Ten Weeks in Review: What Worked, What Didn’t

In August, when I first learned about publishing with Amazon’s DTP, I knew absolutely nothing of what to expect.  While I found a few blogs where authors included a few detailed experiences of how their first few weeks and months went, too many were from established authors or those few who got very, very lucky.  So, that’s why I focused by blog on these details I couldn’t find elsewhere.

So, to begin, here are my sales graphs in the 10 weeks since “The Adventures of Whatley Tupper” has been released:

I now want to continue on from a post of mine in September, telling what worked and what didn’t, in my own case, in the last 6 weeks.

What Worked

Kindle Nation Daily.  I went into detail about it in a previous post here, and the sales spike from this one-day sponsorship stand out in the above sales graph without any need for labeling.  Although I haven’t noticed an ‘after-glow’ from it, that doesn’t mean there isn’t or won’t be one, and either way, who cares. Any advertising that can pay for itself in a single day has to be worth it.  Every book I will release, I will utilize this extraordinary advertising tool, although I do think the gimmicky genre of my book helped (and I don’t expect the same results when “The Year We Finally Solved Everything” has its KND sponsorship on December 7th).  And it does seem like the $79.99 cost for the one-day sponsorship has stabilized.  I think it’s a fair price.

Daily Cheap Reads

This has been great, especially for a free service.  If you look at the sales graphs, you can see a second spike just in the last few days which I can attribute to DailyCheapReads.  Unlike many other blogs/websites that have a daily feature on an indie book, DailyCheapReads seems to have a reader base that extends beyond other indie-authors.  So, when your book ends up on DailyCheapReads, you’re not just preaching to the choir.  All told, in the two days from my book’s posting on DailyCheapReads, I had more than 20 sales.  That’s more than I had in the previous 2 weeks.  But, there’s more to this…

Amazon Customer Discussions

I’ve mentioned this before and I know it’s a contentious issue because people aren’t really supposed to promote their books on these forums.  However, I was lucky enough this time to get someone, who picked up my book after reading about it at the DailyCheapReads site, to start her own thread promoting my book.  As soon as this discussion started, sales started picking up again.  I really think this is one of the best ways to get noticed by customers who don’t frequent KindleBoards and those other websites and it wouldn’t have happened without the DailyCheapReads posting.

What Didn’t Work (or I can’t tell)

Author Interviews.  I’m wary about writing this.  I’m saying this just in terms of what I’ve noticed in terms of sales.  By no means do I think that an author interview has no merit, but I don’t think it has a noticeable effect on sales.   Honestly, the people who read interviews with authors are people who have already heard of the authors.  I don’t think it does much in terms of opening you up to new readers.  THAT SAID, the fact that these interviews remain online and can be stumbled up by people at any time afterward cannot be discounted.  But it also can’t be measured.  Same thing with…

Indie-Book Websites.  Again, I’m wary of writing this.  And, again, the fact that these postings remain online indefinitely is great.  But, for most of these sites, it seems the readers are the same people who frequent KindleBoards and other sites where they are likely familiar with your book already.  In the end, I didn’t notice any change in sales after being posted on most of these.  The effects could very well be more long term, or unconscious, but they are not obvious.   That said, I do plan on utilizing these for my next books (that said, if I haven’t pissed anyone off with this posting!)

What’s Next

In mid-November, “The Adventures of Whatley Tupper” will be the KindleBoards Book of the Day.  Also, I’m still waiting for a few more reviews (some I’m sure are on their way in the next month, some I’m still hoping).  I’ve yet to receive any reviews from a long-established book reviewing site, and I imagine a positive review on one of these would be extremely beneficial.  Here’s hoping.

Finally, I’m going to stop detailing all of my sales quite soon.  At the 3-month mark, I think that will be it.  I do find it a little tacky when established writers continue to talk about their sales (maybe it’s because I’m Canadian, and it sounds too much like boasting, and I don’t like boasting), and while I’m hardly established, I think the point of my blog so far–detailing one un-established author’s sales after releasing his first ebook–will have run its course.

Ninth Week in Review

The updated graphs:

On Wednesday I had an interview go online at mustmutter, although I don’t know what effect that had.  Honestly, I haven’t noticed much of a difference in terms of sales from interviews, although the fact that they become part of the public realm online and can be stumbled on at any time by anyone is useful.  Blog reviews are more useful, and I’m still waiting on a couple more.

