Going open kimono...

A couple of my writer friends have asked me recently how my ebook sales are doing. Rather than hem and haw, I thought I’d post the figures. For the sake of simplicity I’m going to just deal with the Kindle sales figures since sales on the other outlets are pretty insignificant at this point. 

In 2011, I earned about $70 on my ebook sales. Not monthly. Not weekly. That’s the whole thing. $70 from May 2011, when I uploaded my first book, to the end of Dec. 2011.

Thus far in 2012, with a total of three books for sale, I’ve earned about $122. I’m still a long way from paying off my costs—of covers, editing, copyrights—but I could care less. My monthly figures look like this…

To explain my shorthand here: SS is code for the title of my book The Scientist & the Sociopath, JH is Jersey Heat, and M is The Mesmerist.

I suppose you could say that there is some improvement here but honestly I don’t think I’m selling enough to make any sweeping statements like that. I thought I’d share some of the 6-week sales data as well, so you can get a sense of the sales frequency. (Click to embiggen.)

I’m not being coy about showing the dollar amounts. Both of these shots amount to about $54-$55.

By far my best-selling self-pubbed book is The Scientist & the Sociopath, probably because it’s really discoverable in the sparsely populated ghetto of nonfiction science collections, readers and anthologies.

My novels have fared less well. For three whole months I didn’t have a single sale of my novel Jersey Heat, then sales seemed to start up again in August. My other novel, The Mesmerist, is also doing better; no clue why.

I do know that Amazon was sending emails touting my most recent trad-pub book (Stuff Every American Should Know) beginning in June, so maybe that had something to do with the uptick in sales. I’ve also gotten smarter about using keywords. I have blogged more frequently on a more accessible platform. And I did a lot of publicity for Stuff in June/July.

For the sake of comparison, here’s how my Bookscan numbers look for the last year. Bear in mind that Bookscan only tracks traditionally published books, and only at certain retailers.

One of the things you can see from this graph is that my trad-pub sales tend to spike twice a year—around Christmas and around Fourth of July. That makes sense, since sales of everything on the planet go up when Americans start shopping for Christmas, and since one of my books is pegged to Fourth of July. Two of my others are also history titles with a patriotic U.S. slant, so I expect that sales of those books will continue to spike midyear. My history titles do exceptionally well at museum and historic site gift shops, but since Bookscan doesn’t track those bookstores, those sales are not reflected here. They are nothing to sneeze at.

So where does that leave us? Yes, the bulk of my royalty income is still coming from trad-pub sales. But just because my self-pubbed sales are truly unremarkable doesn’t mean I’m not excited about them. A book like The Scientist & the Sociopath represents years of writing for science magazines. Until the world of ebooks came along, those articles, once run, would never again see the light of day. Now they’re earning income.  Unless you’ve had an experience with newspaper and magazine journalism you cannot appreciate what a revolution that is.

I have no idea where my fiction will lead. Maybe it’ll lead nowhere. It’s been a long time since I’ve written fiction on a regular basis. I might very well suck. I only know that 20 or so years ago I made a decision to focus on journalism because I was just too timorous about my ability to write compelling fiction. That decision cost me time I’ll never get back. This is my chance to do the thing I believe I was meant to do: tell stories. I can’t give up this soon.

So I continue to be optimistic. I have a book of short stories coming later this year, and a third novel. I know I could be doing more to promote but I prefer to focus on writing and getting at least one series launched before doing much more promotion than I am doing. I am truly enjoying getting to know some of my fellow indie authors; they’ve offered advice, wisdom and camaraderie that I have found strangely lacking in the trad-pub world.