Something I Wrote Today (SIWT)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Measuring Success

As I obsessively check sales figures, I'm trying to decide if what I'm seeing is good or not. (Reading articles about Amanda Hocking doesn't help.) How do we self-pubbed authors determine if we're successful? And I realized I never really set a bar for myself. I hadn't defined what success would be beyond a hazy concept of being able to quit my job and write full-time.

When I set Unicorn Bait and Scary Mary for free, I had no expectations. I knew I would get some downloads, but I had no idea what the numbers would be. (I'm going to use only Amazon data in this post because it is the most up-to-date and accessible.) My books were initially .99 on Amazon. They stayed .99 for a few months, and I wasn't seeing much in the way of sales. In the first month, I sold zero. Then I sold 1 the next month. I sold 84 copies in the next nine months. Then Amazon finally made Scary Mary free like I wanted.

And then my socks were knocked off. Scary Mary was downloaded 16,125 times in one month. I was beside myself. I couldn't believe just how many people were downloading Scary Mary. I was sure this was some sort of sign. And it is a sign. A sign that free is the perfect price for a lot of people.

As of today, Scary Mary and Unicorn Bait have been downloaded over 110,000 times on Amazon. If I add up all platforms, their total downloads are north of 150,000. That's amazing to me because I did no promotion outside of my own website. I've had some reviews on small indie blogs, but I know the driving force behind that six digit number is the free price tag.

Considering how well the free books did and how many people have read Scary Mary, one would think Stalking Shadows would be a great success. I mean at least 50,000 people have downloaded Scary Mary, and it appears a great many enjoyed the book...so Stalking Shadows should be a best seller, right? Um, no. Stalking Shadows was released in late October of this year, right before Halloween. At this time, it has sold about 600 copies. Don't get me wrong. 600 is pretty damn good, but when I compare it to 50,000, it seems kind of paltry.

So I'm having to adjust my perspective. Selling 600 copies of Stalking Shadows is GREAT. I'm very happy with that number, but I've got to accept that nothing will ever beat free. I mean look at this--Scary Mary has been downloaded 12,000 times this MONTH on Amazon.uk, and Stalking Shadows has sold 220 copies. Comparing these two numbers and wondering why there was such a disparity could drive someone insane. Someone could wonder if maybe 11,780 people read Scary Mary and didn't think it was good enough to read the sequel. Someone could wonder if she can really hack it.

Or someone could take a deep breath, stop refreshing the reports screen in Kindle Direct Publishing, and write the freaking sequel to Unicorn Bait. Someone thinks that's what she'll do.

32 comments :

Sara said...

Let me just start by refering to your previous post by saying I can definatly see you supporting your self by writing someday! Your work is wonderful I purchased a nook and found scary mary( I have be honest I picked it because earlier that day I called my mother scary mary and thought it would be funny to show her). I finished it that night then found stalking shawdows the following day and finished it the following night. I then downloaded unicorn bait and fell in love with every bit of that book. I loved it so much I limited myself on how much I read a day because I didnt want it to end. This may sound silly but I think it would make a great movie. I would gladly pay for any book you write. You have a gift I wish I could have and for you to give it away for free is a gift to us. Can't wait for more from you. Thanks

jill cook said...

don't give up, i enjoyed both scary mary books ( & paid for the 2nd) yes i agree price does matter i paid .86p - you have made it to the uk & liked them both so much looked you up - yes read you 1st then looked you up, shall now get unicorn bait & hope i don't miss any further books, i found them difficult to put down, that's just the sort of book i like. thanks a million & hope you can give up the day job.

S.A. Hunter said...

Sara,

That is a funny way to stumble upon my book. Have you seen the re-cut Mary Poppins trailor of the same name? (It has no connection to my book, but it is very funny.) I know what you mean about slowing down and not letting a book end. I've done that too.

Jill Cook,

Thank you so much. I think Amazon will let you know when an author you've bought publishes a new book. They'll at least recommend it. You're welcome to check back here anytime to see if I've put out something new. I also have a (so-far unused) email list for readers who want to know when the next Scary Mary book comes out.

Shoot me an email if you'd like to be added to the list: sahunter(at)sahunter.net

Salk said...

