eBook Sales are Down ~ Is it the Market or is it You?

Written By: Jackie Weger - Feb• 26•15

How can we be successful if our books don’t sell?

Not to put too fine a point on it, indie author ebook sales are down across all sales venues including Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iTunes/iBooks and Smashwords.  No, I don’t have any charts or analysis for you, but I network with best selling authors, and many indie authors like me, who just plod

    Are your sales in the toilet?

Are your sales in the toilet?

along, racking up sales when and where we can.  Every single indie author I know is scratching his or her head wondering where our sales went.

What happened?

The Christmas Boxed set frenzy happened. If you had a Christmas book between Thanksgiving and the week after New Year’s, and promoted it, you sold a boat load of books. January was dismal for sales. Even those of us who fought hard sales campaigns and had the advantage of a Bookbub slot did not see the downloads on FREE books we usually do, or the magnificent jump in sales and crossover sales once the title went back to priced.  We did sell books, but not the sales we anticipated.

         28 Reviews

28 Reviews

Practically speaking, life gets in the way of books sales. So does the weather which has been awful. Readers, authors and fans in the snow belt have spent most of January shoveling snow, entertaining kids at home because schools closed and some were without electricity and/or Internet service. Buying books was not a priority. Some of those boxed sets that racked up lovely sales in December had as high as fourteen books in the sets. It takes a bit of time to read those fourteen books before the readers starts browsing for more reads. I bought several of those sets with a total of fifty books and novellas. I have yet to finish a single set.

We indie authors love to promote holiday books. So along comes Valentine’s Day. I have a title in a romance/Valentine’s boxed set of twelve authors. Every single author in the set campaigned hard and steady on for sales.  We engaged a Thunderclap, hired a promo service, had a fabulous and well-attended Facebook launch party, shared in promotion on all of the best sites and the set has thus far has not climbed onto Amazon TOP 100 paid. Our hard work and the really wonderful books in the set did earn the set a slot on the USA Today best seller list. The reviews are terrific.  The set has a decent sales rank but not what we hoped or anticipated. The authors are top notch, the books are great and the promotion spot on.

So what else is there that might affect sales?

A tired market. Since the introduction of Amazon’s subscription service, Kindle Unlimited, borrows are way up. Some days I see 28 borrows to 16 actual book sales. Authors don’t get paid on those borrows until the buyer reads past 10% of the book on his or her eReader. I subscribe to KU and I have six books on my Kindle Fire I downloaded in November that I have not had time to read. When the subscription service first opened, I downloaded books and read them as fast as I could and ordered more. I was excited to have such a wealth of choice of books. I’ve mellowed out. I had

 USA Today Best Seller

USA Today Best Seller

to stop reading, catch up on my laundry, mop floors, take the dog to the vet, go to a wedding, visit with family, cook Christmas dinner, plan a book signing, order posters and swag, attend the signing, and write a book. Still haven’t finished the WIP.  I am flooded with guilt at leaving my poor characters hanging mid-book.

Indie authorship is not easy.

Once we write a book, we have to jump to the other side of the equation which is beta reading, copy editing, revising, hire a cover artist and formatter, published the book, and get busy promoting the thing. Not to mention networking with other indie authors, or lending a hand if an indie has a blog interview to comment upon or needs a tweet sent out. I don’t know about you, but I get tired. When I’m weary, I see my world as weary. We need to take step back. Do something nice for yourself. Rest. The sky won’t fall. And here is a fact. Readers continue to buy ebooks. Readers are always looking for new authors to read or new releases by favorite authors. We need to give our readers and book buyers time to catch up. You will see an uptick in sales as soon as everybody has filed their taxes in April. You might even see a little uptick in March with St. Patrick’s Day events.

