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May 2023 Income Report
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May’s income was $6,912, down from April’s $10,063. Profits were $1,588, down from April’s $6,211.
Very low profits
May was a very low-profit month. The last time my profits were this low was three years ago. In June 2020 my profits were considerably lower, at $516, after losing more than $3,000 on my first BookBub Featured Deal.
Low Mind Management profits
What happened in May? My main reduction in revenue was due to reduced Mind Management, Not Time Management profits.
I made very little profit on MMT: $70. This was the lowest-profit month for MMT since I lost $2,162 in July of 2021 (next lowest-profit was $204 in February 2021). My average profit from MMT this year, before May, has been about $3,600.
Amazon Ads crazy expensive
Leading up to May, I had trouble getting Kindle Lockscreen Ads to run for MMT. An aggressive bid for a Lockscreen Ad used to be, for me, 31¢ per click. In May, I decided I was sick of my ads not running, so I bid as high as 49¢ per click.
They ran alright, but that ate into my profits. I’ve averaged $1,700 per month on MMT Amazon Ad spend in the previous 12 months. This month I spent nearly $3,700.
I raised my ad spend $2,000, and my profits reduced almost $3,600. Even considering I often spend on other forms of advertising, there must be more to it?
MMT higher price tag
Also during May I raised the price of MMT back up to $9.99, on the heels of March and April’s BookBub Featured Deal. The increased profit potential could have motivated Amazon to run my ads more. But, readers are very price-sensitive, and a $9.99 price tag reduced my sales drastically.
There may be seasonal factors to explain the drop in revenue. Last May was also a very slow month for MMT – it profited $992, while the average for the year was $2,800. May 2021 seems to refute the slow-May theory, as that’s when MMT profited $875, while the average for the year was $969. But, MMT was just ramping up then.
Other trends? (post-COVID, AI-mania?)
I also wonder about larger trends. This is far more a “post-COVID” summer than last, so people are traveling and enjoying that freedom, along with the nice weather (myself included).
A ton of attention has shifted to AI as well. Instead of thinking about how to be more productive with their minds, people are looking for some tool or hack that will do their work for them (I think they’ll soon be back).
Additionally, there are apparently lots of AI-generated and AI-assisted books flooding the market. They may be driving up ad bids. Add to that there’s an anti-productivity undercurrent going on. Productivity is equated to making someone else rich in the pursuit of material things.
I’m tempted to make a prediction, but I’ll just wait and see what happens. For now, I’ve drastically reduced my ad spend over May, and brought the price of MMT back down.
MMT monthly profit rising, year-over-year?
One cool thing you may have noticed as I went through that breakdown: the monthly profit for MMT seems to be rising year over year. In 2021 it was $969, in 2022 it was $2,800. Before May, this year was $3,600, but with May included, that kind of ruins my theory, with an average so far of $2,892.
Low self-published book profits
The $959 I profited on self-published books is also the lowest in a long time. The last time I made that little, I profited $432 in March of 2021.
First Digital Zettelkasten 99¢ deal
I had my first-ever 99¢ deal for Digital Zettelkasten. I did a BargainBooksy deal – which cost $35 – and also promoted the price drop here on the blog, which goes to about 12,000 emails.
I had a spike in sales, selling more than 300 copies of the Kindle version in a week. That was an increase in sales volume, but I can’t say it increased revenue significantly. I made $474 on the Kindle version in May. That’s more than April’s $338, but less than March’s $494.
I did of course get the book into more hands, which may lead to some referrals. Once the promotion was over, I decided I’ve been under-charging for the book, which sat at $2.99 for a while. Since it covers very specific material for people who stand to gain a lot for implementing, I decided $6.99 was a more appropriate price.
That hasn’t had a dramatic impact – I’ve made close to 10% more in profits in the month after the promotion/price change, versus before. No telling if that’s from the promotion, the price change, or random.
100-Word Writing Habit not a flop?
Last month, I was asking myself if 100-Word Writing Habit might be a flop. Some of that was based upon that I had sold fifteen fewer copies than the floor of my prediction.
Just as I was finishing my report, the number of copies sold rose from about 385 to 478 (which would have fallen within my prediction if it had happened sooner). This month, the copies sold has risen to 587.
As usual, how sales on books fulfilled on IngramSpark connect with actual sales is a mystery. I did at least finally promote the book on TikTok and Instagram, but neither reel got enough views to explain another 100 copies.
