eBook Sales: It’s all about the Numbers. Or, Is It?

shakespeare wants to know if we should share sales numbersI have never read a blog post where Stephen King claimed to sell 20,000 e-books in a week. Nor have I read a post where Nora Roberts reported selling 37,000 e-books and hitting number one in seven of Amazon’s sub categories. I did not read any of those things. But, I did post that I had 30,000 freeloads over a three day period. And, when one of my novels hit #46 overall a couple of months ago I shared that too. Amazon even mentioned my earning numbers a couple of years back in one of their press releases. And I’ve posted when I’ve hit the top rankings too, and if I make the Movers and Shakers or Hot New Releases list I post that information. Because you guys all want to know. You have to know. Don’t you?

I’m wondering if perhaps we’ve hit the “enough already” threshold. It just might be too much. As professional, independently published authors we’ve helped create a world where readers can come and enjoy quality literature. We’re not trying to emulate the traditionally published world or copy it, and most of us have become immune to the opinions that are tossed over the wall from time to time. This is a good thing. My connection with my readers is the only thing that’s truly important to me. I write stories so that they will be read. And, that’s what I’ve always done. Even back in grade school as others nervously avoided having their fiction read in class, I couldn’t wait to hear my name called. I’m a writer and I need readers to read my work. But, I don’t remember walking through the halls of the school telling everyone that twenty-seven students clapped after the teacher had read my story about the boy and his red balloon.

I publish my own work, so I need to seek out those sometimes elusive readers before I can engage with them. This requires some marketing skill. I’ve begun to wonder if it requires sharing numbers too, though. I’ve been on a bit of a speaking frenzy over the past few weeks; I’ve had the honor of giving talks at libraries and writers festivals all over my little corner of the world. At each one I attempted to illustrate that I was indeed an author who is widely read, and I shared some numbers. I spoke of a recent milestone where I sold 2,500 e-books in one day. There were a few positive reactions but I think if I’d said 5,000 or 10,000 the reactions would have been the same. It didn’t matter. The other platforms where I spout out numbers are Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, because that’s where I connect with my readers. I wonder if anyone truly cares, though. As all authors know, Amazon is a site full of lists. There are the overall bestseller rankings, the bestseller rankings within your categories, as well as the aforementioned Hot New Releases and Movers and Shakers lists. In order to draw attention to my work and find some of the momentum that we all crave in terms of consistent sales, I screenshot my accomplishments and post them on Facebook or tweet them. My hope is that readers will see those posts and decide to check out my books. I know that this does indeed work. I’ve had readers who are friends of friends on Facebook post within my thread thanking me for alerting them. So, bragging that I’ve hit the lists, attainable as they sometimes are, is perhaps acceptable? After all, it’s an independent source that shows reader interest in our work.

I think I’ll stick with posting that I’ve hit the lists, but I may eliminate the brags (note that I’m ‘fessing up and calling it what it really is) about the numbers. It’s a little too late for my book – How I Sold 30,000 eBooks on Amazon’s Kindle… That book is published and updated, and is selling well. And, I did not re-title the book when my sales numbers increased (especially in light of the ever-growing number of authors who have sold over one million eBooks). So, I’m stuck with those numbers, but maybe it’s time to tone down or even eliminate the posts where I detail all of the numbers. Maybe it shows a lack of professionalism. And again, I don’t want to be them; I just wonder if talking about numbers is truly necessary.

Author: Martin Crosbie

Martin Crosbie is the administrator of BookDoggy.com and writer of seven published novels. His self-publishing journey has been mentioned in Publisher’s Weekly, Forbes Online Magazine, and Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. You can learn more about Martin on his Amazon author page.

25 thoughts on “eBook Sales: It’s all about the Numbers. Or, Is It?”

  1. Martin, I think all those numbers have a *wow* factor to them, but the numbers themselves don’t seem to matter much. You’re right, though, that we seldom hear about the big trad-pubbed names with numbers unless it’s how many millions have been sold or how many sell on launch day. Beyond that, we all know it’s a lot. I don’t know; seems like it’s about a 3-second jolt and then it’s lost in the noise.

  2. Well, Martin, I don’t know! I don’t know what I’d do if I sold 2500 copies of one title on one day. I’ve never sold that many of all my titles together in one month. So I’d don’t know what I’d do. I’d probably shout it from the rooftops, yeah.

  3. Great post, Martin. I’ve been thinking about this topic lately, too. The last time I posted about my numbers on FB it was to give a big, fat shout out to all the folks who helped me achieve it–no way could I have managed it on my own. BUT, I also wonder about other writers in my feed–I know when I read someone boasting about getting a gajillion sales, for a moment it makes me feel completely inadequate (but only for a moment. I HATE feeling inadequate and I have a great internal voice that verbally slaps me and yells, “Snap out of it!” ala Cher in Moonstruck). I’d hate to think someone else felt smaller just b/c of something I said/wrote. Posting good reviews is different, IMO. It brings attention to the reviewer as well as my book, so it’s a win-win, (although, as with many things overkill can ruin the effect).

