All Good Stats…But One

Dragon Blue has picked up a few more reviews this week as some more ARC readers (and hopefully one or two non-ARC readers) left comments and ratings. So as of this writing it’s up to 43  reviews on Amazon with a 4.6/5 rating. That seems great, right? The rating is not nearly as good on Goodreads, as a couple of 1-stars have dragged it down to 4.15, but that’s still respectable. The problem is, the most important stat isn’t ratings or rankings, it’s revenue. At least in the long run. And maybe this is going to be a very long run.

I’m not going to go through real numbers, but I’m going to walk through some hypothetical ones. The common wisdom is to price an initial launch of a romance novel at $0.99 to get as high in the rankings as possible and get as much exposure as you can. At a 30% royalty, that’s $0.30/sale. You get money for reads/borrows as well, and that depends on the amount allocated by Amazon each month. But I’m looking at an estimate of about $0.85 if someone borrows one of my 50K-word romances and reads it all the way through.

Now, let’s say your goal is to make $300 for a given month from your writing, which seems realistic and relatively modest as a first step. You’d either need: 350 read-throughs or 1000 sales or some combination of both. That doesn’t sound that hard, does it? Well, based on my experience, it seems to take somewhere between 50-100 sales per day to break into the top 5,000 ranking overall in the Amazon Kindle store, which will also give you exposure in one or more subcategories, depending on how competitive your niche is and how many subcategories your book is in. You’d need to maintain that level of performance for 10-20 days.

How do you do that? Well, if you have a huge mailing list and/or social media presence, you can leverage those. If you don’t have a built-in audience, you’d have to advertise. Advertising costs money, and unless you know which promos or ad campaigns are particularly effective, you can burn through money pretty quickly trying to figure it out. You could easily spend half of that $300 you were trying to make on promos, and now you’ve netted $150. That’s if you were doing things right. Otherwise, you could just see your title slide out of the top 10K and lose all exposure that comes from being top-ranked.

Things get worse if you set your goals higher. You’d need 10,000 sales to make $3,000 for a given title, and that’s not counting any other expenses. A book has to probably make it to sub-1K ranking in Amazon overall, make the top 20 of one or more popular subcategories, and stick for a pretty long time (weeks). And that’s to make a solid, but not glamorous monthly wage.

Those numbers seem almost insurmountable if you’re a new author. I’m hoping that growth is non-linear, that each new title has a multiplier effect. We’ll just have to see.

I’ve got two more promos running today and another one tomorrow. I wouldn’t even have run any more, but I found people beta testing a couple of services and thought I’d give them a try. So I’m not expecting much. If something happens, great.

Meanwhile, Dragon Red is chugging along. I’m already around the 10K word count. I’m working with 4 POV characters instead of 2 for Dragon Blue. I’m also a little hazier about the direction the story is going, so the first draft of this one is going to need more revision than the first. But I certainly like some of the scenes I’ve written, and I think the characters are solid. I’ve been somewhat tempted to work on other smaller projects, but I think that would be a bad idea. For the foreseeable future I need to forge ahead with this series and see where it takes me.

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