This is a continuation of a series in which I share my sales numbers for the Kickstarted e-published serial pirate adventure, The Daring Adventures of Lucy Smokeheart. For earlier analysis, see Lucy in Cold, Hard Numbers: Part 1 and Part 2. Readers may also be interested in The Economics of Lucy Smokeheart, which laid out my budget for the project while the Kickstarter was running: Part 1 and Part 2.
There's a lot of talk going on in the social medias right now about author income. Publishing Perspectives released a pretty chart showing typical author income by type of publishing (aspiring, traditional, self-publishing, hybrid.) The data the chart is based on is from Digital Book World, and it shows about what I'd expect: writing books is a lousy way to make a living, and very few people do so.
Meanwhile, I've just released Prisoner's Dilemma, episode 7 of The Daring Adventures of Lucy Smokeheart, and I'm long overdue in reporting Lucy's sales numbers for the last few months. (For newcomers, I try to be as transparent as possible with numbers such as these to give other writers a clear-eyed view into one story, at least. Relevant background: the Kickstarter made $7701 from 251 backers back in March of 2013.)
Here's the raw data to date.
The big conclusions: Since the Kickstarter ended and I began self-publishing the episodes, I've made $141.04 extra from Lucy to date (roughly -- this isn't excluding a small amount of transaction fees and some currency conversions may be off.) I've sold 136 individual episodes, 10 new subscriptions, and I've given away 185 episodes in all.
I'll also note that this includes 6 episodes over the course of 8 months; I'm releasing one new episode every five to six weeks, roughly, which is... meh, it's OK.
But let's see some of this in pretty chart format, shall we? Maybe we can pick out some interesting stories based on this data. Here's the first one: Income by month.
August and December have both been really great months for me, for a definition of "really great" that means "I earned enough to take the whole family to McDonald's one night."
This speaks directly to the heart of that debate about how much money a self-published author can or might be making. It's pretty clear Lucy Smokeheart isn't making me much of a living, and if I had a day job, I shouldn't be quitting it for this. It's also interesting that there just isn't a clear trend here, not up, not down. I have eight months of data and still not much idea what makes a good month and what doesn't.
Then there's Sales by Retail Outlet.
No surprise here: Amazon is absolutely the gorilla in the room, followed by Barnes & Noble/Nook.
I sell copies on Apple/iTunes, but in a volume only marginally higher than episodes I sell directly through Payhip (or previously, Gumroad.)
In all of the time I have been collecting data, I have never once sold an episode of Lucy Smokeheart on Kobo. As far as I can tell, maintaining a presence on Kobo is pointless.
Then there's one that's a little bit of a mythbuster here: Sales vs. Freebies.
If you squint, it looks like there's a little bump the month after I've done a lot of giving away episodes, but a closer look at the data doesn't support that reading. The giveaways have all been episode 1, so further sales would be skewed toward later episodes. That hasn't happened.
So it may well be that freebies lead to sales... but that doesn't seem to be panning out particularly well for me. I dunno, maybe I'm doing it wrong. But the correlation of freebies=future sales just isn't there for me.
That said... I had the first episode of Lucy Smokeheart enrolled in KDP Select up until early September, and single-episode sales have been stagnant since then... mostly on Amazon. That leads me to speculate that dropping out of KDP Select has been bad news for Lucy Smokeheart overall.
See this last chart, Sales by Outlet per Month. It's true, Amazon hasn't been so good to me since I dropped out of KDP Select, though that's been disguised by a tiny picking-up of sales from B&N. And given the huge percentage of my sales are in fact on Amazon, I'm reconsidering that whole KDP thing again. At the very least, this is going to require some serious thought.
So in conclusion: This is what a successful Kickstarted ebook serial looks like once it makes it to the self-publishing phase. These are not impressive numbers. These aren't even fund-a-Starbucks-habit numbers. Of course my sales are skewed -- remember I have 248 subscribers getting every episode of Lucy Smokeheart as I write them, and they've already paid for those. (Plus another ten entitled to it... but they never filled out the backer survey.) I cannibalized my base of friends, family, and ardent supporters before I ever exported the first ebook.
But even so, man, it's a good thing this isn't my day job. ...Not that I have a day job...
And if you are so moved to support Lucy Smokeheart, there are manifold buying options online. Episode 1 is free! Or if you want to go big, can I interest you in a subscription to The Complete Adventures?