I’ve been meaning to post a review of my efforts in 2020 earlier, but the last two months have kept me busy with other concerns. Time to rectify this!
The Patreon Campaign
I’ve maintained a steady pace in my translations, publishing 1000+ words of translations and commentary each and every Monday on my campaign site. without interruption since I started the campaign on April 5th 2019 with the tale “The Shower Maidens”. Throughout it all, I’ve maintained a comfortable buffer of unpublished tales that would allow me to keep the postings going even if I was otherwise preoccupied. I am quite satisfied with this, and expect this state of affairs to continue.
Furthermore, the latest version of the Master Volume – a compilation of all the tales I’ve published on Patreon, available to Scholar-level Patrons – clocks in at 159,358 words and 229 tales, which is 74 tales in addition to those published in the first book.
On the other hand, the actual number of Patrons has not increased as I had hoped. While I have gained 13 new supporters in 2020, I have lost five, and four more in the first two months of this year. As of this writing, I have 19 Patreon supporters – as many as I had on February 17th 2020, more than a year ago.
7 out of these former subscriber choose the answer “My financial situation changed” in their exit survey. Entirely understandable, considering that there is a global pandemic going on which has had a devastating effect on the personal finances of many people. I am fortunate that I currently have a stable day job and stable finances – while I am glad for my Patreon supporters, I do not currently need them for survival. And taking care of oneself and one’s loved ones needs to take priority over supporting what is still basically a hobby project.
Still, this indicates that I can’t expect any significant increases in Patreon supporters before this crisis is truly over. While I had hoped that the publication of my book would encourage more people to support the Patreon campaign, this at best seems to have staved off further declines.
Speaking of which…
The book – a compilation of my first 155 translations was published on July 8th 2020. In 2020, it was sold 71 times – 37 times as an ebook, and 34 times as a paperpack. If I include January and February of this year, the numbers increase to 90 (45 times as an ebook, and 45 times as a paperback). Considering that this is a first-time release by a new author with no major claims to fame so far, I am quite pleased with these numbers.
Looking at the numbers, two interesting trends become apparent. First, newly released books usually have very strong sales immediately after release, but then peter off in the following months. While this effect was apparent until October, sales have actually increased since then. I am not sure if this is a result of my ongoing Twitter campaign, or if word of mouth is saying nice things about this book. Either way, this trend is quite encouraging.
Secondly, while ebook sales dominated at first, there seems to be a strong shift towards paperback sales after October. While I have tried to make the ebook version as convenient as possible, the book does have a lot of footnotes and references, and thus has more resemblance to an academic reference book than the novels that work better for an ebook format. I must admit, I am curious how many people first bought the ebook version, and later purchased the paperback version on top of it.
On the down side, I still haven’t gotten around to selling the book on any other site than Amazon – even though I deliberately didn’t enter an exclusive agreement. While it is possible to purchase the book via Amazon’s “extended distribution” scheme (representing two of the 45 paperback sales), and thus can be ordered by bookstores in some countries, I could do more to make the book available. In particular, I want to offer the book as a hardcover version (which is not an option with Amazon’s Print On Demand service).
Social Media Campaign
While I have tried out other options over time, ultimately I decided to stick with Twitter as my social media platform of choice, as Twitter has the largest folklore communities I am aware of. I participate regularly in the #MythologyMonday, #FairyTaleTuesday, and #FolkloreThursday events, where I share both summaries of German folklore tales I haven’t translated yet, as well as selected translations that are appropriate to that week’s topic.
This approach seems to work – I had 271 followers on Janury 1st 2020, 726 on December 31st, and 812 right now. Thus, I will continue with this for the foreseeable future.
You are on it. It exists. But while I set the domain up shortly before I published the book, it’s still very, very basic, and I need to improve it in the coming months.
But at least I now have a dedicated page for the German Folklore Map, which is nice.
In 2020, I earned the following:
- €896.51 from my Patreon campaign
- €239.29 from book sales at Amazon
for a total of €1135.80.
However, I also incurred expenses for:
- Cover illustration
- ISBNs for the paperback
- Domain hosting
for a total of €1253.64, leaving me with a net loss of -€117.83 for 2020. But I also had €254.79 earnings from Patreon back in 2019, leaving me with net profits of €136.96.
At first glance, this admittedly looks unimpressive for the effort involved. But two factors mitigate this situation in my view.
First, a significant portion of these expenses represents one-time costs. The expenses for the cover illustration, editing, and ISBNs are paid off, and each further sale represents pure profits (well, taxable profits, although I have certainly plans for further tax-deductible expenses…). This book will sell for a long, long time.
And, as I’ve pointed out, book sales seem actually increasing again – right now, they represent about half of my monthly Patreon revenue. This is encouraging, and gives me greater hope for the future.
When I started this project, I initially saw book publishing primarily as a marketing device for my Patreon campaign – I figured that the regular payments from Patreon would represent a significantly larger portion of my revenue stream.
While this has been true so far, the numbers outlined above indicate that I should put a greater focus on publishing more books. My Patreon campaign will not be neglected – if anything, my supporters will see more translations than before.
However, while I will talk about my new approach in full at a later time, my current goal is to publish more books at a faster pace. Both the Patreon revenue and the revenue from the sale of the existing books will pay for the expenses of the next book. And each new published books will not only have sales of its own, but has the potential to improve sales of the previous books. Eventually, sales of my entire back catalogues should be large enough to represent a significant source of income for me.
At least, this is the plan.