Sales Reporting Tools for Authors

Authors who self-publish, worry about sales for several reasons. Your sales can mean the difference between cat food and steak for dinner! The term “self-publish” means that the author alone is at the wheel without being able to rely on the Tesla self-driving mode. When you point to the reasons for success or failure, your finger points directly at your head!

The traditional method of publishing assumes that you, the author, will write the next Gone With The Wind. Then you ship off your manuscript to a major publisher and sit around, often for months, just to receive the dreaded rejection letter.

The typical publishing cycle for new or unknown authors means months of waiting and potential disappointment. But there is a better way!

What has to be appreciated is that there are thousands of other potential authors trying the same path of getting your story in front of the readers. It’s similar to growing up and wanting to be a basketball player when you are five feet tall. Plus, of course, is the ratio of professional basketball players to the population in the United States.

When there are a few hundred basketball players with over 300-million people, it’s easy to see that you have to have a tiny percentage of making the big times. As an author, it’s the same type of thing when you are going against famous authors such as Stephen King or James Patterson.

Go ahead and have a good cry, then get over it. You’re not a loser. You just need to take a different path.

First, look at what is called the Vanity Press. Vanity Press publishers make you pay a fee to publish your book. This insult on top of injury sort of like when you’re being raped, and you have to hold his balls up off the ground when he’s butt fucking you.

After paying hard-earned dollars to publish your book, what comes next? You end up with a garage full of unsold books that you’ve paid good money to print beforehand.

I have been writing and publishing erotic novels for close to eight years now and have learned some tips and tricks, often painful, to making money writing stories. Writing as Larry Archer, I came into this gig as an engineer by education and training. As a typical engineer, I tend to be anal and detail-oriented in a lot of things.

When I should be out hyping my stories, I’m often alone in my home office, trying to improve my methodology and craft. Currently, I’ve published over thirty novels and novellas to reasonably good reviews. I’m not James Patterson, yet I grovel at his feet for his skill in making a hundred million per year. Will I ever get there, no I doubt it, but I’m having fun.

After writing the next blockbuster, what’s an unknown author to do?

Self-publishing, of course!

Self-publishing is a no-cost method of publishing a story directly to a publisher without having to have your manuscript accepted. Of course, being accepted does not guarantee that anyone will buy your work of art.

The one skill no one seems to acknowledge is that the writer must be able to articulate a story someone else wants to read. It’s like the old story.

Ansel Adams and Ernest Hemmingway were having a drink at a bar. Hemmingway asked Ansel, “I love your pictures! What kind of camera do you use?” To that, Ansel replied, “I love your stories. What kind of typewriter do you use?”

I realize that a number of younger readers may ask, “What is a typewriter?” The lesson here is that equipment doesn’t make a writer good. Their brain is!

After publishing over thirty stories, now it’s easy to do. If you had asked me that question after I’d written my first story eight years ago, the answer would be completely different. But I can boil the solution to that question simply.

First, go to SmashWords.com and grab a free copy of Mark Coker’s publishing guide. It is over 100 pages, yet I would condense it to about ten pages. After reading Mark’s book, which applies to both SmashWords and Amazon Kindle, your story needs to be formatted simply. Do not do anything fancy but typically use “normal” or body style text and “Heading 1” text.

Grab a copy of Calibre for testing purposes. Calibre is a program that allows the user to start with a Word document and convert it to Amazon Kindle MOBI or SmashWords ePub file.

Convert your manuscript using Calibre to one or both formats and inspect the results in Calibre. When you see formatting issues, figure out the problem, then fix it, and reconvert it.

Once the output looks like you want it to, then publish to Amazon and/or SmashWords. During the publishing process, stop at the point where the document file is converted to a MOBI or ePub file format. Download that file and open it in Calibre or your favorite reader software.

Before publishing, make sure that the output is correct. If it looks okay, then complete the steps to publish your story. With Amazon, it takes about two days before they will approve your file. If you discover a formatting mistake, you have to wait two days to fix it.

If you see a problem and fix it, then re-upload while you’re still in the publishing process and don’t have to wait two days to fix it.

As SmashWords publishes immediately, you can immediately fix and republish a story, but if it is fixed beforehand is a cleaner method.

Finally, I want to hype my reason for writing this blog post in the first place. Once you get your story published, the dreaded question is, “Is anyone buying?”

One of my favorite programs is “Book Report,” which can be downloaded at https://app.getbookreport.com/. The picture at the top of this blog is a section of my sales results, which shows your top sellers.

Book Report is a free service until your sales reach over $1,000 per month. It runs in your browser and will predict your sales daily, monthly, or a custom date range. Book Report only works with Amazon, which is a shortcoming, yet sales at Amazon will typically give you a similar indication of SmashWords sales.

Larry Archer is a writer of erotic literature, and more on his stories can be found at https://LarryArcher.blog/stories.

