Well, as many of you know, we released the second short story anthology for the System Apocalypse. This time around, we did it slightly differently, in that we lowered our initial payment amount to $0.04 per word, kept each story shorter so we could have more contributors and then increased the final pay via a Kickstarter and paid for the biggest expense (audiobooks) that way too.
On top of that, we pre-sold some copies of the short story anthology in our webstore, though that generated minimal revenue. I think we sold maybe 2 copies?
Costs and Methodology
So, one thing to note is that when we created the anthology, we had previous sales records that we could use to keep in mind. In this sense, we projected basically how much we could pay people (the $0.04) based off the earnings we could make. This gave us our basic budget for payment outwards while other cost like editing and covers were considered ‘extra’ that we, as a business, would absorb.
Generally, the assumption is that if the anthology did well enough, we’d get a few readers coming in to the rest of the universe, which would cover those editing and design cost (and our time); thus precluding the need for directly tracking expenses.
Interestingly enough, promoting the short story anthology was in a few parts. The first portion was getting writers, the second portion in the Kickstarter via our social media and the last was the sale of the anthology itself when it published on Amazon.
We used the general techniques we employ – social media and newsletters; though we skipped advertising at this time due to cost and expected return. As mentioned before, it’s rare that advertising a single work makes sense, so we kept the overall promotional cost low.
One thing we did create was to update the timeline again, so that people knew where the second anthology landed.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Here’s the picture.
As you can see, the first book (published in September 2019) made nearly two thousand dollars in the first month and a half of it’s life. Quite a long tail of sales after that, before it trailed off. Not too surprising, overall and we have had minor bumps in sales since.
On the other hand, the second anthology launched in April 2023 has barely grossed five hundred dollars total. That’s a very big drop.
What happened, you’re asking? So am I.
The Reason Why
I can think of a few things which could dictate the lack of sales:
- Format mismatch – the first anthology launched over four years ago. Since then, there’s been a huge increase in LitRPG works and also, other short story anthologies. Readers (in general) in LitRPG prefer longer, serial works and it’s quite possible after reading other shorts, they realised they just aren’t interested in short story anthologies in this genre.
- Timing & Density – again, the genre in 2019 was very different. There were fewer works back then, and the genre was still new. I think many readers were still exploring their taste, and there just wasn’t that much of a backlog. So when you were done with the best, you just read on to what’s next.
- Nowadays, there’s more work out there than you can expect to ever read. And as such, if shorts aren’t for you, you don’t have to read them to get your fix.
- Series Timeline – there’s another factor here, in that the first short story anthology works for those looking to get into LitRPG or the System Apocalypse. It’s set in the beginning of the apocalypse and the first year, the most exciting period.
- The second anthology is set in the second to sixth year, so a lot more time and space. It gives the stories more variety, but it’s less likely for people who aren’t already fans of the series a reason to pickup.
- On-going and Completed Series – Also, timing. The main System Apocalypse series is over, and while the other series do well, the main driver for many fans have come to an end. In comparison, the first anthology released while I was still writing the main series, which probably meant that readers hadn’t ‘finished’ or bookmarked the end.
- Amazon Changes – Possibly one of the biggest factors was that Amazon didn’t get in and help push. Rather than releasing a newsletter informing readers that the anthology was out, as far as we can tell, they never did. So all the followers who do follow me on Amazon just… never learnt about the book. We’ll continue to push and attempt to get them to trigger an e-mail, but thus far; we’re kind of stuck waiting.
Sadly, while I’m quite happy with the series and the work that came out of it, it’s very unlikely we’ll ever run a third anthology with other authors. There’s a significant time cost involved and unless we see a major change in sales, there’s very little reason to on a financial basis.
And while I don’t mind running minor losses here and there to promote other authors, if the works aren’t selling, I’d say there are better methods to do so. After all, the end goal of these books are for people to be read.
Like the business blog post? Want to support me writing more of them? Want to read ahead (2 weeks) of others? Become a Patron and choose the $2-tier to be able to read the business posts only and ask questions about the business side of writing.