Today, Pegasus Pulp crossed the 3000 lifetime sales threshold. I know that’s not much compared to some indies who sell ten thousands, hundred thousands or even millions of books, but it’s still a reason to celebrate for me.
It also shows that Pegasus Pulp‘s sales are growing slowly but steadily, as our line expands. We celebrated our 1000th sale in January 2015 and our 2000th in June 2016, i.e. it took one and a half years for the second and third thousand sales. Meanwhile, the first thousand took three and a half years.
Warning! Lots of statistics and analysis under the cut.
As with previous milestones, let’s take a look at the sales breakdown according to retailer:
Amazon DE: 34.6%
Amazon UK: 8.7%
Tolino (store unspecified): 2.1%
Amazon AU: 1.4%
Amazon BR: 1.3%
Amazon CA: 0.65%
Casa del Libro: 0.3%
Amazon FR: 0.25%
Amazon IT: 0.25%
Amazon ES: 0.1%
Amazon IN: 0.1%
24 Symbols: 0.1%
Page Foundry/Inktera: 0.1%
Baker Taylor Blio: 0.1%
Book Republic: 0.06%
Kobo Plus: 0.03%
Der Club: 0.03%
Amazon Germany has passed Amazon.com as my strongest market for the first time ever. This is due to having a book get Amazon algorithm love in the past few months, as explained here, which also generated sales for my other German books. And because the German e-book market is smaller and less reliant on advertising, because Kindle Unlimited is less of a factor here and because Amazon DE is less clogged with outright scam books pushing down legitimate content, it’s easier for a book to become sticky at Amazon DE. And that’s just what Der Lohn des Henkers did. It became sticky in the top 50 of medieval historical romance, a popular subgenre in Germany. I suspect that the Amazon DE algorithms are different as well and therefore the 30, 60 and 90 days cliffs are not as steep. At any rate, Der Lohn des Henkers actually sold better, after it crossed the 30 days cliff. It came out in late August, so it’s over the 90 day cliff by now and still doing well.
Now Amazon algorithm magic is great, if you can catch it. I caught it at full force twice, both with German language books, and I caught a milder version of it a few times at Amazon.com. And yes, it really works like magic. However, Amazon algorithm magic is not something you can rely on, because it simply doesn’t happen every time and with every book. And particularly with Amazon.com, the deck is stacked against me, because Amazon.com privileges books that are exclusive (mine are not), it requires the book to start selling pretty much straight out of the gate (which mine rarely do, because I wait until the book is up on all major retailers before I make the official announcement) to work its algorithm magic. What is more, as explained here, Amazon.com not just caters mainly to the American market, it also caters specifically to certain regions in the US. Amazon and/or Kindle customers tend to live in rural rather than urban areas (people in urban areas have more access to brick and mortar bookstores) and they seem to be disproportionately concentrated in the South, the Midwest and what I’ve been informed is called the Mountain West (i.e. Utah, Colorado, Montana, etc…). This audience has specific tastes (military science fiction, Harry Dresden type urban fantasy, post-apocalyptic prepper fiction, contemporary billionaire and bad boy romance, paranormal shifter romance, cozy mysteries featuring pets, cooking, crafts, etc…) and due to the way Amazon’s algorithms work, books which cater to these tastes get pushed up in the charts. That’s why a lot of the category bestseller lists at Amazon.com look so samey. It is totally possible to deliberately write the sort of book that does well at Amazon.com – that’s what the current indie writer buzzword of “writing to market” is all about. However, I can’t so that, at least not in the long run. I can only write my own stories, so write what I want to write for the people who enjoy that sort of thing. And there are always some, even if they are not the huge audience that gobbles up every military SF novel or shiter romance on Amazon.com.
Viewed in this light, it’s probably not surprising that Amazon.com’s share of my total sales is steadily falling. The last time I did this, it was still at 28.5% of all sales. Now, six months later, it has dropped to under 25%. Amazon UK is still in third place, though its share has fallen as well. But then, my sales have been slow at Amazon UK for a while now.
