July 3 marks Pegasus Pulp’s seven year anniversary, so it’s time for another overview post. In those six years, our catalogue has grown to 122 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, 2016 and 2017 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, including a lovely In Love and War story. 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 DE: 36.4%
Amazon UK: 8.1%
Barnes & Noble: 3.9%
Tolino (store not specified): 2.2%
Amazon AU: 1.5%
Amazon BR: 1.2%
Amazon CA: 0.6%
Casa del Libro: 0.25%
Amazon FR: 0.23%
Amazon IT: 0.2%
Kobo Plus: 0.12%
Amazon ES: 0.1%
Amazon IN: 0.1%
24 Symbols: 0.1%
Baker Taylor Blio: 0.1%
Google Play: 0.05%
Book Republic: 0.05%
Der Club: 0.03%
The store ranking hasn’t changed that much since the last time I did this. Amazon Germany continues to be my strongest single retailer, followed by Amazon.com. In fact, Amazon Germany’s marketshare has grown by 2%, while Amazon.com’s share continues to drop. The reason for this is that last summer, one of my German language books, Der Lohn des Henkers, caught the fabled Amazon algorithm magic and sold extremely well for several months, which also stimulated the sales of several my other German language books. Amazon algorithm magic is great, when it happens, but one shouldn’t count on it. Not to mention that catching that Amazon algorithm magic gets harder and harder, particularly at Amazon.com, where catching algorithm magic mostly requires heavily investing in ads. Amazon UK hovers around 8%, while of the smaller Amazons, only Australia and Brazil even cross the 1% mark. Taken together, all Amazon stores have a marketshare of about 70%. Which is pretty good, but not good enough to go exclusive, especially since most of my books are on the shorter side and Kindle Unlimited penalises shorter books. It also tends to reward very cookie cutter works and mine aren’t like that. So I’m not willing to give up 30% of my sales and a global audience in favour of some Kindle Unlimited pie in the sky money.
Kobo is the strongest of the non-Amazon retailers, which again continues a pattern I’ve seen for a long time now. Apple continues to grow and is now in fifth place after three Amazons and Kobo. This is a pleasant development, especially since my Apple sales used to be anemic. But the Helen Shepherd Mysteries took off there last year and it shows. Scribd is still the only subscription service that actually does anything for me, while everything else (Overdrive, Kobo Plus, Oyster, 24 Symbols, Playster, Baker Taylor Blio) remains under 1%, which again shows that banking on subscription services is not a good idea for me. Barnes & Noble continues to drop, but then their woes are well known and they just fired their CEO, too (oh, if the same thing had only happened Horst Seehofer).Of the major retailers, Google Play’s tiny marketshare (a whopping 0.05%) is notable. However, I have only been at Google Play for a couple of months now and many of my books aren’t even available there yet. And looking back, it took me at least a year to get any sort of traction at Kobo, Apple or B&N.
Of the smaller retailers, DriveThruFiction and Smashwords (which is currently having its annual summer sale, where you can get plenty of my books at a reduced price) continue to do well for me. OmniLit/AllRomance still manages to keep just above the 1% threshold, but since they closed down in December 2016, their marketshare will only continue to drop.
Tolino continues to hover at a little over 2%, though if you take all the Tolino alliance stores (Weltbild, Thalia, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, Osiandersche, Der Club) together (Draft2Digital does not distinguish between the Tolino stores, though other distributors and Tolino’s own platform do), their marketshare rises to 2.7%, which has remained pretty steady for a while now. The overwhelming majority of Tolino sales are German language books BTW.
Libreka, another almost entirely German language, is something of a surprise, since it has risen to just under 1% of my all time marketshare, since StreetLib started distributing to them last year. Libreka is something of a mystery to me, since they don’t have a store of their own. They apparently supply e-books to indie bookstores and also supply at least one subscription service. Libreka used to be the e-book platform of the German booksellers and publishers’ organisation, though they sold it some time ago. And indeed, that’s probably the reason why indies can get into Libreka at all, albeit via a distributor, since the German booksellers and publishers’ organisation really hates indie writers and treats even NeoNazis better than us, as long as they are “proper publishers”.
