From Manuscript to (e)Book: Your Self-Publishing Adventure Guide

Track Book Sales with TrackerBox

I love making sales, but I hate dealing with sales reports. When I had a couple of books up at Amazon and Smashwords, it wasn’t so bad, but now I’ve got 10+ books available at Amazon, kobo, Google Play, OmniLit, and more. Then there’s Smashwords and Draft2Digital. I use both, and each one reports sales for multiple stores.

I felt as if I were drowning in sales reports. For several years, I transferred sales numbers for each report into a master Excel sheet with formulas that calculated totals, but the process was error-prone. There was nothing worse than seeing a number that didn’t make sense and trying to figure out when I made the mistake. Was it when I entered the numbers from the Smashwords report? Amazon numbers? Did I make the mistake last month but only notice it now. Argh!

I gave up. When a report came in, I’d save it and file the email. Every once in a while I’d think, “I really should deal with my sales data.” A couple of times I even tried. New master spreadsheet, familiar frustration. I’d always give up again.

Then someone mentioned an application called TrackerBox. Many authors praised the program on Kboards. A Google search turned up more authors reviewing the product on their blogs, and those reviews were positive.

You can try TrackerBox for 30 days, so I downloaded it and gave it a test run. It had its quirks, but overall I was pleased with the product and quickly forked over $59.99 USD to buy my ticket out of sales report hell.

Note that it’s only available for Windows systems. If you’re on a Mac, you’re out of luck.

What I like about TrackerBox

You don’t have to manually enter the data from each sales report. TrackerBox knows how to import reports from all the major bookstores, and a few lesser-known ones, as well.

You can generate a variety of reports and group the data by date, vendor, title, format, author, and transaction type (sale, borrow, free). When it makes sense, you can also group based on factors like currency.

There’s a detail report that displays every sales record imported by the program.

There’s a nifty alias feature that deals with the problem of title variations at the different stores. For example, some stores include the series name in the title. Others don’t. The alias manager lets you tell the program that two sales records with different titles are tied to the same book. You can also select which version of the title to use in reports.

You can view the data as a chart or graph, or as a table.

When viewing reports, you can remove “free” sales, including those that were free due to the buyer applying a coupon. That allows you to view the data for paid sales only. I usually participate in the Smashwords seasonal sales, and I sometimes offer a book for free (with a coupon). I’m not interested in those “sales” when making data-based decisions, so I was pleased to see that I could easily remove those records from the report data.

The developer is responsive and still actively improving the product.

Trackerbox home page

The TrackerBox home page (screenshot taken from http://www.storyboxsoftware.com/tdownload.htm). Click the image to see a larger version.

What could be improved

Sometimes you’ll hit a report that won’t import. I wasn’t surprised when my old LSI reports weren’t recognized, but I also experienced a problem with some Smashwords quarterly reports. Fortunately you can use a generic Excel template available at the TrackerBox site to import data from stores the program doesn’t support. It also comes in handy when a report fails to import. You can also email the report to the developer. For the Smashwords case, I switched to the annual reports, which the documentation recommends you use, anyway. They were imported without a hitch.

When you view reports, you can hide columns, but next time you run the program, those columns are back and you have to hide them again.

The same vendor at one aggregator is treated as a different vendor at another aggregator. For example, let’s say you used to get your books to Barnes and Noble through Smashwords, but you later switched to Draft2Digital. When viewing reports, there will two entries under vendor: one for Smashwords B&N, and one for D2D B&N. It’s not a huge deal, because you can select both entries if you’re interested in B&N, but in some reports, they’ll appear on different lines.

I wrote to the developer, and he plans to address the last two items.

The Verdict

I no longer cringe when I download a sales report or see one come into my Inbox. Dealing with a report is now a simple matter of opening TrackerBox and importing the report. Done!

Also, within 5 minutes of importing all my data, I was able to quickly see which of my series has the highest buy-through rate, how sales have risen and fallen over time since I started publishing, and my top three vendors for sales.

I was also able to quickly figure out which books sell mainly on Amazon (perhaps candidates for KDP Select down the road, depending on where the program goes), and which books are doing well at other bookstores (not candidates for KDP Select).

Now that I have the data in a form that makes it easy to view totals and trends, I can make smarter decisions about where to spend my time in terms of promotional opportunities and optimizing book pages.

But the best part is that the $59.99 I spent on TrackerBox will save me oodles of time and frustration in the future. If you’re on a Windows system, and you’re looking for a way to track your book sales and generate all sorts of reports that will tell you how your books are selling, and when and where they sell the most, download the TrackerBox trial and give it a whirl.

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