Finding A New Baseline With Statistics

Here it is. One of the big blog posts I’ve been promising. Figuring out the new baseline as well as comparing a few numbers with how I was doing before life exploded.

And wow, did it explode… but anyway…

Comparing Apples and Oranges
Tumisu / Pixabay

I could have made this blog post shorter, but that would have meant taking out the comments of what some of the statistics mean or why they are the way they are. For me, that would have been boring, and not helpful at all.

So, below you’ll find my comments, which are basically me thinking out loud as I crunched the numbers. If you have any thoughts, please share them in the comments! I would love to hear them.

The last year I have full stats for ebook sales is 2014, so that is what I’ll be doing a comparison with. I analyzed not only income from the various retailers, but also unit sales. Just to see how they arranged themselves. Unless otherwise stated, I am discussing writing income, not units sold. Not that I don’t want a lot of books to sell, but sorry, cash stream is important!

Speaking of cash streams, for this particular analysis I looked at ebooks only. Yes, I have other cash streams and I’ll talk about those in a later post.

Diversify, diversify, diversify.

Income dropped severely over the inactive years. I expected that. How could it not? Writing income dropped 78.4%. Yet unit sales dropped only 51.4%. Seems a little weird? Weeeellllll…

The reason is because of Bundle Rabbit.

Bundle Rabbit is a great way to do book bundles. In ways it’s similar to Story Bundle, but it does things a little different way which has allowed someone smaller, like me, to be a part of bundles that I otherwise would not have had a chance at. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of several bundles this year. The company did not exist in 2014, so it is a new income stream for me.

In 2017 Bundle Rabbit equaled 10.4% of the writing income, however it accounted for 39.5% of total units sold. Which meant that each ebook sold for less. But, no panicking. There is a very good reason for this.

The reason is that the bundle price is split among all the ebooks that are a part of the bundle. So obviously my cut will be smaller even though I’m moving more units. Still, 10.4% of the income is nothing to sneeze at and I have the added bonus that my writing is getting into the hands of people that it wouldn’t have otherwise. However, because it represented such a big portion of the units sold, for the rest of the summaries I’m going to take Bundle Rabbit out of the equation. It skews the numbers too much.

Now for a pretty, colorful graph of the market share in 2014. The second graph is the market share for 2017. Remember, this is for income, not units moved.

Finding A New Baseline With Statistics

Finding A New Baseline With Statistics

Now onto the comments about what some of the changes (might) mean:

Amazon

I’d known that Amazon had been dropping in the total percentage of sales, so it was interesting to get hard numbers. It went from 70.7% in 2014 of my income to 32.2% in 2017. The number of units sold dropped 90% from 2014 to 2017. Income dropped 91%.

Wow, what a drop in market share for me. 70% to 32%. In 2017 Kobo is beating Amazon.

Even with this information, I want to continue to diversify further. It’s a major point in my new business plan (a subject for a different post). I would be quite happy increasing units sold while keeping Amazon at this percentage of my total sales.

I mentioned this in a post before this, but I’m going to say it again. Amazon’s reports are seriously lacking. I had to figure out many of the royalty lines myself by hand, especially those in other currencies. Considering Amazon is a big data company, this is not only annoying, but rather, well, um, stupid.

Apple

In 2014 Apple represented only 1.5% of my sales. At the time I’m pretty sure I was distributing through Smashwords. I am now distributed to Apple’s iTunes store directly without a middleman distributor. Considering all the markets I use Smashwords to distribute to have dropped to zero, I’m wondering if going direct (I think in late 2014 or early 2015) is the reason Apple has continued to sell over the past few years.

In 2017 Apple is 6.8% of my sales. Interestingly, this percentage is from only 4% of the 2017 units sold. There’s plenty of room to grow at Apple.

All Romance Ebooks (ARE)

A sales venue that no longer exists. The demise of ARE is a sad story and it still ongoing, I believe. But back in the day there were definitely sales, and not just with romance. Most of my sales was through their Omnilit general fiction branch. Heck, it beat Apple back in 2014 with a 2.2% share.

Barnes & Noble

In 2014, B&N represented 5.5% of the writing income, and as I recall, sales were rather consistent at the time from month to month.

In 2017, that changed to 11.9% with 9.3% of units moved. However, the sales there are now sporadic. Some months there is a bunch of sales, then for a month or two of nothing. Then another spike.

B&N isn’t doing so well today as a company. It’s sad to come back after a few years away to find that the leadership still doesn’t have a clue. If the company goes down the drain, the income will be missed.

GooglePlay

GooglePlay makes me nervous. They do strange things with pricing and discounts, and reserve the right to drop a book to free whenever and for as long as they want. If Amazon sees that and also drops, then you could find yourself suddenly out of lot of money on a suddenly popular book. It’s something I’m watching, but for now I’m staying distributed directly. At least, until a distributor somewhere gets a distribution deal with Google that prevents the pricing games.

