2014 Sales and Earnings Report

Tax season is once again upon us, and that means it’s time to take stock of how my adventures in self-publishing have progressed this year. Several of my fellow authors in the Podcast Fiction Tribe have taken the lead in disclosing their sales numbers and earnings from self-publishing (hat-tips to Abigail Hilton and Matthew Wayne Selznick), and in the interest of transparency I’m going to do likewise.

In 2014 I sold books through three different markets: Smashwords, Kindle Direct Publishing, and CreateSpace/Amazon Direct. I also made some money through licensing fees.


I made 51 sales through Smashwords in 2014, but I was surprised to discover that only 6 of these sales were through the Smashwords.com website. The rest came from the secondary retailers through whom Smashwords distributes my books: Barnes & Noble (24), Apple Store (12), Oyster (4), Scribd (4) and Kobo (1). Oyster and Scribd are of particular interest because these are subscription services, like Netflix for books: readers pay a flat monthly fee and can download whatever they want, and if they read a certain percentage of the book, then the author gets paid as if they had purchased it. This is a win-win for authors and readers, because it gives readers the freedom to take a chance on authors they may never have heard of before (like yours truly).

In addition to these sales, 49 people downloaded stories of mine for free during Read an Ebook Week 2014. “Huntress” was by far the most popular free story (14 downloads), followed by “Tears Such As Angels Weep” (7), “Welcome to the City” (6), “The Sentinel” (6), “A Lightbringer Carol” (6), “Troubled Minds” (5) and “The Muse” (5). I’m guessing that there is a lot of overlap between the people who downloaded these books, so I most likely picked up 15-20 new readers through this promotion. It would be interesting to know how many of these people liked the stories well enough to buy other stories after reading them.

My total Smashwords earnings for 2014, after retailer fees, came to $104.82.

Kindle Direct Publishing:

I sold 88 books and stories through Kindle Direct in 2014, most of them between March and May. The vast majority of sales came from the United States (66), with other buyers hailing from the UK (19), Canada (2) and Germany (1). Most readers who purchased Things Unseen did so through Kindle Direct.

My total KDP earnings for 2014, after retailer fees, came to $219.87.

CreateSpace/Amazon Direct:

19 people bought hard copies of Things Unseen in 2014. One of these people was in Great Britain, and because of the higher fees for international distribution, I made almost no profit on that sale (0.71), but the rest were in the United States. Four people bought their books directly from the CreateSpace e-store (royalties of $5.42 per book), while the rest bought from Amazon ($3.83 per book).

My total CreateSpace earnings for 2014, not including the ₤0.71 from the UK sale, came to $75.30.

Licensing Fees:

Nobilis Reed has been publishing Metamor City stories for a while now, and his have actually been available in print for longer than mine. I get a 10% licensing fee from the sales of these stories, which Nobilis is kind enough to pay in advance in $25 installments, one of which arrived this year.


Overall, sales and licensing fees for my stories came to $424.99 this year. This is a slight increase over 2013, when I made $394.08.

Business Expenses:

This year my primary business expenses were for travel to conventions. Going to New Media Expo last January cost about $800 (including charging myself the standard rate of 56.5 cents per mile of car travel), and Balticon was about the same for air travel and lodging.

It was a sobering realization to see that I spent four times as much on these promotional activities as I actually captured in revenue. Clearly, if I’m going to make writing into more of a business and less of a hobby, I’m going to need to cut back on travel expenses. The best promotion I can do for my work right now is to write more stories.

Final Thoughts:

Considering how little new content I created in 2014, I’m actually pretty satisfied with my sales results. Clearly there is huge room for improvement, but given the recent data on what most authors make from their writing, I’m not off to a bad start. My goals now are to increase the speed and prolificacy of my writing, and get my stories to market more quickly. The more content I have out there, the more different ways there are for people to find me, and the greater the chances that new people will start buying up my backlist.

Here’s to a prosperous 2015 for all of us!

Posted by chriswlester