3 graphs to give insight into your sales results

What can you do with a sales transaction data file and an hour to spend? You can make your sales data talk! Data analysis will allow you to make better marketing decisions and learn from the past.

There’s no need to use complex analysis software; I typically use Zoho Reports * but there are many others options out there on the Web. Excel can also be used, but it may require some macro programming time. Start by downloading your sales transactions CSV file (go to your publisher account on Cantook, click on the Accounting tab, set the time period you want to study and download the report), upload it into your data analysis software and let the fun begin!

To get the most out of your analysis efforts, you need to go beyond the usual aggregate “sales revenues over time” graph: unless you do something very wrong, the sales curve will go.

1- Average revenue per title over time
The “total sales revenues/number of available titles” ratio is rather meaningful information to track. If you are in the process of actively digitizing your backlist titles, the ratio might go down a little. But on the medium and long runs this ratio should go up. This will mean that your commercialization actions are more effective for both your new and “old” titles because their average contribution will grow. If it is not the case, you may need to review your commercial action plan, among other things.


For example, this publisher should be careful: the average revenue per catalogue title (not to be confused with the average selling price, which is divided by the number of units sold) is on the decline, as more titles are being converted into ebooks. Specific marketing actions should be planned to increase revenues of these newly digitized titles.

2- Booksellers’ shares of revenues
Another interesting metric is the evolution of a bookseller’s individual contribution to your total revenues over time. It is easier to spot problems than to look at gross amounts because they are all supposed to go up. The ratio allows for comparison of each seller’s relative performance. If you observe a significant decline in the revenues of your most important bookseller, it might be time to contact your account manager and find out what is going on. Take a look at this graph:


The red line represents a publisher’s sales at one of the most important booksellers in the country. It is important to get an understanding as to why its importance is in decline as opposed to the other booksellers. The publisher should also closely monitor the sales trend of the “purple” bookseller, as its share is beginning to go down.

Remember that if you sell ebooks on your own website, you should include your publishing house as a bookseller in the above graph. You will see how your e-store is faring compared to other sellers.

3- Sales evolution of your top ten titles
The third graph does not show a particular metric: it is a graph that will be the starting point of an analysis. Take a look at the sales curves of these ten bestselling books:


If these were your own sales stats, you could try to figure out if the sales curves follow the same pattern. Why do some books sell over a longer sales period? What gives a book a second boost of sales after launch? If you think about past sales actions for each of these titles, what can you learn from these curves? This qualitative analysis is performed in order to let you identify key growth factors for your books, in order to eventually replicate the success.

The examples described above are merely suggestions; there are many other types of analysis to perform and metrics to measure depending on your objectives and strategic goals. You can also compare your ebooks sales with your printed books sales statistics (extracted from your accounting system). What metric do you find most useful?

* There are plenty of B.I. tools, but I particularly appreciate Zoho Report’s user friendliness, despite its limitations.

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