For now I have to play my own pricing game: I was able to get a direct distribution account before GooglePlay shut down that option. I set the price higher and then GooglePlay’s automatic discounting brings the “sale” price down to around the same as elsewhere.

In 2014 GooglePlay sat at .9% of the income share. In 2017 it grew to 15.1% while accounting for only 9.3% of the unit sales. In other words, I’m making more money on fewer books sold. That is because of the discounting. Readers are buying at a discounted price (they think), but GooglePlay is paying me on the full (elevated) list price I set in the back-end. This is illustrated well by the fact that in 2017 I sold exactly the same number of books at GooglePlay and Barnes & Noble, but my profits at GooglePlay were 27% higher.

Kobo

In 2014 Kobo stood at 7%. In 2017 its share increased to 34%. Very nice increase.

Because Kobo has such a big international audience, I did two special pivot tables to look at the unit distribution among countries. In 2014 the most sales were in Canada and the United Kingdom. In 2017 that changed to Germany (by a huge margin) and Australia. In both years, the US is way down the list.

Smashwords

One big disappointment is Smashwords. Smashwords has gone from 12.1% of the writing income to zero. Which is too bad, because it sold only 8.8% of my total units in 2014, so each individual sale had a higher profit margin.

Smashwords were one of the first big promoters of Indies. Sad to find that legacy fading away. Unless they do some serious upgrades to the website, Meatgrinder (shudder), and accounting periods, I don’t know how long they will last in the long-run.

Other

In 2014 the “Other” category was 1%. There is no ‘other’ in 2017 because those other sources have either gone out of business or dried up. I’m hopeful that using a different distributor for some of the smaller book retailers will help build this category up in the coming few years.

Hard Numbers

I’m sure some people want to see hard numbers and not just percentages. First, let me say that 2014 was not my best year. I was in the midst of taking care of Mother Hen at that point, and in the summer of 2014 she spent almost 2 months in either hospitals or rehab facilities. The releases dramatically dropped as my attention turned to being a full-time caregiver to someone who needed more and more constant care. As a result, sales income and units moved also started dropping.

If I look at the months of early 2014 and late 2013 before the regular releases stopped, the units sold ranged from 87 to 44. The average income per month hovered between $150 and $200

Note: early 2013 was even higher. 2012 was better still. Cancer diagnosis happened at the beginning of 2013.

Those old numbers don’t help me much right now. But, I was curious. They give me something to aim for.

A New Baseline

What is important now is the new baseline. I need to know what the new average is for me so I’m not mentally comparing apples to oranges. I need a way to measure the success of what I’ll be doing over this coming year as I ramp up the writing business.

So, I took all of 2017 and averaged out the numbers. What is the new baseline across all retailers all across the world?

$28 a month

11 Units sold

Now I have numbers. Yes, some months will be more, some will be less, but this is the average I’ll now use as I’m moving forward. A point of reality from which to base my new expectations.

A new baseline to grow from.

Now it’s time to start looking forward. Onwards!

Finding A New Baseline With Statistics
NASA-Imagery / Pixabay

Retailer Reports: A few Thoughts

I’m still in the process of analyzing my new baseline. To do this I am collecting sale reports across all the retailers and distributors that I’m already using. It’s taken more time than I thought it would, for several reasons (some listed below). In the process of collecting reports and putting together a new spreadsheet, I thought I would share a few things I’ve noticed.

  1. Finding the right reports can be a real pain in the neck. They aren’t always easy to find. Or there are so many and the ones that sound like they are the ones I need turn out not to be the one needed. I kept having to go back and forth from the spreadsheets to the website to find a different one.
  2. Createspace reports made me want to tear my hair out. The information displayed on the website was exactly what I needed, only to find that the exported report did not have all the information as the website. I ended up having to copy and paste from the website. ARGH!
  3. Kobo still doesn’t have the ability to generate and download reports from their website? Still, this many years later?
  4. Most of the retailers really stink when it comes to naming the downloaded reports. I had to rename so many of them so I could easily find which ones I wanted later.
  5. Some retailers don’t have detailed reports of what books sell on specific days. You only get by month. Retailers need to step up their game on this. Apple and Amazon, I’m looking at you.
  6. There is definitely consolidation in the ebook retailer area. Several that I had listed in 2014 are now completely gone (ARE, and then several small ones I reached through a distributor). Sad to see income streams go away, even if they were smaller.
  7. Smashwords used to be a rather good sales platform for me. For 2017? It’s literally zero. Wow, Smashwords has really fallen and is not a competitor now, at least not for me.

