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Numbers: They’ve Been Insane

Warning: Math Ahead

Warning: This post contains sales information. If this offends you, please look away. All data is provided in the interest of helping my fellow authors make informed decisions.

I feel a bit vulgar about posting the sales numbers for Absolute Liability, but I promised to share the whole journey, and this is part of it. I’m not bragging. I put the book out and hoped for the best; readers are the ones who are making this happen, and I am beyond grateful.

Before I divulge sales data, I’d like to point you to this post about How to Succeed by J. A. Konrath. I’ve never been big on the concept of luck. I’ve always believed that hard work and quality writing would bring success, and they do help a lot, but since Absolute Liability took off, I’ve had to factor in the fact that I got lucky. No one can predict with certainty which books are going to succeed or fail at a given time in a given market. If people could, publishing companies would not be in the trouble they’re in now. They’d only be putting out bestsellers and all writers would be making a fortune.

But that just ain’t the way it is.

Luck is involved.

Below is the sales data by week for Absolute Liability with commentary. This includes all sales (BN nook, SW, Kindle, and paperback), but the ranks listed will be for Kindle, which makes up the vast majority of my sales.

  • July 1-3: 36 (a respectable first three days on the market with zero publicity)
  • July 4-10: 63
  • July 11-17: 428 (July 15 was the beginning of launch, including big promotions. The book hit 430 in the Kindle store. I thought this would be the peak.)
  • July 18-24: 706 (Rank slipped back to around 1,000 and then started to improve.)
  • July 25-31: 819
  • August 1-7: 1086
  • August 8-14: 1493 (KDP had a meltdown this week, and we suspect that I’m missing about 200 sales.)
  • August 15-21: 3693 (August 17 the book cracked the top 100.)
  • August 22-28: 5082 (Strong ranks in the 50s all week.)
  • August 29-31: 1965

So there you go. Now you know what it took last month to crack the top 100 in the Kindle store. It took a buttload of sales. At this moment, there are 22 independently published novels in the Amazon Kindle top 100, 19 of which are priced at $0.99. One of the non-.99-centers is the second book in an indie series, one is a rerelease of a known author’s backlist book, and one is an unpublished novel from a previously published author.

So take that information and do with it what you will. I’m not recommending selling at $.99, but I do like that price point as a part of an overall strategy, whether it’s used as a special promotional price or as a loss leader in a series. More about that later.

23 thoughts on “Numbers: They’ve Been Insane

  1. Holy crap!

    First of all, I love getting your numbers. I think they are awesome and I want you to sell a bazillion books because your books are good. Just like I’m happy when a movie I am in love with has a good opening weekend. I also thing, as an artist, it is totally valid to say “mother of everything pure and holy 5 THOUSAND people bought my book in a week, everyone freaking party with me!”

    Anyway . . . I think there is a certain amount of luck involved too . . . doesn’t Koranth say work until you get lucky or something like that.

    This is totally valuable info for me because I have no clue what I would need to sell to even break into the top 100, it’s nice to have an idea! I mean, how would anyone know that?

    To wrap up:

    Holy Crap!


    1. I have felt those exact sentiments all month. It is so amazing, gratifying, humbling, scary, and exciting all at the same time. I don’t even know what to think.

  2. This is incredible. It’s very, very interesting to note the effect of the .99 price point on the sales of indie authors. I’ve been debating where to price His Good Opinion. My plan had been to stick with the 2.99 price and then drop it to .99 next fall when I release my next book. However, looking at this data, I wonder if I might not be better off putting it at .99, at least through the Christmas season. Or maybe I should reverse that? Price it at 2.99 during the holidays and drop to .99 in January? Decisions, decisions…

    And did I mention that your numbers are incredible? Because they are. Very, very well-deserved, but incredible nonetheless.

    1. I use a very different pricing strategy with my Austen books, and don’t take this as gospel, but I think market size has a big effect on the success of the $.99 strategy. Most of the books in the top 100 at that price are romances or thrillers. Those are almost unlimited markets.

      The Austen sequel market is a niche market, meaning it is more limited. And for me, CC is in a niche of a niche. I think there’s a different mindset in a niche market and I’ve even found that marketing is different there. Niche markets want interviews and blogs; thrillers, not so much.

      My $.99 experiment with Charlotte was inconclusive, so I can’t say for sure that it is or is not a good price point in that genre, but I will not be using that strategy with Caroline. However, there is a certain amount of experimentation in this, so feel free to give it a go!

      1. Your Charlotte experiment was what I kept coming back to when I debated .99. I think I’ll stick with my original plan and price it at 2.99. I might drop it in January, or possibly in February to celebrate my birthday. January sales figures will be high without a price drop.

        Oh my, we all sound terribly vulgar sitting here talking about money so openly. But then, I seem to recall her mentioning sales figures in her own letters, so perhaps it is not so grievous a sin.

        1. I feel a bit odd about it too, but then I go back to that contract you tweeted and remind myself that this kind of information is important to writers who are just trying to make a living like everyone else.

          And it’s not as if we’re debating between $100 and $1000 price tag here. We are debating between two bargain book prices. We’re not trying to con readers; we’re trying to make a living and still sell our books at good prices.

          1. Am I the only that doesn’t feel vulgar talking about this? It’s all my years as the wife of a small business owner / graphic designer, I’m kind of tired of people telling artists not to make any money. As it turns out electricity, gas, food, and most importantly – diapers, cost the same for artists as they do for everyone else. Who knew?

