I’ve written before about things you should do instead of obsessively checking your sales stats. But, of course, at some point you do need to check those stats and see how your book is doing. And that’s when you realize that you need some way to track your sales.
How does that look? Do you need special software? How often should you check?
We’ll get into the how in a minute. First, let’s look at why you should be tracking your sales.
Why You Should Track Your Sales
There are plenty of good reasons to keep track of your sales so that you can see what’s been going on with your book over a long period of time. Here are four benefits you get from keeping track.
As you track your book, you’ll start to notice trends. Maybe there’s a month that is always low for your book. Maybe there’s a month that always seems to generate more sales. Knowing this data keeps you from freaking out at the same time every month when sales fall off. And it lets you plan your promotions for the best time, such as when you know you have a bigger audience or when you need to drive some more sales to boost a typically low month.
As part of your tracking, you can keep notes on when you run promotions. That way, you can compare promotional sales results with typical non-promotion times and see if paying for an ad actually gained you anything.
Know the Value of Your Book
How much has your book made you over its lifetime? Keeping a long-term tracking sheet will let you see that information. It can be great to see how far you’ve come since you published your book—and even if you aren’t quite where you’d hoped, knowing your long-term sales value can give you motivation. Which leads us to…
Goals and Motivation
Tracking lets you make goals—”I’d like to sell X books this quarter”—and then helps you watch to see if you are on target. With a good tracking system, you can see how far you have to go, which tells you if you need to get hustling to meet that goal. There’s a lot of good in writing down a goal, but you need the tools to measure your progress to keep yourself on track and motivated to reach that goal.
How to Track Sales
Okay, so we’ve talked about the why, and you’ve hopefully seen the benefits of keeping track of your sales. Now let’s look at how to do it.
Obviously, there are plenty of ways you can track your sales. You could jot them down on a piece of paper. You could use a spreadsheet. You could carve it on the wall, though I don’t recommend that if you’re renting.
Basically, it all comes down to how often you check in and how you store the information.
I personally like to track by month. That gives me a big-picture snapshot of how well my book is doing. It also works nicely with the reports that Amazon KDP automatically generates for you. Plus, let’s face it: some of us indie authors don’t sell tons of books right now, so it can even be depressing to track at a finer-grained level such as by week. A month’s worth of data lets you be a bit more objective.
Of course, if you are selling a lot of books every day, tracking by week might be the way to go for you. Do what works best. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll need to check in and crunch numbers more often if you’re checking more frequently. I think most of us would rather be writing!
How to Store It?
I like to use a spreadsheet. That gives me the power to infinitely expand without buying more paper, and it lets me make charts so I can track sales visually. Use what works for you, but there’s a cool sales tracker sheet for you below. It’s free. Enjoy!
My Sales Tracker Spreadsheet
Go check out my free Indie Author Sales Tracker sheet. It’s a Google Sheet, so it’s completely free to use and you don’t need any special software. In Google Sheets, go to the File menu and choose Make a copy… to add this sheet to your Drive for editing. (If you don’t have a free Google Drive account, you’ll need to make one.)
Here are some notes on how the sheet works:
- I’ve included columns for the major book sales channels. Feel free to add as many others as you need.
- I’ve included date rows for January 2016 through December 2016. Add more dates as you need them. (For bonus points, backdate the chart for your book’s entire lifetime!)
- Each sales channel has two columns. The # sold column is how many units you sold. The $ column is for how much money you made.
- You’ll want a copy of this sheet for each book you’ve published.
Let’s do a quick example to show you how to add data to this sheet. We’ll bring in your last month of KDP sales.
- Go to your KDP Dashboard and navigate to the Reports section.
- Click the Prior Months’ Royalties link.
- Download the top report on the list.
- Now you’re going to need to open the report file with software that can read an Excel file. You can always upload the file to Google Sheets for a free option if you don’t have Excel.
- Here’s where things get a smidgeon complicated. At the top of the sheet, you should see a listing for each book you publish through KDP that you sold in during this month. Amazon’s KDP reports split your US royalties into 35% and 70% categories, so you might have more than one row for the same book. You might also see a row for free copies if you ran a promotion, and if you’re in KDP Select and using the Kindle Unlimited program, there could be a row for that as well. And (if that wasn’t enough) you might even see a row for paperbacks if you’ve started using the KDP paperbacks option. To get this data into the sales tracker sheet, here’s what you do for each title on your list:
- Add up any sales listed for this title in both the 35% and 70% rows. For example, if you sold 10 at a 35% royalty and 15 at a 70% royalty, that’s a total of 25 sales. Put that number in the # Kindle sold cell for this month in the Indie Author Sales Tracker sheet.
- Add up the total royalties for this title from the 35% and 70% rows. Put that number in the Kindle $ cell for this month in the Indie Author Sales Tracker sheet.
- For Kindle Unlimited, find the cell for this book’s KENP Read and put that number in the KU pages cell for this month in the Indie Author Sales Tracker sheet.
- Put the total royalties for Kindle Unlimited in the KU $ cell for this month in the Indie Author Sales Tracker sheet.
- At this point, you should know the drill. The number of paperbacks sold goes in the # Paperback sold cell and the royalties for paperbacks goes in Paperback $ in the Indie Author Sales Tracker sheet.
You can repeat these steps for each month you want to track. I’d recommend adding data for at least a year if you have it available, or even the lifetime of your book.
I’ve included columns in the Indie Author Sales Tracker sheet for iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Feel free to add additional columns to your copy if you need them to track other sales channels. If you do a lot of international sales, you might also want to add columns to track those Amazon stores.
You are now equipped to track your book sales, giving you the ability to see trends, set goals, and generally stay informed about how your books are doing. It takes a little bit of time each month to fill in the data, but the benefits are well worth that effort.