Targets and Tribulations


At the start of 2017, I set myself a sales target to achieve 5,000 sales of Slave to Fortune during the year. To put this in perspective, according to Publishers Weekly (from a few years ago), the average book in the USA sells about 500 copies – though clearly that average masks huge variation from millions to single digits. So how did I get on?

Early 2017 looked promising, with sales picking up month on month in a linear fashion, supported by positive reader ratings and reviews. The vast majority of sales were by e-book. These sales include downloads of the e-book on Amazon prime (i.e. the number of books read completely – which, in my case, pay more royalties per book than a traditional sale). Sales were concentrated in three markets: the USA, slightly ahead of the UK, and Australia some way off in third place.

After this positive start to the year, US sales began to plateau in the spring and by May sales began to turn down. From my 5,000 target looking like a cinch, it began to look highly ambitious.

Downloads on Amazon Prime

I’ve since learned that in general – and there will always be exceptions – fiction sales follow a seasonal pattern with a slowdown in the summer: too many social and outdoor activities to pursue instead of cosying up with a good book, with not enough holiday readers to compensate. This seasonality seems evident in both the northern hemisphere summer – in the US and UK – and in the southern hemisphere summer – for Australian sales.

As the months went by and the chill winds of the northern winter returned, sales began to pick up again – but so much ground had been lost over the summer that the 5,000 target remained in jeopardy.

Then, out of the blue, Amazon asked whether I wanted to run a ‘Daily Deal’ for my book on their UK site. I had little idea what this would do but I decided to give it a shot. It brought in about 700 sales in a single day in October – pushing the novel back to the number one bestseller spot in its main category on Amazon UK (a position it had previously reached in March/April). With a fair wind behind it over the last couple of months, meeting the 2017 target seemed achievable once more.

Writing now, as the year draws to a frosty close, Slave to Fortune has sailed past the 5,000 sales mark.  Over a million pages have been read via Amazon prime. Thanks to the Kindle ‘Daily Deal’ intervention, UK sales have eclipsed those in the USA. Meanwhile, views on the novel’s website are on track to hit the 10,000 mark before the year is out. So, all in all, 2017 has been a good year.

What does the future hold? True to the title of the novel, what happens next is largely in the hands of fate – Fortune, spin thy wheel – though as Tom demonstrates in the book, some personal industry might just help things along. My hunch is that Slave to Fortune won’t achieve 5,000 annual sales again. I’m expecting more of a graceful tailing off in sales over time. So the next target is for the book to reach 10,000 sales over its lifetime.

Thanks to all readers for your support in 2017 – your reviews and ratings are what have really helped the book to make its target and to reach new readers across the world.

Happy Christmas and all the best for 2018!