About LarryArcher

Larry Archer's the name, smut's my game. I am a writer of erotic literature that's generally always HEA (Happily Ever After), which typically involves no regrets sex. I write in a humorous style with a plot and suitable for reading with one hand. My stories are full of sexual situations that are often taken straight from our swinger lifestyle in Las Vegas. If you want to enjoy erotica, where every page is dripping with action, give me a try.
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8 Responses to Sales Reporting Tools for Authors

  1. Mark K says:

    Nice post Larry,
    Since I work as an engineer, but got my degree in Physics with a minor in Math and Philosophy, I share some of your Engineering “attributes”.

    So I have to ask, when you mentioned “Mark Coker’s publishing guide” which of his three Smashwords guides did you mean?

    Smashwords Style Guide (Book #1)
    Smashwords Book Marketing Guide (Book #2)
    The Secret to Ebook Publishing Success (Book #3)

    I’m guessing it’s #1 since that has more about the mechanics of formatting.
    I did one quick perusal, and found one thing I would do differently.
    Step 5 is his “Nuclear method” to purge formatting issues, but there’s a simpler way, assuming you’re using Styles to format your text.

    Select all and then hit ctrl+spacebar then ctrl + Q and all text will revert to the original style format. If all you have used is “Normal”, then all will be fine.

    The problem with this, is if you had used any special format commands (italicize, bold, indent, etc.) they will be lost.

    But if you made a backup, as Mark recommends, you can open the backup and do an advanced search to look for italicized and bold pretty easily (Click on the “more” option and click on “Format/font”

    If you had indents, centered, etc. you can easily create a style to do that since they apply to the full paragraph, and if you use that, it won’t be cleared by the above two commands.

    Oh, and I’m not sure if Mark addresses this, but a “paragraph mark” (left facing P with two vertical lines with show hide set to show) breaks a format command (style or manual) or cross reference link where as a “manual line break” (line down with an arrow to the left, used to be on the enter key very much in the before time) maintains them.

    This is important when building a TOC or if you use cross references, citations, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. LarryArcher says:

    Mark,

    I was speaking of his formatting guide or #1 above. The problem is often mysterious and difficult to tie down. Sometimes the “nuclear method” is the last resort. The “meatgrinder” as it’s called is the conversion engine which takes your DOC file and spits out an ePub, MOBI, PDF, LIT, and other types of files. If the meatgrinder comes across something that it doesn’t understand, it throws you submittal under the bus. The error messages are often cryptic and figuring out the problem is a headbanging experience.

    With Amazon, they don’t often give you error messages and then you look at the finished product to find it’s all screwed up. If you don’t edit and reupload the correct source document during the publishing process, then you are forced to wait up to 4 days. Two days to discover you screwed up then two more days until the corrections are posted. All along, people hopefully are buying your story just to find that you’re an idiot. It’s a lot better to check during the publishing cycle and fix mistakes else you end up waiting and possibly alienating your customer base.

    You have to assume that the average author is technologically challenged and trying to help such a nubie is hard. Especially when you are troubleshooting via email. It sounds simple but in practice is somewhat difficult until you learn what not to do. Also, the translation engines use ePubCheck to check your file and its error messages were written by monkeys on typewriters.

    As you noted, the use of Styles is very important and will solve a lot of problems. You can’t use things like tabs to center text and expect it to work. Like everything publishing is a learning experience but in most cases, you only have to shoot yourself in the foot once or twice to learn.

    There are tricks to creating bookmarks that the program recognizes when making your TOC as you point out.

    Thanks for your salient comments as usual.

    Like

  3. lisabetsarai says:

    I really can’t imagine going back to working with a publisher. But you’re quite correct, step one is writing a great story. Without that, you can’t move to step two.

    BTW have you looked at the KDP beta report dashboard. Looks a bit similar to the Book Report display. Maybe they bought the company… (gag!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • LarryArcher says:

      You know me, how anal I am. I usually have KDP, KDP Beta, & Book Report all running at the same time! I kind of like Book Report the best as it’s easy to select a date range for the sales. I typically watch the last 30 days.

      Like

  4. lisabetsarai says:

    Oh, another thing to watch out for… I just got bitten in the Epub conversion because I used a heading style for the chapter titles in the TOC. This apparently makes Epub put each one on a separate page. This wasn’t an EpubCheck error, but one flagged by Smashwords which prevented the book from going to Premium Distribution. I will give them credit – they told me exactly what to do to fix the problem!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. LarryArcher says:

    I always use Heading 1 for chapters but I typically bookmark my chapters and then manually link them to the TOC entries so I haven’t seen the problem you’re talking about. Is the Slut going premium? I hope so as that’s a great story. xoxo Love F&L

    Like

  6. Dawn D says:

    Well, not that I understood much of the first comment, but you may hear about me at some point…
    Yep, I’m taking the jump, I’m writing this story. Probably not as naughty as you’d like, but the way I need to write it 😉
    Wish me luck!
    And thanks for the advice. You may get an email in a couple of months, when I’m getting closer to the publishing stage 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  7. LarryArcher says:

    Good Luck Dawn, I look forward to reading your story.

    Like

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