The DGC Annual Report for 2015

Hello, fans of Daron’s Guitar Chronicles! As the end of the year draws to a close and I start to get my ducks in a row for income tax purposes, I thought you guys might like to see how the site did this year and what I spent your donations on!

First some stats from Google Analytics:
Total pageviews hit 65,265 this year, which is down from over 90,000 in 2013 and 2014, but given that the site was on half-speed for four months, I’m not surprised about that. Fewer posts means fewer pageviews.

dgc_pageviews_2010-2015

It also tends to mean fewer visitors. Total “users” (what used to be called “unique visitors,” I think) was 3,717, the lowest since 2011.

But bounce rate was down, too (i.e. fewer people stopping in for a few seconds and immediately clicking away) and also we did relatively little advertising to drive people to the site this year. Most of the promotional efforts this year were about building audience on Wattpad and promoting the new ebooks.

dgc_adjusted_visitor_stats_2010-2015

dgc_stats_2010-2015

Clearly I could put some emphasis back on drawing more people to the site.

The basic income line on DGC for 2015 looks like this:

$72.07 DGC paperback sales
$442.99 Paypal Donations (after fees)
$844.31 Patreon Donations (after fees)
$148.59 Ebook sales via Smashwords & all other sites
$847.29 Ebook sales via Amazon
=$2,356.25

We didn’t do a Kickstarter this year, so there’s nothing to add from that, and I didn’t get the paperbacks in hand until late in the year so didn’t sell them at cons/appearances much, so the $72 you see here is all through Amazon.

I didn’t include the ad revenue from the Project Wonderful ads on the site since I have been just plowing what accrues there back into paying for more ads for DGC. So that’s not counted in expenses either.

dgc_ebook_7_cover_version3_200x300

MORE STATS:

$180 Largest total donation from a single person in 2015 (made in several payments)
$50 Largest single donation
33 cents smallest single donation (after fees I got 1 cent)
$5 most often given amount
$25 second-most often given amount
85% of donors were repeat donors (gave previously also)
15% were first-time donors

Expenses:
$25 e-commerce plugin for DGC site
$75 photographer fee for book 7 cover
$75 additional art & photos used on the site/books
$49 chat room subscription fee
$50 review copy mailings
$29 wiki plugin
=$353

I should probably also count the amortized cost of the publicists I hired but it’s a little tricky to figure out what percentage of the retainer I’m paying them should count as DGC work. Somewhere in the hundreds of dollars but not $1,000. Let’s call it $500.

dgc_ebook_8_cover_200So net profit from DGC for me this year is
$2356 – $500 – $353 = $1503.

Not bad in a year where the site went to half-time for four whole months and when there was no Kickstarter.

89: Number of new chapters published this year

We also had a lot of fanworks this year! More than I could reliable count, but you can see them by looking up the fanworks category or the fanworks page.

If you’re curious about what else I did with that $1,500 in profit? Here are some things I did in my life this year that were totally worth $1,500:

Health costs: I have health insurance via corwin’s day job, but there’s a deductible, there are co-pays, etc. And I had a couple of conditions this year that required tests and procedures where my insurance didn’t cover the full cost of ultrasound, etc. My total out of pocket medical expenses this year: $1,429. So you could say that DGC covered my health costs this year!

Or:

Automobile costs: I bought a new (used) car! (It’s a 2012 factory refurb but it’s my first not-a-hand-me-down car and as far as I’m concerned that counts for most meanings of the term “new car”.) Insurance for the year was $954.00. I bought a hybrid that gets around 50 mpg (sometimes even more) so it’s kind of ridiculous that I only spent $121.86 on gas, which included driving to & from cons in New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and several locations in Massachusetts. I didn’t pay for any maintenance because the car was under the dealer’s care program for the full year. Total comes to: $1075.86. So the income from DGC more than covered my entire vehicle expenses for the year (not counting buying the car itself).

Or:

Vacation: In January I spent 8 days in Disney World on my first “real” vacation since 2013 (i.e. not part of a business trip, not working while I was there). That $1,500 covered not only my airfare and hotel, but the meal plan!! That’s money I couldn’t have contemplated spending when DGVC launched back in 2009.

