Indie Authors: Should You Share Your Sales Data?

Blame it on my days in PR, but I'm a big fan of transparency. I love sharing open and honest information, including real life data about things that interest me. In freelance writing I encourage other writers to share their rates openly because it helps us not only conduct better market research as a group and can positively influence the hiring process, but because it also helps newer writers get a better idea of what's realistic.

Rather than seeing a star or two talk about earning $500 per hour or only seeing low-balled rates common to freelance bidding sites, they get to see what more directly comparable writers are able to charge. They get to see what real life success looks like in the form of attainable goals.

Transparency for Indie Authors

The same thing is possible in indie publishing. Indie publishing in its newer form hasn't been around long enough for us to have truly stable statistical sales data. The larger data includes fad factors, low saturation levels, and other things common in the beginning that will level out over time. We more readily see sales data from bigger names in indie publishing -- those who had the edge of an existing audience from their traditional publishing days which isn't directly comparable to new indie authors just starting out with their first books.

That's why I love it when see people like friend and colleague, Evelyn Lafont, share sales data for their e-books and other independently published books. It gives other indie authors a realistic look at what others in their shoes are able to pull off. What kind of book marketing do they do and what kind of return do they see? Could you replicate some of those efforts? Could you improve upon them or work them into your own marketing mix?

Lafont isn't the only indie author out there sharing this kind of information. Two others I came across just this week are David Michael and Cameron Chapman. The sales statistics from any single author won't necessarily mirror the possibilities for your own work. That depends on a lot of things such as your niche / genre, your marketing budget, the production quality of your book, whether you're selling print books or e-books or both, the size of your existing writer platform, and the time you can put into promotion.

That said, it isn't always about trying to replicate someone else or learn from their mistakes. Personally I find that it leads to inspiration and a sense of camaraderie. And for those reasons alone, I think it's a great idea for more indie publishers to be open about sharing their sales data.

Benefits to Sharing Indie Publishing Sales Data

The reluctance some authors have about sharing sales figures is understandable. You might worry about being judged if your sales numbers aren't very high for example. But no matter the risk, there are some clear benefits as well. Here are a few reasons you should at least consider sharing your indie publishing sales data publicly.

  • You can serve as a realistic role model or source of inspiration for other new indie authors by giving them information they want (and that not many authors are currently providing). This can help you grow your website or blog audience, and in turn sell more books if you market your books from that site. It's the kind of content people love to share and keep coming back for.
  • If networking with other colleagues is important to you, this can be something to bring you closer together. You can bond over shared experiences, share tips and lessons learned, and encourage each other to keep those numbers climbing.
  • Seeing your sales numbers grow month-over-month might be the kick in the pants a potential reader needs before buying your book. If an increasing number of people are suddenly interested in you each month and you can show that with real numbers, you might just pique their interest enough to convert them.
  • Sharing your sales statistics keeps you accountable. Knowing you'll share your progress, or lack thereof, with readers and other authors might make you push yourself more on the marketing front.

Do you share your sales statistics for your independently published books and e-books? Why or why not? Are there other benefits or drawbacks that are important to you? If you're getting ready to publish your first book as an indie author, do you plan to share your sales figures? While it isn't something I've done yet, I intend to start with the next e-book I release. Share your thoughts and stories with us in the comments below.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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8 thoughts on “Indie Authors: Should You Share Your Sales Data?”

  1. It really is hard–like those dreams in which you end up at the grocery store naked and try to hide your naughty bits behind produce without sharp skins. But I think it’s worth it to give people a realistic idea of what to expect.

  2. I haven’t posted my numbers yet. It’s partly because my book only released a couple months ago. I also would want to see what happens in a year, or at the very least, a quarter.

    I don’t mind people posting their numbers, but I find it pointless if they don’t list why things happened or give constant numbers.

    I’m keeping an excel sheet, but I list reasons like reviews started coming in, books available at such and such, good review syndicated at major paper, first review was bad, advertising happens this day, holiday season, etc.

    After a year, I’ll probably post it all up on my site. Hopefully, it’ll help people like my post on how much editing cost me.

    • You should definitely check out Evelyn Lafont’s blog then. When she shares her stats she also tells you where those sales came from — what she did, where sales came from, etc. Very constructive. 🙂

  3. To be honest, I’ve stopped buying books from Indie authors if I see they are constantly sharing their rankings and sales data. I find it to be as much as a deterrent as when I see authors comment on their online reviews. I’m all for being open and honest, but I think there is a line. Many may disagree with me, but I’d rather an author talk about their book and writing rather than their rankings.

    • I think it depends on context and whether or not they’re really talking to you as a reader. For example, this blog will very likely share that kind of information because the blog isn’t for readers. It’s for indie authors. And those kinds of posts are for an audience of colleagues more than anything. On my actual author blog / site where books will be sold, I wouldn’t share that because it doesn’t really apply to readers (the people that site targets). So in that sense I can understand why you wouldn’t like it as a reader. On the other hand, I can also see the other side. Not all authors have multiple websites where they can easily separate those things, so I can understand that they’re not only trying to reach readers there but also their colleagues in an effort to networking. Both are valid uses for their blogs. They just have to find some balance.


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