The Top 5 Ways to Track Your Sales Without Amazon KDP’s Dashboard

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The author community was abuzz late last year when Amazon made its first cosmetic change to its KDP sales tracking system in years. The KDP Sales Dashboard now displays up to 90 days worth of sales and gives the author the ability to control which books are tracked during which time periods. It even displays a handy chart of how much money you’ve earned during the specified period. While this was a slight improvement, it wasn’t without its problems.

The earnings in different countries aren’t converted to a single currency, which means you have to break out a calculator or do some internet research to determine your true earnings. It also fails to take borrows into account in the earnings chart. To determine how much you earned from borrows, you have to wait two weeks past the end of the month to look at Amazon’s densely-packed spreadsheet that would give some accountants headaches. Fortunately for self-published authors, there are several pieces of software that overcome KDP’s limitations.

The following five add-ons each have their pros and cons. Some are free, while others require a monthly or yearly payment. Read on to figure out which of the following tools would best work for your indie author business:

1. Rachel Aaron’s KDP Plus

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Rachel Aaron is the bestselling author of the popular 2k to 10k book, as well as the scribe of several popular fantasy series. In an effort to assist authors, she co-developed a great tool on her website called KDP Plus that authors can use to make sense of Amazon’s complicated KDP spreadsheets. It’s simple. All you need to do is upload your KDP spreadsheets from Amazon and with the click of a button you’ll see a convenient graph that displays your number of sales, borrows, and free downloads.

KDP Plus is convenient and free. If you need to get a quick total of your number of sales on Amazon during the last calendar year, then this is probably your best bet. It can help with your long-term tracking while allowing you to see month-to-month results in a more digestible way than Amazon provides.

While the system works great for 12 files or so at once, it gets a little buggy after that, despite claims that you can add up to 20 spreadsheets. You can’t import spreadsheets from non-Amazon retailers either, but for the vast majority of authors who sell hardly any copies elsewhere, KDP Plus should serve your needs well.

2. Book Report

Book Report is the newest of the bunch, but it’s also the sleekest. Created by a web designer, the tool works like a website browser extension. Once you sign up and add the tool to your bookmarks tab, you simply visit your KDP Sales Dashboard and click on the link. Book Report shows you exactly how much you’ve earned that day in real-time in one currency, as well as which books are your top sellers. It also displays a convenient pie chart so you can see which books are bringing in the most money. Further down the page, you can also see how many free downloads you’ve had for permafree or discounted titles. Additional features include historical earnings in the last 90 days and the ability to compare the earnings of books or pen names with one another.

Since several of the tracking tools only work on PCs, this is a great alternative for Mac users. You also don’t have to provide your passwords, which is a requirement of another Mac-friendly alternative, BookTrakr. Keep in mind that Book Report just came out, so there’s no telling what kind of upgrades and support it will have going forward. It also only displays around 90 days of data, which is a limitation compared to longer-term trackers like KDP Plus.

If you write with multiple pen names and your business depends on knowing up-to-the-second stats, Book Report is a strong choice. The tool comes with a two-week free trial and costs $10 per month after that depending on how much you earn.

3. TrackerBox

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KDP Plus and Book Report are great tools for Amazon, but what if you have significant sales on other platforms? That’s where our next two trackers come in. TrackerBox is one of the most popular tools out there because you can import sales from nearly all platforms, including Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Apple, Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and even CreateSpace. It’s not as flashy as Book Report, but it’s very convenient for multi-platform authors to see everything displayed on one page.

The biggest drawback for TrackerBox is that it’s only available for PCs, which means that Mac users will need to borrow a Windows computer or set up some mirroring software that let them run the operating system on their device. Many authors speak highly of TrackerBox for organizing the many different spreadsheet formats provided by the various self-publishing retailers at the end of each month. If you have a PC and significant sales on many platforms, then TrackerBox might be worth the $59.95 price tag for you. You can take it on a 45-day test drive for free before you buy.