Conclusion: I wouldn’t be living the life I live now without you guys. It’s win-win in so many ways: I get to tell a story I’ve waited my whole life to tell, and I get spend my money on something other than instant ramen.

Now, it’s true that compared to DGC, a lot more money came in this year from mainstream publishers for my BDSM romances. So if all I were doing these days is chasing money with my words, you’d think I should do more of those. But I’m at the peak of output on those: I literally can’t write them any faster, and if they were the ONLY thing I wrote I’d go bonkers. So DGC is keeping me sane, too. :-)

Now, what about next year?

In 2016 I have two mainstream novels to write (I wrote three this year so two will be a relief!) but I think I should be able to keep up my regular DGC pace, OR EVEN INCREASE IT. But to really increase it I would need to up the income it brings in. The two main ways we’ve seen to do this are Kickstarter and Patreon.

The thing about Kickstarter is that with each of the DGC one-offs we’ve done previously, they pretty much just break even. The money that comes in mostly goes to fulfilling the rewards, including getting the merch made, and paying the other budget items like proofreaders, designers, etc. So although it’s getting to be about time to do another omnibus (volumes 6, 7, and 8!) it doesn’t really add to the bottom line very much. They do add a lot of fun and cool stuff, though, so I think we should probably do one in April or May of 2016.

Patreon, on the other hand, has grown a lot. So if you’ve noticed, I’ve launched a campaign to try to get weekly pledges up to the $100 a week level. They’re actually about a third of the way there now, hovering around $30. What it would take is ~70 more people to jump in and say “yes! I’ll give a dollar a week!” (At $100 a week I’d pull close to $5K from Patreon annually.)

I know that’s not in everyone’s budget. I have no plans to put up a paywall for main content (zomg no) or anything like that. But consider that folks who donate through the Patreon get ALL the ebooks free (usually 2 new ones a year lately) plus any and all bonus scenes (anywhere from 1-3 of those in recent years) with occasional sneak peeks and other things I post as patron-only over there. Plus special patron-only discounts on buying the paperbacks, too!

So if you’re an occasional donor already or you’ve been thinking you might want to give soon, instead of plopping down $25 a couple of times a year, think about supporting via Patreon as an alternative?

That’s it for this year’s report. Thanks for a great year, everyone, and here’s to a 2016 even bigger and better.

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Comments 2

  1. s wrote:

    I don’t know how your page views are down that much. I’ve visited the site more times than that! Lol.

    Also I saw Daron’s tweet about being #19 on the best gay rock books list and I’m wondering how there’s 18 books better than this?!?! Not possible.

    [Reply]

    Lenalena Reply:

    They are not. Better, I mean. There are some truly atrocious books on that list. Like all those Heaven Sent books by Jet Mykles. Hor-ri-ble. But popular, apparently. I read two of them, maybe three, because I figured popular had to mean good. It doesn’t. Not unless you are really into shallow formulaic romance with repetitive writing. And no music.

    Here’s a review I did for one of them:https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/373620688?book_show_action=false

    Seriously, you should all become goodreads members just to vote up Daron’s books on this list.

    [Reply]

    s Reply:

    Don’t hold back, lena! Lol. That was some review. Glad I didn’t waste money on that book.

    I think I have/had a goodreads acct just never took the time to figure out how it works. But you’re right. We get to read for free, or with occasional donations, the least we could do is spread the word about this wonderful story!

    [Reply]

    s Reply:

    Done! I do still have a goodreads account. Voted for all the DGC books and rated them all, and wrote a review for the first one. I’ll do others when I have time.

    [Reply]

    ctan Reply:

    You definitely account for about a thousand pageviews at least! Right? Or are you on your second re-read which would be like 1500+? LOL

    [Reply]

    s Reply:

    Confession: I read the whole thing through chapter 500/600 (wherever we were when I started), then started over more leisurely to make sure I got it all (which I probably still didn’t), skipping the Daron and Jonathan in LA part (which makes me think maybe I should reread it…). But I’ve reread the sections you assigned me so many times if it was a paperback it would have disintegrated by now. And certain Daron and Ziggy chapters I’ve read enough to know them by name. I don’t have to hunt for them anymore. Daron is my therapy when life wants to act like a psycho bitch and what I read when I have a book hangover and am not ready to start something new. So thanks for that!

