Book sales at 6 months

My “Distributed Teams” book was published six months ago, so this felt like a good time to review some metrics.

While writing my book, I had multiple people telling me that print books were dead, Amazon/kindle was the only way to go. Some literally lived on the road, with no home, so their opinion was understandable. After all, books can be heavy to carry. Maybe it was true for the specific subject matter of their books? Maybe they only used kindle, and thought others should do the same? My own reading style was different. I have a few books on my tablet, but vast majority of my books are physical books. Was I the only luddite who still skimmed over packed, curated bookshelves at home, re-reading specific helpful passages when the situation arose?

Despite all the kindle-only suggestions, I decided to create my book in multiple formats: Physical paperback, Amazon/kindle and Apple/epub. This decision delayed the release of the book, as it added significant complexity to the book creation process. But it felt like the right decision, so I did it.

Instead of writing words in the book, I found myself working on the mechanics of the book publishing process dealing with a flurry of time-consuming questions like: paperback-vs-hardback? book height and width, font size, margin size – all of which in turn change the total number of pages? How do paragraphs wrap on page boundaries? Where to put footnotes and page numbers? etc, etc, etc. I also decided that I was going to ship the book in all these formats at the same time, not one-after-another. Doing sim-ship like this is obviously harder to do, but my experience in shipping software taught me that the organizational rigor this requires has two very important side effects. 1) This avoided any perception of one format being more important or better than another. 2) This makes it easier later to track, coordinate and ship any fixes/edits to the book over the lifespan of the book. Something I’ve been thankful for with each small book update I’ve shipped since August 2018.

Six months after launch, here’s what I discovered: 72% people bought physical paperback while 28% bought kindle.

Book sales: Aug2018 – Feb2019

It is worth noting for the record that these numbers does not include physical copies of the book handed out in workshops I run on distributed team or as copies to people I’ve worked with. If I’d included those numbers too, it would have skewed the sales numbers even more towards paperback. I find it oddly great to watching people who don’t know me casually flipping open the book, politely skim a little and then stopping to lean in and start intently reading. Just like I enjoy watching people highlight passages and inserting post-it notes during workshops. My opinion, without evidence, is that this is less likely to happen with electronic versions.

I am now convinced that, as a writer, the right answer is to make your content available in whatever format(s) your readers use.

John

ps: While creating my book, I also created an epub version. However, I stopped part-way through the legal paperwork with apple, and then in the middle of everything else, I simply forgot to revisit. Earlier this week, a reader reminded me of this, so I’m now working on it again. The next six month report should include numbers for epub sales also. I’ve also had a few requests for audio-books, which I know nothing about but am starting to research.

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