Kobo continues to be my biggest non-Amazon market, though their share has fallen slightly as well. Scribd and Apple have both overtaken Barnes & Noble by now. Coincidentally, Scribd is still the only subscription/library service where I do pretty well BTW. All the others – Oyster, 24symbols, Playster, Overdrive, Kobo Plus, etc… – are in the under 1% range. Meanwhile, the small niche retailer DriveThruFiction sits just below the big guns, narrowly ahead of Tolino. Coincidentally, if you take all Tolino stores together (depending upon the distributor, the store is specified or not), Tolino makes up 2.75% of my total sales, pushing it past DriveThruFiction. The other small niche retailer, OmniLit/AllRomance, still narrowly crosses the one percent mark. Though this is the last time it will rank that highly, since their store closed in December 2016.
Smashwords and Amazon Australia’s share of sales is almost unchanged since the last time I did this, while Amazon Brazil’s share has grown and has passed the one percent mark for the first time ever. The other Amazons are all in the under 1% range. Amazon Canada is the biggest of the lesser Amazons, though my Canadian Kobo sales are still much better than my Canadian Amazon sales.
Of the remaining small retailers in the under one percent range, XinXii, Casa del Libro and Libreka are notable. Back in 2011/2012, XinXii was a good market for me, but its share has been dropping steadily, though they still have value as a distributor. Casa del Libro, a Spanish online store, has always been a surprisingly good market for me, considering that my books aren’t even available in Spanish. Finally, Libreka has been the biggest surprise for me of the past few months. Libreka used to be the e-book distribution platform of the German publishers and booksellers’ association, until they sold it a while back. Libreka is mainly a distributor, offering ready-made online stores to small independent bookstores. I suspect that Libreka is also responsible for the e-book stores of some supermarket and department store chains and they definitely supply libraries. Nonetheless, I have no idea how my books sell there and how people even find them, but for some reason they do. And
considering how very hostile to indies the German publishers and booksellers’ association is (hell, they treat Neo-Nazi publishers better than indies), I’m surprised they let us into Libreka at all, even via a distributor like StreetLib.
So let’s take a look at the individual books and their sales:
1. Heiligabend im Café zum Lila Kakadu
2. Der Lohn des Henkers
4. Under the Knout
5. Christmas Eve at the Purple Owl Café
6. Unter der Knute
7. Outlaw Love and The Kiss of the Executioner’s Blade
8. Der Kuss des Richtschwertes
9. The Cork and the Bottle
10. After the End – Stories of Life After the Apocalypse
11. Hostage to Passion
12. Gesetzlose Liebe
13. Mercy Mission
14. Four Minute Warning
15. Murder in the Family
16. The Hybrids
17. Rites of Passage
18. Overdose and The Spiked Death
19. Hanging Day
20. Hangman’s Wages and The Iron Border
21. Unter dem Galgen
22. A Bullet for Father Christmas
23. Christmas Gifts
24. Countdown to Death, Flying Bombs, Dreaming of the Stars and Kitchen Witch
25. The Butcher of Spain
26. Egg Hunt
27. Seedlings, Spiked Tea and Honigtopf
28. Bank Job and Last-Minute-Geschenke
29. Open Season and The Other Side of the Curtain
30. Debts to Pay and Bug-Eyed Monsters and the Women Who Love Them
32. Partners in Crime, Paris Green and Flights of Madness
33. Dead Drop, Mean Streets and Dead Alleys, The Great Fraud, Heartache, The Hidden Castle, Old Mommark’s Tale and Kurierdienst
