First of all, let’s get to December.
I sold 333 books for the month, wrote 48,607 words, put up 12 blog posts, and published one book.
For the year I wrote 1,097,331 words.
Overall, 2016 was a good year for me.
- I sold a ton of books, I made a lot of money, and I gave a lot to charity.
- I increased my name recognition in Montana, something that should help me out in later years.
- I rejoined the workforce this year, picking up a new job in September and another at the end of December.
- I ran for office again this year, though much like in 2014, I lost…although I did do twice as good at getting votes.
- I quit freelance writing this year as well, though mostly because I was forced to, not because I really wanted to. Still, I’m quite happy I’m just writing for myself now, not for others.
- I moved this year, leaving an apartment I was in for 3 years for another that I think is a lot better.
- I spent most of the year with money in the bank and few worries over how I’d pay the bills or put food on the table.
All in all, it was a very good 2016 for me and I’d like to discuss aspects of it in this long, year-end monthly post.
Total Book Sales in 2016
- 4,720 of those sales came from Amazon.
- 450 came from D2D (meaning Apple, B&N, etc.)
- 346 came from Createspace, which represents my print books.
So Amazon continues to be the main driver for my sales, as it is for most self-published authors.
Now, what about the new books…the ones I put out just this year?
Last year I put out 14 books and I got 737 sales on them that year.
This year I put out 12 books (two are box sets) and I got 1,411 sales for them.
Here are the books I put out in 2016, listed by date, and their sales:
- Colter’s Revenge (Feb 8): 565 sales
- Colter’s Escape (Mar 21): 372 sales
- Fortin’s Furs (Apr 23): 183 sales
- They All Died (May 16): 25 sales
- Dorion’s Dilemma (May 31): 116 sales
- Sun River Crossing (Jun 6): 31 sales
- Brock’s Betrayal (Jul 20): 64 sales
- Mountain Man Series, Box 4-6 (Jul 29): 6 sales
- Prickly Pear Canyon (Aug 16): 17 sales
- Soldiers and Statesmen (Aug 19): 5 sales
- Mountain Man Series, Box 7-9 (Aug 29): 5 sales
- Manuel’s Money (Dec 5): 22
This is how it looks in graph format:
The Colter books alone account for 1,333 of those sales.
In 2015 I put out Colter’s Winter, and I began to see a trend as the year went on.
I put out three more of those books and they accounted for 388 of my nearly 1,900 sales in 2015.
That was pretty good, so I knew the Colter books were where it was at for me.
Those increased sales were clearly a direction I wanted to continue in, and I did so in 2016.
All in all, I got 1,411 sales for the new books I put out in 2016, my best sales year yet for new releases.
And as I mentioned, for the year I got 5,538 sales. That’s my best year yet.
Here’s what my total book sales look like since I started in 2013:
That’s 9,758 books I’ve sold overall now, and that’s earned me about $23,000.
In 2016 alone I sold 1,274 more books than 2013, 2014, and 2015 combined…all the years I’ve been doing this.
I’m extremely happy with that.
Not many people can make $23,000 from ‘a hobby,’ but I’ve been able to do it.
Sometime in early-2017 I’ll pass the 10,000-sales mark as well.
I guess I must be a good writer.
It’ll be interesting to see what direction I take in 2017. Looking at those numbers, however, I think you can get a pretty good idea.
Income and Expenses for 2016
Something I mentioned last year was my huge problem with expenses.
In 2015 I had more than $2,600 in expenses. You can see them here:
So the goal for 2016 was to get those expenses down, which I managed to do.
For 2016 I spent just $1,172 on expenses, or about $1,400 less.
Here’s how that breaks down:
As you can see, the biggest expense continues to be eBook cover work.
For the most part that’s getting custom image art made, then a bit of layout work after that
I spent nearly $1,000 less on that this year than I did in 2015.
Printing continues to be my second largest expense. I like to print out my books and read them before I publish them.
It’s easier to catch typos that way.
This year I bought a bit of printer ink and then got a new laser jet printer.
eBook marketing is about half of what it was last year while website and computer upkeep costs went down by about $100.
Yep, it costs me just $150 a year or so to bring you this site – pretty good!
Finally, I spent about $300 less on Createspace print books this year…mainly because I only put two of them out there.
Alright, now to the income.
Despite those expenses, I still made more money this year than I did last year.
I grossed $17,966 for 2016, which is bit more than the $17,337 I grossed last year.
On top of this I made $415 from my non-writing job.
So that gives me a net income of $18,382 for 2016.
This is how my 2016 income broke down:
I make most of my money from my books, and that mainly comes down to Amazon.
Amazon gives me the lion’s share of my income, as it does for most self-published authors.
Besides that, I make a bit from my website – mostly freelance writing – and then I made a bit from Freelancer.com this year.
All those side income sources – about 8 or 9 – add up.
So about $18,000 for the year. Perhaps it’s not a lot to some, but to many its quite a bit.
What Works, What Doesn’t
Here, take a look at my monthly sales trend:
I had a few hot months this spring, but then things went downhill. I haven’t quite recovered yet.
And you know, I’m fine with that.
I’m happy to get what sales I can, and if Amazon changes some algorithms and I don’t show up on as many “also boughts,” that’s fine.
My income sure went down, however, from around $2,000 for those months to about $600 or so for the lower months.
But that’s the nature of this business, selling products that people don’t really need, and in a market that’s pretty saturated already.
Despite that, I’m doing a lot better than many who call themselves a writer.
