Our Six Year Anniversary

July 3 marks Pegasus Pulp’s six year anniversary, so it’s time for another overview post. In those six years, our catalogue has grown to 109 titles in two languages.

In other news, I’m currently trying for a repeat of the July short story challenge, where the idea is to write a short story per day in July (for a summary of the 2015 and 2016 challenges, see here). I’m not sure if I will manage to do it for the whole month this year, but so far I’ve written three stories in as many days. And since writing a short story every day takes time, this post will be a bit more basic than usual:

So let’s take a look at the figures and percentages. The figures of previous years may be found here BTW.

Warning, lots of statistical neepery under the cut.

Let’s start with the retailer breakdown:

Amazon.com: 28.5%
Amazon DE: 25.2%
Amazon UK: 10.4%
Kobo: 6.7%
Barnes & Noble: 4.9%
Scribd: 4.9%
Apple: 4.8%
Tolino general: 2.4%
DriveThruFiction: 2.0%
Smashwords: 1.8%
Amazon AU: 1.6%
OmniLit/All Romance: 1.5%
Amazon CA: 0.8%
Amazon BR: 0.8%
XinXii: 0.4%
Casa del Libro: 0.37%
Weltbild: 0.37%
Amazon FR: 0.3%
Amazon IT: 0.3%
Libiro: 0.17%
Bookmate: 0.17%
Overdrive: 0.17%
Amazon ES: 0.12%
Amazon IN: 0.12%
Oyster: 0.12%
Thalia: 0.12%
Inktera: 0.12%
Feedbooks: 0.12%
Baker Taylor Blio: 0.12%
Book Republic: 0.08%
24symbols: 0.08%
Hugendubel: 0.04%
Der Club: 0.04%
Buecher.de: 0.04%
Osiandersche: 0.04%

Largely, the sales trends I’ve been noticing for a while have continued. Amazon.com is still my strongest market, closely followed by Amazon Germany, but the overall percentage of both has been steadily falling. But then, Amazon’s algorithms strongly favour books that are exclusive, plus a lot of people seem to have switched to the Kindle Unlimited subscription service, where my books are not present, because this requires exclusivity. Plus, as I explain here, Amazon.com’s US customer base is disproportionately concentrated in rural parts of the US, so its algorithms tend to favour what people in those parts of the US like to read. And my books don’t really match the tastes of the rural Americans. This is also why I’m not going exclusive. Because Amazon.com is not the majority of my audience.

Amazon UK is still in third place, followed by Kobo in fourth, even though Kobo’s percentage has dropped somewhat. But then, my Kobo sales have dropped off a little of late. I suspect that reason might be that Kobo used to feature my books in their promotions occasionally, which was always good for a sales boost. But lately, they have switched more to “pay to play” promotions. It’s still a good market. Barnes & Noble and Scribd hold steady with just under 5% of total sales each. Coincidentally, Scribd is the only subscription service where I see decent sales. Oyster, 24symbols, Bookmate, Overdrive, Playster, etc… are all in the under 1% range.

The big surprise this year is Apple. Ever since my books have been available at Apple, I only sold a handful of books there per month, which usually landed Apple in seventh place, well behind several Amazon stores, Kobo, B&N and Scribd. There even was a time when a tiny niche retailer like DriveThruFiction outsold the mighty Apple. Apple is still in seventh place, however, its percentage has double since last year and my Apple sales are now almost as high as those at Barnes & Noble and Scribd. The reason is that this April, sales at Apple suddenly took off. They dropped a bit again in May and June, but still remain much higher than they’ve ever been before. Tolino’s marketshare also continues to increase and all Tolino stores together now make up a little over 3% of my total sales.

Of the smaller stores, DriveThruFiction and Smashwords continue to hover around 2%. OmniLit/AllRomance is at 1.5% at the moment, but since the store closed last December, the percentage will only continue to drop. Of the lesser Amazon, only Amazon Australia manages to cross the 1% mark, while Canada and Brazil hover just below. Altogether, the under 1% markets make up a little over 5% of my total sales, which goes to prove that if you want to be wide, it really pays to distribute as widely as possible.

