For the past several years now, I've been writing a year-end post about how my various books have performed, and although I haven't published anything in 2015 (more on that later), I wanted to give a rundown of the year's sales, as much for my own analysis as anything else. As always with such things, I provide these numbers not to boast, or to whine, but merely to inform. Some folks out there are doing much worse than I am, while others are doing much better. This is just the way it is, so take the following as provided for information purposes only.
In 2015, I sold roughly 5600 books, about 90% of those in ebook form. This is down about 2,000 sales from last year. A portion of that loss is, without a doubt, due to the new Kindle Unlimited payment method of calculating royalties based on pages read, not on 10%+ "borrows" as before, and in the past, I have been factoring any "borrow" as a sale to keep the bookkeeping simple. Since July of this year, when KU 2.0 went into effect, I've had about 170,000 pages read, which if divided by an average of 200 pages (the shortest of my Commando books, just for the sake of rough calculation), gives me another 835 sales, bringing me to around 6400 books sold. Of course, not everyone who started one of my books finished it, and it is impossible now to track such things.
In terms of what percentage of my sales went to each book, the total is overwhelmingly my Commando series. While last year I sold some 700+ copies of my western, Renegade's Revenge
, This year I sold less than a hundred copies, with some modest few hundred pages borrowed. I was actually rather amazed at how RR sold very strongly for months, and then sales dried up almost overnight. While there were months where I'd sell over a hundred copies, now I am shocked if the title sells more than 4-6 copies in a month. Since RR was about 9% of my sales last year, losing it as a sales stream had a significant impact on my numbers this year as compared to last.
As for all my other titles, the numbers are minimal, at best. Killer Instincts
sold about 300 copies and had a couple thousand KU pages read, but the bulk of that was due to a very successful promotion in March. San Francisco Slaughter
didn't hit a hundred sales, and all of my short stories totaled together don't even break 100 sales for the year. That means the Commando series accounted for more than 90% of all my books sold in 2015.
The good news is, in terms of royalties, I ended the year only about $1,000 under what I made in 2014. Again, I think some of this discrepancy is due to difficulties in calculating sales vs. royalties because of KU 2.0, combined with much softer sales of my shorter works like RR, which paid out less than the longer works. In addition, more of the sales in 2014 were from countdown deals and other discounted sales, while most of the 2015 sales - especially the Commando titles - were at full price, making my average royalty per sale much higher overall.
And now we come to the fact that in 2015, I didn't publish anything. The year in general was frustrating for me, both in terms of my day job (I am firmly burned out there) and in terms of getting past my writer's block and completing Operation Archery
, the fifth Commando novel. Archery
deals with the Vaagso Raid of December 1941, and there is a lot of very detailed information out there about the events of that raid. I found myself frustrated at many points, often trying to figure out how to weave my fictional characters into the historical timeline in a way that gave them something to do, while not stealing the thunder from historical characters. It was a really good learning experience for me, because it taught me that, while I enjoy writing historical fiction, I am not great at writing about specific historical events. Thankfully, at the end of the year I was able to press on and finish the manuscript, and Archery
is now in the editing stage, with a hopeful release in the next week or so for the ebook version.
So, what does 2016 look like? At this point, I dare not speculate, because I had extraordinarily high hopes for 2015, none of which came to fruition. Archery
will be published this month, and I am already working on Operation Elysium
, the sixth book in the Commando series. Beyond that, I really don't want to make any promises, although I have some ideas for what I want to accomplish. As with 2014, the vast bulk of my success as an author last year was tied to the Commando books, so that is where I need to focus my energy, but as we also saw, that comes with the risk of hitting a wall, and not being able or willing to step around it and carry on with something else. At what point does exploiting success at the expense of diversification mean you burn out on what you love? Let's hope we don't find out any time soon.
As always, please share your thoughts and questions in the comments section.