The Keys To Epublishing Success?

This post, by Derek J. Canyon, originally appeared on his Adventures in ePublishing blog on 1/5/11 and is reprinted here in its entirety with his permission.

Over in this thread on kindleboards, several dozen e-authors are revealing that they have joined the 1,000+ Sales/Month Club. This is great news for them and I congratulate each one for the time and effort they’ve put in to achieve their success. I’ve done a bunch of research and crunched some numbers, and in this post I’ll use some spiffy charts in some analysis.

First, is 1,000 or more sales per month an indicator of success? That’s a good question. We don’t know how many of those books were given away for free or for a low price such as $0.99 (which would garner the author only $0.35 per sale).
But, even at a cover price of only $0.99, an author would make $350/month if they sold 1,000 units. That’s $4,200 per year. That’s not enough for a career, but it is a very nice income boost. I’d call this a success for any “hobbyist” or newbie author. If I make $4,200 this year, I’ll certainly consider it a success.
If you assume that the cover price of the book is $2.99 (the minimum required to receive a 70% royalty from Amazon), then the author is making just over $2,000 per month, or $24,000 per year! Even after Uncle Sam takes his cut, the author is probably left with a very good chunk of change. Enough for a couple very nice vacations a year, a snazzy home theater system, or a down payment on a house. I’d call this an unqualified success.
Anything more than $2,000 a month is getting close to being enough to live on comfortably.
So, I’d say that 1,000+ sales per month is a success no matter how you cut it.
Now, on to the numbers. I’ve added some data points to Robin Sullivan’s list of 54 authors who have stated they are selling 1,000 or more units per month. You can see the table below. Amanda Hocking tops the list with 100,000 units sold in a month! Very impressive! Especially when you cnosider she’s been publishing for less than a year.
The table below provides the hard data. The sales numbers are provided by the author, but I’ve researched the genre and number of titles available columns. Obviously, this table is incomplete. I’m sure there are more authors who sell 1,000+ units per month. If you’re not on the list and want to be, let me know. Also let me know if I have any of your information wrong.

Oops!! I forgot to mention that the Robin Sullivan first compiled the list of authors and sales numbers in the kindleboard thread noted above. I merely researched the information for the other columns.

 (Click images to see larger size.)
What does this table tell us? Does any of this data suggest trends that can help the rest of us achieve success?
Unfortunately, I don’t have enough data for the Previous Print Publishing column to make any suppositions on how important that is.
As for genre, there is a wide variety represented in the table. The top 4 genres are romance, paranormal, thriller, and mystery. But, there is a wide variety of additional genres. It looks like the club is open to almost any genre.



But, what does seem to be a commonality with most of the authors selling 1,000+ units is that they have more than one title available.


What is the key to epublishing success? From the limited data I have above, it seems that it’s the number of titles an author has available.
67% of the authors have three or more titles available. It makes sense that the more titles you have for sale, the more sales you earn. Joe Konrath talks about this a lot over on his fine blog. And, from the numbers, you have to agree. It seems that a good strategy to join the 1,000+ Sales/Month Club is to emulate the existing club members by putting more ebooks up for sale.
Alas, that’s easier said than done. Unless you have backlist of books ready to go, you’re going to have to sit down and write those books. It can take me six months to get a book written and ready to upload. Other authors might be quicker, others slower. But, it seems that building your ebook portfolio is a long-term goal.
My advice? Get started now, keep writing, commit to 2 or 3 years of effort before you evaluate your success, and don’t lose hope!