So…what’s working and what’s not?
The Colter books are working, though not as much as when they were solely about John Colter.
Still, I’ve sold 385 of the books that take place after Colter leaves the story.
My Montana history books aren’t really working.
I’ve sold 318 copies of the first one but the last two books about the 1930s to the 1990s have only sold 19 copies.
Overall, I’ve sold 545 of my Montana history books, which has made me $2,725 or so.
Paranormal Montana was a successful book for me this year, selling 233 copies.
You might remember that every single Montana publisher turned that book down, as did every Missoula book store when I asked them about stocking it.
That’s just what I’m up against as an independent Montana writer – indifference and disdain.
I was quite surprised that I sold 73 copies of my Montana 1860s short novellas.
These books are around 50 pages and sell for $0.99. I also got them some of the simplest (read worst) covers I could.
Despite that, they sold.
I was quite surprised, and I guess I’ll have to write another one then bundle the four of them into a box set for $2.99 like I’d been planning.
I think going back and forth between the Mountain Man Series and the 1860s Montana Series messed me up and slowed me down this summer, however.
That’s why I’ve shied away from writing another one, and I might not until I get done with the next two books of the Mountain Man Series.
Anyways, those are some highlights.
It’s clear I need to continue with the Montana historical fiction/western books.
Sometimes, however, I feel like straying.
Despite knowing what doesn’t work for me, I sometimes want to continue down that same path.
For instance, I’d still like to do a third book in both the Lightning series and the Black Walnut/Detroit series.
I’d like to do a short novella called “Giraffes with Guns.”
I imagine it’d be a few giraffes drinking from a chemical waste dump in some African shit hole and gaining ultra-high levels of intelligence plus human know-how because of it.
After assaulting a nearby military base they get machine guns and proceed to hunt down the poachers that are ravaging their herd.
While this probably would do better as a 1-minute faux-preview before a Robert Rodriguez movie, I’d still like to give it a try sometime.
But it takes time.
All those things take time, as does writing the books that do sell.
When you’re not making much money anyways, it’s best to focus on what’s selling. The things that are just kind of fun but dumb ideas that no one much gives a shit about have to wait.
My Charitable Giving in 2016
Well, it was a lot for me
In 2014 I gave around $100 (mostly just left over election money) and in 2015 I gave $140.
When I mentioned that giving in January of this year I set a goal for myself.
“Maybe I can give $280,” I said, then added, “I bet I can do better than that, though.
And my, did I do better or what?
For 2016 I’ve given $500 to charity.
So I’ve outdone myself this year.
Looking at my 2016 charitable donations, I can see that I gave to about 30 different charities.
Many of them I gave to more than once.
Here’s how that breaks down in graph form:
I gave to Boy’s Town 4 times, for instance, or about $40.
Now, let’s break it down further and see which types of charities I’m giving to most.
This graph gives us an idea:
As you can see, I like to give to children- and hunger-oriented charities the most.
I feel pretty good about giving to those charities.
I feel like my money is actually doing something, helping someone…besides myself, that is.
And maybe giving $10 here and there doesn’t really have an impact.
Maybe a lot of the charities use that for their own benefit, giving just a small fraction to their cause.
That could be the case.
I try to minimize that by using a charity tracker list that I made.
Here’s what some of it looks like:
You can download the spreadsheet of that list if you’d like, it’s here.
I use it to track all the charity donation requests I get in the mail. If a charity is only giving 70% or so to their cause, I don’t donate to them.
More, I often write a short note/letter to those charities telling them to get their act together.
I point out that administrative and fundraising costs are too high, and that the money going to their cause is too low.
Does that make a difference?
I really don’t think it does.
Many times when I write those kinds of letters I just get more donation request forms in the mail.
Charities can be tricky, as many are playing the charity game simply to enrich and benefit themselves.
Now, will I give as much money in 2017 as I gave in 2016?
I don’t think I will.
I saved about $100 on my taxes by giving all that money, and I know this because I keep track of it in Turbo Tax’s Intuit charity program.
Mostly, I’m trying to be a good person.
I feel giving a bit of your money to the less-fortunate is a way to do that.
Sure, I could have an extra $500 in the bank right now…but what would I do with that?
Maybe eat out a bit more, buy some consumer goods…waste it for the most part.
Instead I chose to give that to charity.
Besides a ton of address labels, lots of free greeting cards, a few religious trinkets, and my name on about 100 different charity mailing lists, I have little to show for it.
But I have peace of mind and a sense of well-being, and also the prospect that God might be happy with me.
As you can probably tell, I’m trying to justify this, both to myself and to you.
There’s really no reason for that, just like there’s no real reason for me to justify a $6 lunch purchase at Wendy’s.
You either give to charity or you don’t.
It’s a decision everyone must make, and for whatever reasons they choose.
I chose to do it this year, and boy, I really do hope it helped out some people that needed help.
So that’s it.
I just wanted to let you know the situation.
Hopefully it’ll prompt you to give $10 or more to charity this year yourself.
I really can’t complain about much.
I was able to pay my rent solely with my eBook earnings for the first time, and that’s been a goal of mine for some time.
Besides that, things are going well.
I’ll put up another post soon about some of my other spending this past year, as well as some other totals I’ve been keeping track of.
It’ll be a slow month on this site, much like it was in December.
I had 12 blog posts last month and I’m not expecting to put up much more than that in January.
So feel free to drop by a little less often.
And please…have a good start to 2017!