Have you tried Graphing your book sales?

or: Sometimes a pie chart can make a gal despondent… And Hungry.

by Thea Atkinson

I always tell folks I’m a word gal, not a numbers gal. I suck at math. Meh, as my Acadian brethren would say. What I know has served me well, I guess, so long as I’m not asked to do any wild ratio work or somesuch.

Truth is, I actually do enjoy numbers. I always liked accounting and budgeting and problem solving.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to most indie authors that I obsessively track my Amazon sales from my author panel. I check the numbers, type in any new ones I see into my handy spreadsheet, ponder over the ranking, wonder if I’ve done something to help a sale, wonder what I could be doing to make the numbers just a bit better… All I can say is thank God I can’t track my sales on BN or Kobo or Sony or Itunes.

So. You can imagine after reading that, that I’m playing with the numbers a hell of a lot and tracking new numbers not so much. Grin.

Just for the heck of it, I created a graph to see visually what was happening with my sales.

I wasn’t surprised to see how much came from the one title I keep wanting to unpublish: Pray for Reign. It’s not my favorite. It’s written in the traditional historical fiction style, and nowadays historical fiction is so much more creative. Think Philipa Gregory. Some facts, and lots of creative manipulation of facts. Grin.

I knew it accounted for most of my sales, but I was shocked to see how much. It means if I unpublish it now, then roughly 75% of my income will just go away.

I can’t have that. I need to pay for pie.

My favorite books, well, they don’t do so well, most pitiably, as you can see. and it’s quite a different thing to see those paltry numbers in all kinds of colored baubly slices of pie. It’s enough to make a gal go hide her head somewhere. Ah well, at least, there is hope from Formed of Clay, as it makes up 15% of my sales.

Now the question was: how to get those other numbers up. I created another graph to look at trends. That one just became too depressing to post. It showed a nice rise in a line graph that fell off horrible sometime around March and took a shocking nose dive akin to the market crash graph pics I’d seen when I studied Economics. Yikes.

Yup. The dreaded March 19 algorithm shift. Ugh. (Read the dirt at Ed Robertson’s blog) I’ve been going downhill ever since. Steadily. It showed me just how much I was relying on the little things Amazon did to put my books in front of readers’ faces, even when I had no idea they were.

All but one: Throwing Clay Shadows: That one, though a small enough line it barely showed against all the other lines, did at least rise after March 19. I’m ever so grateful. Can you see my smile? 8 sales a month is a lovely thing. Would that it were 20. Sigh. Would that it were.

I digress.

Two factors could be influencing this rise. The first, I think, is that I put a sample of TCS at the end of Pray for Reign. Anyone who reads Pray and actually enjoys it, might click over to TCS. That’s the hope anyway. The second is that I altered the cover to something more genre specific  and changed the category on Amazon to something that would put me in a rank a little quicker–even if it’s not quite the right category.

I fear that as I lose more and more visibility, I’ll drop down to a paltry amount of sales and eventually to zero. I’m not sure where to go from here, really. Word of mouth must become my friend, I guess.

Strangely, while I am having lower sales numbers, I am earning a bit more…even if it’s just a bit enough to buy a nice coconut cream pie at the Farmers Market on Saturday.

I still have to decide how I think about that one.

Maybe I’ll make another graph.


Don’t forget the Haystack giveaway. You can win a $50 Amazon Card.

If you liked this post, please do share.

Thea is the author of several novels that she considers left of mainstream. You can find her on Smashwords, BN, Kobo, Sony, Apple


Anomaly by Thea Atkinson

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Thea Atkinson is a writer of character driven fiction.

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12 comments on “Have you tried Graphing your book sales?
  1. […] Have you tried Graphing your book sales? (theaatkinson.wordpress.com) […]

  2. […] Have you tried Graphing your book sales? (theaatkinson.wordpress.com) […]

  3. […] a graph can make a gal despondent…and hungry. https://theaatkinson.wordpress.com/20…ur-book-sales/ Thea Atkinson has been an editor, a freelancer, and a teacher, but fiction is her passion. She […]

  4. Just wanted to let you know I am mentioning you on my blog today! 🙂

  5. Debra L Martin says:

    Hi Thea,

    Isn’t it amazing how that algorithm shift by amazon could have such devastating effects on sales. I was flying high with one of my titles and then bam…all sales seemed to have fallen off a cliff. Amazon does what Amazon wants and the only thing we can control is our writing. We have to keep on writing and get those titles out there. I firmly believe that with enough titles, we will become more visible to readers and sales will increase. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it!

  6. Viv says:

    So just what was the algorithm shift? I have noticed I seem to need more sales to get into a “list”, is that what is meant?
    I wish I knew what actually worked in terms of sales, but I don’t.
    Keep on keeping on, my friend. Word of mouth is slow but sure, and I also think that as nicer weather keeps happening, both sales and blog hits will slow, for everyone. Then we hit holiday season and book sales of possible beach books grow.
    I live in hope.Which is the only place I can live right now!

  7. Thought I was back at work at one of our meetings for a second there. ;-P Keep on keepin’ on… and have a piece of pie… maybe that big one out of the chart.

  8. Diane Tibert says:

    Thea, I’m just getting started in sales as I just posted my fantasy novel, Shadows in the Stone, to Kindle and Smashwords. So far, I have not had a sale on Smashwords, but I have sold two through Kindle.

    One of the marketing strategies I used to draw attention to the book was to reduce the price of a short story on Smashwords from 99 cents to free. My hope was that readers would like the free short story enough to buy the book. I had no idea it would work until last night when I received a message from a gentleman on Goodreads. He said he had downloaded Mutated Blood Lines on Smashwords for free, and liked it so much he bought the novel.

    Was I just lucky out of the gate or will this trend continue? I won’t know until some time in the future. However, since it worked once, I have plans to post another short story I’ve recently finished for free. Linking to the book, like you did with your book, is definitely a great way to connect readers with other books.

    I know you often post books for free, so perhaps this has already worked to your advantage. If you have a short story, perhaps you could try that.

    Good luck, Thea. It’s certainly an up hill battle.

    • Thanks, Diane. Yup. I’ve got free short stories across Smashwords and Feedbooks. One never knows if it works unless you hear about it. You’re lucky you did. Here’s to more success.

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