However, I can look at sales rank on Amazon. The paperback (only format) is around 500,000 right now, which is about a ten copy per-month average. Last month it was around 90,000, which is about a fifty copy per-month average. Though, those ranks are sampled from moments in time. There’s quite a bit of fluctuation.
My rank got as high as 28,000 in May. So anyway, clear as mud.
How a book’s sales rank changes over time
A fun thing I noticed looking into HWH’s sales rank is how a book’s sales rank changes over time. For example, look at how the sales rank of The Heart to Start has decayed over six years.
And How to Write a Book, over about five years.
And Digital Zettelkasten, over two years.
But compare that to the sales rank of Mind Management, which has been out two and a half years.
Other books’ sales ranks have decayed, even within two and a half years of launch. But MMT’s sales rank climbs, overall. Notice the lowest rank has gotten higher and higher.
Now, look at the sales rank over time of Design for Hackers.
On first glance it, too, has decayed over time. But if you look closely, you’ll see sales rank held strong for at least two and a half years.
I would expect D4H’s sales rank to decay over time. It’s a “technology” book. That it still makes sales twelve years after release is bonkers. Mind Management however, is in the timeless category of time management, so I hope it holds on longer.
What separates growers from slow-ers?
A conspicuous difference between D4H and MMT, versus the rest, is the time that went into the books. Each was the culmination of at least a decade of fascination with the subject. Each also ended up much longer books than the rest – about 250–350 pages, versus HTS being the longest of the others, at 140 pages.
That doesn’t mean the other books weren’t worth writing. Each was about something I wanted to say or teach, and they all still sell. But it’s a useful and maybe frightening reminder as I’m in the midst of writing my next book.
Useful, because even though I’m working hard, revenue declining, far from my next reward, it reminds me I can get years or decades of revenue for the efforts I put in today. Frightening because I still feel like I’m a long way from matching D4H or MMT in some ways – though I feel I’m outdoing them in others.
Research trip in Italy
One way I’m outdoing D4H and MMT on my next book is in the depth of research. I’ve come all the way to Italy to look more closely at the art of Raphael and Leonardo, which is central to at least one of my chapters.
I’ve made Rome my home base for two weeks, and made a run to Naples just to see fragments of Raphael’s first-known commission, the Baronci altarpiece.
I’m glad I saw it in-person! It looks so different than I had imagined looking at it on Wikipedia. It’s oil on panel and not fresco, as I had thought. These fragments are curved, and are much smaller than I had expected.
I also saw Raphael’s frescoes in the Vatican’s papal apartments. They were so stunning, I forgot to get a photo in front of the School of Athens. But, I did make a reel of a fun observation.
@davidkadavy Heraclitus is the most underrated depiction of a philosopher in Raphael’s School of Athens #renaissanceart #renaissance #art #arthistory #philosophy ? original sound – ???David Kadavy
I’m really kicking myself for not getting a selfie there, so much so I’m considering going back. Unfortunately it’s high season and the Vatican is absolutely mobbed. Tickets are sold out but could probably be had somewhere for a marked-up price.
Still on my itinerary for Rome is a visit to the Borghese Gallery to see this Raphael painting that is strikingly similar to Leonardo’s Mona Lisa.
(Don’t forget to take a selfie, don’t forget to take a selfie…)
Next week I’ll set up base in Florence, for more Raphaels and to see the Hall of the 500 – where the face-off between Leonardo and Michelangelo happened – then Milan for some Leonardo stuff, and Madrid for a night on the way back. (If you are in these places, I’m open to coffee meet-ups.)
And of course I’m seeing many other things in the Explore mental state rather than Research: The Sistine Chapel ceiling, Pompeii, Machiavelli’s farm, and Villa Medici.
I was also thrilled to see the inscription at the base of Trajan’s column, which is featured on the Design for Hackers cover. I didn’t take a selfie – it just never occurs to me – but I did get this photo.
Unfortunately there’s no way to get a head-on view of these letters, which are very important to the history of typography, even if they’ve been on too many movie posters.
No pizza, pasta, nor gelato for me (okay, a small taste of my partner’s gelato). Overall I’ve been relieved it’s possible to travel in Italy on a mostly-strict keto diet.
Building a Shopify store
I’ve been dabbling with a Shopify store. I’ve put this off for a while, because Shopify is $29 a month, I hardly make that in direct sales, and setting up a store is a lot of work. But since I started selling 100-Word Writing Habit direct, I’ve run into some limitations to using PayHip with BookVault.
