Sales Analysis ... What Can It Teach Me To Help Sell eBooks?

Today, I am going to give an example of what I do to keep track of how well I am doing, and what I should be doing. There is a lot of high level advice for Indies to set "realistic sales goals" to keep them on the straight and narrow. So when the next I Just Sold 1Million eBooks In 10 Days With My Arms Tied Behind My Back story breaks those with 100 sales or less feel less like giving up.

I agree with this. I also believe keeping a close eye on how you set those realistic goals is key to success.

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"I am going to sell 100 eBooks," is not a realistic goal. How are you going to sell those ebooks? To whom? Where?

"I am going to sell 100 units of Demon Day on Kindle in March by promotion on Goodreads groups and three different established book blogs," is a realistic goal.

I do not stalk my rankings (except when something exceptional is happening like breaking the Top 100 somewhere or grabbing a number 1 spot) but I do keep a hawk eye on how I am doing comparatively across eStores and where I should be focusing my attention.

Volume means jack-sh*t if you cannot sustain it. Someone who sells a few thousand one month with one title can drop off the lists within a week and never be able to climb back if they don't have a strong backlist to support them between frontlist releases.

What does the above data (in the pie chart) teach me?
A few things actually. Possibly;

1) I am not reaching enough of my target audience on Amazon
2) Apple readers are more likely to buy more than one of my titles
3) There are more fantasy readers on Apple & B&N

I am selling considerably lower than I should be on Kindle, meaning I have let my focus slip too far away from promoting myself over there.

It also highlights that to sell half as much as the same titles sitting in the Top 3,000 on Amazon that you have to reach the #1 spots of your genre in iBooks across two or more territories ... and stay there for more than one day.

In ascension, the split is how it should be (Kindle first, B&N second, etc), but the figures clearly show I am going wrong somewhere on Kindle. However, the market share in 2010 may have changed radically, I should take that into consideration. B&N, Kobo, and Apple have all done things in 2011 that could have seen more readers buying eBooks via their platforms. But ... Amazon have also improvements that may cancel out any market share the others gained.

What's wrong with focusing on one platform and ignoring the rest?
If you are only selling on one platform you need to do something to change that and fast. Unless you are in the Kindle or Nook Top 100 365 days a year with one title or have a backlist greater than 5 books strong you need to be selling consistently across all platforms available, and your sales split should reflect the most recent quantitate market share report you can find.

That way, if Amazon decide their algorithms needs an fine tuning you won't plummet into the nothingness and never see the bestseller lists without months of promotion (when you should be writing). If Apple think iBooks is too much of a hassle you won't be wondering, "What now?" If B&N turn around and say, "Let Amazon have it," you won't be left bewildered and confused that Kindle readers tell you to stick your $4.99 price points where the sun don't shine.

Note: If your main goal is just to have fun you can disregard everything I say. Do what pleases you.

What Can Apple, B&N and Amazon do to help me sell more books?
Once a month release a percentage report on what genres sold the best. I am not asking for volume, but percentages. With no other data it's nigh impossible to guess overall quantity of eBook sales, however, better knowledge of what books are trending well could help authors target their marketing efforts and effectively help those retailers make more money.

Example ... if I knew Paranormal Romance was trending well on Kindle I would be sure to promote the hell out of my paranormal romances to Kindle users. If suddenly Crime Fiction is trending well on Apple, those with such titles can act accordingly.

I appreciate looking at overall numbers is exciting, who doesn't want to see four or five digits in their Units Sold field, but understand that unless you leave it down to luck, you need to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses so you can do better in future, and don't waste your time promoting to brick walls.


  1. This is great advice. I tend to focus too much on Kindle and not enough on B&N. It's tough because there seems to be more Kindle discussion boards, etc. than there are for either B&N or iBooks. But I can see that it would be very important to branch out.

  2. The downside for me in NZ is that Smashword sucks. Trying to sort out the payments has just been a nightmare and I've had to concede that it isn't working for me. I don't like losing readers though, so am going to look into selling it directly on my blog for those who require other formats...