And now let’s take a look at the individual books and their sales:
- Der Lohn des Henkers
- Heiligabend im Café zum Lila Kakadu
- Under the Knout
- Christmas Eve at the Purple Owl Café
- Unter der Knute
- Der Kuss des Richtschwertes
- The Kiss of the Executioner’s Blade
- Outlaw Love
- The Cork and the Bottle
- After the End – Stories of Life After the Apocalypse
- Hostage to Passion
- Gesetzlose Liebe
- Four Minute Warning
- Mercy Mission
- Murder in the Family
- The Hybrids
- Hanging Day
- Overdose, The Spiked Death and Unter dem Galgen
- Hangman’s Wages and Rites of Passage
- A Bullet for Father Christmas
- The Iron Border
- Dreaming of the Stars
- Christmas Gifts
- Kitchen Witch
- Countdown to Death and Flying Bombs
- The Butcher of Spain and Egg Hunt
- Seedlings and Honigtopf
- Spiked Tea
- Bank Job, Open Season and Last-Minute-Geschenke
- Bloody Bananas, Bug-Eyed Monsters and the Women Who Love Them and The Other Side of the Curtain
- Debts to Pay
- Mean Streets and Dead Alleys, Paris Green and Pissed
- Partners in Crime and Flights of Madness
- Dead Drop, Heartache, The Hidden Castle, A Mess of Arms and Legs and Limbs, Old Mommark’s Tale, The Great Fraud, The Tinsel-Free Christmas Tree and Kurierdienst
- History Lesson, New York City’s Finest, Operation Rubber Ducky, Southern Monsters, Tea and Treachery, The Apocalypse Protocol and Familienkutsche
- Baptism of Fire, Courting Trouble, Christmas Shopping with a Broken Heart, Kiss of Ice and He never brings me flowers…
- Acacia Crescent, Blasters of Forever, Bullet Holes, Graveyard Shift, Family Car, Fact or Fiction, The Four and a Half Minute Boiled Egg, Whaler and Auf der anderen Seite des Vorhangs
- Conspirators, Dead World, Dream Job, St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen, He has come back to me…, Insomnia, Mightier than the Sword and Love in the Times of the Macrobiotic Müsli
- Freedom’s Horizon, Elevator of Doom, Demolition, Letters from the Dark Side, Courier Duty, The Death of the American Dream, Thirty Years to Life and Die Liebe in den Zeiten des Frischkornmüslis
- Double-Cross, Loot, Payback Time, Seeing Red, The Revenant of Wrecker’s Dock, Valentine’s Day on Iago Prime and Reiche Beute
- Albrecht the Nightmare, Boardwalk Baby, Cartoony Justice, Children of the Stone Gods, A History of the New Ice Age, Honeypot and Lovers’ Lane
- The Crawling Death, Flesh Trade, The Dark Lily, The Milk Truck Gang, Liquid Muse, Muse and Crisis, Our Lady of the Burning Heart and The Three Quarters Eaten Dessert
- Hunter and Hunted, Parlour Game, Christmas on Iago Prime, Double Feature, The Faulty Television Receiver, The Cursed Arm of Driftwood Beach and The Shantytown Robin Hoods
- Weihnachtsshopping mit gebrochenem Herzen
Once again, the sales patterns are quite similar to the last time I did this. The two top-selling titles are both German books, as is my lowest seller, for that matter. Though Der Lohn des Henkers, which wasn’t even published this time last year, has overtaken Heiligabend im Café zum Lila Kakadu by now. Both caught Amazon algorithm love upon their release, though Lohn des Henkers is stickier, probably because it’s an evergreen story in a popular subgenre (gritty medieval romance), whereas Heiligabend im Café zum Lila Kakadu is a Christmas story and coincidentally, also a lesbian romance. Still, so much for f/f doesn’t sell, particularly if you also consider the good sales for the English language version Christmas Eve at the Purple Owl Café (which is currently participating in a Christmas in July holiday romance promo) as well as for my lesbian western romance Outlaw Love/Gesetzlose Liebe.