Sara, I have just finished Scary Mary, which I got because as you say, free attracts people in. (Though I only get free books if several someones have posted some good reviews on Goodreads).

I found it to be a very enjoyable read and I have added book 2 to my to-buy list for later in the month. Hopefully the first book will continue to pull people in and all your future books will appear on their recommended lists, hopefully brimming with good reviews to help persuade them to buy.

Anonymous said...

I loved unicorn bait it was awesome I didn't want it to end
Lydia

Anonymous said...

Just finished Stalking Shadows and loved it as much as Scary Mary. Great work. Don't give up and continue to promote so you can make a good income with writing. It is a hard time for a lot of people right now thus the draw to free books. But that is how I found you and I will continue to look for your upcoming books despite the cost.

Anonymous said...

I have just read Unicorn Bait, and it is a wonderful book, it kept me up until 3am even though I had to get up for work a few hours later. I look forward to reading more of your work. I would certainly pay for a sequel. Good luck in becoming a full time writer, I know you can do it!

S.A. Hunter said...

Thank you all for your comments.

Salk, reviews do wonders for a book. I appreciate all the reviews readers have left for my work.

Lydia, thank you so much.

Anon #1, thank you. I know times are tough. I appreciate the support.

Anon #2, thank you, too! And I hope work wasn't too awful the next day. I know I'm a wreck if I stay up late, but can't seem to help it some nights.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ms Hunter,

I really enjoyed reading all your books. Unicorn Bait was the first book I read and I absolutely loved the story and the characters (especially Mr Squibbles!). I must admit I had downloaded this from iBooks because it was free. I usually don't like paying for books by authors I am not familiar with. However I found your work very creative and enjoyed your sense of humor. I would happily pay for any upcoming books. My only criticism for unicorn bait was the grammatical errors, these increased somewhat towards the end. However, I eagerly look forward to the sequel
-s

S.A. Hunter said...

-S

Thank you! Hopefully the edit I commissioned has caught all/most of those grammatical errors in Unicorn Bait and I think your assessment is probably spot on. I've read over the beginning so many times, but the later portions probably didn't get as much scrutiny. I will hopefully be uploading that new edited version in the next month, but I will probably be charging for it. I'm not sure if vendors will allow readers, who downloaded the free version, to download the newer version free if I do that.

Susan said...

I read both books today, obviously the first one I got for free but gladly bought the second one. I enjoyed both and would love to see a third one and have no issues paying for it as well. I have no understanding of how you make money other than what you stated in your post but would gladly write reviews on Amazon telling new readers that its way worth the money. Don't be discouraged that another writer is doing better or worse than you, just keep doing what your doing!

Susan said...

Scathe Mary stories.

S.A. Hunter said...

Hi Susan,

Thank you so much! I'm a bit more sanguine now about the whole making money thing. I think my whole money craze was just a bit of greediness coming out. I'm very happy with how Stalking Shadows is selling. It is doing extremely well considering my lack of name recognition and my dearth of advertising. Expect happier, more fun posts in the future!

S.A. Hunter said...

Hmm, and it seems Blogger has added a new feature to the commenting system. I will try to reply directly to comments in the future.

Sam said...

Have just finished reading Scary Mary (in a day) and i absolutely loved it! I am about to download stalking shadows and Unicorn bait, and I will pay! Theres nothing wrong with wanting to make money from your work! I always wanted to write as a living, but just never had the creativity! Good luck in the future, and I cant wait for the next installment of Mary!

S.A. Hunter said...

Sam,

Thanks so much. I don't know if I'll be able to make a living from writing either. It's a tough career, but I'm going to keep plugging along because I do love to write. I can't imagine it not being a part of my life.

Karen O said...

I have now read all your published books and am eagerly awaiting more. You have a fantastic talent for writing. I am yet another who would happily pay for your sequels (much more than the paltry price I paid for Stalking Shadows). Offering the first in the series is a great way to engage your audience, had Scary Mary not been free I would never have found you! You must also remember that people may download several free books (as I did) at one time and it may be months before they actually read your book, (I have a friend who has downloaded but not read Scary Mary yet) so it may be a while before they seek out a sequel. Others may never darken an authors door again only ever wanting freebies!