I’ve recently been informed that on Wednesday my book will be featured at Daily Cheap Reads, which I’m hoping will lead to a nice boost right before the end of the month.  I’ll put up a post about that on Thursday.

I mentioned in a previous post that I feel that I’m running out of ways to promote “The Adventures of Whatley Tupper,” and after reading a comment from someone on this blog, I’ve decided to release my new book much sooner than I’d originally planned.  I’m not going to detail the sales of “The Year We Finally Solved Everything,” but I’m curious to see what ‘cross-pollinating’ effects having two books out will have, if any.

And next week I’ll post my thoughts on what worked and what didn’t in my second month.

Sixth Week in Review

I’ve noticed a trend in the sales of my book, pretty much in all six of the weeks since it’s been published.  Perhaps you can spot it here:

Sales are always best in the beginning of the week (Monday to Wednesday), and then dies down to a trickle (or nothing at all, like this week) from Friday to Sunday.   Apparently, people don’t really want to buy silly comedic choose your own adventure books on the weekend.  It’s a Monday thing.

This week I had several things happen: Kindle Nation Daily UK sponsorship, a feature Indie Books Blog, an interview at Kindle Author, as well as a review at Motherlode (all discussed in previous posts).   While I can’t tell what exactly caused what sales, I’m sure the Kindle UK sponsorship led to some American sales, and I’m presuming it was the reason for most of that spike in sales I had (although I’ve had no UK sales this week).  Overall, a nice start to the week, and then a very slow end.   And even though October has been utterly dead to me so far, I did finally break the $100 mark in royalties, so I’ll finally get a cheque at some point–I don’t know how often Amazon pays out to international authors.  But that was a goal of mine that I didn’t think I’d reach in early October, so I’m pleased with that.

This is the week, however, that I’ve been looking forward to for some time.  On Friday, October the 8th, my book will be the paid daily sponsor at the US Kindle Nation Daily.  I’ve read many accounts at KindleBoards where people mention breaking even with this in just a day or two, so obviously that is my hope.  But I also hope that it leads to some longer term exposure.  Either way, I’ve already purchased another US sponsorship, hopefully for early December.   KND has been getting so much positive press at KindleBoards that it seems certain that prices will go up, yet again, and availability will dry up faster and faster.

Finally, I purchased (for $35 USD) a daily feature at KindleBoards for November 14th.   Look at me, Mr. Moneybags…

Five weeks in review

So, as mentioned in my last post, I received a big boost in sales early in the week in which I attribute almost completely to an active discussion in the Amazon Customer Discussions for a few days.  Over these last few days the discussion has pretty much dried up, and the effect on sales it quite apparent:

And the effect on royalties just as obvious:

Thanks (I believe) to those discussions, I had more sales last week (especially in the first few days) than I did in the week when my book was priced at 99 cents.   Like I wrote earlier, that single discussion made a bigger impact on sales than anything else I’ve done.  But, these last few days things are quieting down.

Tomorrow (Monday), I have my paid sponsorship for Kindle Nation Daily UK.  Most of what I’ve read about the UK sponsorship leads me to believe I should count myself lucky to just get a few sales.  If this is the case, then the UK sponsorship is way overpriced.  I’ll let you know on Tuesday with a detailed post on this.   It seems that UK Kindle sales at about 1/10th of the Amazon.com site’s sales, so I guess I hope to get a whopping 5 sales from that sponsorship.   At 35% royalties, that’s… not much.  We’ll see.

4 Weeks’ Sales in Review

So, as alluded in my first month’s review, changing the price to 99 cents made a very noticeable change in sales.  You don’t have to be an expert with reading graphs to see what happened:

I think you can tell when the price dropped to 99 cents.  Still lots of fluctuations, including no sales at all last Wednesday.  The highest spike also corresponds with the day that Whatley Tupper was featured on Spalding’s Racket.  I’ve heard others say that when they drop to 99 cents that their sales spike and then cool after a few days, and I can certainly attest to that.

