About Jade Yeo, Business of Writing, My Stories

Self-publishing sales figures: half a year of Jade Yeo

I haven’t been keeping too close an eye on the sales figures for The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo ebook, but fairly recently I ventured into the jungle of Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing earnings reports and was intrigued by what I discovered.

As you probably noticed if you were reading my blog then, I self-published Jade as an ebook at the end of May this year and also published the novella for free as a web serial on this very blog, posting a new section a day for 20 days. Even though all the content was free on my blog, I set a price on the ebook of US$0.99 — I figured the different, more portable ebook form was worth something even if its innards were on display for all to see in blog posts.

What I thought would happen

What I figured would happen was that people would buy the ebook within the first week of publication — mostly my friends, and perhaps some people who didn’t know me personally but had read and liked my short stories. Sales might continue as long as I was posting new sections and tweeting about them, since that might draw more attention, and then sales would tail off and eventually peter out.

What actually happened

Contrary to my expectations, my sales haven’t yet died a natural death, and they haven’t been decreasing steadily as I expected. Sales went down after the first two months of publication — but then they went up again, to my great surprise. Apart from the first couple of months (when I sold about 60 copies), I’ve been selling about 20 copies per month, with the ratio being about 15 on Amazon and <5 on Smashwords per month.

I’ve now sold 140 copies in total — 47 via Smashwords (through which ebooks are available on Kobo, Barnes & Noble, etc.), the remaining via Amazon. Now 140 is obviously rather a small number, but given that Booker shortlisted author Tan Twan Eng’s Garden of Evening Mists shifted a grand total of 174 copies before the Booker effect kicked in, I’m rather pleased about it!

The marketing

I haven’t done much in the way of marketing, apart from the initial posting/twitter storm (which consisted of a single tweet every weekday — perhaps “twitter drizzle” would be a better description). These are the things I (and other people) did to keep the ebook’s name floating around:

1) I put the link to the ebook somewhere prominent on my blog and website, so when people visited that was one of the first things they saw.

2) I asked friends who had already mentioned the book on their blogs to cross-post their reviews to GoodReads and their local variant of Amazon. I stuck to people whom I vaguely recalled as having already done fairly detailed reviews, in the hope of not annoying them. Also I tend to think a few detailed reviews are more helpful than a lot of brief, albeit positive, ones.

3) I emailed book blogs to ask them to review Jade. Now, I had all sorts of shiny plans in this respect, and I did email eight book bloggers, but I met with only middling success — only one of them responded to say they would review it, and I’ve no idea if they did (I try to avoid reading reviews of my stories, unless someone has already assured me that they are positive). My plan was to email more than eight … but I got lazy.

4) At least one book blogger reviewed it without my having contacted them first! So that probably helped its profile.

5) This isn’t really connected to marketing Jade itself, but I kept doing stuff. I haven’t published a huge amount of fiction this year, but I was writing for a fairly high-traffic blog, and after my last post there (which linked to my Dreamwidth blog) I did make a couple of sales of Jade. So doing things that generally increase my social capital and get my writing in front of new eyes probably helps.

The rest of the time I forgot about Jade and busied myself with, you know, doing work, getting married, avoiding the next novel, baking cakes. The usual!

The money

How much have I earned from it? Well, notionally about US$50, of which I’ve only actually received US$12. I should receive another PayPal payment of about US$11 from Smashwords when the next quarter rolls around, but Amazon is just sitting on my earnings because if you haven’t got a US bank account it won’t pay out your earnings unless you’ve clocked up US$100. You’d think they’d at least offer you an Amazon voucher as an alternative.

So far ebook publishing has not resulted in the Scrooge McDuck room of gold coins of my dreams.

What’s next?

I’ve made the ebook free! You can download it for no dollars, pounds, euros, ringgit, Sing, baht, rupees, rupiah or any other sort of money at all via Amazon.com, Amazon UK, or any of the other geographical flavours of Amazon which I am too lazy to link to here.

After the free promotion, I’m going to raise the price to the princely sum of US$1.99 (or even US$2.99, perhaps?).

Why make it free?

I’ve been sort of meaning to do it for a while anyway, in the hope that its costing nothing will encourage more people to take a punt on the ebook, and it seems as good a way as any to bridge a price increase. Now, I assumed I’d just swan into Smashwords and Amazon and change the price of the book to US$0, but while Smashwords lets you do that, Amazon doesn’t. You can only make your ebook free on Amazon if you’re enrolled in KDP Select — and in order to be enrolled in KDP Select you need to be distributing your digital content exclusively via Amazon. What a pain!

However, the majority of sales has been through Amazon. I’m guessing my best chance of getting the ebook to people who don’t already know of me is via Amazon, so I’m going with KDP Select, and have for the moment unpublished Jade on Smashwords and locked the posts on my blog.

You’re only allowed to have a free promotion for 5 days out of any 90-day period with KDP Select, so the Kindle ebook of Jade Yeo will be free from Saturday 22 December to Wednesday 26 December. Do get it then if you would like it, because afterwards I’m jacking up the price.

Why raise the price?

There’s no particular reason for this, except that I heard somewhere that US$0.99 is no longer the fashionable price point for ebooks. (My business acumen r sharp. Good thing I don’t do this for a living, eh!) I figure I’ve already made more sales than I expected, and this tailing off and petering out effect must happen sooner or later, so there’s no real harm in hurrying it along by raising the price. I just want to see if people are still willing to buy it if it costs US$1.99. They may not be. But then again, they may. It will be interesting to see what happens.

The novella will still be free on my blog once the price has gone up — I’ve only made this unavailable for the time that the ebook is enrolled in KDP Select.

Further adventures in self-publishing

What I should really do, of course, is self-publish more stuff to ebook so people who liked Jade can buy something else to read, but I haven’t got anything appropriate right now, or anything that could be made vaguely appropriate without a lot of work. I need to focus on the novel at the moment, but “next thing to self-publish” will be a project for 2013. I’m pondering:

1) Racebent space opera retelling of Charlotte Bronte’s Villette (Villette is a space station and Lucy Snowe is a planet-side engineer specialising in automata who’s travellling into space for the first time, hobviously). Pro: space opera Villette! Con: I’d have to find my notes first.

2) Revised version of my KL-set chicklit novel where the initially male-performing romantic interest crossdresses to participate in a beauty pageant. Pro: already written! Con: what is already written is terrible first draft I wrote with explicit purpose of hiding it in my drawer forever. It would need a LOT of work. Like, rewriting from the ground up work.

3) Slash version of Lady Audley’s Secret. I have embarrassing notes somewhere where I have converted the main characters to my favourite Bleach characters (characterisation roughly circa Soul Society arc). So, you know, it would be a serial-numbers-filed-off modern Bleach AU retelling of Lady Audley’s Secret. When you derive from a derivation, does that go through the other side of derivativeness and become creativity? One can but hope.


Download The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo for free on Amazon.com and Amazon UK till Boxing Day.


2 thoughts on “Self-publishing sales figures: half a year of Jade Yeo

  1. Pingback: Jade Yeo free again | Zen Cho

  2. Farah says:

    Hey.. I was wondering if you can answer this.. If a malaysian publish a story in kindle self publishing, do we need to report our end of year income to the income tax department? Would be great if you could get back to me on this. Thank you in advance.

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