129,000% Press Recap, First Week Book Sales Statistics

I’ll start this post with a quote from my book:

I thought of Tizio. Is life and love, I wondered, anything more than a fractal created through a base of habits, interfacing with the turbulence of the world?

So on Monday I wrote about my displeasure of Amazon’s Kindle Store charging authors (all authors, although I listed indie authors, this goes for publishing houses that reached out too) for delivering the kindle file. They are the only store to do this, and mark it up 129,000% from their web hosting costs. Many pointed out that I shouldn’t be surprised, as it is in the TOS. True!  It is. It is 129,000% markup for everyone, if your book is .01MB or 50MB.

My site served up 120.5 GB of data this week. If my blog were hosted at the same rate as the Amazon Kindle, I would have a $18,075 bill.

I posted the post it after more than a few drinks on Monday night. I had a (drunk?) feeling it had legs, and it sure did.  55,576 unique visits to the post with just over 90,000 pageviews. To put that into perspective, it was 1/6 the youtube views of Jedward’s new song, Young Love.

I’m trying to be as helpful and open as possible so other indie authors can learn from my mistakes.  Here is a journal with some quotes from the website and a quote that struck me / said it well.  I’m also showing the traffic numbers (oh how I wish I had some data like this before I launched).  Here it is in graph form:

Web Traffic vs. Sales of Indie Books

Traffic does not equal sales, although it sure does help.  My top traffic day was one of my lowest sales days.  An exciting 16 days for sure.  My book launched! A very proud moment. I wish I tracked / could track the notable Twitter and Facebook discussions. Tweets about the post as of now: 947.  Facebook shares: 799.

Here is the story of the week:

June 11th:

Hacker News 11,332 visitors

There is a huge disconnect between the attitude of “any price that people will pay is a fair price” and the fact that economic systems require that parties engage in transactions in good faith. To me, it seems blatantly obvious that Amazon is engaging in the bad-faith practice of trying to conceal the true costs of their service by loading a lot of the price into a “delivery charge” that is absurd. –mycroftiv

June 12th:

Reddit r/books 4,317 visitors

I have a sneaking suspicion this whole article is just an covert plug for the book repeatedly mentioned in it. –mijazma

Got called out for selling my book, which you can purchase conveniently in the sidebar or at that Travel Book website.  Sell, sell and sell.  When writing the book I spent 100% of the time focusing on the content, now that it is out I’m going to try to sell it.  Sorry if this offends (and no, I didn’t think that post would get more than 100 views, so call me an opportunist or smart to push down hard on sales when I have a 50k view week).  🙂

I’m also selling to people not really looking to buy.

Boing Boing 1,475 visitors

Oh my,  wrote about the post.  I’ve been reading Cory for years… what an honor.

Andrew Hyde wrote and self-published a great-looking travel book and put it up for sale on Amazon, iBooks, B&N, and an indie marketplace called Gumroad that retails the PDF. The book had an exciting launch and the sales on Amazon were really high, but he got some sticker-shock when he found out that Amazon was charging very high “delivery fees” for his books, even when the buyers were buying from WiFi.

At this point the naritive of the story split between two camps:

  1. Amazon charges what to authors?  That is crap. I didn’t know, I must share.
  2. He didn’t read the terms of service, screw him!  Look everyone, this popular guy is an idiot! OMG!!! I bet my friends don’t know how much of an idiot this guy is.

Radar (O’Reilly) 260 visitors

Amazon offers high royalty rate to you, but that’s before a grim hidden “delivery fee”.

The Domino Project ~4500 visitors (hard to track, most via their newsletter)

One of the things that’s happening in 2012 is that self-publishing of books is no longer a quirky outsider effort, but instead more and more often being seen as smart alternative to getting picked by the mainstream houses.

Seth Godin (publishing superhero) wrote about the post. We exchanged a few emails as well with suggestions of lowering the price / giving it away.  First time author here, should listen to him more.

At this point of the process traffic was going nuts.  Two straight over 16k unique visitor days. Tons of emails, comments and other service messages.  Exciting, but sales were not going up, at all.  People were getting their first sight of the book though, and this is important.

