About a year-and-a-half ago, I found a discrepancy in the accounting on one of my book royalty statements which showed the publisher had not calculated my income correctly on a major book.

I reported the discrepancy, and it took the client over six months to forward the shortage, which was about $2,000. EDIT: Yes, it was an HONEST mistake. They agreed with me within ONE hour of my pointing it out. I don’t believe they were trying to rip me off. However…

Since then, royalty statements at the company have been revised. It is no longer possible to find the mistake I found with the new accounting system the company uses.

Just sayin’.

Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch has an excellent working writer blog, and there are two posts you must read about some major discrepancies she found in her ebook sales statements. This is very important information.

Part I

How many e-books did the traditional publisher say I sold? 30. That’s right. 30.

When the novellas, which had worse sales rankings from Amazon, sold 300 each.

That 30 number didn’t pass the sniff test for me. So I talked with other writers who have books in the same genre with the same company. The writers I talked with also had some e-book savvy.

Part II

These writers compared the sales of their self-published e-book titles to the sales of their traditionally published e-book titles, and found startling discrepancies. Even adjusting for price differences (Big Six e-books were priced higher than the self-published books), these writers discovered that their Big Six publishers reported e-book sales of one-tenth to one-one-hundredth of their indie-published titles.

FYI: Amazon doesn’t tell what your sales are. They only show your sales ranking in relation to how you sold on Amazon on that particular day.

You can get into the top 100,000 by just selling 2 or 3 books in a single day on Amazon, and you can be bumped down to the 1,000,000 mark by only selling one book on Amazon that week. You may be selling lots of books elsewhere, but on Amazon, that won’t show.

When I wrote an article about book piracy some months ago, a few folks rushed to Amazon to see the sales rankings on my books, stopped at A Distant Soil rankings, and looked no further. Why, who’d pirate her book! Her work doesn’t sell anyway! Look at her Amazon ranking!

I have about 2 dozen books on my backlist from which I derive royalty income. Looking at the Amazon sales ranking of only one of my books as some kind of objective measure of my entire backlist is dumb. Assuming only one of my books (this one) gets pirated is dumber. Since the majority of my sales via libraries and comic book shops wouldn’t show up on Amazon anyway, making much ado about my sales ranking on one of those books (a book which has sold $3,000,000 at retail, BTW) by noting the Amazon ranking as the sole measure, is amateur night analysis.

Yesterday’s Amazon rank for A Distant Soil Volume I was 335,000. The Amazon rank for Spider-man: Back in Black was 379,000. Therefore, A Distant Soil sells better than Spider-Man.

See how dumb that is?

More FYI: Bookscan is a service which tracks sales, but only covers about 50-75% of those sales. It covers NO digital sales, no mail order, no sales of books which don’t subscribe to the service. I track my Bookscan sales every single week. EDIT: FYI, these are book sales, not periodical sales. So, these are graphic novel numbers, not pamphlet comics.

It may surprise you to hear that one of my most solid backlist titles is Girl To Grrrl Manga. It certainly surprised me.

Here is an honest to gosharootie screen shot of eight weeks of my Bookscan backlist, with combined totals for my royalty-producing titles.

No, I will not give you any more specifics than this. I don’t think that would be fair to my clients.

As you can see from this graph, little me, the lowly creator of A Distant Soil who clearly doesn’t sell anything because I am such a loser for whining about illegal downloads, actually moves between 350 and 450 books EVERY SINGLE WEEK, via Bookscan alone. If you add in that extra lot that Bookscan doesn’t cover (25-50% more via other resources,) that’s a whole lotta books. EDIT: I haven’t had a new, original graphic novel out in years BTW. Very much looking forward to seeing what happens when my new GN’s are released, starting this fall.

Naturally, I do not get as big a cut from every sale as I do when I sell direct here on my website. Some of these books pay a pittance. Some of them have yet to earn out the advance. Others pay more than a pittance.

One creator who got a load of chirpy publicity from pirate – I mean, tech – websites, went on to rave about the big blip in his sales, which, it turned out, were only a couple dozen copies. If your baseline is zero, then any increase is a huge blip, I guess.

After literally millions of page views on articles about the “huge blip,” he went on to sell 150 copies on his website.

As you can see, 150 copies is, for me, a really bad week. More economy of scale reality check for you. Not to knock anyone else, or how they toot their horn, but what other people consider a step up is, in my universe, sinking into a black hole of suck. JK Rowling would probably weep buckets if her sales ever got to my level. Other people would think they died and went to heaven.

Online exposure does not necessarily translate to fame or sales. Just ask Huffpo bloggers.

As musician Rick Carnes once said, “People die of exposure.”

Here’s what works for me:

The combo of website sales, and big publisher support – the digital and traditional publishing combo, with authorized online publication of my work so people come directly to my site. That’s the ticket.

And it’s working better and better, thanks to the great readers who support the artist. YOU! Thanks to YOU, I grow flowers and make books, and make pictures! Whee!

A few years ago, the horizon looked bleak. Now, it’s shiny and sparkly. I think I see a unicorn!

Something else to think about: many of these self publishing services are de facto publishers. Don’t assume a major traditional publisher will rip you off on your sales accounting, and a Print on Demand service won’t.

Just sayin’.