Yo Dawg, You Like Statistics? (AKA, My Kindle Sales Report)

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There’s a key element of my Kindle Self Publishing Experiment, and that is transparency.  I want to show off my statistics and methods for others to study, in case you’re looking to get into self publishing too. Particularly short erotica or romance, but there are some lessons to be learned in general here.

The graph in red represents my sales from March 1 to April 1. The graph in blue represents my KENP, or Kindle Edition Normalized Pages, that were read via Kindle Unlimited subscribers, and perhaps the Kindle Lending Library. Both charts are worldwide, so they include Amazon, Amazon UK, etc. (I actually made my first sale on Amazon UK).

In total, I sold 8 copies of my $2.99 short story. One of those was me accidentally buying my own book (um. yeah.), so let’s consider it 7. At a 70% royalty rate, that comes out to $14.30 in royalties. I also get paid per page read of KENP. It’s weird how Amazon calculates that payout, as it changes month to month. I think it can vary from half a penny to a full penny per word. Since I logged 221 pages read in KU, that could be anywhere from $1.11 to $2.21 in royalties.

So in one month, I made about $15 for a 6000 word story. To offer some perspective, pro rates in writing are considered 6 cents/word, so I’d need to make $360 to equal what a pro market would have paid me. If you want to look at it like an hourly job, I put about 10 hours of effort into making the book, so I would have to make $72.50 to equal a minimum wage part time job.

In that light, you may wonder if the time was worth it. But I’m pretty pleased considering:

  • I have done almost NO promotion. I barely Tweet. I have no Facebook. I have no blog followers. I tweeted once or twice about the book and that’s it. Readers have been finding me regardless of my lack of promotion. And my Twitter is up to 25+ followers despite me never being on there.
  • The book is still on the Kindle store and will continue to make money. Perhaps it will hit $72 or $360 eventually.
  • I have no backlist and am a completely unestablished author with no platform.
  • This was enough to pay off for my author domain for one year, so I have officially regained any investment I made.
  • Someone left a 3 star review, making it perhaps look subpar to potential buyers.

You’ll notice on the graph that my sales slumped in the middle of the month. I also point out the day I changed my keywords, and how sales suddenly picked up again. If there’s nothing else you learn from my experiment, take this home: KEYWORDS ARE EVERYTHING.

Smarter people than me have written guidebooks about Amazon’s meta data and keyword system. I won’t get into that here, although you can check out some cool links.

Here’s the gist: Amazon lets you pick seven keywords for your book and they are directly linked to what people type into the Amazon search bar. So first, you need to start thinking of Amazon as a search bar for books. People use it the same way they use Google. They will not type in stuff like “books about investment”. They will type in “how to retire at 50”.

In the case of erotica and romance, people type specific kinks or preferred features into the search bar. So don’t make your keyword “threeway with guys”. You’d simply use words like “threesome” or “M/M/M” or other words I ought not to type on a work computer :P

The great thing about keywords is that you can change them at any time and it’s easy to track them. Your title, description, sub title, and category also contribute keywords, so don’t feel the need to be redundant. If your story heavily involves ghosts and your title is “Threeway With The Ghosts”, you don’t need to put “ghost” in your keywords. If someone searches for “ghost erotica”, your book will already come up.

I check how my keywords are doing about once a week. I type them into the Amazon bar and record where my book is ranking. I also try out a few significant words from the title or description that may closely relate to what someone is searching for. If my book is called “My Night With The Archangel”, then I’ll type in “archangel erotica” and make sure my book ranks high. Obviously if someone is specifically looking for erotica with Gabriel or Michael, that’s an easy sell for me!

Below, I’ve listed a table that explains where my rankings currently stand. For sake of confidentiality, I am keeping the specifics private. But I have three keywords in my title, and seven actual keywords.