PE hub 72 visitors

Amazon really screws indie authors.

The Digital Reader 172 visitors

Amazon has charged delivery fees for as long as they’ve offered the 70% royalty rate. It’s not at all a secret, and in fact you’d have to work really hard to not know about the fees. To be honest I do not see how you couldn’t know about the delivery charge after having chosen the higher royalty rate; all the info is on the same page. Nor is it hard to find.

Once you read the TOS you will find *gasp* the markup is still 129,000%

Shocked I tell you.

Movie City News 18 visitors

An Author’s Elaborately Illustrated Discovery That Amazon’s Markup Of Digital Delivery To Indie AuthorsIs A Mere 129,000%

Mobile Read 52 visitors

Just like those infomercials on American TV. Buy this super cool widget for $9.99 + S/H (rarely revealed); and if you act now, they’ll throw in a free one. Just pay additional S/H charges. Jump to their website and you discover that S/H is $7.95 for each widget. Total cost = $9.99 + free + $7.95 + $7.95 = $25.89. -tubemonkey

On The Media (WNYC) 132 visitors

This (as far as I can tell) started the tumblr links.

June 13th:

Pando Daily 18 visitors

Amazon Charges “Gigantic” Data Fees To Authors, Whiny Bitches Report

The feeling that your favorite writer is standing at a box in a park just yelling random dribble at passersby hoping someone is listening.  That feeling.

LISNews 35 visitors

I hope in the author’s book they get to the point quicker than they did in this blog post. -Bibliofuture

Rickey 43 visitors

Yikes

This is a total celeb gossip blog, love it.

TUAW 39 visitors

What he found is that a ten-dollar ebook with lots of pictures brings home quite different earnings, depending on the vendor. In particular, he got hit — and hit hard — by Amazon’s delivery fees. His 18 MB ebook costs him US$2.58 per Amazon download, which is a substantial overhead.

Digital Book World 19 visitors

According to one indie author, Amazon doesn’t offer such a great deal when it comes to self-publishing. While his complaints have merit, he may have forgotten to read the fine print.

Just re-read the fine print.  Still ridiculous.

June 14th:

Daring Fireball 5,504 visitors

Another jaw of floor moment.  I have been reading John Gruber since 2004.  He linked to the piece with a nice and short comment.

Interesting numbers from author Andrew Hyde.

I still snicker when I see author next to my name. Gruber!!!

June 15th:

Metafilter 1,475 visitors

It’s an interesting space, and everybody is reaming each other while they can. Soon the reamers and reamees might be different, but that’s just publishing evolving. –BlackLeotardFront

Of all the places that linked to me, Metafilter readers purchased the most books.  Thanks Metafilter!

The Verge 163 visitors

A rising star in the tech field, The Verge shows why with their thoughtful coverage omitting the sensational parts of the story.

When looking at Kindle Direct Publishing’s advertised 70 percent royalty rate, one would assume that 30 percent of each sale would go to Amazon with the rest going to the author. The service’s pricing page specifies that Amazon’s percentage does not take into consideration delivery costs but, since it’s digital, the added fees should (at least theoretically) be minimal. On the contrary, Hyde calculated that Amazon was charging an average of $2.58 in delivery costs for every sale of his $9.99 book.

Daily Cartoonist 110 visitors

Here’s a must read for any cartoonist contemplating creating and selling an ebook of their cartoons on Amazon’s Kindle market.

Copy Hype 25 visitors

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

BuzzFeed 120 visitors

The lowest take home of the bunch? Kindle, which initially gave Hyde just $5.10 of every $10, thanks to an average “delivery cost” of $2.58 (on top of Amazon’s 30 percent cut). After re-optimizing the file, he now takes home $6.42 per book, but his experience is still a startling look at the reality of self-publishing.

June 16th:

Wil Wheaton 342 visitors

This is very much worth reading, if you’re an indie author or someone who wants to support indie authors.

Wil Wheaton! Wil Wheaton! A hero, honored he read my post.