    Really, those posts about numbers are how we indies validate ourselves (there are so few validating events in an indie life–I totally understand why we do it). A better strategy would be to find a way to validate ourselves internally rather than externally. Talk about a win-win!

    Hmmm. Maybe I’ll have a talk with my internal Cher…

    1. Hmmm, I don’t know that I go back and thank the groups and individuals who helped me as much as I once did. I used to be all over that. A timely reminder – thank you Dv.

  4. I’ve also come around to this way of thinking. On the one hand, I don’t think that anyone (aside from maybe my wife and kids) care if I sold 1,000 copies in a day. On the other, I do like to share with my FB fans when something cool, like hitting #1 in Memoirs or Top 100 overall happens. Those accomplishments would never happen without them, so it feels like a celebration to share it with them.

    tl;dr: Specific numbers, no. Accomplishments, yes.

  5. I couldn’t quote impressive sales numbers and remain honest. But from the consumer’s prospective, they like to know that they’re not alone, and indeed, that they’re doing the popular thing.

    In the 80s and early 90s, I was the state leader of a denomination’s single adult ministry (the aim was fellowship and support, not dating). Most of the participants wanted large events where there was a better chance of meeting the opposite sex, rather than intimate events where they’d get to know one another. In crass terms, they wanted quantity over quality.

    In book sales, perhaps people like a book with many 5-star reviews and a bestseller sunburst because it validates their choice or their taste.

  6. Interesting post, as usual Martin. I can understand how DV Berkom feels – we want to be happy for the other author but we also wonder why we aren’t doing it. However, that shouldn’t stop anyone from discussing their success.

    As for the bestseller status, I have come to the point where I don’t really pay attention. Too many authors claim number #1 status when maybe they got there on a free promo and were only there for an hour. But they can still claim it. It doesn’t mean much anymore does it.

    Thanks for making me think.

    1. Nah, I think best seller means selling, so I don’t think rankings in the free side qualify. It’s pretty cool to give away tens of thousands of e-books but I don’t consider that a bestseller. So, we’re in agreement, Karen.
      Thanks for commenting.

  7. If I had to rely on my e-book sales to shore up my struggling ego I would have committed Hara Kiri long ago. Paper sales are better but still nothing to crow about in the media. I’ll admit to a twinge of envy when I see great numbers from someone I already admire. As for those I don’t personally know, they leave me cold. I don’t trust them so they don’t affect me. What I do like is to see reviews. Those can and do influence me.

    1. Yes, that’s true too, Yvonne. Reviews, especially those that read well are very important. I read a three star review for Dianne Greenlay’s novel and it made me want to read her book. But, that’s a whole other conversation.
      Thank you for commenting.

  8. Great post Martin. It’s a great question. One which I really don’t have an answer for … our world is changing so fast that the correct answer today would be the wrong answer tomorrow.

    I think it boils down to what feels right. If you are genuinely pumped about your sales in one day or week or month, then tell the world. After all, it’s your world and you live in it. It doesn’t matter if someone else sold more or less, if you’re pumped about it, have fun with it.

    Now if you’re (not you, I’m speaking in the rhetorical sense) are just throwing numbers and spamming the world, I think it will do more damage than good.

  9. I have never shared specific numbers, but when I hit bestsellers lists I probably have. When I hit USA Today you betcha I told people. After the fourth time I might not have. I never say how much I sell in a single day. For one thing some people hate someone that does well. They will go about rating your books poorly. I pretty much did things people told me not to do, but in the end I had staying power because I kept writing. I think for me most of my friends on Facebook outside of some groups aren’t readers at all, but many are writers. So they’re more interested in hearing my daily word counts. I just think that blowning your own horn gets tiresome after a while and I got to the point where I was sick of myself.

  10. Touting such numbers is only one method of selling. What about those of us who sell more books off-line at events? I constantly sell-out of books and need to take orders. Those sales (in the hundreds) do not reflect on Amazon or other bestseller lists. I do see a follow-up online, but frankly, I prefer the real-life contact with readers where I get immediate feedback.

    In short, I think each author needs to find what works best for them in generating sales. Sometimes it takes thinking outside the box to find one’s niche.

    1. I agree. There really are no rules. It’s a very exciting time to be an author. I do fairly well with print sales at events. I’ve never sold out though and I’ve never sold books in the hundreds at any event. I’d love to know if you’re doing something unique Shawn.
      I think I’m becoming better at presenting my product at events but I’ve found that it can be totally unpredictable. At some I barely sell any and others I do very well.
      Thanks for commenting and congratulations on your print book sales.

  11. DV makes a good point about that insecure, internal voice speaking up when you read about someone else’s accomplishments, but I think there should be room in the world for people to celebrate their successes, as well as contemplate their mistakes. Whether you mention a specific number or simply post about a job well done, isn’t it really about sharing that meaningful moment with other people? Growth happens on both sides of the post. The writer gets to process the success, and the reader can choose to celebrate with the writer, confront that internal voice, or move on to other things.

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