I did a financial wrap-up of my indie publishing efforts for 2022 that garnered some interest from other indie authors. The bottom line for 2022 was that I made a little over $2000 in revenue in 2022 compared to about $6700 in expenses, for a loss of around $4700. Not great, but growing in some good ways, and $2000 of the expenses last year was for production of the audio version of Daros, a big one-time investment that won’t repeat. I thought I’d do the same for this past year.
So, let’s look at 2023 revenues. Here’s the Amazon revenue picture:
Here are the results for 2023 for individual books:
Amazon reported revenue from 11 countries, although many of them were negligible, including my three-cent totals from Brazil and India. Here is the breakdown by country – you can see the seven smallest markets fit into less than 1% of total revenue.
Here’s the revenue breakdown by format:
For me, Kindle Unlimited is a huge piece of my income. A lot of indie authors feel like going “wide” and getting rid of Amazon exclusivity helps them, but that move would have to more than double my sales revenues to make up for the lost Kindle Unlimited revenue to be worth it for me. I’m not ready to take that risk yet.
There was another approximately $218 in Audible payments for Flames Over Frosthelm and Daros. At that rate, it will take a good many years to recoup my expenses (about $3200) for creating those two audio books, making it not a very good investment, but if I am able to grow my audience and increase audio sales, that analysis might change.
There’s also a small amount of revenue for paperback sales through my online store (and also in person). The profit and volume on those is pretty negligible, but it’s probably another $50 for the year, give or take.
That total revenue, maybe $4750-$4800, is a whole lot better than last year’s $2000 or so, more than double. Yay! But why? I would hope some of it is just from having more books out (I released two this year, Got Trouble and Kenai), and also from having reached more readers as I continue to work to expand my audience. But it’s also because of BookBub.
The role of BookBub featured deals
My first four BookBub featured deals were key revenue events this year. I’ve been applying for these competitive opportunities since I started publishing back in 2019, but I didn’t get any until this year. I’ve heard that BookBub is less willing to feature an Amazon-exclusive book, so that might be part of my difficulty, but it’s hard to say.
I had four features in total this year, each of which produced results big enough to be visible in the revenue graph above:
- March 2023: (the big one) A global featured deal for my 3-book Inquisitors’ Guild compendium (light blue above) for $0.99. This cost me $712 plus a bunch of other advertising I stacked with the BookBub, but I made the BookBub cost back in sales and then had improved Kindle Unlimited page reads for several months afterward, making it a definite win for me.
- September 2023: Another featured deal for the 3-book compendium, this one non-US only. This cost $196 plus other stacked ads and had a much smaller impact, although I still think it was a net positive.
- November 2023: A non-US feature for Kenai (yellow above) for $167, which I think had a significant impact, although Kenai was doing well all year since its release.
- December 2023: A non-US feature for Daros (green above) for $167. This also seemed to do well, reigniting interest in a book that had a great 2021 but which has slipped a bit since then.
I’m really hoping that I can continue these featured deals in the coming years. They’ve had by far the best return on investment of my advertising efforts. However, I have no control over when they are granted vs. rejected, which is a little frustrating.
I didn’t do any audio books this year, which was a significant savings compared to last year. I did continue routine advertising, mostly on Facebook and Amazon, but also including blog tours for Got Trouble and Kenai. I spent a lot on some probably ill-advised expensive ongoing ads for Got Trouble on Amazon, too. Here are my expenses by category:
Promos (paying services to advertise free or discounted books) and Ads (general ads for my books) are similar, but I broke them out so that I could see what was happening. The BookBub featured deals mentioned above are a major component of the Promos category.
The “Giveaways” category is a GoodReads giveaway I did there for Got Trouble. I’ve done a few of those for other books. I’m not sure how much return there is for those, although it does get your book added to people’s “To Read” lists.
Last year, I had $2000 in revenue on $6700 of expenses, or a loss of $4700 or so, or -235% of revenue. That sounds bad, but of course I’m in this for the long haul, and I expect to lose money for a while until I get more established and figure out what expense choices produce useful results.
This year, I have $4800 in revenue on $7200 in expenses, or a loss of $2400 or so, or -50%. That’s progress, although it’s still not positive. But it’s headed in the right direction.
I have the ability (and true privilege) to be able to sustain losses like that for a while to get this going – I don’t need my book revenue to pay my mortgage or put food on the table, which is a huge advantage. And profitability is of course not a great way to measure the value of art. But it’s still interesting to keep track.
A loss of $2400 sounds bad, though. If I want things to look better, I can focus on revenue and readership, and for those categories, 2023 looks like a really good step in the right direction.
The good news about 2023
I had a huge number of paid orders compared to previous years (although many of them were at $0.99 for the BookBub deals, which made me only about $0.30 per book):
Light blue here is the Inquisitors’ Guild compendium, red is Daros, light green is Kenai, yellow is Flames Over Frosthelm, and purple is Got Trouble.
I also broke a million total pages read on Kindle Unlimited, with over half of that million coming this year, much of it buoyed by the BookBub promotions:
Light blue here is the 3-book Inquisitors’ Guild compendium, light green is Kenai, purple is Got Trouble, red is Daros, and yellow is Flames Over Frosthelm.
So, 2023 was a banner year in a lot of ways, but not yet a profitable one. The year-over-year trend is terrific, but it’s probably not sustainable – there are only so many BookBub featured deals I can get, and they’re not certain. But, if I keep writing more books and reaching more readers, I might even get this thing to work.
I’m having a lot of fun, and it’s great to see people responding to my books, and that’s the most important part.