Reality Check

Track sales, look for trends, they said.


But I did it anyway, and the take away is pretty straight forward. Being a visual type, I graphed it. This is the total sales in the first two months after it was published, in the order the books were published.


The old series (black line) is still showing the effect of KDP’s long tail, with a steady climb in regular readers. The early books in the series still get a few sales every months, plus I use them for free giveaways. In the three years the chart covers, new releases in the series have doubled their first two month sales.

The red line is a spin off series. It started nicely and it’s doing nicely.

The scattered points are unconnected. The green is an urban fantasy short story that sank without a trace. Yellow, is the third book in a YA series, that’s been badly neglected, with years between books. The two blue spots are Hard SF, not connected to each other.

The circled points are $0.99 short stories. They seem to sell as well as the longer stories—in their series.

So, what’s the take away from this bit of belly button gazing?

(1) Series are good, and spinoff series can build on the reputation of the old series, plus attract new readers who might be put off by seeing “Book 37 in the Wine of the Gods Series” but are happy to try “Book 1 of The Directorate.”

(2) Going to have to abandon the YA. Except for the fun of it.

(3) Hard SF sells. Heck, it’s a lot of what I read.

(4) Must start advertising and get all those numbers up.


Now I probably ought to do the same for the first six months, the first year . . . Chart them by date instead of simple sequence, to look for seasonal effects, and time between releases . . .

This is a rather tentative start which, frankly, mostly shows me how little I analyze my sales. 😀 In fact, I’ve probably horrified the more businesslike writers here (Hi, Dorothy!) with my casual neglect of the numbers.

So, have you analyzed your sales lately?

What are your conclusions, about what sells and what doesn’t?


And, here’s one of the Hard SF novels. Available in paper, in case you’re looking for wrapable Christmas presents for the readers in your families.


  1. What sells is _not_ my books 🙂 [ or 😦 ]

    A very strange thing I have seen is… people are a bit silly. I have a four book series with some of the events of book 2 running concurrently to the events of book 1. So after lots of years I turned the whole thing into a two book series, updated it a bit, put on new covers, and wove the first two books together in the first volume. On book 1 of the old “edition” I put a note saying, “if you are buying this you may want to go and buy the newer, updated version instead.” And book one of the new edition is the same price as book one in the old edition, so basically, you are getting two books for the price of one.

    Now, all of my sales are rare at the moment, but people still buy book one of the old edition. So how can I “track” information about people like that? It’s crazy. And it’s driving me crazy too.

    1. A lot of success depends on luck, and as they say, the harder you work, the better your luck seems to be. I’ve got 37 titles released over three years, so I can squint and see an upward trend despite all the jiggling about, and so forth.

      You’ve got . . . looks like 11 books on Amazon, with three short series? look at the total sales, and see how each series progresses, how many people read the first book and then go buy the second and so on. Even with small numbers, you’ll get a feel for whether the readers are really grabbed by the series, or not. And which series you should concentrate on.

  2. I just got Book Report a week ago for tracking income. It is super helpful and almost instantaneous. It’s giving me a much better idea of how my advertising dollars do. I highly recommend it.

    I had a little trouble download it at first, but it worked when I picked the “app” version. I have a Mac.

    1. Help a newbie out? Do you have an advertiser or two you’d recommend? I’m publishing Book #2 soon and would like to do it a little less haphazardly than I did for #1 (both YA fantasy if that helps).

      1. I use Amazon’s advertising. My books show up as sponsored products. I advertise the first in my one trilogy, which is in Kindle Unlimited for borrowing.

        You should start playing around with Amazon’s advertising now, so that you can learn it and get it working for you. It took me quite a while and I gave up on it more than once.

        To start, make a big list of all the authors and titles that your book is like. These will become your key words. Make sure you have some current writers in your list. We all want to put in the writers we grew up with, but those didn’t work so well for me. David Weber did, much to my surprise. I’d read his Honor Harrington books but didn’t know his Safehold series. It turns out my trilogy has common elements with Safehold. Safehold is now on my own TBR list. But I digress.

        You will bid for impressions, but pay for clicks. You will pay less than you bid.