KEYWORD RANKING TOTAL RESULTS PERCENTILE VERDICT
Title Keyword #1 #49 258 Top 19% Okay
Title Keyword #2 #13 496 Top 3% Great!
Title Keyword #3 #24 1556 Top 1.5% Super Great!
Keyword #1 #100+ 7000+ Unknown Need to Change
Keyword #2 #65 288 Top 23% May Change
Keyword #3 #4 1556 Top 0.25% Super Great!
Keyword #4 #100+ 788 Unknown Need to Change
Keyword #5 #23 528 Top 5% Great!
Keyword #6 #34 201 Top 17% Okay
Keyword #7 #44 166 Top 26% May Change

I have two keywords that are very high ranking in regards to percentile (top 2%), and two keywords that are doing well in the top 5%. Great! Those are keepers. Then we have a couple in the top 20%, which I may eventually change, but they’ve performed steadily for now. Then we have two that are above 20% which I should probably change soon, and two that didn’t even make the top 100. The two above 100 should be changed ASAP. They are obviously doing me no favors.

Part of this comes down to what your book is actually about, and that’s why niches are champions. If you write straightforward werewolf stories, or stories about dominant billionaires, you are making things harder for yourself. Following trends just makes it more difficult to rank well in the searches. You’ll notice that all of my keywords have, at most, 1600 results – read: competition! If you type “werewolf” into Amazon, you may well get 25,000 results. Don’t go completely obscure and pick niches with only 10 results, but 300-500 is a good range. It means there’s a market for it, but there’s room for you to be noticed.

Also of immense importance: Amazon monitors their titles and descriptions for adult content and can remove your book from the searches if they don’t like that they see. Keywords, however, can be anything. So be somewhat enigmatic if you’re writing adult books – if you include what it’s really about in the keywords, you will find your audience.

That’s all for  the first month! I’m trying out some new niches in April and a 2nd pen name. Should prove interesting. Let me know if you’d like to keep updated on this stuff :)

 

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11 thoughts on “Yo Dawg, You Like Statistics? (AKA, My Kindle Sales Report)

    • Glad to be of service! It is a lot harder to utilize keywords for novels and other fiction, as people tend to read fiction based on 1) recommendations from others, 2) bestseller rankings, 3) being exposed to the same story multiple times through blog reviews, etc. Few people type “space operas” into Amazon or whatever, because there are a hundred famous space operas that are probably on their TBR list already. I mean, that’s how I behave as a reader. I’ve never gone looking for a specific type of book beyond “books that are similar to Other Book I Liked”.

      So it’s hard, and that’s why I’m hesitant to self publish Paradisa or any of my other novels. I think you’re going about it the right way by making relationships with other bloggers – that’s how I’d do it too. Because the competition for SFF novels is so fierce, and all the best sellers I know who were self published in SFF either spammed the heck out of the world, got lucky, or already had some kind of platform through another medium. I don’t want to do or don’t have any of those things, so relationships are the most genuine and achievable route.

      Nonfiction and erotica are different, as people specifically seek out certain information, or…things that will get them off, I guess. With those genres there’s almost a system you can emulate, because the readers in those genres are very predictable. You perhaps won’t make a bestseller or a living wage, but you can make some decent passive income. Still, I’m glad this post benefited you some – and it certainly won’t *hurt* to put effort into your keywords :D

    • As I mention to Wallace, it is kind of a mixed bag when you get into novels and normal fiction. Those aren’t as profound areas of “readers are actively looking for us.” You really have to seek out your audience and sell them on your story. It’s easyish to hook people with an interesting pitch, but you can’t expect them to come up with that pitch themselves and THEN seek out it. In erotica, keywords are particularly important because they aren’t filtered. Since you can’t write “incest gang bang” in your description, keywords are all we’ve got to let the audience find what they shouldn’t be looking for (according to Amazon :P)

      I would still be interested to know what your keywords are too though! I’m sure there’s a method for every genre, but the marketing of novel lengthened fiction is a bit out of my element.

    • Yes! Great site. That’s where I got a lot of my basic info from before I started. I wish I could delve deeper into it, but for now I’m just trying to stay out of the dungeon, build a back list, and ping good keywords. My time is eaten by running an authority site on mocap, starting a film business, and writing two novels, so my erotica career is a bit on the back burner.

  1. Pingback: A Good Start To April | Aether House

  2. I love statistics like these! I’ve never really considered self publishing, mainly since I stick with urban fantasy and other fiction which have all of the self publishing issues you mentioned above, but it’s still an interesting prospect :)

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