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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Six Months of POD Sales: An In-Depth Look

Last year I made the leap from a traditionally published girl to POD. I had strong reasons for doing so, but had no idea of what to expect in terms of actual sales. (For point of comparison, I sold about 4,600 copies of Six-Figure Freelancing the first six months after it was published--not bad at all. However, sales after that first six-month period slackened, and I have yet to earn out--though I think I will in the next three years or so.)

After considering a number of possible POD options, I chose CreateSpace for several reasons, including the overall cost, the services it provides, and its ability to turn my book around on an expedited schedule. I spent about $650 upfront (not including the cost of a proofreader, who I hired on my own) for layout, cover and interior design, and limited distribution of Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer's Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books. Obviously I want to recoup my investment, make a profit on the book, and eventually attract more ghostwriting clients as well.

And how do I do that? By selling the book to readers. But I admit that the first six months fell a bit short of my expectations. In the first six months since the book was published in October, 2010, I've sold the following:

October, 2010 24 print copies/5 Kindle editions (including one at 35%)
November, 2010 12 print copies/3 Kindle editions
December, 2010 12 print copies/3 Kindle editions
January, 2011 1 print copy/5 Kindle editions
February, 2011 15 print copies (including 3 expanded distribution)/4 Kindle editions
March, 2011 19 print copies (including 4 expanded edition)/6 Kindle editions

That makes 83 print copies (including those sold through expanded distribution) and 26 Kindle editions, for a total of 109 copies in the first six months. Not quite the numbers I was hoping for, but considering that most POD books average this number of total sales, I'm considering it just the beginning.

Now that we have sales numbers, let's talk money. Goodbye Byline is priced at $14.95, the same price as Six-Figure Freelancing, my traditionally-published book with Random House. But what I actually make per book sale depends on what edition was sold, and another factor--how and where it was distributed. Here are the hard numbers:

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.

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

(Oh, and if I choose to purchase print copies of the book directly from CreateSpace for my own "hand sales," they cost me $3.65/each. )

So, in the first six months, I've made $408.67 in print book sales through CreateSpace, and 178.33 in Kindle sales, for a total of $587. Yet I've actually made more than that thanks to the book--and next post I'll tell you why.

Readers, what do you think? Is seeing specific numbers for a POD publisher helpful to you? If so, let me know or share this post with other authors, both budding and experienced.


  1. Kelly,
    I actually met with two authors of local history books this week to discuss an idea I have for a book similar to what they write. What I found out was:
    1. Most local history books are POD.
    2. Because I have several angles I could go on this idea for differing magazine articles, I could actually make more money writing three articles about the place than a book.

    I tell you this to let you know this topic's been on my mind.

    With your figures, I'd like to know how they compare with your Six-figure book. I'd also be curious to know how someone without your platform would fare.

    So far, from these gals I met with and from this post, I'm not encouraged enough to pursue book writing. Unless of course, the sales I would make by the time I'm 80 make up for it :-)

  2. Thanks for sharing these numbers...very interesting to know as my co-author and I have been debating self-pub vs. traditional publisher for our next book. And even if you haven't made as much from your book as you were hoping, I'll bet it boosted your business in other ways.

  3. Def. helpful. I've heard over and over again that selling a book is hard work, but I never fully appreciated how hard it is to move copies.

    Question: After looking at the numbers and trends, are you glad you went POD and Kindle? Would you ever consider doing a Kindle only book?

  4. Great question, Jennifer...I am considering that and am gathering info, etc. I'll be at ASJA later this week where learning more about ebooks is one of my priorities. :)

  5. Thanks, Linda! You definitely need to read contracts/compare companies very closely. Each charges a different amount of money for options, etc.

  6. Thanks for your comment, Carol. Check out my referenced post on royalties for more info on Six-Figure numbers. And bottom line, if you have no platform, you have no book deal (at least with a traditional publisher). It's really the biggest element of selling a book these days.

  7. Kelly, thanks so much for sharing all the juicy details. Very interesting!

  8. I found this hugely helpful, Kelly. Thank you so much for sharing. You hear all about the big success stories, but most of us aren't going to be in that league. Your figures, comparable to my own, made me feel so much better. What I found particularly interesting was your print copies doing so much better than Kindle, which is the opposite of my experience. But then I realized I put my books on Kindle first, and the print ones have only been available for a few weeks. From a 1st month, 2nd month perspective, they're actually about the same.

  9. Kelly,
    I found this post very helpful and I've shared it on my Select Authors Facebook page. Thank you!

  10. Thank you for your comments, Sarah, Fiona, and Brenda! And Brenda, thanks for the share--I really appreciate it. :)