        The US Amazon ads is not so obvious to learn. If you sign up for the UK Amazon ads, you will understand what is going on a lot better, and a nice British person will call you and talk you through things. The UK was, however, a lot harder to get into. To figure out how to do that, sign up for the marketing group 20Booksto50k on Facebook, do a search on UK ads, and follow the instructions one writer put into a document. Yes, it’s that squirrely. Also, the UK is cheaper.

        Even so, start with the US so you don’t get all freaked out by the difficulty of getting into the UK site.

        Sorry if this was too long.

        Oh, also, I bought Help! My Facebooks Ads Suck, which is a very clear book on how to use FB. I haven’t done it yet, but it’s on the marketing list.

  3. Urban fantasy, the Colplatschki stories, the Merchant books, and Shikari. Things that are not too dark, that have a lot of history-based world building. Of the long tail, it is the Colplatschki books that are read the most, although the Cat Among Dragons series has fans.

    Lessons – don’t go too dark. Shorter series sell better, at least thus far. And readers really seem to enjoy “I recognize this but it has a neat twist.” Faster releases are better, but life doesn’t always permit that. I suspect if I’d done faster releases between the Powers (alt-history/secret-history) they’d have done better, but perhaps not. See the line about “not too dark.”

    1. Yes – fun and light – although not completely silly — seems to be the trick. And frequent releases. The Luna City series seems to be at least as widely read as my serious historicals.

    2. Yes, it would be nice if Powers could be light and cheerful, but the real history it derives from is doom, doom, doom. Sigh. I mean, this is the people who put up memorials to military defeats that extinguished the country (see Battle of Mohács, 1526). This is like their whole history. Powers got the atmospherics exactly right.

      1. *bows* Thank you. I tell my students about Mohács and some of the paintings in the National Museum in Budapest, but I’m not certain they believe me.

  4. This is the part of being an author that I LEAST look forward to. The whole idea of having to track numbers and money and stuff freaks me out (my tax person rolls her eyes a LOT).

    C’mon, can’t I just “do art” and have the rest take care of itself? LOL!!!

  5. Does the graph reflect KU reads as well? For a series as long as Wine of the Gods I would have probably hesitated at a normal price point. Also, some of the stories didn’t do much for me initially, but after reading further in the series they became more interesting to me. (I skipped “The Fiend” based on title and cover until later when I made the connection of who the Fiend was.

    1. No it doesn’t. I started collecting data at the time KU started, because all my sales jumped right then. Adding in the KU borrows is another exercise, in as much as they report page reads, not how many copies. But I do probably need to do it.

  6. “Going to have to abandon the YA. Except for the fun of it.”

    Which begs the questions, ‘Were Heinlein’s YA monetary successes?’ and ‘Why were Heinlein’s YA stories so successful?’

    1. I suspect the Boys Life/ Boys Own magazines had something to do with it, making the market rather different. YA was not competing with so many other things. That, and boys were not discouraged from reading as much “back then.”

      Just my WAG.

      1. I tried branding them differently by using a pen name. Reissuing them as Pam Uphoff might help. But writing more of them and publishing more frequently might be what was needed.

    2. Pam doesn’t have them come out often enough.

      I’m a YA buyer-I have six kids. One-so far-is a super-reader. At the very LEAST, I buy two fun books per kid per year-Christnas and Birthday. (Mostly we use the library.)

      But kids grow up. Heinlein’s YA also appeals to adult readers. (Pam’s does, too. ) A lot of YA does not. So you can expect your YA window in general to reach from ten-fifteen, depending on the kid and the story. Take a close look at Harry Potter-the last book is clearly not YA-it it were the furst, the series wouldn’t have been shelved YA. (Well, mostly-I did get after a library once for shelving Laurell K. Hamilton’s Meredith Gentry as YA!)

      (My first kid who fell in love with BSG is now sixteen. He’d probably spend his own money on more books anyway-Pam did something really amazing for my kids for Christmas a couple years back. But he’s mostly outgrown the YA window.)

      If you only are going to keep a reader for five years or so, then you can only sell to them in that time. If you have a long gap, the books won’t take off. Kids generally rely on their parents for spending money, they need hard copies, and every one of my kids’ friends who are readers uses the library for most of their books. While ebooks are more popular with adults, a TON of parents are seeing the bad side of their kid having constant unsupervised internet access. Bluntly, a hard copy book cannot view pornhub or be used for sending nudes on snapchat. YA doesn’t just sell to the reader, it also has to sell to the parents of the reader.

