by debut authors tends to sell at least a little.
When you’re starting out, one of the best ways to get your book into the hands of more people is to publish your eBook version of your book on Amazon only and put it into the Kindle Select program. If you choose to do a print version/print on demand version of your book, You can load it to all sites. Kindle Select exclusivity applies only to eBooks.
When your book is in the Kindle Select program, you receive a 70% royalty on U.S. based sales for any book priced between $2.99 and $9.99, royalties you choose or set for sales of books to readers in other countries, and a portion of the global fund for each book borrowed through the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library (KOLL) or through the Kindle Unlimited (KU) program.
Both of my books are priced at $2.99. ‘Relic‘ has been out since November 9th of 2014. ‘Busy Bees‘ came out February 25th of this year. I make $2.05 per sale on each book. For the first few weeks of February, I lowered the price of ‘Relic‘ to $.99 because sales were starting to lag to 1 or 2 a day and 2-3 borrows (this is attributed to the infamous Amazon 90 day cliff and no other books by me available on the market). Lowering the price did not spur more sales. I raised the price for ‘Relic‘ back to $2.99 when ‘Busy Bees‘ was released in late February. It’s been selling a 1-5 copies a day and getting at least a couple of borrows since then. Both books may get an upwards price adjustment once book three, ‘Dana’s Dilemma‘ comes out in late April.
For the month of March, I sold 33 copies of my first novel, ‘Relic‘ and 51 of my second novel, ‘Busy Bees‘. That’s at roughly $2.05 apiece (international sales, which I have from Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Australia and India vary some in royalty amount received even though I tweak that pricing because exchange rates fluctuate. At 84 books sold outright at $2.05 a book, I made $172.20 in sales alone. That’s not too shabby considering I ran no promotions at all for the month and, instead, focused on writing book three. That’s not the best part though!
Between the KOLL program which lets Kindle owners who participate in Amazon Prime select one book of their choosing to download free per month and the KU program which lets a subscriber borrow up to 10 books at a time for a monthly subscription fee of $9.99, I did pretty well. ‘Relic‘ was borrowed 45 times in March and ‘Busy Bees‘ was borrowed 69 times. I’ve been paid from $1.33 to $1.39 for each borrow. At the lower end rate of $1.33 each, those 114 borrows netted me another $151.62 making my expected total payout for March $323.82. Not too shabby for a still relatively new, unknown author!
The above numbers represent a significant increase over February with 44 total sales and 46 total borrows. Most but not all of the credit goes to the late February release of ‘Busy Bees’. Sales and borrows for ‘Relic’ however did improve slightly (even though it was back to it’s original price) on the strength of having a second book on the market.
On a final note: Obviously at $1.33 or so a borrow, the Kindle Select program that feeds into KOLL and KU isn’t for everyone. If you can sell your books and sell lots of them at price points higher than $2.99, it’s probably not for you. If you’re a new(er) author, an author writing in a new genre for you or someone writing offbeat stuff that might be hard for a reader to take a chance on, look again at the above – more borrows than sales. That’s the market for you. Yes, I could have passed on the $151.62 to possibly sell a few more full priced copies on Amazon (at a 35% royalty rate instead of a 70% one) and to sell one or two, maybe, on other venues. That would have been a bad business decision on my part. That total of $323.82 paid for a great cover for Dana’s Dilemma ($60 from artist Shiralyn J. Lee) and it pays my cell phone bill, cable/internet bill, and gas bill too. That’s pretty cool with me!