Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Shelly Rivoli discusses POD sales (a loose term)

Shelly Rivoli, author of the highly touted novel (by me, of course), I WAS A VACUUM CLEANER SALESMAN, was in touch recently to discuss book sales, lack of book sales, and to serve up the straight dope on life as a POD author.

This is a cautionary tale. Proceed with a box of tissues in hand.

Shelly had this to say:

In the depressed spirit of your "Why my novel has been incredibly successful" posting, I had to let you know how my iUniverse royalties worked out after making it onto the P5 in July, at 129, 656. As I mentioned, the book came out 2 years ago and no one I know has bought a copy in recent history--so that was an unexpected and exhilarating surprise. Naturally, I thought to myself, "Maybe I'll have racked up enough royalties once again to get a check from iUniverse," the minimum earnings for check issue being $25.

I waited anxiously to see how many books sold in the month of July (June had "No activity reported"). I knew it would take a while for the monthly activity to get posted to MyUniverse at iUniverse, so I began checking vigilantly at the end of August. September 28th, I finally saw my July earnings activity report.

Q: So how many sales did I get, according to iUniverse, for the month of July?

Q: How much did I earn in royalties?

A: $1.91

Q: How much does that bring my total royalties earned to?
A: $18.47

Q: When will they cut me another check for the money I've earned?
A: When I hit $25 or more (not in this lifetime).

Q: How is this possible--only one book sale reported?
A1: iUniverse has erred in my gross disfavor, and how would I know the difference? There is no way for authors to know what sales activity has really happened out there in the iUniverse, but we must trust that for marketing's sake, they report every sale of one of their books possible.
A2: Or more likely, my sales ranking rocketed from sales of all those other "Used & new from..." copies posted on Amazon (most of which I had bought and sent to bookstores who said they were interested and would like a sample but didn't open the books to even see that I had inscribed them...).

Q: What is the most disappointing part of this?
A: That's hard to say. Right now I'm feeling particularly flustered that iUniverse has no idea how many copies of my book sold-and that it actually saw more action on Amazon at the time than some of it's other titles have that are now in the iUniverse best-seller showcase. Why else do I care (no it's not for the want of a check for $25)? If I sold enough copies (which I'm guessing I *unofficially* have), it might be nice to qualify for the iUniverse Star program (see then they would pay for a Kirkus Discovery review, they would give my book industry-standard discounts at book retailers and, imagine this: they would make my book fully returnable. If my book continued to do well under the Star status, they would present it to industry reps and houses for me, etc.

Of course, my book came out two years ago-that's when I sold the most copies, and through every channel possible (including but not limited to fast food drive-thrus and on the sidewalk in front of my house, oh, and BookSense), not just Amazon. And that's when I did readings and it was written up in newspapers, etc. That it popped up onto the radar again this late is a fluke. I should be grateful more people read it at all. I should be grateful bookstores took my "sample" copies for their sales racks in the first place--after all, I think that's how you found me!

Sadly, I cannot say I paid cover price for Shelly's novel. In fact, I can't even say I paid for it. There are just so many . . .

Where is Shelly now? Well, brighter skies may be approaching. Her novel is currently being read by at least one of the angel agents. And best of luck to her.