In general, 2016 started really strong sales-wise, but then dropped off sharply during the summer (which is normal to a degree) and – contrary to previous years – sales did not rise against in the fall and winter. It wasn’t just me who had this experience, it was an industry wide phenomenon, as Kristine Kathryn Rusch explains here. The one to blame here is – as for everything else that’s wrong with the world – Donald Trump or rather the US election, which killed book sales across the board, as people’s attention was riveted elsewhere. And even after Trump was sworn in, sales didn’t really recover, because the unstable political situation in the US kept people off-balance and preoccupied with other things. Okay, so I suppose Trump voters are happy, since every report I’ve seen shows that they are satisfied with the work he’s doing. But then, I suspect that there aren’t a whole lot of Trump voters among my readers.

Though it isn’t just the US election. 2016 simply was a year of several attention-grabbing events happening one after another. We had the Brexit referendum and the Euro 2016 in June, which managed to kill sales in most of Europe, some big baseball thing in the US, which may well also have impacted sales, the summer Olympics in August, which killed sales worldwide, and then, when the bloody Olympics were finally over, the US election really ramped up. Plus, a failed military coup in Turkey in the summer as well. 2017 wasn’t much better with general elections in the UK, France and the Netherlands, presidential elections in France and Austria, a contentious referendum in Turkey and a general election coming up in Germany in September. And in 2018, we have a football world cup and a winter Olympics coming up, oh joy.

This sequence of sales killing events is extremely annoying. However, there isn’t much we can do about it. The world isn’t going to stop turning and there are going to be major sports events and referenda and elections and wars and military coups. And when such events happen, way too many people are going to be riveted to their TV screens rather than reading and there is nothing we can do about it. After all, it’s not as if we can sue Donald Trump for lost sales. Though I did get my revenge on him – sort of – in St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen.

That’s it for political kvetching. Now let’s take a look at the sales of the individual books:

1. Heiligabend im Café zum Lila Kakadu
2. Seraglio
3. Under the Knout
4. Christmas Eve at the Purple Owl Café
5. Outlaw Love
6. The Kiss of the Executioner’s Blade
7. Unter der Knute
8. The Cork and the Bottle
9. Der Kuss des Richtschwertes
10. After the End – Stories of Life After the Apocalypse
11. Hostage to Passion
12. Gesetzlose Liebe
13. Mercy Mission
14. Murder in the Family
15. The Hybrids
16. Four Minute Warning
17. Overdose and Rites of Passage
18. The Spiked Death
19. Hanging Day
20. A Bullet for Father Christmas
21. Hangman’s Wages
22. Christmas Gifts and Unter dem Galgen
23. The Iron Border
24. Flying Bombs and The Butcher of Spain
25. Countdown to Death
26. Spiked Tea and Honigtopf
27. Seedlings and Egg Hunt
28. Dreaming of the Stars
29. Kitchen Witch
30. Bank Job, Bug-Eyed Monsters and the Women Who Love Them, Open Season and The Other Side of the Curtain
31. Debts to Pay, Pissed and Last Minute Geschenke
32. Flights of Madness
33. Heartache, The Hidden Castle, Partners in Crime and Kurierdienst
34. Dead Drop, Paris Green, New York City’s Finest and Familienkutsche
35. History Lesson, Mean Streets and Dead Alleys and The Great Fraud
36. Family Car, He never brings me flowers…, Old Mommark’s Tale, Operation: Rubber Ducky and The Tinsel-Free Christmas Tree
37. Acacia Crescent, Mightier than the Sword, Insomnia, The Apocalypse Protocol, Whaler and Auf der anderen Seite des Vorhangs
38. Dream Job, He has come back to me, Letters from the Dark Side, Love in the Times of the Macrobiotic Müsli, Southern Monsters and Thirty Years to Life
39. Conspirators, Demolition, Elevator of Doom, The Four and a Half Minute Boiled Egg, Loot, Payback Time, Seeing Red, Courier Duty, The Death of the American Dream, The Revenant of Wrecker’s Dock and Die Liebe in den Zeiten des Frischkornmüslis
40. Cartoony Justice, Christmas Shopping with a Broken Heart, Honeypot, A History of the New Ice Age, Kiss of Ice, Valentine’s Day on Iago Prime and Reiche Beute
41. Bullet Holes, Courting Trouble, St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen, Fact or Fiction, Albrecht the Nightmare, Boardwalk Baby, Muse and Crisis, Our Lady of the Burning Heart, The Dark Lily and The Three Quarters Eaten Dessert
42. Dead World, Graveyard Shift, Children of the Stone Gods, Lovers’ Lane, Double Feature, The Faulty Television Receiver and Liquid Muse
43. The Cursed Arm of Driftwood Beach
44. Parlour Game

The top ranks haven’t changed very much since the last time I did this. Christmas at the Purple Owl Café is still a bestseller in two languages and the historical romance and adventure stories continue to sell well. Most of those stories were originally written for a particular niche market, a magazine that catered to people who like tales of damsels in distress and dire peril. Apparently, this niche market is big enough for a steady handful of sales every month. Though even there you see differences. The Butcher of Spain, which is IMO the best of the historical damsel in distress romances, is also the worst selling.

