Firstly, make sure you go back and check out the previous post and also, pull out information for the post to review in-line with this discussion. Once again, this is about the Hidden Wishes series that I wrote and published in the Gamelit sector.
When I look at a series to see how well it’s done, I look at a few different factors.
The major ones to consider, in my mind are:
– Readthrough rates
– Net profitability (short term & long-term)
– Longevity of the series
Let’s tackle each of these in turn.
What are readthrough rates? Basically the % of readers who move from book 1 to book 2, from book 2 to book 3, etc.
There are numerous ways to calculate that, I’ve attached the Excel document I use at the bottom of this post.
You can also use software like Readerlinks to do it (though you should know how it’s calculating the numbers to better understand what is going on). The attached image is direct from readerlinks. The timeframe is slightly different from the one you see, but it’s close enough for our purposes.
The eagle-eyed among you might have noticed that the KU numbers have disappeared. That’s because you would note I stopped using KU for this series for book 3 (next week, we’ll discuss implications, analysis, etc. on that decision).
To off-set that, I’m going to point out using just raw revenue numbers, read-through rates for book 1 to 2 and book 2 to 3 were even worst than what you saw here at 39% and 43%. In other words, we actually had an increase in the number of book 2 to 3 ebook sales due to the shift (again, implications next week for KU / wide discussion).
One of the biggest things to consider when writing a series is readthrough rates. You need a good readthrough to make a series viable. I know some great writers who look for 75% plus readthrough for book 1 to 2, while I generally figure if you can get at least 60%, you’re good.
In comparison, we have around 43%. Below 50% which is what I’d consider the minimum viable. That’s the first, big sign that this series has an issue.
Book three onwards read-throughs for a series that is engaging its audience needs to be much higher. Most look for between 80-90% readthroughs. In this case though, I’m seeing at best 66% (or in $ amounts, 43%!). That means, a quarter of my readers only made it to book 3.
If we can expect say another 70% readthrough, I could expect a book 4 to cross 586 books. Over, in this case, a period of nearly 9 months. So, one side of the analysis – readthrough rates are dismal for this series.
Now, all that being said, raw revenue numbers aren’t as important as profitability. And in this case, the series has a few advantages over my other ‘massive’ series like System Apocalypse or A Thousand Li.
Books are shorter at 60k words. That means editing and proofing costs are consequently lower. If you figure it’s $0.01 per word for editing, I pay around $600-700 per book edit compared to ATL and SA’s over $1000+.
The amount of time taken to write these books should (theoretically) be shorter too. If you assume it takes the same amount of time to get X number of words down, this book would take roughly half the the time get done.
Assuming I write 2-3k a day, I could theoretically write a book a month compared to a book every 2-3 months for SA / ATL.
Covers costs on the other are both the same in this case, so there’s no difference. However, this being urban fantasy, I theoretically could start looking for premade cover designs which could drop it lower. I didn’t, so we’ll ignore that.
Almost none in these cases. I’ve never used FB ads for this series (remember, I don’t advertise a series unless it has at least 3 books and that wouldn’t happen till Feb this year and by that time, the numbers were bad). With a limited budget and low read-through, I’m better off advertising more successful series.
AMS ads, due to their nature, I do use. I have spent around $535 in the lifetime of the series on these ads.
I’ve also run a couple of newsletter marketing ads, which have driven sales up before. You can see the bump happen in June 2019 from that. However, I’m going to discount that since cost of those ads will wash out revenue from wide sales (which, reminder – I have not included in here but it’s not much).
So, taken together, my total outlay on this series is roughly:
– 3 * 70k * $0.01 for editing & proofing = $2100
– 4 * $350 = $1400 for covers
– Ads of $535
Total expenses = $4,035.
Thus, series profit is roughly $17k.
For those going yay, I’d remind you that this is actually over a 2 1/2 year period. So it’s not realistically livable for most (though it’s not bad at all either!). It is also, mind you, about 6 1/2 months worth of writing (yes, I know what I said, see next month for details on failures).
