Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tracking Sales Data When Self-Publishing

by @AuthorAmberLin

We have another guest talking about tracking sales today, Amber Lin! I asked her for input, since she does so much self-publishing and would have a different perspective. Take it away, Amber. :-)


Wheeee, thanks for having me! I’m Amber Lin, and I write sexy romance. This is my first time on Word Whores. (Be gentle, please…)

The topic of the week is tracking numbers. I read the previous posts and there are thoughtful posts about whether to track Amazon ranking and what it means in relation to success, along with practical tips. I wanted to throw in some thoughts from the books I self-published.

Because you get a lot of tracking data when self-publishing! Yay! 

Unless you don’t like tracking data, in which case you are free to ignore… In fact, mostly I do ignore it.

I could take a snapshot of my sales of each book at the end of the day and chart them and know sales trends by day of the week or even time of day. There are self-published authors who do that. But I don’t have that kind of fortitude.

Looking at sales and thinking about sales bleeds into my writing. Then when I think how a scene should go or how a character should act, I’m thinking of how it might impact my bottom line—instead of thinking about how I want the story to go. How it needs to go.

So, each month I just accept direct deposits into my account, and either clap or groan at the amount. Or shrug. This is similar to how I react to checks from my publishers, really.

But every few months I take all that data I’ve been ignoring and build a sandcastle.

First I create a nice level place to work. This used to be an Excel spreadsheet with months and books. Now I use TrackerBox, a desktop software.

Then I add wet sand. The report from Amazon KDP. From Nook Press. From Smashwords. From All Romance. From Kobo. ALL THAT SAND. And I pack it together really tight and form little spires on top. That’s important, the spires.

And when my castle is done I have fancy graphs telling me all kinds of things. Like yeah, it may seem like that one book did the best, and maybe the reviews tell me that, but they’re wrong. Actually this other book sold way better. If I’m wavering between which book to write next, this can help. If I want to decide which book to promote through various means, this can help. 

And trends! What even are trends…

Okay, the sandcastle doesn’t tell me that.

But I can look at the shape of it and feel more confident I know what’s going on. What does a 2,000 sales rank mean to my career? What does $350 on a royalty statement mean? It means very little, as single data points tend to mean very little, as small as a grain of sand.

I need to dust off my hands, stand up, and look at the whole if I want to really understand how I’m doing.

Can any authors with self-published books weigh in on how you handle it? (And again, thanks for having me! You can find out more about me and my books here.)


  1. It's always very interesting to me - that the books that get good reviews are not necessarily the ones that sell well and vice-versa. For example, very few readers mention PLATINUM as their favorite - and it garnered some of my more blistering reviews - yet it continues to sell consistently better than others that people cite as their very faves. ~shrugs~

  2. I like your sandcastle! You would certainly have a sense of accomplishment when you step back and look at it!