      That, the library, is something your fans can do for you, but you may need to tell them how. My kids and I have gotten several series of indie books into local public libraries by filing a book request form. Ask fans to fill them out, and even though they own it, check the box that says they want to check the book out. My libraries can only order books with ISBNs . While apparently some urban libraries have become de facto homeless shelters for the mentally ill, mine are still the sort of place you can leave a tween for a couple hours in total safety, and a lot of prople do.

      I think one thing about BSG that hasn’t helped it is that the dystopia of it is not very blatent. Yes, it’s a crashing society, but the characters don’t see it, and everyone’s buying dystopias right now.

      But the biggest thing is release timing. It just doesn’t come out often enough, so the “watcha readin” question doesn’t get answered with “New Barton Street” very often, and the word of mouth spread doesn’t happen quickly.

  7. Speaking of the Wine of the Gods series, your putting them on five-day free sales has prompted me to start re-reading them, and I just hit a weird little hiccup. Where is book 19? Mages At Large is book 18, and Triplets is book 20, but an Amazon search for “Wine of the Gods book 19” turns up nothing. OTOH, there are two books listed as book 6 (Comet Fall and One Alone both have “(Wine of the Gods Book 6)” in their title on Amazon), so maybe book 19 is the one that got skipped so that the book numbers lined up again?

    And while I’m thinking about it: would it be useful to you to have a list of spelling errors I noticed, so that you can issue an updated ebook file with spelling fixes? I know Amazon allows that, because I’ve seen that on a different book I checked out from KU: there was an “Update” button next to the book title on my Kindle app, with a note saying something like “This updated edition contains spelling and/or grammar fixes” (that’s not a direct quote). If you want such a list, where would you like me to email it to?

      1. And yes, I would love a list. If you (or anyone else) has a penchant for collecting such things, send them to uphofftx @ hotmail . com minus the spaces, of course.

        1. I’ll do that, then. You’ve been so generous in allowing me to pick up your backlist, one at a time, for free, so I feel like I want to give you something of value as well. And since I’m pretty good at spotting typos and spelling mistakes, I figure that’s a good choice for something I can do that will benefit you.

      2. Does that make my copy a collector’s item?

        Loved Cook Off – and what you’ve done with Kitchen. I read a few out of order so it took me a while to figure out the two characters (Ebsa?) were the same person.

        Speaking of which, I should leave a review on Meet the Family. It was fun to go back to Comet Fall.

  8. you will get more sales if you make the book cover for your hard Sci-Fi book be a link to where you can purchase the book, not just a link to a big image of the cover.

    make it easy for people to impulse buy your books

  9. Well, I like to read this blog for information and inspiration but right now Ms. Uphoff is responsible for ruining my life because she said she was going to do NaNoWriMo so I thought I’d try it to. Speaking of slapping foreheads…. Fortunately I have no sales to track as of now, so this post can’t encourage me to do any more difficult things. ; }

      1. I have gotten pretty much no words written while Cedar was visiting. (She got a couple thousand written, but not me. Weird.) But even with the growing flat spot on the graph, I will try to pick myself up and start writing again. And you know what? At the very least, you may have more written than you would otherwise!

        1. Yep. Having my class load double sort of put a crimp in NaNo, enough that I don’t think I’ll do it again. The stress does not help. I can write a great deal, but having a hard minimum word count on top of expanded Day Job duties… not a good idea.

          1. ..I was completely unsurprised when I learned that the creators of Nano were young, unmarried, childless techies who’d moved far from their families to San Francisco.

            Because nobody who has to deal with kids in and out of school, or Thanksgiving logistics involving multiple families, would set this in November.

            1. I really did not know that’s who started NaNo. Now that you say it I am also totally unsurprised. And yes, I’ve gotten in a lot of words that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I was proctoring a test the other day and had sneak a piece of paper onto the desk for a quick note because I didn’t want to lose the thought, but I couldn’t really follow up on it either. So, interesting. But definitely something I’d rather try in a different month. I’m just going to hang in there this time. I put up 150 words one day… but I put up 2200 on a different and very unusual day…

            2. And I just lost a comment in moderation because I moved my computer and opened a different browser. So just fyi catholicfictioncatholicscience is me, Jane Meyerhofer. Sorry!

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