4. BookTrakr

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BookTrakr has many similarities to TrackerBox with one key advantage and one key disadvantage. Unlike Tracker Box, you can get your sales info from multiple channels within 24 hours instead of once every 30 days. It also displays reviews, bestseller rankings, and shows you your all-time sales for each book. The charts are easy to use and understand with a quick glance. Best of all, the software is completely free, with some authors saying that it’s been in a “beta testing” period for over two years now.

Here’s the drawback. In order to provide this information, you need to give all of your platform passwords to BookTrakr. You heard me right, you need to trust the developers of the software with your passwords. While no authors have ever lodged complaints against the creators of BookTrakr, we recommend that you take whatever safety precautions possible when signing up for these kinds of services. Authors who want Tracker Box-style sales reporting on a Mac without paying any upfront costs could consider this program, but you should first determine if you’re willing to risk your passwords getting used or stolen somewhere down the line.

5. Author Earnings Dashboard

Author Earnings Dashboard is our final entrant and it has several similarities to the other software on the list. The interface is similar to BookTrakr, though it just shows Amazon KDP stats and doesn’t require passwords. Similarly to TrackerBox, it helps you identify trends so you can make necessary changes and likewise it’s only available for PCs. It’s a powerful tool that shows you revenue by title in an easy to understand graph, as well as an annual summary and how much revenue different books earned each month.

It $9.95 for the basic version and has other levels of pricing based upon what you earn per month. Author Earnings Dashboard comes highly recommended by Hugh Howey, so it’s worth a look, but newer and more expensive doesn’t always mean the best. It’s a good idea to check out some more testimonials as they start to roll in for the Author Earnings Dashboard.

Tracking Sales Lets You See What Works

The above five tools don’t give you a green light to just spend all of your time tracking sales. Instead, you should use them to decrease the amount of time you spend tracking so you can put more time into your writing. Pick the tool that works for your business, then set it and forget it. Check it only when necessary. Get in, get out, and then get back to work.

Starting From Scratch in Self-Publishing

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We share a lot of advanced steps here on the Author Marketing Institute, but there are still plenty of people out there who are starting at the very beginning. Every day, more authors who’ve sent hundreds of query letters consider the option of self-publishing. Given how far the market has come in the last five years, it would be easy to give indie publishing a shot and become completely overwhelmed in a heartbeat. Don’t be.

Tens of thousands of authors have tried their hand at self-publishing a book, and many of them made countless mistakes along the way. Don’t let the fact that they’ve already learned the ropes discourage you. Instead, get excited that other authors have dealt with every possible mistake so that you don’t have to. The self-publishing community is very inclusive, and it’s rarely hard to find an answer to even the most complicated of questions. You’ve come to the right career.

For a person just starting out in self-publishing, we recommend a six-step process to give yourself the best chance to succeed. Here is our recommended order from taking yourself from indie novice to a self-published success story:

1. Finish Your Book

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If there’s one thing that indies and trad pubs have in common, it’s that nobody’s going to write the book for you (unless you have lots of money to spare). While self-publishing lets you put out multiple books a year without gatekeepers, we recommend that you finish a book before you learn all the ins and outs of being an indie. Writing your first book and learning a new skill set are tough enough on their own without trying to figure out both at the same time.

Finish your book and get it into a format that’s easy to convert like a word processing program. Once you’ve got your book ready for the world, it’s time to learn more about how the industry works.

2. Brush Up On The Basic

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Take a look at the recent topics for the Author Marketing Institute and you’ll see just how far everything has come. Most articles focus on deeper aspects of marketing like networking and saving up for advertising campaigns. Advanced topics like these aren’t where you should start your research.

Most of the information you need to know to get started is available for free on a variety of blogs or in digital book form for $4.99 or less. We also have a free course on Author Marketing Academy called How to Sell Your First 100 Copies that’ll give you some important background info.