    [Reply]

    Posted 30 Dec 2015 at 7:45 pm
  2. Alan Katz wrote:

    It just strikes me as so inutterably sad that you can put so much effort into such a stunning, brilliant project and repeat such paltry rewards for it.

    You income should be in the tens of thousands, if not hundreds.

    Oddly enough, I sometimes write for tech sites, and they pay $800-1000 per article, and those are pretty short articles. There MUST be a better way to capitalize Daron. God knows, I’ve been promoting it by comparing all other rock-n-roll-themed books to Daron when I write reviews. Sadly, doesn’t seem to have resulted in much of an improvement in sales. Of course, what should I expect, I’m just one single reviewer.

    What amazes me is that the digital sales of the ebooks also don’t seem to produce a hell of a lot of revenue, and that baffles me.

    Methinks you may need a new publicist?

    [Reply]

    ctan Reply:

    I hired these publicists a few months ago to see if they could make much of a blip — they handled not only the release of DGC Volume 8 but other books I’ve been doing and the one that’s coming out in 3 weeks.

    The difficulty with promoting ebooks now — as opposed to 5 years ago — is that the market is incredibly glutted. About 350,000 new ebooks were released for Kindle in 2015, which is more than a thousand per day, and about half of those are now available in what’s called Kindle Unlimited, where Prime members can essentially read the books for free and Amazon pays the author a small royalty from a central kitty of money based on how many pages get read. It’s a trap: if you join KU you have to pull your book down from everywhere else and make it exclusively Amazon. In this way Amazon wants to make authors completely dependent on Amazon and choke off the supply to their competitors as well. The result is that the big-money readers, the one who were buying 1-2 books per day on Kindle until KU was introduced have largely all moved to reading “free” through KU and everyone’s actual sales are down. Sales were already moving downward from the glutted market alone, but there was a noticeable drop in digital sales at all publishers across the board when KU was introduced.

    The result for DGC is that although we keep releasing new books, ebook income has actually dropped this year compared to last year (and last year was lower than the year before that). This is consistent with the trends I’m seeing at the publishers I work for–I see the sales reports across many fiction genres and titles and right now everyone is feeling the squeeze.

    My take on the job the publicists did is that they got quite a bit of great notice for the book that I was never able to get, but it didn’t translate into many sales, and it’s much much harder to get notice for book eight of a series unless you’re George R. R. Martin. So I’m quite happy with the job they did but I don’t think they could have done more.

    The one form of promo and merchandising that’s been working lately for a lot of people is price promotions and bunding, so look for me to experiment with that this year. Book One is going to be featured in BookBub’s LGBT newsletter which should pump the free loss leader and bring in an influx (I hope) and I will probably do a so-called “box set” (ebook bundle) at a bargain price for a limited time in a few months.

    [Reply]

    ctan Reply:

    Although, you just gave me an idea. What if I put the “I Speak Guitar” novella on sale exclusively through KU as an experiment? I wonder if it would stand alone well enough to interest people at a bargain price and/or as KU borrowers? Hmmm….

    [Reply]

    Alan Katz Reply:

    I wondered how the “unlimited” thing works. I understand the advantage if the book is the attempted resurrection of an old volume that isn’t selling any more. But I note that authors are also using it as a limited-time introductory offer for brand new releases, too.

    What I don’t see is what Amazon gets out of it. Is it a loss-leader designed to sell sheets and pillow-cases, or hardbound books (if anyone buys them, anymore)?

    All I can see is that it’s a rough time to be an author. Unlike musicians, who have been facing similar issues over the last few years, authors don’t have world tours, sponsored by beer companies and teenage product vendors, with tons of merchandise flying off the tables in the lobby. There is no “live” equivalent in literature to use to mint money. In fact, it’s the opposite, with the author often funding his or her own book tour.