Good luck and please keep writing, I need to know what happens next for Tavik and Naomi :-)

Karen

S.A. Hunter said...

Karen, thank you for the insights! I really appreciate it because I don't really know the ereader community. What you say makes perfect sense and I should wait. Part of my problem is I am impatient. I'm glad you enjoyed my stories. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Just finished unicorn bait 2 days it was great fun i could not put it down after reading that i went looking for more by s.a. hunter and realized i had already downloaded scary mary but had not read yet well as of today i have finished all your books and would gladly pay for a follow up to ub or sm,however if you come up with a new idea maybe keep the first book free just to hook us in. Keep up the great work and please rush out a follow up to ub

Wyndes said...

I read Unicorn Bait last night and really enjoyed it. I think you should think about raising your prices. At this point, I don't read .99 books very often because so many of them are really terrible. I took a chance on yours and I was glad I did. You've got loads of nice reviews, and there's no reason Unicorn Bait couldn't be a $2.99 or $3.99 book. It's a fair value to the reader at those prices. (Although I'd definitely make sure it's copy-edited first. People are picky when they think they've paid a lot, and you've got enough errors that you'll get nasty comments. I don't mean mannerisms of voice that some people might say are ungrammatical, but actual mistakes, like saddles have pommels, not pummels, or "any even in Georgia.")

Anonymous said...

I am on the edge of my seat I have read unicorn bait 2 times now and then found out there was another one comming I so can't wait. I know that i don't care the price of the book I will buy it once it is published and released to the public I just have to read it. Im not a book lover but you have changed that for me. ooh i so can't wait for you to release your next book on the unicorn bait. :0)

S.A. Hunter said...

Thanks, Anon! I'm working as quickly as I can on Dragon Prey.

S.A. Hunter said...

Wyndes,

I know what you mean about copy editing. I recently paid for Unicorn Bait to be copy edited in preparation of charging for it. Hopefully those mistakes were found. I'll definitely keep your comment in mind when I'm going through the edit and make sure to fix those mistakes. Thanks!

S.A. Hunter said...

That is so sweet, Anonymous. Thank you so much!

The Big-Bellied Beauty said...

Just read Unicorn Bait. I found it through Amazon and I absolutely loved it. Cannot wait for you to write the sequel, the characters have just completely captured my attention!

J Moreton said...

I've read both Scary Mary & stalking shadows on my kindle - great! I came on here to see if you have plans for a third book in the series.

Thanks for some great writing!

J Moreton

Anonymous said...

I just finished Scary Mary and I loved it. I know the sequel is available for a tiny price, and I am happy to pay. Free books seem to be a great way to get your name out there along with a following of reviews. As a reader, I appreciate the free content because it allows me to get a feel for the author without having to blow $1 - $15 on a potential disappointment.

I've read two of your books so far, and I feel that your hard work, long hours, and talent deserve a professional author's pay. I also see you growing as a writer. As a new follower, I look forward to reading along with you as you hone your craft. Your books are good, and if you keep going with the pace you're at, they'll get even better.

S.A. Hunter said...

Hi BBB,

I'm so glad to hear you liked. Sorry for taking so long to reply. Great name, BTW!

S.A. Hunter said...

Hi J. Moreton,

Yes, there will be a third in the series. I hope to publish it sometime late this year.

S.A. Hunter said...

Anonymous,

Thank you so much! I know a tenth of people wouldn't have read my work if it weren't free, and I completely understand that. Free is a wonderful thing. Hopefully once I get a few more books finished, I can start earning enough money to ween myself from my day job and start living the dream. :-)

Angie said...

(This is still "Anonymous" - didn't realize I could put a name, "Angie")

This new system of publishing is really amazing. I like how much closer it brings the reader and the authors. And good luck, the more free time you have to write them more books I get to read!

S.A. Hunter said...

Angie,

Thanks! I have been able to factor in a day every other week off work to hopefully write, or at least recuperate from the extensive time I spend writing the rest of the week. I'm on a tough schedule right now. It doesn't help any that I'm taking a college course on top of everything. I'm taking Introduction to Computer Graphics. I'm trying to become a better cover art maker. This class is showing me how much I don't know. And I already had a BA in Art! :-p