There’s no point in breaking the bank to learn the basics. You shouldn’t be paying someone $1,000 to hold your hand through the process and you don’t need a several-hundred dollar course. If you’re a visual learner, turn to YouTube before you look to sites like Udemy. When you’ve got your first book out later on down the line, you may be able to justify spending significant money to learn new skills, but don’t break the bank during the early research portion of the process.

3. Connect With Other Authors

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You’ve read a few books and you’ve watched the videos you need to get the basics in place. At this point, unless you’re a computer wiz, you probably have a few questions. Fortunately, there are multiple places you can turn for answers.

Extremely helpful authors are always lurking on a variety of Facebook Groups and on the KBoards message board. Join the groups and the forum and take a few days to read the kinds of posts that are usually responded to. You’ll see info on a whole bunch of different subjects, so try not to go down the rabbit hole on anything that takes you beyond the basic at this point.

Once you have a feel for the groups, post your question to one of those places. If you don’t get the answer you’re looking for after a day or two, you can try posting to one of the other locations. You’re bound to get the answers you need from one of these sites.

Don’t spam these groups with dozens of questions per day. Only use them if you truly don’t understand something. When you use these groups as intended, you may even connect with more advanced authors who are willing to lend you a hand in times of need. You never know what positive results will occur from forging these connections, so make sure to treat these contacts with respect and kindness.

4. Dive In

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With your growing understanding of self-publishing and a few sources of support available as needed, there’s no reason you shouldn’t dive in by trying publish your book. It’s scary to think that you’re so close to pushing the Publish button, but don’t let that fear freeze you up. There are few better ways to learn than hands on experience. That’s why it’s so important that you go through the process at least once on your own.

Don’t worry too much about putting out the perfect book with the perfect cover. If you spend too much time waffling over a certain phrase or color, then you’ll never get your second book up. And your third. Push all the way through and get your book online if you can.

5. Get Help When You’re Stuck

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Problems are bound to arise when you’re doing anything technical for the first time. They can still come about for authors who’ve gone through the process dozens of time. If you’re completely stuck and can’t figure out a way through your issue, then you have our permission to seek out some paid help.

Most Kindle publishing tasks can be bought dirt-cheap on sites like Fiverr. You’d be surprised how many authors get semi-professional covers, editing, and formatting through sites like this. You can go a bit higher-end with these services, but there’s no need to spend thousands of dollars. Anybody who offers you prices in the four-figures are trying to scam you. Don’t fall for it.

Seek out the highest-rated and most affordable help you can find for your first book. You can always upgrade to higher-quality work when you’ve gotten a few sales under your belt.

6. Take Things One Step At A Time

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Even with a collection of books and videos, a network of helpful peers, and some inexpensive contractors, you may feel completely overwhelmed. Remember that you don’t have to do it all at once. The only reason current authors are able to create their work so quickly and effortlessly is because they suffered through the first few times. They were as overwhelmed as you were, but they took things one step at a time. Working on formatting and book covers and choosing a platform doesn’t all need to take place in a five-hour period. Take your time. Consult your resources. Soon enough, you’ll have your book online for everyone to see.

Welcome to the Start of Your Journey

We’re happy to have you, and we wish you the best of success. Once you’ve gotten books one and two up using the previous six steps, start branching out to learn more on the marketing side of things. You can use the above steps for any new publishing skill that you think will help you succeed. Keep learning and keep growing. There’s a long way to go, but we’re happy to be there to help you along the way.

4 Money Mistakes All Authors Make

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Don’t assume that money will solve all your self-publishing problems. There are plenty of authors who have hundreds to thousands of extra dollars to throw at their books without anything in the way of results. A little money spent in the right way during the publishing and marketing process can pay dividends, but you need to be smart about how you use it.

It’s very possible to set aside $50 to $100 a month and turn it into a positive return on investment for your author career. Saving up that money is only the first step of the process. You need to avoid the financial errors of the spendthrift authors who’ve come before you. Here are 4 money-related mistakes you should avoid in self-publishing if you want to get the best bang for your buck.