In terms of royalties, of course, they slowed, even though I nearly doubled my total sales in a single week:

But, of course, anyone who sets their price at 99 cents shouldn’t be thinking about royalties.  (I will be honest about this: I do want to crack the $100 mark sooner than later, because that’s when a non-US citizen breaks the threshold to receive a royalty cheque from Amazon.  It will be the first ever royalty cheque I’d ever had, and I might just want to frame it).  Pricing at 99 cents is about exposure, and I’ll admit that I was taken by surprise with how much of a difference it made.  I’ll definitely try another one-week 99 cent sale again in another month (probably November) to see if something similar happens.

But, for the next few weeks, I want to leave the price alone at $2.99.  I’m curious if I’ll notice any difference in sales compared to the last time it was at this price.  Then, I was averaging about 5 sales a week, but I’ve received a couple of nice blog reviews since then, as well as an Amazon review from J.A. Konrath.  You know that I’ll update you with all the exciting Excel graphs next Sunday.

The First Month in Review : What Worked, What Didn’t

I started this blog because I read that authors who want to go the self-publishing route need to start a blog.  But, what to write about?  Really, what do I have to say that others will want to read?

So, I decided to focus on all the details, the sales and such, of publishing my first ebook.  Before I published Whatley Tupper on Amazon (and saying I ‘published’ it sounds so much more involved than in reality: I clicked a button), I couldn’t find much information on how many books new authors sell, and what to expect.   So, that became the focus of my blog.  And now that it’s been a month since I dived into this, I want to relay some of the things I think worked, and what didn’t.

What worked best?

A few things stand out.  Checking in regularly to Kindleboards, DTP Community, GoodReads, Amazon Community Discussions, and most recently MobileRead forums definitely helps, and I know I’ve got a few sales through each of those avenues.  The Author-Tag exchanges are also useful at both Kindleboards and DTP Community.

Making it cheap.  I’ll discuss this in more detail tomorrow (when I’ll update the sales and royalties graphs), but putting my book down to 99cents made a huge difference in sales.  I still don’t think I’ll keep it there for long (for reasons I discussed in earlier posts), but if you want to get your book out there faster, put it at 99 cents, at least for a week or so.  If I could do this again, I think I’d start at 99 cents just to get more copies out.

Smashwords free coupons.  I know I’ve received at least a couple reviews through this, and I’m sure more will come along at later times.  Personally, this is all I use Smashwords for, the ability to give out free copies of your book.   It also allows you to download the Kindle-ready book file which you can attach to emails to prospective online reviewers.

A professional looking cover.  People really do judge a book by it’s cover, especially with ebooks, I think.  The spray bottle I made in 20 minutes appealed to my minimalist tendencies, but a cover for a book needs to be bold and clear even in a thumbnail.

Getting reviews.  Unless you’re getting friends to write overly glowing reviews, this takes time.  Hence the 99 cent route is useful, as well as Smashwords.

Spalding’s Racket.  I was featured when my book cost only 99 cents, and that day was the best day of sales I’ve had yet.

Getting lucky.  First, get your mind out of the gutter.  I’m referring to J.A. Konrath releasing his own choose your own adventure style book just this week, which lead to him writing a review for Whatley Tupper (which I plan on flaunting shamelessly anyway I can).  This had nothing to do with anything I did.  It’s just fortuitous timing.

What didn’t work?

Rushing into this too quickly.  I really should have waited a couple more weeks before clicking publish.  The earliest versions of Whatley Tupper had many typos, formatting errors, and malfunctioning hyperlinks.  I’ve been writing for more than a decade, and this is no time to get impatient.  I think I’ve been lucky in that no one who purchased one of the earliest copies ever wrote a scathing review (at least, yet), but this easily could have been avoided.  Considering the bad taste a lot of self-published work is leaving in some readers’ mouths, I don’t want to be part of the problem.  And I do not feel any resentment towards these people who trash self-published books for their amateurish quality.   If people are paying for something, even if it’s just 99 cents, it should be professional in quality.

Raising the price to $4.49.  Yeah, maybe there was a slight improvement in royalties, but I was only getting out a book every other day.  An unknown author will never grow his/her base that way.  Stick to $2.99, max, while no one knows you.  This isn’t about making royalties, not at this stage, at least.