Tweet our hashtag #eNovAaW

Tweet our hashtag #eNovAaW

To get a better take on your authorship, do this for yourself. Go into Author Central, tick sales info and then tick author rank. While your books might be sucking mud to China, you might be pleasantly surprised at your Author Rank. On January 27, 2015 my Author Rank based on the sales of all of my books on Amazon was 19,083. A promotion ran the next day on one of my titles and wrapped February 1, 2015. My current author rank based on all sales is 1375. However, when I tick over to contemporary romance, my author rank is 175.  It peaked at 81. So even though one of my titles has a sales rank at about 47,000. My author rank is pretty good. Only 174 romance authors are ranked higher.  And hey! There are thousands of romance writers publishing ebooks.

Here is something else you can do while you are taking a break and we wait for the market to reinvent itself. Never fear. It will.  Amazon is offering indie authors with titles enrolled in Select the opportunity to buy a sales campaign right inside of Kindle Direct.  I cannot yet say we will see a return on investment for the 100$ a campaign costs. However, I can tell you this much, since my campaign started, Amazon has shown my ads 133,321 times somewhere on Amazon. And Amazon is where book buyers live 24/7 around the world.

Who said to be successful we indies must sell a book or 100 every single day?

We don’t. That is pure, unadulterated hype. Everyone in the digital industry wants a slice of the indie author.  Let me put it another way–they want to get into our wallets. I get emails and newsletters every dang day telling me how successful an author I can be if only… I pay $179 for this Webinar, or pop for $399 for that review tour–but wait! Buy now! For a 25% discount.  Honey, I’m sitting on my pocketbook.

427 Reviews

427 Reviews

When we publish a book and it sells a few copies, we feel good. It’s an affirmation of achievement. When the book earns a few nice reviews, we start dancing on table tops and shouting it out. Then the line of ‘also bought’ shows up on Amazon, and there is my title with eighteen reviews right next to a book with 343. Off come the dancing shoes. It is so not fair to your book and those readers who posted those 18 reviews to discount them. So, don’t.

If I complete the first three items on my To DO LIST every day–that is S.U.C.C.E.S.S. No lie.  If a sister author sends out a clarion call to comment on an interview she’s done and I do, that is success. Answering a fan letter is success. Writing a blog is success.  Updating my Amazon bio or revising a book description is success. Success is similar to knitting a sweater; you study the pattern, buy the amount of yarn called for and start it by hooking one stitch at a time. You won’t have the whole sweater just by studying the pattern. No instant sweater. That pattern is the guide. However, if you stick with it and knit a little every day, you will eventually have a sweater. That is the way of indie author success. We compose one word at time, sell one book or ten, at time, lend a helping hand to a colleague, tick up a five star review on Amazon that caught our eye, or in a sudden flash of clarity find just the right title for a WIP.  Every little thing we do contributes to our success as an author. And some of what we do has no dollar value at all.

So. Sales are down. It is not me. It is not you. It is not my books. All business markets hit plateaus. All business markets have shake outs and then find the level at which they work best and steady on. Compared to print, the digital book universe is in its infancy. IMO, we just have to roll with it.  Our books are digital. Their lives are infinite. Think about this: The very first romantic intrigue, the Tale of Genji by Muraski Shikibu, was published in about 1000 AD and is still in print and, now it is in digital. The Tale of Genji  has it all: romance, travel, encounters with the supernatural, and a perfect hero. Works for me.

This blog post has been on my To DO LIST for four days. Success reigns!

Follow Jackie Weger on FB

Follow Accent on Romance

I’m, Jackie Weger. Y’all have a good one. Oh. I want to mention that eNovel Authors at Work earned a spot as Finalist for Best Resource Site for indie authors in a survey by Indies Unlimited, an independent blog I highly recommend to every indie author. We have a little badge right there on the right to show you. We are very proud of  this achievement.

Comments are always welcome and we’d love to hear what you are doing to help your book sales in a down market.


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  1. Mike Markel says:

    Thanks very much for the perspective, Jackie. The ease with which we can see our sales figures on Amazon can very quickly turn into dis-ease. I’m guilty of this. Your sweater metaphor is valuable. Keep working at it, let yourself get lost in the pleasure of doing it, and the sweater eventually gets made. After all, if we don’t make the opportunity to enjoy the writing process–without worrying about sales–we have indeed missed the whole point of being writers.