34. History Lesson, New York City’s Finest, The Apocalypse Protocol and Familienkutsche.
35. Operation Rubber Ducky
36. The Tinsel-Free Christmas Tree, Acacia Crescent, Southern Monsters, Family Car, He never brings me flowers… and Auf der anderen Seite des Vorhangs
37. Mightier than the Sword, Insomnia and Whaler
38. Conspirators, Courting Trouble, Elevator of Doom, Tea and Treachery, The Four and a Half Minute Boiled Egg, Dream Job, He has come back to me, Letters from the Dark Side, Love in the Times of the Macrobiotic Müsli, Thirty Years to Life and Die Liebe in den Zeiten des Frischkornmüslis
39. Bullet Holes, St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen, Fact or Fiction, Demolition, Loot, Payback Time, Seeing Red, Courier Duty, The Death of the American Dream, The Revenant of Wrecker’s Dock and Reiche Beute
40. Graveyard Shift, Dead World, Cartoony Justice, Boardwalk Baby, Lovers’ Lane, Honeypot, A History of the New Ice Age, Kiss of Ice and Valentine’s Day on Iago Prime
41. A Mess of Arms and Legs and Limbs, Albrecht the Nightmare, Muse and Crisis, Our Lady of the Burning Heart, The Dark Lily, Liquid Muse, Children of the Stone Gods and The Three Quarters Eaten Dessert
42. The Milk Truck Gang, Double Feature, The Faulty Television Receiver and The Cursed Arm of Driftwood Beach
43. Parlour Game
The top ranks are similar to previous years and mostly occupied by books which have been out a long time and continue to be steady sellers. However, two 2017 books made it into the top ten sellers, Der Lohn des Henkers at 2 and After the End: Stories of Life After the Apocalypse at 10. As explained above, Der Lohn des Henkers caught some Amazon algorithm love, while After the End profits from the popularity of post-apocalyptic fiction in general (ditto for Four Minute Warning, The Hybrids and The Iron Border). After the End also got some love at Apple.
Of the series starters, The Cork and the Bottle and Mercy Mission continue to do well, while the sales nicely trickle down through the remaining volumes in the respective series. Though it’s interesting that not all books in a series sell equally well (and indeed the top-selling book in the Silencer series is book No. 3, The Spiked Death), which suggests that readers are skipping the occasional book in a series. But then, my books don’t have cliffhangers and can be read as standalones, so it’s no surprise that people are doing so.
Dreaming of the Stars and Countdown to Death, the respective series starters for the In Love and War space opera series and the Silencer pulp style adventure series sell less well. The Silencer series, much as I love it, has always been a slower seller. And In Love and War was seriously hampered by me releasing the first four installments in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election. In retrospect, I should probably have held the first four books back until after the US election. However, the US presidential election campaign had been seemingly going on forever by that point and I also didn’t think that late August to early October were too close to an election in early November. Especially since even German federal parliamentary elections barely affect book sales at all.
However, I’ve noticed that sales for both series have picked up of late. I suspect that The Silencer is profiting from a renewed interest in pulp fiction in general, while the In Love and War books have profited from the release of the anthology The Guardian, which includes a brand-new In Love and War story. And there will be more In Love and War stories soon, hopefully before the holidays.
My other series, The Day the Saucers Came, Hallowind Cove, Alfred and Bertha’s Marvellous Twenty-First Century Life and the Zane Smith and Shoushan Kariyan stories (which really need a better series title) don’t sell all that way, probably because they’re very niche. 1950s B-movie alien invasions, interlinked stories about a fog-shrouded seaside town where strange things keep happening, 1960s style spy adventures and satirical slice of life stories written as if they were golden age science fiction in all its infodumpy glory are simply too offbeat for big audiences. Though all four series have their fans and people who try them generally wind up enjoying them. Coincidentally, I have both a new The Day the Saucers Came and a new Hallowind Cove story in the edit queue and I’m sure there will be more Alfred and Bertha misadventures as well, when I’m in the mood to write another. And I really have to be in the mood to write Alfred and Bertha, because they are research intensive. Not sure if there will be more Zane and Shoushan adventures, since the two that exist were both written a long time ago. Though there is a draft for a Zane and Shoushan short story, which I scribbled by hand during a particularly dull lecture at university, floating around somewhere. I only have to find it again.
As before, 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. And indeed, when compiling my personal all-time bestseller list, I was surprised how many sales several of these never-sellers did get after all. And that’s also why I won’t unpublish or delete any of my low selling titles, even if they “clutter up” my author page. Because even the low sellers occasionally sell and sometimes have eager fans. Never mind that several of the low sellers are stories I personally love (and some of my top sellers are stories I don’t particularly love), so why would I delete them?
The red lantern for the lowest selling title has been passed on to Parlour Game, which surprised me. Okay, so Parlour Game is a 2017 book, but it#s part of the Helen Shepherd Mysteries series, which generally sells well. Another Helen Shepherd Mystery, Mightier than the Sword, also doesn’t sell all that well, but with that story, I suspect that the terrorism theme has put some people off, even though it’s a red herring. But Parlour Game‘s lack of sales just baffles me, since it is the closest thing to a traditional country house mystery I’ve ever written, complete with a library full of suspects who argue among each other. It’s also a really fun story, so mystery fans, just give it a chance.