15,000 ebooks: a breakdown of the numbers and a couple of thoughts

I promised I’d share some numbers when I delivered my 15,000th ebook, so here goes. It’s a long post so I’ll split it to keep all the figures off the front page.

I’ve got three ebooks on the go: Coffin Dodgers, a novel; Bring Me The Head of Mark Zuckerberg, a collection of columns; and Malky’s Bottle of Christmas, a short story. That 15,000 breaks down like this:

Coffin Dodgers: 13,179
Malky: 1,750
Zuck: 72

The overwhelming majority of those downloads were via Amazon’s UK Kindle Store, although Malky’s Bottle of Christmas did do 700-ish downloads from the Barnes & Noble store. The Coffin Dodgers sales break down like this:

Amazon US: 1,047
Amazon UK: 12,017
Amazon DE: 20
Amazon ES: 4
Amazon FR: 1
Apple: 67
Kobo: 1
Diesel: 2
Smashwords: 15
Sony: 2

If you take freebies out of the equation, sales from Amazon US are around 100 and the numbers for Amazon’s international stores drop to zero.

Sales for non-Amazon outlets dropped to zero in February because Amazon demands exclusivity if you want to give your book away for free. However, even before that the numbers were hopeless. After an initial spike when the book first went on sale, Apple numbers dropped to one or two per month.

What free downloads did

Most of the Malky downloads were freebies, and I also gave away some copies of Coffin Dodgers: 3,516 in 24 hours back in February. That giveaway boosted sales dramatically: where normally I’d do a few hundred copies in a month, I sold around 4,500 copies of Coffin Dodgers over and above the freebies.

The monthly sales of Coffin Dodgers, including February’s 3,500ish freebies, went like this:

June 11: 92
July 11: 117
Aug 11: 134
Sep 11: 115
Oct 11: 279
Nov 11: 454
Dec 11: 625
Jan 12: 877
Feb 12: 8,978
Mar 12: 1,179

Sales this month so far are sitting at 327.

It’s clear, then, that the giveaway worked: I sold roughly four times more books by giving copies away for a day. It’s also clear that the effect doesn’t last very long, and I noticed big changes in the book’s chart positions (and therefore its sales) around notable dates, such as Valentine’s Day and (UK) Mother’s Day. In both cases the humour chart changed dramatically, with the top 20 becoming dominated by chick-lit, and as a result my sales nose-dived. There’s a similar effect whenever Amazon runs a big Kindle sale or similar promotion.

The trick to selling ebooks, I think, is visibility, and that’s what the giveaway delivered: there’s a virtuous circle where the higher your book is in a chart, the more copies you sell. Giving away books also increased the number of reviews, which in turn helped drive sales, although inevitably it increased the number of bad reviews too.

I think another 24-hour giveaway might be a good idea, not least because it’ll be interesting to compare its effect to the one I did in February. Did I luck out and choose a particularly auspicious date, or are giveaways a reliable way to give ebook sales a lift?

If there’s anything I haven’t covered or explained properly, please yell in the comments.Откъде да купя икона

6 thoughts on “15,000 ebooks: a breakdown of the numbers and a couple of thoughts

  1. John Chapman says:

    My own experience with Kindle Select is similar. Giving away 2484 copies of ‘A Vested Interest’ meant that in the 15 days following the promotion eight times as many books were sold as in the previous two years! Our position in Amazon’s charts shot up from #424,016 to #6 (right behind ‘Coffin Dodgers’.

    Like you we sold far more in the UK than in the US. Does that mean we in the UK read more?

  2. Gary says:

    Hi John. I think it’s more a relative size thing: the US operation has so many more authors and books that it’s much harder to stand out.

  3. Squander Two says:

    Plus there’s Amazon’s annoying separation of UK and US reviews, so you can get hundreds of reviews and the Americans don’t see any evidence that anyone’s even read the thing.

    Incidentally, I’m not convinced bad reviews are a bad thing, as long as they’re part of a mixture. They show that the book’s interesting enough to provoke a reaction — who would bother writing a review just to say it was uninteresting? — and they are often clearly written by numpties. I’ll go to see a film if I read a review that pans it in a way that makes me hate the reviewer. And by “go to see a film” I of course mean “wait six months and get the DVD cause I’m a parent”.

  4. Gary says:

    Yeah, the separation is annoying, especially when UK editions of US books often get the US reviews too.

    > I’m not convinced bad reviews are a bad thing, as long as they’re part of a mixture.

    Oh, indeed. I meant “unfortunately for my ego” :)

  5. tm says:

    >I’ll go to see a film if I read a review that pans it in a way that makes me hate the reviewer.

    Absolutely. Few things put me more firmly in favour of something than a bad review clearly written by an opinionated blow-hard idiot.

    My personal favourite being the Amazon review of Nathaniel Philbrick’s excellent “The Last Stand” about Custer, Sitting Bull and the battle of The Little Bighorn, that claimed that it was confusing because it was trying to sound a like a true story. I kid you not.

    A review so bad it makes we willing to plug the excellent book on Gary’s blog. I won’t link to it direct, you all know how to search on Amazon.

    (Related news: You don’t get enough Nathaniels do you? In fact his whole name is so great sounding it would almost be worth buying the book for that alone, even if it wasn’t great. But it is.)

  6. Stephen says:

    Thanks for this, very helpful. Another giveaway experiment would be good. Also be interesting to see what happens to sales of the original when you publish the sequel. (I think the title of the sequel should be “Fifty Shades of Old”, don’t you?)

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