As a newbie to self-publishing, I find myself transported back a decade to the time when I was so obsessed with my blog traffic stats that I made a spreadsheet and noted down what events caused spikes in traffic. After a while I lost interest in the numbers, but now I’m back to tracking thems, although the patterns are very familiar to me and rarely am I surprised by what I see.
I’m also now obsessing over my Kindle sales statistics. And yes, I have a spreadsheet which notes both sales through the Kindle store and free downloads from here. If you’re curious, to the end of November I had given away 6140 downloads of Argleton and sold 27 ebooks via the Kindle store, netting me a royalty of approximately £30. Well, we’ve all got to start somewhere.
But where it’s relatively simple for me to track downloads and traffic to this site, tracking my Kindle sales is a laborious process. Amazon’s stats pages are… well I can’t use the word “designed” because that would imply that some thought had gone into them, and it’s clear that’s not the case.
As you can see from this screenshot, you don’t get much information. This is the page for the UK shop. If I want to see reports from the other shops, I have to pick from the dropdown list. And if I want to look at last month’s sales, I have to click that link. Very tedious. (Click screenshots to embiggen.)
Worse, if I don’t keep a spreadsheet of my monthly sales, I lose access to that data as Amazon only gives me this month and last month’s. And there appears to be no way to go back further than that prior month.
Now then, if I want to see my royalties, then I can see those not monthly, but weekly for the past six weeks. Eh? Why give me sales by month and then royalties by the week for only the past six weeks?
Now, if I don’t grab this data, I can at least go do that third link down and download monthly spreadsheets from the previous 12 months. Except this is what those spreadsheets look like:
It’s a complete mess. I’d have to spend so much time doing basic spreadsheet cleaning before being able to process this in any way, it’s just not funny. Imagine if I was selling lots of different books: The spreadsheet would become unworkable.
Nowhere does Amazon give you an at-a-glance summary of your sales, or graphs showing how you’re doing over time, or an easy way to download properly formatted raw data. Is it really that hard to take a bunch of numbers, generated preferably in real time, and present them in a usable, sensible way?
What’s also frustrating is that I have absolutely no context for my buyers. Where are they coming to Amazon from? Are they finding me here on this blog and then clicking through to Amazon? Searching for me or Argleton on Amazon itself? Coming from some other site? Finding me from some other page on Amazon, eg recommendations on another book?
Amazon knows, but it won’t tell me. And without that information I can only see half the picture. I don’t know how to direct my promo efforts. Should I be blogging more here? Should I focus on pimping to book bloggers? Should I be Tweeting more? Facebooking? I have no clue, and I will never find out.
It’s great that new authors like me can sell our books without having to find a traditional publisher (not that I’d turn one down if it made sense!), but Amazon could do a much, much better job of providing stats. Surely it’s in their interests to do so, as the more successful I am as an author, the more money they make off me?
Sadly I hold out precisely no hope whatsoever of useful change, so I’ll just have to keep checking back every month and writing the numbers down in my spreadsheet. What a nerd, eh?