    That there are 350,000 new e-books released each year is not a bad thing, for the consumer. I remember when I was young(er), I could count the number of gay-themed books commercially available on the fingers of both hands. Now it’s more than a hundred thousand in print. Of course, that results in a lot of crap being published (I know, I seem to have read half of it), but still there is a wealth of options.

    I think the bottom line is that Jeff Bezos is pulling a Bill Gates – give stuff away free to the user in order to seed the market and establish a monopoly. Only Bezos is more fortunate – Gates had to develop his own products to give away, Bezos gets authors to give theirs away, for him, free.

    I still like to think that the cream rises to the top. There’s a handful of authors, yourself, Rhys Ford, Josh Lanyon, Jordan Hawk, N. R. Walker, John Inman, T.J. Klune, Adrienne Wilder, Brandon Shire, Alexa Land, and a few others, whose books I will buy at any cost. But I am more likely to take a chance on an author I don’t know if it’s offered free.

    I think you’re right about one thing, though. Pick a book, any book, perhaps the first Daron e-book (that’s all it took to hook me!) and put it on Unlimited to seed your own market. You do know that Bill Gates made his billions by intentionally letting people steal DOS. Once he controlled the market, the prices went up, as did his billions. Your writing is so good, so inspiring, your characters so lovable and addictive, that you really need to just reel in those first-timers and you’ll have them for life.

    Beyond that, I have no idea what to suggest. Marketing is difficult enough, but in a tightly-controlled one like the Amazoniverse, it’s even more challenging.

    All I can do is wish you good luck and do whatever I can to get the word out, but I’m only one guy (though I do have more than fifteen hundred followers on Amazon and the Sinfully… blog) so I’m not able to move your numbers in any meaningful way.

    I promise you, if I could, I would…

    [Reply]

    ctan Reply:

    “I think the bottom line is that Jeff Bezos is pulling a Bill Gates – give stuff away free to the user in order to seed the market and establish a monopoly.”

    That’s exactly it. Kindle Unlimited is a big draw to get people into Amazon Prime (which they pay an annual fee for) and for the “heavy” reader — who reads 5-10 books a week — it’s a bargain.

    I’ve already got Book One up for free not in KU but just free everywhere — originally the plan was for it to be free for a limited time, but now it’s what we call “perma-free” because it hooks readers into the whole series. When it first went free it went all the way to #2 on the Amazon free gay book rankings (never knocked off the book that was #1, can’t remember what it was, some erotica with gay angels I think) and stayed there for a couple months. During that first month about 7,000 people downloaded the free book, and then it stayed around 1,000 downloads a month for several months, then leveled off around 700 a month for over a year. But that was before many people were using a free loss leader so there wasn’t as much competition. Now it’s down around one download a day on Amazon and continuing to dwindle as it’s swamped by newer free content. The BookBub promotion will give it a lift for a couple of days but then it will probably sink back down.

    it also doesn’t help that on places like iTunes, the only two reviews were from chuckleheads who were like “cool free book I’ll try it” and then they left negative reviews. They’re entitled to their opinion, sure, and 14 people have left positive star ratings, but none of the people who left 5 stars bothered to write a review. So the only reviews there said “This has no plot. Don’t bother to read it even though it’s free.” Chris finally wrote one positive one to try to offset the effect but it will probably take a lot more and unfortunately the two first reviews always still show up first. (Anyone who wants to try to help, download the book free off iTunes and then review it: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/darons-guitar-chronicles-volume/id446066645?mt=11)

    [Reply]

    ctan Reply:

    P.P.S. to you and everyone, I’m very open to ideas. Don’t let my looooonnnnggg explanation of Amazon’s shenanigans make you think that means I’m trying to shut down the discussion. I just have no qualms about letting you guys see how the sausage is made. Thinking outside the box is what let this story come to light in the first place so please do feel free. There are no “bad” ideas, only ideas. :-)

    [Reply]

    sanders Reply:

    The explanation about Amazon actually helps, I think. Being able to explain to people in plain terms why Amazon/KU are a bad deal for authors, and ultimately for readers, is one way to steer people toward purchasing the e-books and visiting this site directly. I don’t think people like my girlfriend, who is addicted to Prime and e-books, really consider that by taking Amazon’s deal, they’re giving less than pennies to the authors they love. I suspect that when I talk to Becc about it, it will hurt her soul and make her think twice about how she’s buying books. It will also likely make her start talking to the other avid readers in her life about why they should reconsider KU.

