I spent roughly 5.75 years having little luck at selling my fiction.

Some of it sucked (and I later “retired” those). Other titles sold, just not often or in great numbers. I spent a lot of time writing, learning, and improving, as well followed all the common advice about marketing and self-promotion.

Not only did I suck at the whole self-promotion thing, but I hated it to the point I basically quit doing it about 2 years ago. Even so, my books continued to sell.

Roughly 8 months ago, my luck as a writer trying to sell her work began to change. Since then, I’ve had 7 or 8 titles appear on genre Top 100 lists on various Amazon sites, with 2 of them surfing an Top 100 list for nearly 4 and 3 months respectively. Those would be Books 1 & 2 of my Discord Jones UF series, and they are responsible for the majority of my sales. They’ve also begun to accrue ratings/reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. My books continue to sell daily, even though none are in any Top 100 lists. I’m working on Book 3 for the series.

Things I’ve learned:

  1. Luck is the biggest factor.
  2. You can promote your butt off, and still not gain any traction.
  3. Best marketing: Write as well as you can, have a good cover, and interesting blurb.
  4. Write as much as possible, and release new works often.

Note that I didn’t mention professional editing. I do think it’s important, and pay to have most of my work edited by pros. However, I do have a couple of titles I’ve self-edited, and 1 of them has received reviews mentioning how “well-written” it was. The other hasn’t received reviews that state that, but neither do its reviews point out any technical writing issues. Basically, in some cases you can self-edit without royally screwing up. That doesn’t mean I’m going to self-edit everything from here on out. I may do so from time to time on works under 10k words, but I really prefer to have someone else do the final pass on most everything.

It does mean I’ve actually improved my skills over the years though. :)

Anyhoo, that’s what’s changing on this blog: The focus from “everything writing/self-publishing/indie” to my efforts and results as an indie author.

Maybe someone will find a little inspiration along the way. :)

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You’re Probably Not Going to Sell Many Books

There are at least 9,674,094 ranked books on Amazon. I know this because one POD title I’ve retired is still listed, and that’s its current rank. It sold a whopping 2 copies before I removed it from sale back in early 2010.

These are ALL BOOKS, not split into hardback/paper/ebook/audio categories.

Note: I’m not a numbers guru or anything, just someone looking at the numbers and information shared by some indies in regards to their sales and rankings to try and gain an idea of the overall picture.

Of those, 90.7% are ranked higher than 900k. (For this purpose, “higher” equals “bad” rankings.)

  • 9.3% are ranked 900k or less.
  • 5.17% are ranked 500k or less.
  • 2.07% are ranked 200k or less.
  • 1.03% are ranked 100k or less.
  • .83% are ranked 80k or less.
  • .52% are ranked 50k or less.
  • .31% are ranked 30k or less.
  • .21% are ranked 20k or less.
  • .10% are ranked 10k or less.
  • .05% are ranked 5k or less.
  • .01% are ranked 1k or less.
  • .005 are ranked 500 or less.
  • .001% are ranked 100 or less.

A title allegedly needs to sell at least 1 copy daily to stay between 50k to 80k in rank.

80k is only .83% of all listed, ranked books on Amazon, going by my initial ranking number at the start of this post.

To stay within a 20k-30k ranking, a title needs to sell 3 copies daily. That is 25%-37.5% of all books ranked 80k or less.

To keep a ranking between 7k to 13k, a title must sell 12 copies daily. That is 8.75% to 16.25% of 80k books.

To maintain a rank of 1k or better, a title needs to sell 100-150 copies daily. 1k titles is 1.25% of those 80k books.

Titles with rankings between 500k to 900k are selling perhaps 1-2 copies per month.

It appears possible that 90.7% of all ranked books on Amazon aren’t selling even one copy per month on a regular basis.

Based on these numbers:

  • Only .01% of titles are doing really well on Amazon.
  • 0.13% likely earn “good living” money for their authors.
  • 0.31% earn from “living” to “pay some bills” money.
  • 99.55% of ranked titles are earning “pocket change” to having only sold 1-2 copies total in order to receive a ranking.

Of course, none of these numbers are absolute.

There are probably more than 9,674,094 ranked titles on Amazon, and of those, I have no idea how many are non-fiction versus fiction, or traditionally published versus self/indie published. I also have no idea how many authors are on Amazon, using more than one pen name, or how many titles belong to each author.

Nor can I state with absolute certainty the number of sales per day required to maintain certain ranks, since not every author or publisher shares numbers per title, nor is there any place to find ALL the numbers, and not just select slices of the numbers. Except for from Amazon, and Amazon’s not sharing. ;)

I do think it’s safe to speculate that the majority of these titles are self/indie pubbed, what with anywhere from 40k to 80k new titles reportedly being listed on Amazon EVERY MONTH.

  • 40k new titles per month equals 480,000 new titles per year.
  • 80k per month is 960,000 (nearly 1 million!) per year.

I think in 2010, it was 20k to 40k new titles being listed monthly, so I think it’s pretty safe to say there are a large number without rankings and the majority of all titles are self/indie published, because traditional publishing just doesn’t release as many new titles per year as thousands of indie authors can.

Nor do I have a way to discover the number of titles listed on Amazon without ranking and therefore, no sales at all, but it’s quite likely safe to say it’s also a large number.

Writing, regardless of how you publish, definitely isn’t a get rich quick scheme, or even a guaranteed money-earning proposition.

Over 9 million ranked titles available right now on Amazon. That is a LOT of books even with some listed in in more than one format. In my opinion, Amazon has the best search and cross-promotion functions of any book selling site, which is why a lot of authors say Amazon is responsible for the lion’s share of their sales.

With so many new titles being released on a monthly basis, and so few carrying ranks that indicate they’re selling even a single copy on any sort of regular basis, competition for sales is fierce, y’all. All it takes for a newly released title to receive a ranking is a single sale. A lot of us make our own first sale in order to check out formatting on our Kindles.

All the constant self-promotion (which so irritates many readers) by authors makes loads of sense when viewed in this context. Authors with fan bases definitely have an edge over those just starting out who don’t have fan bases, and that does include traditionally published authors who are now self-pubbing their back lists.

It’s a lot easier to write, release, announce the release, and then start writing the next book when you have a fan base that will do your promotion for you by rating/reviewing/spreading word of mouth.

When you don’t have that fan base promoting for you, you do have to spend a LOT of time figuring out the marketing side and promoting your own books.

Even so, I still believe it’s all a numbers game after writing a “good” story. A few copies sold per title per month is going to add up as you release more titles. There is a tipping point between “pocket change” and “earning a living” which some of us will eventually achieve.

That tipping point may take years to reach. As has been said many times, writing success, no matter what your personal definition of success is, isn’t a sprint, but a marathon.

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