            Also, good sales numbers mean that people are liking your product! I refuse to be upset if people like my product. I hope they do! And yes, dude at my writing group, I DO think it would be awesome if EVERYONE read my darn book . . . why write it in the first place if I didn’t want EVERYONE and their dog and grandmother to read it?

            Excuse me, this soap box is getting a bit large, I shall return later with a new one.

  3. Um, yeah, I’m waffling back and forth on the price point of Awake too. I really just want to price it at .99 and be done with it . . .

    I’m selling to a slightly younger audience too. Hmm.

    1. I’d do .99 for Awake. Most of the indie YA stuff I see is priced there. Teens are familiar and comfortable with that price point, thanks to iTunes. A book that costs the same price as a song is an easy sell; a book that costs a dollar or two more takes a little more persuading.

      1. I agree with this – the YA stuff seems to do best at 99 cents. iTunes generation and all that.

        I don’t have a problem viewing it as a loss leader either, except my second book won’t be out for almost a year after, so that’s a whole lotta leading ๐Ÿ™‚

        Meanwhile, I know 99 cents is likely the price that bests fits my market and my product . . . and I’m so cheap and would rather try something new for cheap first myself, so I get it ;D

        1. Oh, and in case that gets interpreted as hypocrisy because I think author’s deserve to make money . . .

          It is MY product and therefore I get to set the price. For other indie authors it is the same deal. I’m not going to say the market should change or be manipulated to artificially increase the amount writers make.

          My point is that authors shouldn’t be afraid of being IN the market or ashamed of any gains from said market.

  4. Well, since I am “just a reader” *wink* joining your conversation, I will tell you my thoughts as a reader (and a reader on one not-so-huge income as I stay-at-home). I am sure you already know these things, but here they are. I like books that are $2.99 and lower. I don’t feel so guilty buying them. However, if it is an author I like, I will be more willing to buy it at the $2.99 mark. If I have yet to read anything by the author and it has so-so reviews then I might put off buying it a little longer in favor of something I know will be a great read. I think .99 cents is like getting the book at a steal and I usually won’t bat an eye at that because I could go to Sonic during happy hour and get a large root beer or get a book that is going to last much longer and hopefully be more satisfying for that price! What I really do not like is when the Kindle edition is just pennies cheaper than the paperback. Ugh! Why would I pay almost the same price for an ebook as I could a tangible, wonderfully smelling paperback? I also think $1.49 is another great price. Anyway, these are my thoughts that go into my decision making of buying a book.

    1. I’m a lot like you in my buying habits. I like $2.99 to $3.99 the most. I also have a fairly strict rule that I won’t pay more than the price of the average mass market paperback for an ebook. It just doesn’t make sense to me, and if a price is clearly meant to push me to a paperback, then I don’t buy the book at all. These are just MY preferences though, so it’s nice to hear from “just a reader.” BTW, I still say there’s no such thing.


  5. Upon my word! How could I forget to mention how amazing your sales are!! How exciting!! Congrats!! I hope everyone that read AL will also purchase DB and love it too!! I hope your sales continue to soar as well! You Rock!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Here’s my two cents. I don’t mind buying a book that is half the paperback price. I’m with Jennifer that I won’t buy an ebook that is price the same or more than the paperback. As far as a $0.99 ebook goes, I always feel I’m getting a cheap book, a not well written book. Don’t get me wrong I do buy them but I don’t expect much out of them. I am not talking about books that I know are good and are on sale or free because of a promotion. I would be cautious about starting out too low at first. These are just my thoughts as “just a reader” ๐Ÿ˜‰ and I’ve never thought about the points you brought up in your blog.

    Congratulations on your sales!! I think it’s fantastic! I wish you continued success!

    1. That’s a valid point, Candy. $.99 can send a “cheap” as opposed to “inexpensive” or “deal” type message. I kind of hoped it would work as a wow factor for me. They expected crap and mine wasn’t. (I hope.)

  7. Hi, Jessica,

    Thanks for sharing. I love your openness about sales, as I don’t ever see it among authors.

    But here is my question. What sort of specific publicity did you do to get those sales? Or, did you do no publicity at all? (I noticed that first week you said there was no publicity).

    Also, I would love permission to re-post this on my educational and literary blog, Yaminatoday.com, with a jpeg of both your picture and your book. Is that possible? If so, I would only request a little bit more information about how or how not (ha ha), you publicized your book.

    Congrats, again,
    and keep up the good work!

    Yamina Collins

    1. Hi Yamina,

      I’m really glad my numbers could help you. That’s why I put them up. ๐Ÿ™‚ And I did 4 promotions during the week of July 15 and since then very little. I’ll be blogging about my specific promos soon.

      I would be honored for you to use my blog and pics on yaminatoday.com. I’ll contact you through your site in case you don’t see this.


  8. Congrats on the fantastic sales for AL.

    I have to agree with both Jakki and Candy. Personally, I won’t spend over $3.99 for an e-book…when I might be able to spend the same amount on GoodReads to have the actual book sent to me. I have enjoyed some of the $0.99 books… but it does seem that $1.99 or $2.99 books are a little better quality (barring yours, of course!) (Note: Charlotte Collins was the first e-book I purchased… and one of my absolute favorites!)

    I also appreciate how you have been keeping us abreast of your trials and triumphs in the Indie publishing world! Food for thought on that ‘someday’!

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