Sales Patterns: Is There Such a Thing?

Happy Tuesday, everyone. Hope you’re all keeping warm.

In the traditional publishing world, it seems book-sale patterns are rather predictable, peaking in November/ December with a smaller peak pre-summer for genres that accommodate ‘beach reads’. But in the self-published sphere, where we lack the big marketing pushes of traditional publishers. is the same true? Do our sales patterns mimic the major players, or do they differ? Is there even a discernible trend?

In 2011, I remember everyone – self-pubbed and traditionally published authors alike – waiting for ‘Kindle Christmas’ and eagerly awaiting  a boost in sales. However, for me and many other independent authors, December 2011 was a terrible month for sales. I attributed this drop to my inability to compete with traditional authors, many of whom had major campaigns backing them along with low prices (at least in the UK).

Sales slowly picked up in January and February, with March my best month in 2011. I also saw a small boost in sales in July.

Of course, this is only my experience, so I’ll throw the question out to you:

What’s your best month for sales? Do you see a pattern? Do you think sales follow different patterns for self-pubbed titles?

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  1. Alex M Smith says:

    Talli i don’t think that self-published books will ever match the same patterns as trad-published books, everything has changed. Big publishers rely on seasonal marketing and old trends that has been proven for tens of years reliable and effective since most of their marketing efforts are paid and linked to strict budgets.
    We (the self-published) on the other hand tend to promote regularly and most of the time if not all the time for free; mainly through social media. We might increase our efforts before and after a new release, but on average our marketing efforts are highly consistent.
    Most of us also don’t stick to a strict publishing schedule we tend to publish a book once we are done writing it and sometimes, unfortunately for some, before proof reading it even. Therefore other than for holiday themed books, self-published books go live almost every day evenly distributed throughout the year. That’s why if you ask a hundred different self-published authors about their sales patterns, you will most probably get a hundred different answers.
    In my case, i published my first book, The End of Summer, end of July last year, sales were good for two months in a row and they went down dramatically in October and November. December my sales almost tripled and then came January. I sold in January (up till now) alone almost as much as i have sold in all of the five months before it. Why? I have no idea. Is it because i now have three books published in the series or because my genre is trending? I also don’t have a real scientific answer. Is it because the first book in the series is offered for free? Might be the reason, but i don’t know for sure. All i know is that for most of us self-published authors it’s a game of hit or miss, there are no certainties or guarantees or any magical formula to follow.
    The only thing i learned from the posts of the sweet and lovely DD Scott and others on this forum is to keep writing no matter what the numbers are. Writers write, period.

  2. Alex said, ” All i know is that for most of us self-published authors it’s a game of hit or miss, there are no certainties or guarantees or any magical formula to follow.
    The only thing i learned from the posts of the sweet and lovely DD Scott and others on this forum is to keep writing no matter what the numbers are. Writers write, period.”

    I agree wholeheartedly!

  3. I find it depends on how recently I’ve released a book. My Dec sales this year were really great, but I just put out book 4 in a series on Dec 1st.

    Also, whether or not I’ve done a freebie giveaway or taken out an advert makes a much bigger difference, IMO, than time of year.

  4. Julie Day says:

    December for me was really good. I think it was the best month for getting free sales for my first YA ebook, and I got a couple from Kobo, too. Amazon was quite good as well.

  5. Angela Brown says:

    Give me a year or two more at this. Right now, I don’t think I’d quite qualify as one to note patterns since I’ve only been promoting one book since October 2012. I hope to have more to share as I gain more knowledge and experience. Til then, I’ll check out more comments from more experienced authors :-)

  6. Kiru Taye says:

    I don’t really have a sales pattern at the moment as I’ve only been publishing for a year but I notice sales spikes of previous books just after new book releases. So my biggest sales trigger at the moment seem to be when I release new books. I guess that’s when more new readers discover my books.

  7. D.D. Scott says:

    Fabulous topic, Talli!

    For me, I have huge sales from Thanksgiving thru Spring Break – primarily, it’s from my Boxed Sets (I’d hoped to have two new ones out this year, but due to issues beyond my control, I added one to my cyber shelf and not till January and am still waiting on the second one to get wrapped up…so I missed huge sales opportunities there.) Anyhoo…I always go for the gusto this time of year and treat readers to HUGE Boxed Sets for great prices! That way, I stand-out from the pack – whether that pack is TradiPub or Indie.

    Summer and Late Summer (August – October) are awful for me. Example: I’ll have a $10,000-$14,000 January-March but a $2,000-$3,000 August – October. I think peeps have filled their new Ereaders they got for the holidays and haven’t had much time to actually read what they’ve downloaded, and August means getting their kids into school and college, which ain’t cheap. Plus, there’s a ton of outdoor sports for their kids, so reading is in Winter months when there’s not much goin’ on outside.

    I do think, whether or not your Tradi or Indie, there are definitely sales cycles. Seasonal vibes that come and go the same times each year.

    What helps then is to do something fantabulously stand-out during both the highs and low periods to help readers find then pick your books.

  8. Joe Bruno says:

    December 2012 was my best month ever and January is on a course to be 50% better than December.

    I think the holiday sales of the Kindle are the reason. People get Kindles for presents, then quickly buy ebooks for their new Kindle.

    I don’t expect February or March to be any better than January. But I hope I’m wrong.

  9. I just love these stats posts – can’t get enough of them, so thanks!

    The Indie pub world is new to me, and I will be experiencing my very first Amazon Select Free Promo Days on Jan 25-26. I saved 3 of my free days for end of Feb when I can do a little more ‘pre-freebie’ marketing prep.

    I’m curious to know what you hard-working, money-making WG2E writers think of the free promo days impact on your sales, short and long term. And if you’ve been able to figure out a way to best maximize the promo period as far as times of day/month, etc.

    Alex Sheridan (pen)

  10. For my book (a writing resource), we launched in May 2012 and after the initial launch boost, I noticed sales bumped in August, which makes sense as writers are home from holidays and ready to get back at it, and students are readying for school. This is also when an Illinois university picked up our book as well for their creative writing program.

    We had another strong month during November, because of Nanowrimo I can only presume. Sales strengthened again for Christmas, I think because we were ranked at the top of Amazon’s Highest Rated & Most Wished For lists for writing books, and the fact that the Emotion Thesaurus comes up on many “people who bought X also bought” lists.

    So, for us, our pattern seems to be set by writers’ word of mouth, and the times of the year when they are most interested in collecting & sharing writing resources, and when educators/students are looking for books to strengthen one’s writing.


  11. LM Preston says:

    Well I’d chime in here. My ebook sales are higher from October to March. They usually dip a bit in Spring from April – May, and in June-Auguest they dip and pick back up around September. For my print books it’s spotty.

  12. Talli Roland says:

    Thank you for the wonderful comments, as always. I’m a bit under the weather today, but I’ll respond once I’m feeling better… hopefully tomorrow!

  13. Because my books are for a niche market, homeschool, are determined by the school calendar. Late spring, when homeschoolers are preparing for the next year, and fall when new homeschoolers are starting. Knowing those two marketing time allows me to planning my strategy each year.

  14. deniz says:

    Thanks Talli – I’ll file this post under “info for if I ever self-publish”. Love your informative posts!