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 :)

 

How Did I Do In February?

Darn good, as it turns out. No, not 100% on point with my plans, but probably 90% there. Which is pretty awesome, considering my realistic goal was about 70%!

Rather than taking you through the things I did this week, I’m going to summarize how my overall goals for this month fared.

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  • The Shadow of Saturn First Draft
    • GOAL: 30,000 words
    • ACTUAL: 23,000 words, but the day isn’t over yet. I’m sure I can get to 28,000 tonight, which is close enough. I am still on track to finish this first draft by May.
  • Paradisa Edits
    • GOAL: To be halfway done with developmental edits
    • ACTUAL: This is a bit hard to quantify, but I did schedule all my edits between now and March 31, and I met all of those goals. I also decided to devote April to line-editing, which takes off some burden. Originally I wanted my past tense conversion and all line edits to be done within this next month, but I’m going to focus on developmental editing only.
  • Short Story Submissions 
    • GOAL: Submit 12 poems or short pieces to 12 publications.
    • ACTUAL: Achieved! And two are in the “final round of consideration” for two different publishers. I will hear back from both in April.

Overall writing grade? I’d say an A. I was a pretty studious writer this month.

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  • The Con Runner’s Handbook
    • GOAL: Brainstorm the book.
    • ACTUAL: I did brainstorm it. I thought my goals were more lofty on this one, as I felt bad about not having it fully outlined. Looks like past!Michelle knew that would be a bit too much for the time being, and already set the bar low.
  • Kindle Shorts
    • GOAL: Write and publish four shorts for Kindle.
    • ACTUAL: I completed one of them, and hope to publish it tonight. The other three were consumed by Sundays that went to other projects. I’m not going to beat myself up about this, especially as writing the first one was a lot of fun and not terribly difficult. But this first one is taking me awhile because the process is new to me. Once I can get into a routine, I’ll hopefully become more prolific. Additionally, I’ve decided to devote 1 Sunday every month to writing a short story for publication, so that will reduce my Kindle burden too.

I’d say a B for this one, as I technically completed my Con Runner’s goal and I am exploring the Kindle Short publication process. Perhaps not as quickly as I’d hoped, but it’s coming.

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  • Video Company
    • GOAL: Work on website, research equipment, and file for an LLC.
    • ACTUAL: I did manage to file my LLC, ha! I am now officially a business owner. I also researched equipment, and narrowed it down to two DSLR cameras (the Canon 70D and one of the Canon Rebel EOS t series. Any opinions?). I designed my logo, linked my domain to my Squarespace account, and started designing my website. And best of all, I secured two “gigs” for when I purchase my camera (nonpaying, but it will help my reel). I still hope to launch the site officially on April 1st (no joke ;D) and I feel that I’m on track. I get a bonus at work this month, which I’ll use to purchase my equip.
  • Dead Air Webseries
    • GOAL: Complete Episode #4
    • ACTUAL: I did it, aside from some color correction and sound balancing. On to the next!
  • Indie MoCap
    • GOAL: 20 articles, a completed March newsletter, functional social media accounts and a site launch on March 1st.
    • ACTUAL: 9 articles, plus two secured interviews with some wonderful people in the industry. March newsletter is complete. My Twitter is thriving, although I need to get my YouTube, Google +, and Facebook accounts going. The site launch has been pushed back to March 7th, but I’ve been working diligently on the site, mailing list, forums, and many other features.
  • Animation Tutorials
    • GOAL: 4 animation tutorials complete
    • ACTUAL: 1 complete, plus some tinkering with Black Desert Character Creator, downloading Source Filmmaker, and the start of a 2nd tutorial. Mondays were rough. I’m going to move animation to Thursdays in March, and maybe put my Indie MoCap stuff on Mondays (as I….sometimes get that stuff done at work >.>)

I’m very pleased with how things are going. The prospect of my video company becoming a thriving business is incredibly exciting, as is the growing interest in Indie MoCap. I modified my schedule to make animation more of a priority, and I will continue to work diligently on finishing Dead Air in time for my video company’s launch. \o/

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  • Freelance
    • GOAL: Have talent, make money?
    • ACTUAL: So, you can see why I failed here. I didn’t have any concrete goals! I threw Freelancing onto the burner end of my schedule – Friday nights and Saturdays – which I normally use to relax. I did start interacting with the Freelance Writers Den and doing research, but I didn’t set up my profiles on Odesk and such. With all of my film goals thriving, I’m starting to wonder if freelance writing and graphics is too much extra effort. Or if I need to approach this a different way. Perhaps in March, I will resolve to 1) set up my profiles and 2) write an essay or article to pitch to a few different magazines.
  • Side Hustles
    • GOAL: Earn $100
    • ACTUAL: I earned enough through Google Opinion Rewards to pay for my YouTube Red subscription (I think it was about $13 total). I am up to $15 on Inbox Dollars and $15 on Swagbucks, as well as $13 on Ibotta. I think I’m at $4 on ShopKick. Total, that’s $60. I didn’t put nearly as much effort into this as I could have, and I haven’t cashed out yet. I think I’ll lower my goal to about $40 in March and see where that goes.

