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Month: September 2018

Tracking your book sales

Posted in Business, and Just for Writers

An image of chartsOne frequent question from new independent writers is “What tool can I use to track my book sales?” They're looking for the right tool to fetch and consolidate all of their sales data.

In genealogical circles, a similar question is “Who can tell me about my family's ancestry?” and it's the subject of an amusing and sardonic tall tale that tells of the search for the file that contains all the answers.

The same answer applies to both: “Sorry, buddy, you gotta do all that work yourself. Nobody's already done it for you.”

If you're only distributed by one retailer, like Amazon, or you're using one of the current tools that make a serious effort to capture some (but not all) of your unit sales — and that satisfies you — then this is not the article for you. I won't be critiquing the currently available tools because none of them can provide a single platform for tracking ALL your sales in ALL your channels, nor provide you with all the information you want to track, if you can.

You're going to have to build that yourself.

Let's start by exploring what, in an ideal universe, you would want to track about your book sales over time, and why.

Goals

The devil's in the details…

Sales by month (units and $)

Surely it's not too great a burden to go to each of your channels just after the end of the month to get your basic numbers. For me, that's

  • Direct: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords
  • Distributors: (Kobo, Smashwords), PublishDrive, StreetLib, IngramSpark, and AuthorsRepublic (audio).

But that doesn't really tell you much except what to expect on a royalty statement when you get paid. Nor does it account for other kinds of sales, such as direct sales at a book fair, books sold on consignment in local stores, or your ecommerce sales. So that's incomplete.

And it also doesn't provide the information you need to draw trend and analysis data, unless you keep such details as Title, Format, Price, Language, etc.

For marketing and promotional purposes, you also want to see the details of “which retailer” for the distributors, as well as the country.

Financial Systems

Then there's the question about what level of detail should get into your actual accounting system, vs tracking and analysis. After all, when royalties arrive, you have to record them somewhere. Your accounting system is where you track money, but it's not a good place for all the non-financial detail. It cares about monthly sales by royalty payer, not the details about individual channels.

You need two levels of information:

  • Simple per-royalty-payer financial information and physical inventory tracking (those book boxes in your garage)
  • Highly detailed sales information at the deepest level available from your channels and distributors

Bad puppy

Posted in A Writer's Desk

My taigan puppy (now somewhere north of 90 lbs) has recently passed his one year birthday, with no diminution of his playfulness.

Last night, he progressed from stealing things off my desk when I'm not in my office (and tearing them apart) to deciding to see what my laptop tasted like.

Apparently he decided it made a pretty good chew toy.

The laptop is still functional, but since I can see the bare electronics and the cover frame snaps won't stay closed I'm clearly going to have to replace the entire top section.

What a relief, thought I through my rising blood pressure, that I plumped for the Service Warranty when I bought this machine two years ago. I live in the middle of nowhere and having a technician come out to my home office was a great help with my last PC.

This morning I settled down with what patience I could muster and wasted a couple of hours with Lenovo lining up support, only to discover that, no, my warranty does not cover accidental damage; I could upgrade to add that, but only in the first 90 days; and that they would send me a box so I could ship it to a “depot center” for price estimate and repair.

So, not only will I get to pay full cost for whatever this will be (expensive), but I will have to do without my primary business machine for at least a week. And to add insult to injury, I'm an hour's drive from the nearest FedEx drop off.

He tested both corners, of course — agents of chaos being thorough.