    I think Stef and I would be in agreement that, as a promotional act, you should come and do a reading at one of the Louisville bookstores. Here, it’d be possible to use the local LGBT groups as partners for promotion. I imagine that would be true of other cities, and somewhat manageable if you looked at kind of “second-tier” places like Louisville. College LGBT groups always need guest speakers, too, and would be right in the target market for a lot of your writing. The combination in DGC of coming-of-age story and 80’s… nostalgia is the wrong word, but it’s also not strictly history, something between the two, would probably appeal to certain professors as well. Actually, there are a fair number of academic selling points you could exploit.

    [Reply]

    ctan Reply:

    I’ve always wanted to get more into the college and university speaking gig world, but other than a few one offs here and there I’ve found it hard to break into. And from what my friends who used to do it a lot more tell me, it’s very tough to get travel expenses covered these days in addition to an honorarium over $200. So it’s hard to make it add up financially when it takes a lot of time to research, sniff out, and find the organizations that could play host, and then it ends up costing plane ticket etc. out of pocket to go there – it’d be hard to sell enough books to make it back. So I take the opportunities when they’re offered within driving distance and if they’ll pay at least a $200 speaker fee, but it’s hard to justify doing more than that. Also, I’m already on the road 20 to 25 weekends a year and doing anything more also strains my health and writing time.

    That said, though, I’ve been wondering if at some point I/we should plan for a fan meetup/author conclave and Louisville could be a possibility? You and Stef are close to there, and I think Chris is only a couple hours south of there — I wonder who else is in the area or within driving distance? :-)

    [Reply]

    s Reply:

    Yes, yes, and more yes! Maybe this is an area to get fans involved. Let the fans do the legwork finding interested groups, reasonable airfare/accommodations. My hubby flew from Louisville to Dallas for $50 last year so deals can be had. I even have some sky miles I might be willing to donate to get you to Louisville. But as much fun as I think that would be I would ultimately want it to be beneficial to you and Daron.

    [Reply]

    ctan Reply:

    I’m ok with sleeping on someone’s couch if there are no smokers in the house. Motel 6 is fine too. :-) An ideal trip in my dream world would have my airfare covered, and put a couple of gigs together in one weekend like one reading/signing at a bookstore (if there are any of those left), one college speaking gig for a decent honorarium ($250 or more), and maybe one paying gig to a either a leather community group (I teach various BDSM workshops) or romance/erotica or LGBT writers group (i.e. 10-15 people in a living room somewhere paying $15 each) — if in Louisville add at *least* one DGC fan meetup. :-) But back in the 90s I used to do a lot of tours like that, conquering one city at a time every few weeks…

    [Reply]

    sanders Reply:

    Stef’s right on with letting us fans do the legwork. I wrote my comment thinking specifically about Louisville because it’s a place where you do have two of us to make calls and wrangle some logistics, one with a reliable car and one with–I think–a smoke-free house. We do have a local bookstore that does a bunch of author readings/signings as a regular part of their programming, right next door to our brunch place, and several universities where I’ve previously been invited as a guest speaker on LGBT civil rights. I was just trying not to geek-out too hard on someone else’s comment thread. So, yeah, there are possibilities here. I think they could also be hooked in to events in Cincinnati or Indianapolis pretty easily, since either one is about an hour and a half’s drive from Louisville, or something at Indiana University, which is an hour and a half in a different direction, or the University of Kentucky, an hour in yet another direction. Groups should be starting, in the next couple of months, to plan for June pride events, which would be the optimum time to do something, but the colleges also tend to do things in October around National Coming Out Day.

    [Reply]

    s Reply:

    I think we have at least one topic of discussion the next time we get together!

