So, I realised my earlier post about breakeven analysis & timelines for ebooks & audiobooks might have been a little pessimistic about the life of a self-published author. Not to say those numbers weren’t real, just that it doesn’t take into account another phenomenon.
Writing in a series.
Most long-term indie published authors recommend you write in a series. Why? Because that’s where the money is.
So, some basic information that does float around, but can be annoyingly hard to find.
- Your first book will always sell the best of the series.
- You will lose anywhere from 80% to 20% of your audience from book 1 to book 2. A ‘good’ series will only lose about 20% of your audience (i.e. you get 80% of book 1 readers into book 2).
Most recommendations I see suggest that you only continue writing in that series if you lose 40% of your audience (i.e. 60% of your readers come to book 2).
- After book 2, you generally keep between 70-90% of your audience for each respective book.
Again, sharp drop-offs are a concern.
- I have heard varying accounts of what the ‘optimal’ number of books are in a series (3, 5, 9 being the numbers I’ve seen thrown around). I think it very much has to do with your readership & series itself and how well you do at keeping people interested. However, I do think the advice I’ve heard that building a ‘closure’ point at 3/5/etc points is good, so that if it no longer sells, you can ‘close’ your series and move on to something that will pay the bills. See my previous post about writing in series.
How do series sales affect performance?
So, let’s give some actual data here.
A Healer’s Gift, my first book in the Adventures on Brad series released in June 2017.
I made approximately US$3,237. in that month.
When An Adventurer’s Heart released in September 2017, sales that had been dropping for book 1 since release saw an increase. It went up to $1,020.
When A Dungeon’s Soul (Book 3) came out in late November (nearly December), sales popped up again to around the same amount (hard to tell since data is broken by months).
Part of the reason there was a drop was the big gap (for me) between releases. Another was the huge increase in LitRPG books during that period, making my series easy to forget and get lost in the fold.
Still, these were all sales from ONE book. All the previous books in the series also saw bumps in sales, increasing the profitability of the overall series. After all, once the book production cost is paid for, every additional dollar from that series adds to the bottomline.
Here’s the actual graph of Series Sales from A Healer’s Gift release to end December 2018.
Each of those jumps? A sale increase. The AoB Collection (book 1-3) was released June 30, 2019 which is why you see a small bump up then too in KU. But, notice the way each release increases the SERIES sales. Even if the additional amount of revenue from each book is lower.
From this, you can see why writing in a series makes some sense.
Some Other Thoughts
- Series (& launches in the series) can fail. I saw that with the Forest’s Silence in Setepmber 2019. The book itself generated minimal interest and only a very small bump in sales of the rest of the series.
At this point, I’ve mad just about US$2k. That’s a failure (for me) as that’s basically a month’s work for me and is top-line revenue. So expenses including the cost of production, especially audio production isn’t included. I am still at a loss for this book if you include audio cost and revenue, even if you exclude opportunity cost of my time. I’ll break even eventually, as time goes on and sales trickle in, but it’s a long-term game now.
- Releases in other series / other books can help increase sales but at a much smaller rate. I won’t give numbers here, because from what I’ve read and seen, the amount varies significantly between writers.
- Because continual releases in a series add readers to the previous books, done well, your next book in the series can actually do better in terms of ranks because your rabid fan base wants the next book. Note that new books still have lower total sales but a higher rank. Which can be important. Again, depends on series (AoB – no. System Apocalypse – yes).
- Lastly, there is an overall ‘increase’ in revenue (if you have a decent series) when you hit the 3rd book in a series. It’s probably a hold-over from fantasy trilogies (again, remembering, I do write fantasy / scifi stuff). There’s another surge supposedly at 5 books, but that one I have less (personal) data on.
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