1. A Lack of Planning

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Authors on the outside looking in are quick to judge the success of erotica and romance writers. First of all, they assume that writing a compelling story in those genres will be easy, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Secondly, these uninformed authors assume that romance authors are just printing money without any work or forethought. That’s another falsehood, because planning ahead is incredibly important no matter what genre you’re writing in.

Many business-minded authors use tools like profit-loss statements to ensure they’re not spending more money than they could possibly make back. Artists may rebel against the idea of putting numbers into a spreadsheet to assess the viability of certain projects, but it’s what a lot of very intelligent and successful authors are doing to not only make ends meet, but to turn a profit.

I heard a story the other day about a romance writer who spends $8,000 a month on Facebook ads to get over $10,000 back in return. A marketing plan like this requires extensive planning to make sure the efforts are all worth it. Dive into an ad platform like Facebook or Twitter without a plan, and you’re bound to fail.

2. Failure to Save

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The stereotypical image of a starving artist shouldn’t be your ideal. You should seek to be an entrepreneur who can pay off her bills and keep the whole thing running well into the future. An author business typically doesn’t appear out of thin air. It usually comes from careful financial foresight.

Authors can expect to spend between $500 and $1,000 for a website, email service provider, a cover, and a professional-level edit. If you don’t have that kind of cash lying around, then you should save up several months ahead of time to cover the costs. Even when you have decent sales and can pay off some of those expenses with your profits, it’s smart to stock some of that money away for a rainy day.

Create a savings goal after you’ve determined how much you’ll need for a certain project. Balance your budget and write down a realistic amount that you can save per month. Create an automatic savings account that will pull the money out every week, two weeks, or month. The funds will exit your account before you can spend them. Before you know it, the amount of money you need will be available, and you’ll be able to spend what you need on the building blocks of a successful book or series.

3. Spending Without a Goal

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It’s easy to spend hundreds of dollars on a promotion like a Kindle Countdown Deal or a few free days on a permafree title. Some authors are so results-starved that they’ll put out this money for email advertisers and placement on a certain website without really knowing why they’re doing it. Even if they have a successful promotion, the results might mean nothing without an end goal in mind.

Free promotions and discounts are best used when you have multiple books in a series, and yet many authors will spend unnecessarily on a two-book series or even a series starter. If your goal is to get more people into a series, then you should have a series to send them to. Don’t promote your series starter unless you have at least three books out. Make sure that your goal is business-minded and you pick promotional methods that let you track the results.

4. Trusting Before Research

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Traditional publishing has the money to put out a full-page ad in the New York Times when they feel like it. Aside from not having the money to do the same, you wouldn’t even want to consider marketing like this. There’s no possible way to track that your sales have come in through an ad like that. A small business needs to be incredibly smart with spending, and all of that starts with research.

Let’s go back to the free and discount book promotion sites for a second. There are hundreds of these, and all of them boast large numbers of Twitter, Facebook, and email followers. It’s easy to be swayed by numbers, but you need to hold out for proof.

BookBub is the top dog in author marketing because hundreds of people have said that it works. There’s proof, it’s recent, and more authors sing the site’s praises every single day. Some hypothetical site like Billy Bob’s Book Deals may say it has thousands of Facebook followers, but you need to dig deeper before you buy an ad. Find previous people who’ve used the site and see how much engagement the site’s Facebook page has. If you can’t find any success stories, and there are fewer than 5 likes per post on the site’s Facebook page, then you probably shouldn’t spend money on the service.

Research results before you put out any money. This will save you from making a dumb promotional decision.

Get Out More Than You Put In

 

Long-term, sustainable author careers are built on smart financial decisions. There are going to be highs and lows over the next few decades for authors, so if you want your career to last that long, you’re going to need to be smart with your money. Save what you can, spend what you need, and plan every single step to set yourself up for success.