    Also Cecelia, unfortunately the iTunes review requires you to have an iPhone or similar device, so us Android folks are not going to be able to help you out with the reviews. :(

    Question (since we’ve officially high-jacked this thread): When we write reviews, do you want us to direct people to the site vs. try to convince them to buy the ebook? If they come to the site then technically they can read for free forever and never give a donation unless they want a bonus scene. Then you may or may not sell ebooks. This is something I was thinking about when we did the review drive but for some reason never asked.

    [Reply]

    ctan Reply:

    From my perspective it works out well either way, whether people read free on the site but get engaged in the comments and fandom, or whether they buy the ebooks and never connect with us. (The ebooks contain various pointers and links to the site telling people they can read for free so they can jump over at any time… but most don’t. Creatures of habit, I guess.) All reviews really have to say is “I really liked this” and people will make their own decision about how to consume it.

    s Reply:

    Ok. So can someone comment on the negative iTunes reviews like you can on Amazon? Maybe say something like, “You can follow the story online for free to see if you like what happens past Volume 1″…? And of course go on to explain how awesome it is and how loyal the fandom is, etc. That may help direct people who read the negative reviews to the site as well as the people who actually left them? (Again, I can’t do it because I don’t have an Apple device) I personally ‘bought’ a bunch of free M/M stories from Amazon to see if I liked them, and DGC was included in that. I *almost* missed the link to the website because I had to click a few pages to the end of the story, and if it wasn’t for my weird quirk of wanting to see that 100% complete mark on the stories I’ve read, I probably never would have found it. That may not be an issue for people who have actual Kindles or larger screens they read on. I just have my tiny little phone and that’s how it was for me.

    ctan Reply:

    Hm, the “read more DGC for free” announcement and link should be right on the last page with the end of the last chapter. (And then there is always a teaser chapter or four from the next book… and then the link again…). Hm. I’ll check and make sure of that, though.

    s Reply:

    I was wrong. It was actually on the page after the last page of vol 1, but I was broke at the time so I was carefully avoiding the teaser chapters to any book I read because I KNEW I didn’t have the money to buy the next one and didn’t want to get hooked. It never occurred to me that I could read it FREE online. I didn’t know such things existed then, and had never even heard the term webserial. Yeah, this story has changed my whole world view! Lol. Fortunately, I did see that and clicked the link and the rest is history :)

    ctan Reply:

    And we’re so glad you did!

    ctan Reply:

    Interestingly enough, June is my lightest travel month of the year in 2015, and October is pretty light, too. (NY Comicon is then but I don’t think I’m getting invited this year…)

    [Reply]

    Amber Reply:

    I would definitely drive up to Louisville for a fan meet up.

    [Reply]

    ctan Reply:

    Wow, so you, Stef, Chris, and Sanders are all driving distance to Louisville. We should try to make this happen…

    [Reply]

    Amber Reply:

    I’d have to make a vacation of it and know in advance because it’s almost 13 hours away but I think it would be fun.

    [Reply]

    ctan Reply:

    13 hours! I think Boston is about that far from Louisville. Well, okay, 15 hours according to Google maps. :-)

    [Reply]

    ctan Reply:

    Kindle Unlimited would be great if:
    -when someone read the entire book the author got the same royalty they would if the person bought the book
    -you didn’t have to give them the exclusive for 90 days before selling your book anywhere else

    The way it works now is if your ebook is priced, say, $5.99, for each copy that is sold through the Kindle store the author gets about $4.10. But if someone reads it on KU, even if they read the whole thing so you get the full KU amount, what you get is a “share” of whatever kitty size Amazon has set for that month. So say they say the kitty that month is $2 million, your share is going to depend on how many other books got read through KU because then it’s split. Authors right now are telling me that on their KU books they’re making about 68 cents per read. There’s a big difference between 68 cents and $4.10. Amazon argues that you’ll be making more because you can get 100 people to try your book through KU instead of 10 people to purchase it (say) which would be $680 for you instead of $410 but the self-published authors I know who track their sales and income say nope, it doesn’t end up being that big a disparity and instead your most reliable sales just end up cannibalized.

    [Reply]

    Posted 05 Jan 2016 at 5:23 am

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