So you have an author website. And you, of course, have links to buy your book through your website (or at least I hope you do!) But how do you track book sales? In other words, how do you know if people are actually clicking on those links? And how do you know how many books are being sold?
There are actually few options for doing this.
How Do You Track Book Sales From Your Site?
Yes, you can track how many people are clicking on each of your “Buy the book” links. You can even track where they are clicking on them (From your blog? The book description page?) and which particular link they are going to (Amazon Kindle? B&N? Your hardcover?)
All of this can be done relatively simply – and for free – through a redirect URL or WordPress plug-in. This means that you can create a custom, hidden URL for each link that then redirects to the actual link. So, in other words, you could create a “page” on your site – let’s call it /buy-amazon-hardcover – that immediately redirects to your hardcover page on Amazon. No user clicking on the link would ever see that “blank” page on your site, because they’re only on it for a millisecond before they’re redirected to Amazon. But your site analytics records that visit, and any time you log in to view your analytics you can find out how many people actually went there — or, in layman’s terms, clicked on that particular Amazon link.
As I mentioned before, there are simple WordPress plugins that can do this work for you as well. The one we’ve used is called Redirection and it automates the process of creating these redirect URLs.
But here’s one thing this free functionality doesn’t do: let you know if people actually went through with the purchase. In other words, it tells you if people clicked on the link from your site that took them to the page on Amazon where they could buy the book. What it doesn’t tell you is if those same people actually followed through with the purchase.
How Do You Track Book Sales in Total?
So now we’ve talked about tracking how many books you’ve sold through your site. But what about tracking book sales in total? You clearly want to know how many books you’re selling, regardless of where the buyers are coming from.
The free option for doing this can be pretty time consuming. Essentially, any site where your book is sold will allow you to view that data. Your Amazon Author Central account will essentially allow you to view how many copies of your book were sold on Amazon – as well as some other partner sites.
But I still hear from authors that their sales through Smashwords, etc… are not included in these reports. They find themselves looking at multiple sources to figure out how many copies they’ve sold, and then working to crunch all the numbers into one place. Not fun.
Thankfully, there are several paid services that help you track all your book sales in one place without the legwork.
One is called Shelley Hitz. It allows you to enter your book information from multiple sites that sell it (Amazon, Smashwords, etc…) and it will generate all the data for you. It allows you to try it for free for 14 days and then the cost is anywhere up to $9.99/month (depending on how many books you’re tracking the sales of).
Another similar option is the downloadable Story Box Software. It offers similar features and allows you to run reports, download your data into Excel files, etc…. The difference with this service is that there’s a one-time fee to download it — $89.99 – and then you can use it for as long as you need. It also offers a free trial.
I’m sure there are plenty more websites, apps, etc… that can help with this. These are just the ones I’ve heard of through word of mouth.
So how do you track book sales? Well, there are a variety of options. It all depends on what you want to know, how you want to get that information, and – like everything else in life — how much you’re willing to pay for it.