This has been an interesting process. I’m not an expert in statistics by any means, but already I’m learning a few things that I hope will help me when moving forward.

Restarting The Writing Business – ACK!

Restarting The Writing Business - ACK!
mohamed1982eg / Pixabay

There are plenty of blogs out there charting the course of a new endeavor in writing and releasing fiction. No real need for me to duplicate what has already been done unless I have something special to say (which isn’t very often).

But from someone who was making several hundred a month in book royalties who then lost a few years and is now in the process of getting going again? There aren’t that many of those.

Why did I lose a few years? A major life-roll. Mother Hen was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2013. I became one of her full-time caregivers. She passed away in 2016, and it’s taken until now to really come out of the fog. I still miss her terribly, but I know she wanted me to keep writing (she said it many times during those last years). It made her so happy to see me reaching out for that dream.

It’s time to do that reaching.

So that’s what I’ll be talking about on my little blog here for a while. Who knows, maybe a few out there will find it of interest and my rambling will help them along with doing the same thing.

So, here are the first steps I’m taking:

1. I’m back to writing! I’m not doing it daily, as I’m working a seasonal job at the moment and have had some fatigue issues. But, I’m definitely making progress! One of the goals is to start recording the progress over at Writing Groove. Oh, and thanks for all the support the writers at Writing Groove and Forward Motion have given over these trying years!

2. Over the winter I took a 6-week writing workshop that I had a lot of fun with. I’ve been reviewing my notes on a few past workshops. I’m also reading writing craft non-fiction books, just to get my mind back into the game (very much picking and choosing what I want to take away from those books). If I find anything of interest, I’ll post here.

3. Creating a new business and writing plan, starting from this point and looking forward. This means setting goals on such things as how much I want to write per week, month, quarter and year. Setting new publishing deadlines. Setting deadlines for getting print editions out there for works that do not have any so far.

4. I’m also investing in myself. This October I’ll be heading to Lincoln City, Oregon to participate in the upcoming Master Business Class for writers, hosted by WMG Publishing. I’m hoping to learn how the industry has changed over these several years, and hopefully learn a few things to better my writing business.

5. Find the new baseline for my publishing business. I am no longer selling at the rate I used to. Not with no new releases in a long time. Using my old baseline as a measurement against the upcoming months would only lead to disappointment and depression.

We don’t need that!

I’m in the process of downloading sales reports across various distributers and retailers, and coming up with an average of how I am selling. I’ll post a detailed report of this baseline when I have it finished. I can then use this new baseline as a reference to see how I’m doing as I get back into the game. I think it would be fun to track on this blog the build-up from that baseline to a new and improved baseline!

All of the above takes time, and yet it feels like it all needs to be done RIGHT NOW. And that list doesn’t even scratch the surface! ACK!

…take a deep breath…

I’m trying hard not to overload myself with everything that needs to be done. That would only set myself up for failure. I don’t need that. So, I’m trying to do what I do at work: Keep my head down and focus on only one task at a time. Finish that task. Feel good about it! Then, and only then, look at the next task that needs to be done. Rinse, repeat.

So, join me on this journey. Let’s have some fun getting back into the groove of things!

The Lovely and Surprising Creative Mind

The creative mind is starting to work again. It’s not consistent yet, or really strong, but it is happening. It’s even resulted in words!

One things that is helping me is working on a new series. Even though I was a little miffed at myself for creating yet another universe when I already have so many. On top of the new universe I started writing on, The Enigma Watchers, the last year before Mother Hen passed away.

So yeah. Had an alternate history action-adventure series in The Enigma Watchers.

Now also have the Atlantis Shifters romance series.

And then earlier today…

WHAM!

The Lovely and Surprising Creative MindThese aren’t two new universes! Both of these series are in the same universe!

I was working on the timeline of The Enigma Watchers when it happened. I realized that the Atlantis Shifters ‘world’ diverged from that one in the past. Only they take place at about the same time, just in different parallel universes. But they do cross over. To the point that characters can cross over, if I ever wanted to do it.

Talk about getting a shiver of delight!

Sometimes I just love the creative mind. 😀

2017 Writing/Revision Tracking Spreadsheet

2017 Writing/Revision Tracking Spreadsheet
skeeze / Pixabay

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve posted here. It hasn’t been an easy year, but I’m still puttering forward with the writing and other creativity. To start off the new year in the right direction, I have updated the yearly Writing and Revision Tracking Spreadsheet.

This format is a little different than before. Instead of separate tabs for the writing and revision, this time it’s been combined into one single tab. I’ve been using it for the past year and like having both were I can see them in one glance.

Another post soon on the other big project I’ve been working on.

So, go! Write and revise!

View every word forward as a triumph.

All spreadsheets are available on the Writing Freebies page.