In general, most of the books at the top of my lifetime sales rankings are historicals, which have been out for six or seven years. Only Der Lohn des Henkers and After the End are 2017 books. Both did very well due to a combination of algorithm magic and being in a popular subgenre (gritty medieval romance and post-apocalyptic fiction respectively). The popularity of post-apocalyptic fiction in the US also explains the good sales for Four Minute Warning, The Iron Border and The Hybrids. Though I cannot help but wonder what the prepper types who want stories that assure them that if they have enough ammunition and canned beans, they can totally survive the apocalypse, will make of the cooperation focussed stories found in After the End and The Hybrids (in which not a single shot is fired), let alone of the “everybody dies” stories in Four Minute Warning and The Iron Border. There will be a volume 2 of After the End coming out sometimes later this year, by the way, with more oddly hopeful stories about life after the apocalypse. And one of the first stories to come out of the 2018 July short story challenge was a 1980s style nuclear war tale in the vein of Four Minute Warning. So in short, expect more post-apocalyptic fiction, though not necessarily post-apocalyptic fiction that will please preppers.
Of the various series, the Helen Shepherd Mysteries continue to do well except for Parlour Game, which remains the inexplicable outlier. I have honestly no idea why that story doesn’t sell, especially since it is the closest the Helen Shepherd Mysteries have come to a traditional country house mystery. It’s also a fun story and even has a scene where all the suspects are gathered in a library and accusing each other.
Of my two space opera series, Shattered Empire still sells decently, though it hasn’t had a new entry in a while now. In Love and War had a rough start, as detailed here and here, though it is catching up by now due to me releasing more books in the series (and there will be more, including a short story and a prequel novella that are already finished). Space opera and its various subgenres also suffered particularly badly from the “write to market” dogma and were flooded with a whole lot of cookie cutter military science fiction, until the entire category started to look like Baen’s slushpile. Nothing wrong with that sort of thing, if it rocks your boat, it just doesn’t happen to be what I write (A Mess of Arms and Legs and Limbs is the closest I ever came to that sort of military SF). Instead, I write what I call cozy space opera with a big focus on character and their relationships, culture and food. There is a market for that sort of thing, but in Kindle store it tends to get buried under an avalanche of manly space marines doing manly things in space. The In Love and War stories are also classified as science fiction romance, where they are prompty buried under a slightly smaller avalanche of books with manchest covers and titles like Taken by the Alien Warlord. Which proves again that while Amazon and its algorithm magic can be great for some books, it doesn’t do much for books that are just a little off whatever the current trend is.
The Silencer is my oldest series. It has never sold particularly well, probably because 1930s style pulp adventures in the vein of The Shadow and The Spider is too obscure a niche. though looking at the sales ranks, the series does do all right, especially compared to my other series. But then, all of them are somewhat quirky and offbeat. The Day the Saucers Came… mixes slice of life stories with a 1950s B-movie type alien invasion, while the Two-Fisted Todd Adventures is a series in the style of the men’s adventure magazines of the 1960s. The Zane Smith/Shoushan Kariyan series is 1960s style spy fiction cum romance, A Year on Iago Prime is holiday stories mixed with space exploration, Hallowind Cove is humorous horror set in a quirky seaside town and Alfred and Bertha’s Marvellous Twenty-First Century Life is mundane stories told in the overly infodumpy style of bad golden age science fiction. Neither of these things have a big market and my joy in writing retro style pulpy stories (The Silencer, Two-Fisted Todd, The Day the Saucers Came… and Zane Smith/Shoushan Kariyan are all retro stories set between the 1930s and 1960s) probably isn’t helping either. And Hallowind Cove really needs new covers. There are readers for all of these stories out there, they just aren’t necessarily looking on Amazon for their next read, so you have to actively find and court them.
Another thing that I notice whenever I reach a milestone and do one of these analyses is that many of the books I consider never-sellers do in fact sell. But because they sell maybe a copy every couple of months, I don’t particularly notice it at the time. But even those copies sold every few months do add up. Because indie publishing really is a long game.
Case in point: The red lantern for the lowest selling title keeps shifting. Whaler held it for a long time, then Seeing Red, then Parlour Game and now the red lantern has been passed on to Weihnachtsshopping mit gebrochemen Herzen. I have to admit I have no idea why that story didn’t sell (and the English language version Christmas Shopping with a Broken Heart doesn’t sell all that well either), especially since contemporary holiday romance usually does okay, as Christmas Gifts (which actually crosses over with Christmas Shopping with a Broken Heart) and Christmas Eve at the Purple Owl Café prove. And the cover is great, so it can’t be that either. Maybe the fact that there is swearing in the first few pages puts certain sensitive people off. But in general, this proves that even books which are very similar otherwise, can have very different sakes, For that matter, while Der Lohn des Henkers is my all-time top-selling title, the English version Hangman’s Wages only has middling sales.