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  • Writer's picturePru Warren

Indie Book Sales with Dollar Info

I promised my local writing friends that I'd report on the results of my publishing experiements (most recently seven books in four months) and it occurs to me that there is SO LITTLE practical information for the newbie indie author--why not broaden this posts's reach? So I'm going to post this on Club Indie, too. If you want to pass it on, knock yourself out. Let's demystify some of this confusion. Run it up the flagpole. See who salutes.

Like you do.

Some brief background:

I write comcoms. They're very charming. You should go read all sixteen. Look for "Pru Warren." There. The marketing portion of this post is now complete.

Also, I am a spendthrift (which despite the way the word sounds really does mean I'm pretty foolishly casual with my money). Mumsy left me a sweet legacy and told me to write romance novels. Thanks, Mum!

My point is: Kids, don't try this at home. I am a professional (spender of money).

NOTE: I promised you actual dollar amounts and you'll find them toward the end. Skip down if you prefer to skim.

I published my first novel in January, 2021. It was so much stinkin' fun to write that I followed it up with fifteen more. But along the way while I was amusing myself and spending my mother's legacy, I got to wondering:

How come Amazon won't spend my money?

Let's say I tell Amazon to run an ad for my book to people IT ALREADY KNOWS like my kind of writing. I tell Amazon--c'mon, honey, let's spend $25 a day. (This amount is, in fact, a "whoo-hoo!" total for most indie authors who need their outgo to be balanced by their income.)

But despite my lavish budget, Amazon would spend, oh, three dollars and seventeen cents. Or maybe five dollars and eighty-six cents. COME ON, MAN! (Or "come on, Zon!" That's what we groovy authors call our overlord. Zon. It's a nickname. We're close like that.)

Why wouldn't Amazon spend my money? There are more than $3.17's worth of romcom readers out there, and Amazon knows every single one of them. So wassamaddaU? Did I offend? Did the last goat I sacrificed at midnight not appease the gods? What's going on?

Oh, said authors wiser than me (which is all of them). Amazon likes it if you feed it fresh fodder. You have to publish a book every two months. No, every month. No, every three weeks. PUBLISH MORE NOW HURRY HURRY.

By great good foturne, I write pretty quickly. And a lot of romantic scenarios make me snigger. So I felt like I could turn up the gas. I cranked out the next three books in the series in a blistering fever of giggles. Book one (CYN & THE PEANUT BUTTER CUP) came out in January. In September, I published DASH & THE MOONGLOW MYSTIC. ELLYN & THE WOULD-BE GIGOLO came out in October, and FARRAH & THE COURT-APPOINTED BOSS in November. (Those names still give me the giggles; I just love them. Not marketing--just a moment of personal delight.)

There. Three books in three months. How ya like me now, Amazon?

Big spike in January. OH! I'VE CRACKED THE CODE!

But no. The numbers fell off a cliff in February. I withdrew my free-spending ways while I figured things out. NO ads bought in March or April.

I girded my loins once more and started buying Amazon ads in May again. Why did my sales spike in August, when nothing else had changed? I have no idea. They spiked because Amazon, like all decent gods, is unreadable, capricious, and totally opaque.

Next I tried to appeal to the binge reader. In addition to pulling all of my books into Kindle Unlimited (I'd been wide before that with NOT A RIPPLE caused in the larger publishing universe), I threw an entire series into the void. BREATH OF FRESH HEIRESS, FULL OF HOT HEIRESS, and VANISHED INTO THIN HEIRESS all came out on Dec. 25 to capitalize on that lazy, delicious week of reading between Christmas and New Year's.

Those three books kept things up. Amazon was showing my books to a fair number of readers for MONTHS even though I wasn't feeding it new logs of fragrant, sacrificial wood. Why? NOBODY KNOWS.

In August of this past year, I pulled out all the stops. I began my run of seven books published in four months. Know what happened?


Clearly, I do not know how to appease my god. I've signed up for Mark Dawson's "Ads for Authors" class and I hold out hope that he knows how to read the entrails, chart the flight of white doves across the sky, breathes in the sacred vaoprs to explain how a small-scale indie author can become a mid-scale indie author. Know what? I'll report back on THOSE efforts, too!

Now for the numbers and charts I promised.

Here's what I paid to Amazon in ads. Don't bother squinting; the embarrassingly large total I've spent over three years comes to a whopping $19,728.78. Look at those confusing peaks and valleys.

But wait--it gets worse. Here's what Amazon paid me in all that time.

My royalties since the beginning add up to $14,859.62 over sixteen books. So I've spent $4,869.16 to call myself an author and in the hopes that one of the very few books I've sold was picked up by Reese Witherspoon who would cry "Oh! The next awesome read for my bookclub! Hurray!" She's so cute.

And some extra info: here are the number of paperback books I've sold over the past three years.

If you divide the $4,869.16 I've overspent by the 3,952 books sold, you come up with the possibly fallacious statement that I've paid $1.23 per book to have people read my romcoms...I dunno. I may be wrong. I'm bad at math. All 26 letters GOOD, all ten numbers CONFUSING.

Last, here's what happened when I dumped every book I'd ever written into Kindle Unlimited.

I know that more established authors are unhappy with KU. Amazon is paying less and less per page read...but for me, the KU money absolutely dwarfs the print money. (They're both pretty dwarvish, but one number is the butch Lollipop Guild and the other is the diminutive Lullaby League, savvy?)

In conclusion, darling, I can draw no conclusions. But I said I'd share the deets and now I have. Frankly, I'm relieved that I'm less than $5K in the hole. Now all I need is someone to pass a charming romcom to Reese, so get on that, won't you?



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Dec 08, 2023

I, too, am grateful to you for having parsed this so thoroughly and shared it. I cannot even make out how to FIND my (microscopic) royalties on Amazon, let alone compare them to what I spent. I look forward to hearing your experiences after you've followed Mark Dawson's pointers. But your books are wonderful, so put that in the plus column!😊


Jean Marie Ward
Jean Marie Ward
Dec 07, 2023

Fascinating stuff, Pru. Thanks so much for posting this. Various indie and trad authors of my acquaintance say Amazon ads are the way to go, but this has me going "Wa-ha?"

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