The big surprise is the post-apocalyptic collection After the End which is already in tenth place, even though it was only launched in February 2017. Now post-apocalyptic fiction tends to sell well, especially in the US. But Americans prefer so-called prepper fiction, which assures people that with enough guns and ammunition and dried beans, they can survive the apocalypse, while all of those nasty cosmopolitan elites will die off. And I don’t really write that sort of story at all. Besides, After the End offers an optimistic look at the apocalypse and what comes after, another aspect that isn’t really common in the genre. Though people seem to have liked it, since I’ve also noticed an uptick in sales of my other post-apocalyptic stories. Coincidentally, After the End was also the book that took off at Apple and Apple’s audience is more international.

Of the series starters, Mercy Mission and The Cork and the Bottle continue to do well. And while The Silencer series will never be a strong seller, sales of the earlier books have picked up a little of late. There has been something of a renewed interest in pulp fiction of late, so maybe that’s the reason. And coincidentally, I’ve also heard from other neo-pulp writers that their sales are going up. Though considering some of the quarters where that interest is coming from, I’d be surprised if my books were to their taste.

On the other hand, the In Love and War series just doesn’t sell all that well. This irks me, because I love the story and the characters. Besides, the books have great covers, a compelling story and are the sort of thing that should sell, at least as well as Part of it is that I launched the series during the hot phase of the US presidential election which killed booksales across the board. And using the so-called Liliana Nirvana technique of launching several books in the series at the same time probably hurt more than it helped, since now there were four books not selling rather than one. Besides, the space opera category on Amazon has been swarmed by the “write to market” types, ever since Chris Fox used it as an example in his book Write to Market, and now looks like Baen’s slushpile came alive and ate Amazon’s science fiction categories. New releases easily get lost in the mess, especially if they don’t match the “exploding spaceships in space” or “manly space marines doing manly things in space”. Meanwhile, the science fiction romance category, where the books are also listed, has been taken over by a sea of man chest covers with titles like “Taken by the Alien Warlord”, so my books get lost again. Finally, there is also a factor of cultural differences involved, because apparently Anjali and Mikhail are not likeable to many Americans due to being deserters. I guess refusing to commit war crimes is not a good enough reason to desert, which explains a lot actually. But low sales or no, I will still continue to write new In Love and War stories, though, even if I’m the only one who reads them. Though the rest of the world doesn’t know what they’re missing out on.

The Day the Saucers Came is probably a bit too offbeat for American tastes, both because of the 1950s retro setting and because the premise is basically “mundane drama is interrupted by an alien invasion”, which means that the UFOs and the aliens are kept off stage for much of the time. I still think it’s a great series and in fact there is a new book coming out soon. Finally, Hallowind Cove (humorous retelling of weird happenings in a seaside town) and Alfred and Bertha’s Marvellous Twenty-First Century Life (parodistic series of totally mundane marriage drama told like 1950s hard SF) were both niche series to begin with. Though of all my stories, the Alfred and Bertha series has the most enthusiastic fans. Unfortunately, there only are about three of them. There will eventually be more Alfred and Bertha, though, simply because they are fun to write.

Interestingly, quite a few people seem to read series out of order, since the first book in a series is not always the strongest seller. Though you can usually tell the number of true fans who read every book in a series by looking at the lowest selling book. And that’s not always the most recent one, e.g. for the Helen Shepherd Mysteries it’s not.

As in previous years, I’ve noticed that my never-sellers, i.e. the books that hardly ever sell, do sell after all, though only in small quantities. Because they only get a sale every couple of months or so, I usually don’t notice them. But over time they add up.

Meanwhile, the red lantern for the lowest sales has been passed on to The Cursed Arm of Driftwood Beach, the second Hallowind Cove story. Okay, theoretically Parlour Game, the latest Helen Shepherd Mystery has the lowest sales, but since I haven’t even officially announced that book yet, it doesn’t count.

So that’s it for now. Onward to another year, hopefully one with fewer political upheavals and more sales.

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