Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Sales & other data

Sometimes we don't realise quite how lucky we are. Legacy authors used to get their statements a year in arrears. It takes a long time to collate sales data from potentially thousands of retail outlets, and returns/ remainders can still retrospectively mean the author owes the publisher rather than the other way around.

On KDP, there's a one week return grace period. That's it. After that, we know for certain that the money in our account is ours. It's not nice seeing return figures, but it is useful data. Too high a return rate could mean we've put out bad content, or that we're marketing to the wrong audience.

Anything between 1% and 5% wouldn't concern me in the slightest.

We also get near real time sales. Some indies make the mistake of thinking it is real time, and stat watch which is a constant temptation - particularly early on in our publishing careers. Over time we check it all less, but in the beginning it's easy to worry about the lag between sale and reporting, or whether rank chases sale or vice versa.

We also get nice graphs on sales chart so we can track relative progress. I like to compare my UK and US sales trends (so far, my UK sales are better in total which is no surprise given I'm English, but my USA sales have been increasing at a better rate - and will almost certainly overtake the UK total soon). Actually, I should amend that to say .com sales rather than USA sales as the countries without their own Kindle store get to use .com albeit at the 35% commission rate, and that skews the distribution.

As great as all that is, I would like a bit more. Specifically I'd like to know:

·         How many hits each book page has, by region

·         How many hits my author page has

·         The source of that traffic (Knowing this could give us real feedback on what promotion works)

·         Where visitors go after they leave (Are they checking out other books? Is there one in particular that is doing very well, and thus is doing something better than me that I should consider?)

·         Number of samples downloaded

·         How many samples convert to paid sales

·         How far off the top 100 list my book is if it isn't in it

·         The number of copies bought but not downloaded

·         The number of copies downloaded but unread (these show as 'New' on Kindle)

·         Common highlights made by readers (This shows on Amazon US after you get a large number, but not before)

·         Geographic distribution data for my sales. Where in the UK or USA are the sales? Are they clustered as if it's word of mouth, or are they random?

·         What keywords are being searched by those who find my book

·         The average number of downloads per purchase.

·         The methodology of reading. Is my book being loaded most on kindle fire, kindle touch or the PC app?

·         How many visitors look up my author page?

·         Are more people visiting my page from other books 'also boughts' or leaving my page via the also boughts on my page?

·         How many times has my page been 'shared'? How was it shared? (Amazon share buttons underneath buy box are: Email, facebook, twitter, pinterest (no google plus, no goodreads, not HotUKDeals or similar).

·         If/ when my book is 'pushed' via email. I know from a reader they emailed out a 'If you liked Dead on Demand' email this week, but Amazon don't let the author know this has been done.

·         Customer trend data, anonymised. How much do my readers pay on average for their Kindle books (both inc and excluding freebies)?

·         How much overlap is there between readers of one of my books, and the rest? Which books cross sell each other? We get some info on this via also boughts, but the actual percentages would be useful.

·         The average 'to be read' pile size of my customers. Am I just being hoarded, or are people carefully picking titles? Sometimes cheap titles become an impulse buy, and languish unread.

Amazon probably has most of, if not all, this data recorded already for their own algorithm use. Giving authors access could help us increase sales, and that's not only good for us, but good for them too.

Perhaps Amazon know something about the cost of providing this data that I don't, or maybe they simply don't want to share, or haven't addressed this yet.

What sort of data would you want to see made available?


  1. Frankly, none of the above questions ever crossed my mind, but can see how important, even crucial that information would be. It also re-inforces my own opinion that indie authors who really care about getting their work noticed by readers should make your blog posts their first port of call. Thank you once again, on a very steep learning curve.


  2. those are really good questions that should be answered. We've never thought about them because we can pretty much name every single person who'd bought a copy of Gunning Down Romance - because they're people we know on Facebook & Twitter, so we know what regions they're in, but it would be interesting for if any strangers buy it and to know how they heard about it. We know we sell more in America because that's where the majority of our FB & Twitter friends come from.

  3. I have always wanted to know the traffic source of my sales, this would be invaluable for marketing purposes and would save me time on things that aren't working. It would also be good for Amazon because then I can target my marketing more and get more sales. It would also be really good for KDP select promotions as well, again so I don't waste time on things that don't work.

  4. On the 'traffic source' point use shortened URLs for each campaign and monitor the click through rate of each. That'll let you see which campaigns work and which don't.