Longevity of the series
Lastly, when looking at the series, one other thing worth noting is its longevity. In this case, how long will it take before the series just stops selling.
Take a look back at the Gamer’s Wish (book 1) of the series. Now, there are 3 major bumps:
book 2 release in Dec 2018 / Jan 2019
– book 3 release in Feb 2020 (with pre-orders showing up in January too).
And of course, the various downslopes from there.
There’s another bump in June 2019 when I took it wide and then did a newsletter ad promo, which helped push sales on the wide platforms and Amazon.
But on top of that, you see smaller bumps too throughout the years. And almost all of those would coincide with the release of a new book (in a non-related series).
So, longevity of the series and readthrough from other series seems to be doing decently for me. I don’t really have a huge amount of data to analyse cross-series so I haven’t done it (also, it’s too much math!), but I’m willing to call it good. 🙂
The other thing I want to see is if the ‘tail’ is dropping off by the end of this. And that is very clear that it is happening. You see a drop-off in all the books / SKUs except the omnibus which is beginning to creep up. That might be an anomaly (I need to wait and see).
But, overall, it’s s a slow drop. It’s not hitting $0 even 7 months after the last book was released. And reviewing book 2 drop-off in sales, I should be good at least another 4-5 months. It’d probably make sense to do another newsletter promo to push up sales though, but there’s still ‘legs’ on this series.
Just maybe not forever.
A Failure? Or Not?
If you looked at each book individually (outside of A Gamer’s Wish) or just the readthrough rates, you might label this series a failure. Certainly, A Jinn’s Wish hasn’t done much to add to my bottom line, though I did make a profit on month 1.
Then again, you can’t look at a book in a series as a stand-alone item.
I made over $17k on this series and expect to continue to make money on it every month. In September, that amount was jus under $240 – with a series with minimal advertising expenditure (around $20 I believe via AMS ads).
Because I continue to earn from this series, because it has at least another 6 months if not years worth of relatively passive income. It didn’t do as well as I’d hoped and if I wrote this entire series and released them in the 6-7 months, my earnings would be significantly less (only 7 month of Gamer’s Wish numbers, rather than 2 1/2 years, etc).
But it’s why we talk about multiple books earning people a decent (on-going) income. Why having multiple streams (in terms of series and books out) make a big difference. No single one of these books would pay my bills. Not even the entire series. Yet, if I had 5 of these series (15 books – each taking slightly less than 2 months to write), I’d have made a decent living in this 2 1/2 years (approximately US$34k net profit per annum).
It’s worth looking at things like as a whole, not individually.
And while all this seems positive, as always, there are a few things worth noting.
– I am still releasing new, unrelated work so readers pick up my backlist. I have two successful series, so my backlist readthrough might be significantly higher than another author.
– the book gets promoted by me occasionally in the various social media outlets and the occasional newsletter promo ads. This isn’t purely passive income. I do still have to push it, and it does drop without some effort on my part.
– as a finished series, there’s a draw to new readers who want a full story. I make nearly double the amount I did in Oct 2020 from the entire series with 4 SKUs (3 books, 1 Omnibus) than I did with the 2, unfinished series in Oct 2019.
A finished series in the LitRPG genre right now is relatively rare. This will change in the next few years. I might see a bigger drop in sales of the omnibus, etc. then.
– my switch from KU to wide might have depressed sales much more than I think (see next week for my thoughts and analysis).
– the net profit numbers I posted don’t include things like that wide sales (not significant, for reasons to be discussed) and audio income. Audio income actually affect net profit numbers somewhat significantly, and would be a post by itself. I’m not sure anyone’s interested in that though, but I’ll do it if requested.
I didn’t get around to analysing my failures in this series and the switch from KU to wide, so I’ll do that. Craft and other failure points in the series are going to be next week’s post though.
As always, feel free to ask questions or comment.
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