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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Above Average: Straight Talk about POD Sales

After nearly a decade of working with traditional publishers, last year I opted for a POD publisher for Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer's Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books. At the time, I didn't know that the average POD author sells about 150 copies of his/her book. (Considering the relative success of a small number of POD authors, the median number of sales is probably significantly lower. That's sobering news for would-be POD authors.)

Because I believe in talking about money, I've shared my actual sales figures for the first six months before. Now let's look at the entire year's worth of sales. Since October, 2010, I've sold:
  • 159 print copies through CreateSpace (including expanded distribution);
  • 50 e-books;
  • 50 copies through a special sale; and
  • 36 copies as "hand-sales," or copies I sell at speaking gigs, writers' conferences, or directly to readers who want a signed copy, etc. (If you do--or want to buy a copy as a gift for a writer, shoot me an email at kelly at becomebodywise dot com.)
That's a total of 295 copies, which means I've already doubled the "average" number of POD sales. But what does this figure mean in real dollars? To determine that, I have to know what I make per-book on each type of sale:

For each print copy sold through or, I make a "royalty" (though it's not a true royalty) of $5.32.

For each print copy sold through what CreateSpace calls "expanded distribution" (e.g., your local brick-and-mortar bookstore), I make a royalty of $2.33.

For each Kindle edition sold in the US, UK, or Canada, I make 70% of the cover price, which is $9.99--that's a royalty of $6.95.

For a Kindle edition sold outside of those three countries, I made 35% of the Kindle price of $9.99, or $3.49.

For hand-sales, I purchase copies of the book directly from CreateSpace for $3.65 each, plus shipping. At a cover price of $14.95, I net about $11.30/book, less if I mail copies to purchasers myself.

For special sales, I can set my own price (and do give discounts on bulk purchases. That's a good deal for me and for buyers. For special sales, I average a profit of $4-5/book.

Bottom line? The first six months, I made $587 in book sales. After 12 months, I've made (drumroll, please): $1703.

This number isn't nearly as high as I'd like. However, Goodbye Byline continues to sell steadily, has gotten good reviews, and has little competition. That means that I should continue to see steady (if not stellar) book sales and encourages me to continue to promote and market the book.

And there have been other benefits as well. The book has led to other work, including a feature in Writer's Digest on ghostwriting, and speaking gigs at writers' conferences on (surprise, surprise) ghostwriting. I'll be teaching a class through Writer's Digest University on ghostwriting, and my book is a useful calling card for potential ghostwriting clients and helps build my platform as a ghostwriter/collaborator.

The bottom line? If you're going POD to make money, be realistic about what you may make--and make sure you read your contracts carefully so you'll know exactly what you make on every version of your book.

Readers, what do you think? Are you surprised by the different amounts you make on POD books versus ebooks, and how "expanded distribution" royalties are so much lower? Have you learned something from this post? Please let me know. :)