Again, I don’t feel like making a thorough posting of all the numbers – but if you’re interested, you’re welcome to email me and I’ll share them all with you. I have an exhausting number of numbers about my books. With regard to free downloads, Q4 was a big uptick over Q3 and for the audiobooks, a massive increase over Q4 last year – not so for eBooks, which had a major spike last fall due to a couple of inbound links. For the quarter I’m looking at a total of 142,888 podiobook episode downloads, from probably about 8.8k complete title downloads. There were also 3,582 free eBook downloads last quarter, which is more than Q3 but less than Q1, Q2, and less than half of Q4 of 2011.
My only new books in 2012 were Sophia and Emily. They were made available in hardback and eBooks in May, and as podiobooks in the last week of October. In eight months as both free and paid eBooks, they were downloaded a total of 333 times, combined. Of that, 21 copies of the Sophia eBook were purchased and 8 copies of the Emily eBook were purchased; they each had around 150 free downloads. In about 9 weeks on Podiobooks.com/iTunes, Sophia had a total of 19,702 episode downloads (probably about 681 complete copies) and Emily had a total of 16,005 episode downloads (probably about 591 complete copies). That’s 4x as many copies of the free audiobook downloaded in about 1/4 the time. Also interesting is that instead of a 20% to 50% attrition rate after the first episode (people who download 1 episode and no others), which is the range my other books tend to float in, Sophia and Emily are looking at attrition rates in the 66% to 75% range. Up to about three out of every four people who listen to the first 15 minutes of either book decide not to listen to a minute more. Still the complete-title download numbers are bigger than for all but a few of my oldest titles, so they’re off to a good start, even if they are reviled by most who give them a try.
(It occurs to me now what this may be: I wrote these books and designed the marketing around them to try to appeal to the greatest possible audience. I was aiming for something which would appeal to mainstream audiences, genre audiences, teen audiences, Christian audiences, et cetera. They’re relatively easy to describe, they’ve got great covers, and they’re some of my most readable text to date. I was trying to reach a wider audience. Anyway, what I’m thinking I might be seeing here is that the surface stuff, the cover, description/blurb, genre, et cetera is, in fact, reaching a wider audience than I normally reach. More people are trying it. But my books are still only appreciated by the same narrow audience I had, before, and the rest are rejecting it. The marketing works, but the books aren’t as mainstream/readable as I’d hoped. They’re just … more of what I always write. sigh.)
But you probably want to hear about money, right? Well, I seem to have forgotten to add up the numbers for the quarter separately for you, so here’s the numbers for the year: I sold 106 eBooks (down 20% from 2011) and my cut of those sales was $243.49 (down 9% from 2011), which means I sold fewer eBooks but made more money per eBook – and that with my steadily-dropping-eBooks-prices; people want to pay more for eBooks. I sold 71 physical books directly and 9 books wholesale via LSI (80 books is a 308% increase over 2011) and earned $1742.96 revenue (a 360% increase over 2011) from those sales. I also had 6 Podiobooks donations made to my books, with my cut totalling $31.10. Additionally I sold 22 pieces of art for $1,170 (although my records show $450 of that is still owed me, so it’s money earned in an accounting sense, but not in a “money in my account” way), most of it at discounts as deep as 90% off, to try to get rid of as much of my old stuff as possible. That comes to a total of $3187.55 revenue from [art + books].
That means this is the first year I made more from books than from art. It represents a 260% increase in book revenue, a 20% drop in art revenue, and a 143% overall increase over 2011’s [art + book] revenues. (2011 was an increase over 2010, and 2008-2010 were all in the $1.5k-$1.7k range) Since the beginning of 2008 (which is when I started doing this full time) I’ve earned $10,259.18 in revenue from [art + books], 31% of which is from 2012. My business was profitable (on paper) last year, but came out meaningfully ahead, this year. I’m way behind, over the course of the last 5 years (or the last 10+, if you want to go all the way back to when I started publishing & selling art), but as I said when I started doing this full time in 2008, I’m in this for the long haul. Grow a little at a time. Figuring out how to grow my profits without needing to grow my audience has been a big part of the last five years’ journey. According to my accounting software, at this rate I’ll actually have “retained earnings” some time in the next 3-5 years.
Of course, I don’t have an premium hardback limited edition book to try to sell at Phoenix Comicon, this year, which is where I made more than half of this year’s revenue (about 80% of my book revenue). At best I expect to have one new paperback. Maybe also paperback versions of Sophia and Emily if I catch an optimistic streak between now and April, but considering I’ve only moved 2 copies of the hardcover (and only earned $68 from the eBooks) in the last 7 months… probably not. Possibly a new anthology, but only if I get a whole mess of submissions in the next 60 days; I fully expect that project to drag on all year, maybe longer. The year should still be profitable, barring the purchase of a new computer, simply by keeping expenses within the realm of what I know my books actually earn.
One more point worth noting, which bubbled up out of the numbers: Putting some of my short stories up for free on iTunes and Smashwords for 60 days related directly to an increase in the number of free downloads of the corresponding (free) short story collections on my website, and via Podiobooks.com. Maybe they got one story for free and came to my site to get the rest. Wish they’d tried one for free and decided to spend money, too. Ah, well. Maybe they’ll like my stories enough to become fans, and will buy things later, right?