Techcrunch 110 visitors

I keep a close and interested eye on the world of ebooks, and I’m pleased to report that it keeps getting weirder.

What Amazon thinks matters. They remain the big dog of the book industry. The Kindle has dwindled from a vast majority to a small minority of Hyde’s sales — as he puts it, “Kindle Sales Vanish When Users Know About Their Fees To Authors” — but that’s a special case. With ebooks, at least in the USA, Amazon’s Kindle is dominant and everything else is irrelevant. Which ain’t necessarily so bad; some self-published authors are making a pretty good living off the Kindle ecosystem.

Jon Evans is also an author (and has some fantastic books, check them out). His post on TechCrunch was fantastic providing real numbers to the fallacy of free debate that Seth Godin supports so much. That one thing you heard worked for that one person on the blog? Yeah, might not work for you.

So now I start another exciting week of selling books. It will hard to ever top last week. Total books sold? 775. Higher or lower than you thought? Anything surprise you?

  • Thanks for the continued transparency and for sharing all this info, it’s incredibly useful for authors. Would love to hear more about apple reaching out regarding the “Not giving a single F” comment in post #1 and if they hinted at rolling out a better system for addressing author concerns . . .

  • Honestly 775 is lower than I expected.

    What is a drastic drop in price? 4.99, 0.99? I’m about half done with the book, and think wider circulation would be great, but ultimately it depends on what number of readers means to you.

  • Awesome recap and analysis.
    I’m of the school that believes it is easier to sell 5 books with a $2 profit on each than it is to sell one book with a $10 profit margin on it. But remember that your early buyers are less likely to be repeat customers (for your next book) if they paid twice as much as everyone else did for it. Finding the right price point is tricky.
    But nonetheless, some great numbers here Andrew. Thanks for sharing!

  • Do you have any data to back that up? I’ve always been of the opposite opinion about goods/services (haven’t thought about books in particular). It is easier to sell one fill_in_the_blank for $8 each than four fill_in_the_blanks for $2 each. Plus, you have 4x the support the $2 example because you have 4x as many customers.

  • I guess sales are lower than I would have thought, given the attention. It will be interesting to see where sales are a month from now. The reviews have been amazing.

    I don’t think i really fall into either “camp” you mention. I think it is fair for Amazon to charge a delivery fee for at least the 3G delivery and maybe even a small fee for the non-3G. I just find there current fee structure to be a bit absurd.

    I have been following the Kindle closely since it debuted years ago and had never even heard of a digital delivery fee. I always assumed it was just a part of the 30% cut. Hopefully more authors will start to sell direct as you have and this might convince Amazon to review their current publishing deals.

  • Thanks for the analysis. Two comments on the numbers: One, overall it seems disappointing to have 90,000 page views but less than 900 book sales. Not even 1 in 100 people viewing the page actually bother buying the book. Two, your book sales increase towards the end. Unlike much of the very short half-life social media content (3 hours on Twitter and FB), book sales may peak somewhat delayed, as people take more time to actually check out the book and buy it.

    I have recently published a book about my own ‘Panamerican Peaks’ cycling & climbing adventure of a lifetime – it’s actually featured in Apple’s bookstore, Travel&Adventure category right next to yours, with same price point and similarly positive ratings/reviews. I promoted it via email, my Blog, Twitter and FB. The resulting sales numbers are similar in proportion, just that I have 100x less Blog followers than you do. You do the math. I’m glad I don’t depend on my book sales to make a living.

  • Lucretia, I also would like to see some data. I believe that it’s easier to sell one $10 book than to sell ten $1 books. (Profits are different, let’s stay with sales price.) eBook prices are considered fairly inelastic. (see http://www.patrickemclean.com/2011/09/e-book-pricing-and-the-elasticity-of-demand/ ) The biggest ‘cost’ of reading an eBook is your personal time. If you hesitate buying a $10 book on a topic you’re really interested in, but impulse buy a $1 book on something tangential, you are not valuing your personal time much. There is also some reverse psychology suggesting that $1 books aren’t valuable; some authors have increased their sales when increasing their eBook price from $0.99 to $2.99.

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