Know Your Numbers by Deatri King-Bey

DeatriHow many units (books) did you sell last year? Did you make your sales goal for the year? Did you make a good return on your investment for each title? How were your sells compared to the previous year? Those are just a few questions you should be able to answer about your business (yes, publishing is a business).

Every February, I take stock of my numbers for the previous year, and I set my goals for the current year.  I can tell you how many units of each title I sold, the amounts made, the amounts I spent on production for each title, marketing cost… Everything that is needed to calculate if my business is making or losing money. If it is growing, stagnant or dying. I can see areas of leakage and can take steps to fill the holes.

I know it’s not fun. Not fun at all, but you need to know your numbers. Each seller provides some sort of royalty statement and thankfully, most of them use Excel. For those that don’t use Excel, you’ll need to determine the best way to easily turn those statements into usable information.

Okay, let’s take an easy one (you’ll need to do this for each of your sells channels)—Amazon’s ebooks.

  • Each month download your royalty statement and save it in a file for that year. I use a naming convention. For example 2012AmazonJan, 2012BNJan, 2012CreateSpaceJan… That way when I look in the file, it is easy for me to see the different statements per sells channel. I place all of the statements into one file for the year, but you do what works for you.
  • Copy each of the Amazon statements (or whatever sells channel you are using) into a book (a page) on a spreadsheet. I like Excel. So you will have all twelve months worth of statements on one book (page) of the spreadsheet. Yes, I know I said to save each statement in the file also. Hang with me.
  • Now sort the spreadsheet. This will alphabetize the entire sheet. Yes. All of your titles will be sorted for the year.
  •  I place two blank lines between each title
  • Use the Auto Sum function (use the Help feature in Excel. It’s easy to do) for each area of the statement you want numbers for so you can see exactly how many units of each title you sold, how much you made on each title, how many returns you received per title…

I’ve cut and pasted the eBook sales of one of my titles on Amazon as an example: Sample

So now you know how to calculate how much in royalties you made in this sells channel for the year. You need to do this for all of the channels (sells outlets) you use. Print and ebook. Yes it is time consuming and you may want to hire an assistant to do it for you. I know one who will do this for a very reasonable price. You could also just add onto your spreadsheets each month as you save your royalty statements, then do a sort after you get your last statement of the year. It’s quick going once you get everything on a spreadsheet. Get it done.

So let’s pretend that you only sell a short eBook on Amazon. You’ve done your sort and see that in the year you made $1000 in royalties for one of your short story. Congratulations! But did you make a positive return on your investment? Now you need to calculate how much you actually made on this title.

Royalty — $1000

Now subtract production costs. Here is a very basic example of what your production cost may look like:

  • Copyright — $35
  • Editing (developmental, copy, proof) — $250
  • Cover –$100
  • Marketing — $50

Now subtract your production cost from your royalties: $1000 – $435 = $565

Congratulations, you made $565! I’ll take it. And don’t forget most of your production costs are tax deductible (yet another reason why you should itemize).

Now calculate your earnings and costs for each of your titles. Once you know your total earnings, you can set your sales goals for 2013.

Okay, I don’t want to throw you into information overload. Collect your sells information in a spreadsheet, use the automatic sort for the titles, then do an Auto Sum on each title for the columns you are interested in. Set goals for the year and work toward them.

Know Your Numbers!

Deatri King-Bey

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9 thoughts on “Know Your Numbers by Deatri King-Bey

  1. Stacy-Deanne

    Great post, Dee! I think it hits those hard who doesn’t realize how serious publishing can be. I see so many self-published authors wearing their author hats but forgetting they are also business people. So the choice to self-publish needs to be a careful one because it’s more to just writing a book and putting it on Kindle. I am sure serious writers will appreciate this post.

  2. Shelia

    Dee, this is great. We have to know our numbers in order to know what sales goals to set. I tend to do better when I can see things written down. Thanks for this reminder.

  3. Chicki Brown

    Great idea about copying the Amazon info into a spreadsheet so you can auto-calculate. Didn’t even think of that! I’ve been manually calculating. 🙁

    Good post!

    1. Deatri Post author

      Oh my goodness! I can’t imagine doing it by hand. And you have out so many books. I’m so glad this helped. Please spread the world. I want people to automate as much as possible. Thanks Chicki

  4. Bettye Griffin

    Been meaning to do this…have just gotten into the habit of recording all new words written so I can monitor my productivity. This will be next. Thank God for Excel!

  5. Michelle Davis-Newell

    This was great and insightful. I consider this a business – because that’s exactly what it is. As a self-published author, we have to do the work of dozens. It is time consuming, hard work, and it takes commitment. But, what business isn’t all of these things? Keep up the great work, Deatri!

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