Oh my, my book is selling?!?

I made a sale! Well, fifteen, actually. I can’t believe it!

Well, let’s back up a minute. For those following along, you probably know that my self-published science fiction book Sagitta has been available on Amazon for some time as a paperback. I did this because it was a fun, tangible way to continue the editing process. I gave out my paperback to beta readers and encouraged them to mark it up, and I got a lot of great feedback that way.

As expected, I got a total of 0 sales from that paperback copy. I didn’t advertise it, and for most of the time it was available, no one except my beta readers knew I had even written a book. That was fine (and just how I wanted it, actually).

Fast forward a few months, and Sagitta is nearly complete. Most of my time has been spent working on a tie-in novel. Last week, I got a bit ahead of myself and decided to upload the latest draft as a Kindle E-Book. This was to learn the process of formatting a book for Kindle, using Amazon’s Kindle Create tool. The write-up I followed is here, and I don’t really have much to add.

Long story short, I uploaded my Kindle-formatted manuscript and tied it to my paperback copy within Kindle Direct Publishing. I set the price at Amazon’s recommended $2.99, which results in a 70% royalty payment if I make a sale.

Sagitta Book Lists
Sagitta – Kindle and E-Book Editions

Now, I didn’t expect any sales. Actually, I kind of hoped I wouldn’t get any. A few parts of Sagitta are still in flux, and I really didn’t want anyone reading it just yet. But, later that night, I got an email from Amazon saying I would be receiving royalty payments. I was like, WTFudge!

I’d made five sales on that first day. It must be a fluke, I thought. I was flabbergasted. How had people found my book? Me, and unknown author with zero publishing history. I’d put in some keywords, of course, but my book’s sales rank was nonexistent. It was literally at the bottom of the totem pole.

I chalked it up to getting on some sort of list…probably a “newly released” page or something. But over the course of the week, the sales kept coming.

Sagitta Sales 1
Sagitta Sales – First Week

I was astonished. I am selling about 2 books a day, with absolutely no promotions or special discounts. I went ahead and enrolled in KDP Select, which gives my book access to readers using Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited subscription service, plus the Kindle Lending Library. For these programs, authors get paid based on the number of pages read. Once again, to my surprise, it worked! Starting on the first day I added the book to the program, I got nearly 1000 page reads. Since Sagitta is less than 500 “normalized” pages long,  this indicates multiple people reading it.

I was floored!

Sagitta Sales 2
Sagitta KENP Reads (Feb 24 Stats Incomplete since I posted this mid-day)

So, I started getting worried. The manuscript needs a few minor adjustments to make it consistent with my tie-in novel, Hrain, that I am currently working on. So I actually took a few days off of working on Hrain to go make some tweaks to Sagitta. Just in case the 15 people who bought it then go read my tie-in and notice a few minor discrepancies.

What does this all mean?

Well, I don’t know, other than it is possible for a completely unknown, new author to sell a novel to someone on Amazon. This gives me hope, and some pizza money! Hopefully, if I get a few reviews, it will take off on its own (although I do plan to formally announce the book at some point, and run a few promotions).

Sagitta Sales 3
Sales Breakdown by Location

I will do another update in a month on sales figures. I think it would be fun to maintain my current policy of zero advertising, zero social media posts (this blog doesn’t count), etc. Other than my parents and closest friends, no one knows I’ve done this, and I’d like to keep it that way a bit longer.

So, if you’re thinking of self-publishing, but are worried that it won’t pan out, I hope this post offers you some encouragement. But, to take off from here, I think the book will really have to shine on its own. My suggestions for writing and self-publishing a novel are:

  1. Get practice writing (short stories are great)
  2. Write the best darn book you can.
  3. Spend just as much time editing it as you did writing it (or more).
  4. Get a professional-looking cover
  5. Publish & Pray.

Who knows, you might get lucky!

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