  2. Dale Furse says:

    I love the way you see successes and I agree wholeheartedly. Sometimes we have to stop an think what we have learned and achieved. Thanks for that, Jackie. 🙂

  3. Jackie it is so good to be reminded that any step forward in promoting ourselves is helpful and, yes, is a success in its own way. Brick by brick, each little part builds a mansion…

  4. Thanks for taking to effort to write this, Jackie, instead of getting on with the next novel. When we all start to make big money we’ll get someone else to mop those floors, do the laundry, and the mundane things. Won’t that be nice!

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Bronwyn! I’m laughing. I thought I was a master of guilt techniques and tried every single one I own to get my daughter to loan me her majordomo. She said, NO! Pretty soon there will be enough cat hair under my desk to thread a loom. I edit, but don’t diet or Tide. Life is good.

  5. Amy Vansant says:

    I’m definitely guilty of watching my sales report. Waiting for the lightning to hit. So far, writing has been an expensive hobby, when all I want it to be is my sole job. I try to take solace in good reviews, but if take too much joy in the good, any tiny bad word crushes, so you stop hanging on every word there too. Nothing to do but keep writing because I couldn’t quit if I tried! 🙂

  6. Kristen Stone says:

    A great reminder that we are not alone when things slow down. I have never had sales to match yours but I do have sales. And I think we need to remind ourselves when we do get those sales that the person who chose our book chose it over and above the 3 million other books available on Amazon or other sites. As most of my sales are in the UK there is no point in offering books at 99c (about 87p in sterling) . 20% tax is nowadded to the 65% Amazon takes. If anyone else sells in the UK or Europe this is why you get so little when you make sales on this side of the pond. Right, off to check my sales!

  7. Stephen Gane says:

    Thanks Jackie, for a very interesting article, I am a novice at this writing as I never started until I was sixty five years old. I enjoy writing and that is the most important thing for me. I have tried to promote myself and my book but I find it takes away from my writing time. Anyway I am happy if I sell one book a week, I find it a great feeling to think someone, somewhere is reading a story which I conjured up in my mind…

  8. Jenny Harper says:

    Fantastic post, Jackie, thank you. You’re so right to remind us that every single action we do has value, whether it’s paying it on or setting up a promo or writing the wip – because it doesn’t always feel like that.

    Can I thank all eNovellers who have jumped onto my blog with UK writer jenny Kane and commented? She is pleased as anything and it’s helping spread the word about her, me – and you!

  9. Mary Smith says:

    Great post, Jackie. We do all tend to get hung up on sales figures with the elation of seeing them go up, matched by the depression of watching them go back down. I love the sweater analogy.
    You ask what I’m doing to help book sales in a downturn – well, Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni is on Kindle Countdown from today at 99cents/99p. http://amzn.to/1ETcSL2 or in UK http://amzn.to/1zKe3cn
    And I’m goign to do what I’ve known for a while I need to do – focus on getting more work out there!

  10. Julie Frayn says:

    Love your definitions of success. Maybe I hit the right notes, but my free promo for Mazie Baby did great, and the sales since have been wonderful. Perhaps they would have been better if I’d waited until March or April, but I’m thrilled all the same. I am lucky to have two adult children willing to cook and do dishes for me… So, it’s just my own laundry and the dust bunnies under my desk that are out of control 🙂
    Julie Frayn

  11. RP Dahlke says:

    thanks for the pep talk! I’m sharing this one everywhere! Sales are up and down. I look at my daily sales when I have a promo, other than that, I’m writing–or mopping floors.


  12. Traci Hall says:

    Just what I needed to read today, Jackie! I was so damn proud of myself for doing a load of laundry yesterday. Dusting was wiping the front of the unused television screen in the living room as I walked by with one of the damp towels…I’m just as guilty about checking sales-it can be disheartening, but like the rest of you, I’m in it for the long haul!