Big C for this one, gang. I need to decide where to take my Freelance work and accept that my side hustle apps are pretty low priority.

otherstuff

  • AusmAtari Retro YouTube Channel
    • GOAL: 8 videos
    • ACTUAL: 5. It would have been 6 or 7, but Austin’s setup gave us massive technical difficulties on Saturday. At least the 5 we have turned out really well!
  •  AusmAtari Retro YouTube Channel
    • GOAL: A book every week
    • ACTUAL: I did it! I completed Chris Kennedy’s Self Publishing For Profit, Leona Wisoker’s The Secret of The Sands, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s These Broken Stars, and Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places. All of which were quite good, although TSotS was long and has scared me away from books over 100k for awhile (it just took me a long time to get through, and I don’t want to get behind on my 50 book goal). This week, I’m reading Ready Player One. Also in the pipeline for March is The Call of Cthulhu by Lovecraft, If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler by Calvino, and Rollback by Robert J Sawyer.

 

Usually after a productivity attempt, I totally overhaul my old methods and come up with something new. However, I think I’ve finally struck gold with this schedule. Aside from swapping my Indie MoCap and Animation days, and consolidating The Shadow of Saturn to 4 days instead of 7, this schedule will remain the same. I am also reducing my load on Fridays, as I find it to be the most unproductive day of the week. Overall, I do not feel any sense of fatigue or burnout. I did a lot of fun things this month, from playing several hours of Fallout 4, to going to a friend’s party, to going to the movies three times and watching plenty of Hulu and YouTube.

We have to know ourselves honestly to achieve that which we strive towards. I have to accept that I am useless on Fridays. I have to accept that technical difficulties happen sometimes. I have to accept that sometimes, projects require more work than I originally planned and may require a week or two of delay. And don’t be afraid to reevaluate your plans and consider if they’re what you really want (like my freelancing). If you really want something, you will make time for it. You’ll have vision for it. If something keeps getting pushed off, you and that project may not be right for each other after all.

Cheers, kids! What are your proud of from February, and what are you looking forward to doing in March?

 

Productivity Progress Report: Week 1

How about that accountability? You seemed supportive of my scheduling, so I’m continuing the transparency by keeping you aware on my progress. Eventually, all this work may become so habitual that I don’t need to track it. But while I’m still hammering my life into a routine, I need to monitor what I’m accomplishing one day at a time.

And I’m pleased to say that last week went REALLY well. Almost perfectly!

Here’s the schedule again, for reference.

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And here are my results…

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To Pseudonym or Not To Pseudonym?

I have a long last name. It’s so long and intimidating that my coworkers seem to recoil every time they hear it. Funny enough, Iannantuono is not as bad as it looks.  My family drops a syllable, making it ‘Eye-En-Twon-Oh’.

Which brings me to the pseudonyms. This is a topic that has been discussed at length on WordPress – but as someone with a difficult name, it would perhaps benefit me to go by a pseudonym. I even did it in Heroes fandom – I was the very ordinary Michelle O’Rourke for a tic. Perhaps I’d sell more books with the gender-neutral M.L. Iannantuono,  or perhaps I could brand myself easier with the snappy Chelle Tuono.

But I *like* my name. I like that you can’t get me confused with anyone else. My name is a conversation starter. Part of it translates to “thunder” in Italian, which I appreciate. When I query agents, I hope the uniqueness of my name will stick with them. Because it’s so long, it often sticks out furthest in a list and catches a reader’s eye first. And really, to be an author, do I need readers to find my name pronounceable? People still pronounce J.K. Rowling’s name wrong and that one’s not even hard! (Hint – it’s ‘roll-ing’).

If I wanted to write in different genres, particularly things I don’t want my mother reading (aka erotica), then I’d certainly use another name. But I’d feel weird about taking on a false or shortened ‘stage name’, when everyone close to me would still know me as Michelle. Additionally, I’ve spent 15 years on the con circuit getting to know authors who I may eventually hit up for a foot in the door. ‘Iannantuono’ is the recognizable name to them, and can make the difference between an ignored email and an answered one. Or a followback on Twitter.

So for now, I’m keeping it. I haven’t ruled out a self publishing career on the side, and perhaps that would demand an exciting alter ago. But for now, I’m going with my born name, because you can’t get better than being named ‘thunder.’

Follow (almost) Friday

I love that WordPress is not just a blogging site, but a community. As a way to give back, I think it’s good for me to do a Follow Friday on here – starting today, a Thursday, because it’s basically Friday for most of America :P (for Austin, yesterday was “Friday”. But his hours are whack). Happy 4th!

Today, I’m going to showcase two of my first followers :)

1. H.K. (Heather) Rowe is a dear friend of mine from our days in Heroes fandom. We’ve been reading, and occasionally beta’ing, each other’s stuff for years.  She recently self-published her debut novel, “Unbridled”, which is a dark, suspenseful, erotic romance about a young assassin named Ethan. I read it almost all in one sitting! It has a lot of momentum, hot chemistry between characters, and a roaring climax. You can buy it in ebook or print via her site!

2. Grady P. Brown just followed me last night, but I immediately followed him back. He is a writer and autism ambassador who does great work in spreading autism awareness through his books. I connect a lot with Grady, as I am a huge superhero fan and I too visualize my stories like movies as I write them :) His site is well organized and his posts give great insight on his projects.  His debut book, The Young Guardians and The Genesis Spell, and its sequel, are available for purchase through his site.

In my own news, my mother crossed the finish line on Paradisa last night! I meet with her Saturday to discuss. Her response has been mixed so far (she hasn’t seemed to find it boring, but I believe she finds it derivative and isn’t very enthusiastic about the characters), but it’s nice to get reaction from a different demographic. 2 down, 5 to go!