I’m committed long-term to being wide and having as much control over my books and contact with my readers as possible, so it’s worth it to start building my skills in selling direct, even if it doesn’t pay off in the short-term.
Shopify Starter plan helping me get started
Fortunately, Shopify has a $5-a-month Starter plan. So far, I’ve set up the MMT hardcover and ebook. The hardcover is fulfilled through BookVault.
I was hoping to integrate my store into my Instagram page, to see if I could profitably run ads, while getting customer contact information to build my email list. I tried for a couple hours, talking to support at both Meta and Shopify. Surprisingly, that’s how long it took to find out it’s not possible to integrate Shopify stores with Meta properties on the Starter plan. That requires Basic. I’ll wait until I have more items set up.
Fulfilling through BookVault still has some kinks to be worked out. For one, it takes a few weeks for customers in the U.S. to receive their books. BookVault did a media push a while back about how they’d be printing books in the U.S. – rather than just the UK – starting May 29th. They’ve since sent an email to customers saying that’s delayed, as they’re still working out issues.
Now taking orders
For now, you can buy direct from me many ebooks and the HWH paperback on my Payhip store. You can order the MMT hardcover direct on my Shopify store, but beware that after receiving a proof with 70 gsm paper, I’ve since changed to nicer 80 gsm paper, and haven’t yet personally seen a proof. However, their print quality is excellent.
Cultivating my “Cozy Web” with my Twitter Circle
I’ve been consistently frustrated with Twitter the past couple years. I rely on it as a key tool in my writing process, but for it to work, I have to consistently get feedback on what I post.
A couple years ago, the algorithm changed dramatically, and the amount of engagement I got on my posts went way down. Even if I post tweets that killed a few years ago, they don’t get much reach today.
I’ve tried many things to improve my engagement, including paying for CircleBoom to remove inactive followers, encouraging my unengaged followers to unfollow me, and changing how and about what I tweet.
Add to that my overall fatigue with unfiltered social media. No matter how many words I mute or accounts I block, there’s always that little bit of disingenuous or unnecessarily negative interaction that sours the experience.
The “Cozy Web”
I saw Maggie Appleton’s illustration of what Venkatesh Rao calls the “Cozy Web,” and I can’t get it out of my head.
I’d very much like to spend less time in the Dark Forest and more in the Cozy Web, but I also can’t get into Slack and Discord. I want it in the places already a part of my habits and workflow.
One thing I’m really enjoying is tweeting to my Twitter Circle. Twitter allows you to add up to 150 of your followers to your Circle, and you can tweet only to them. I’ve been adding people to my Circle who I’ve either conversed with, or whom I recognize as having interacted with my tweets.
It’s fun, because I feel like I can tweet more personal or fringe stuff, and it will get just as many if not more likes and replies than from tweeting to all my followers.
If you want to be in my Twitter Circle, like, retweet, and/or reply to my tweets regularly. If I recognize you, I’ll add you next time there’s room in my Circle!
|Mind Management, Not Time Management Kindle||$1,935|
|Mind Management, Not Time Management Paperback (Amazon)||$756|
|Mind Management, Not Time Management (non-Amazon)||$533|
|Mind Management, Not Time Management Audiobook||$542|
|100-Word Writing Habit||$478|
|Digital Zettelkasten Kindle||$474|
|Digital Zettelkasten Wide (non-Kindle)||$199|
|Digital Zettelkasten Audiobook||$45|
|The Heart to Start Kindle||$312|
|The Heart to Start Paperback (Amazon)||$126|
|The Heart to Start “Wide” (non-Amazon)||$148|
|The Heart to Start Audiobook||$45|
|How to Write a Book Kindle||$36|
|How to Write a Book Paperback||$63|
|How to Write a Book “Wide” (non-Amazon)||$0|
|How to Write a Book Audiobook||$11|
|How to Write a Book Spanish (all)||$0|
|Make Money Writing on the STEEM Blockchain (all)||$6|
|Ten Passive Income Ideas||$4|
|Total Book Sales||$5,712|
|Summer of Design||$0|
|Total Digital Products||$0|
Affiliates / Advertising
|Alliance of Independent Authors||$0|
Love Your Work Podcast
|Total LYW Podcast||$183|
|Podcast Editing / Publishing||$123|
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