  13. Best, most honest article about what’s going on in the eBook world that I’ve read in a long time. Recently I took about 5 days off to visit with our kids. It did me the world of good to step back a bit and see things from a fresh perspective. Thanks for reminding us, Jackie, about all that’s positive about what we do. And living life is a big part of that. Laundry and all!

  14. David Wind says:

    Thanks for the article Jackie, it’s nice to know I’m not alone in my thinking and better yet to have someone else point out the positive reality of being an Indie author

  15. What a roller coaster ride this bidness is! Your take is like mine; write, relax, rewrite, re-relax, and do your best to say away from the valium:-) Or not.

  16. Thank you for the jolt of sanity, Jackie. Sometimes we need it more than we care to admit! 🙂

  17. Peggy Henderson says:

    Thank you for this great article. Self-publishing is a roller coaster ride for sure. And I don’t want to get off. 😀 Just keep on writing….through the highs and the lows.

  18. A lot has changed over the past several years, including my goals. Most days, I can barely keep up with all of my obligations, let alone find time to write. I blog half as much as I used to, and I’ve cut back on marketing. I never sold a lot of books, but I’m still selling some, even without ads. I’m trying to derive more pleasure from my writing and to respect my accomplishments, not measure my success in sales. Fortunately, I don’t have to earn a living at being an author. LOL.

    Thanks for the post, Jackie. It’s reassuring to know that we’re all facing the same challenges!

  19. J.R.Biery says:

    Thanks for a wonderful article. Hard not to worry when you are writing and publishing new books into a sluggish market. Personally, I haven’t bothered with Amazon’s unlimited program. There are so many free books everyday, or set of twelve best-sellers for 99 cents, that I couldn’t see how I would benefit. For a book lover, it seems like a never ending bonanza. But now I have over seven hundred books to read, someday, on my tablet and the same amount of time. There is no way to sort or organize them, as I do with real books on my bookshelves. It’s like having a pile of hundreds of new books and wanting to reach in and pull one out. Overwhelming. I am now reluctant to even download a free book. As a book glutton, I am sated. Have to believe there are millions of others like me. No wonder sales are down. If writers don’t value their own work – no one else will.

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Thank you for visiting and commenting J.R.Beiry. When you say you have not bothered with Amazon Unlimited, what do you mean? Your books are in the program. So readers can download your books and read free with a subscription. Those 10 books are not buried. Once read, we turn them in and borrow more. We independent authors must work with the game in town. We put a book on FREE to gain exposure and reviews. Once off a FREE run, a title rises in Amazon stats because a FREE download counts as one-tenth of a sale. Absolutely there are book hoarders. I love ’em. Whether they get around to reading my ebook or not, every download helps, because it is a numbers game. Every single author in eNovel values his or her work. We do. And we define ourselves as writers. Books are selling. The right kind of exposure and mentions earns a sale. One of eNovel authors saw 80 priced books sold yesterday from a mention on a popular blog. Life events and current events affect sales. That is what I was pointing out in this blog. Traditional publishers know this. Indie authors are just coming to terms with it or perhaps don’t even recognize it. Book sales flatlined when President Kennedy was assassinated, when the Challenger exploded, when Katrina swept ashore, when an earthquake toppled Freeways in California, and during 9/11. Life events and weather affect sales not only of books but every single luxury. It is what it is. We just have to muddle through.

      • Janet says:

        Thanks Jackie for the thoughtful reply. Meant I hadn’t paid for that program to borrow other writers’ books. Glad to hear it counts as a one-tenth sale. Just saw you had answered when I clicked the internet hunting for my stories in the Cake and Quill Advent calendar. Love the positive attitude and wish lots of sales to both of us in the future.

  20. Great pep talk, I think I needed it, LOL. Thank you for sharing this, Jackie 🙂

  21. Rosie Dean says:

    A really positive post, Jackie, thanks.

    The UK version of Author Central is, for some unknown reason, different from the US version, so we don’t have an author ranking on there. But I did check out my ranking in the States.

    Congrats to the team for making finalist for Best Resource Site for indie authors!

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