Facebook.  But that’s just me, I’m sure.  I never used it before, instead enjoying being one of the last holdouts as if it makes me a better person (it does).  And, being a high-school teacher, I don’t want to have my own facebook account since that just seems like it’s not going to lead somewhere positive.  Perhaps I’ll learn more about the potentials of this.   Right now, it’s not doing anything for me.

What’s next?

I think the next month could be significant.  I have a paid sponsorship at Kindle Nation Daily UK on Monday, September 27th, as well as on the US version on Friday, October 8th.   Judging from the experiences of many others who have gone this route, I think this could make a significant boost to my exposure.  I won’t know until it’s my time, but right now this seems like the smartest route to advertise that I’ve read about.  Even though the price has gone up, $80 is cheap.  I’ve spent that much mailing out a couple of complete manuscripts of Whatley Tupper, just to receive a lowly rejection later a couple of months later (“It’s not you, it’s me”).

I’m hoping to get a few more blog reviews, like the one at Digital Spotlight Fiction Review.   Of course, this relies of more good luck, as well as those ever-so-useful Smashwords copies/coupons.

The key to all of this being successful is in having the exposure somehow taking on a life of it’s own.  If Kindle Nation Daily leads to be big spike for a few days before returning to where it was before, then I won’t consider it a success.   It needs to grow.  It can grow slowly, that’s fine, but it needs to grow.

So, we’ll see.

Or, to be more accurate, I’ll see.  Did anyone actually even read this far?

Spalding’s Racket

Today, The Adventures of Whatley Tupper is featured on Spalding’s Racket, a website devoted to featuring different indie authors each day, as well as the occasional shameless self promotion.  I’ve read other people who noticed a boost in sales after being featured, although it will be tough to tell since I’ve lowered the price which has made a big difference in sales (I’ll write more on that when the week is through).

3 Weeks’ Sales in Review

First, even with the change in price to $4.49, there hasn’t really been a defined/noticeable change in sales.  All told, things look rather constant over these last three weeks, still averaging a little under 1 sale a day:

Although that means there has been a slight uptick in royalties, although not a huge change, either:

However, this week, and I’m quite certain for only one week, I’m lowering the price to the minimum: 99 cents.  Like I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I don’t think I’d keep this price long term, but I’m curious what affect it will have on sales.

And just a note: when lowering the price to $0.99, and thus switching to the 35% royalty option, Amazon informs me that the book will be unavailable for purchase for 24 hours.  Not sure why, but hopefully it won’t be out for quite that long.

All told, even though $4.49 seemed to work OK, I think I’d settle at 2.99 or maybe 3.99.

Also this week, J.A. Konrath releases his own Choose Your Own Adventure book, and I’ll have a post on that later in the week.

(Do) You Get What You Pay For(?)

First, the updates for sales after two weeks:

Rather steady, averaging about a sale a day.  Well, with things all started now, I’m going to change the price.  I’m reluctant to bring the price any lower than $2.99 for a couple of reasons.  First, 2.99 is already really, really cheap.  I know a lot of people see ebooks on Amazon for 0.99, but usually those are much shorter than this book, which is almost 100 000 words.  I’m really not sure that making a book cheaper than 2.99, and thus having to significantly change the royalty rates, would make a noticeable difference.    Secondly, I wonder if customers assume that a book priced at 2.99 is not as good as a book priced higher.   Basically, if customers assume something priced really low must be poorly edited and unprofessional.

So, for at least a week, I’m raising the price of The Adventures of Whatley Tupper to the seemingly astronomical price of $4.49.  Why $4.49?  Why not.  It’s 50% higher, but still really cheap.

I’ve read on few forums, including here, that some authors claim to have the same, if not better, results when they raise their prices, again assuming that customers take higher priced books more seriously.  I’ll let you know this affects my own sales and will post another update on this next Sunday or Monday.   That said, I’m not opposed to trying out the 99 cent option, and I will at some point.  But, really, are we authors really wanting to say that a book of ours is worth the same as a single song from iTunes?  Personally, I don’t think so.

Everyone Likes Free Stuff

Yesterday I advertised a free Smashwords coupon (oh, what is it again… ah! NC77A at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/22598 ) on this site as well as at Kindleboards, DTP Community, and at Goodreads, in hope that people would take up the offer and perhaps write a review at the Amazon site.  After a little more than a day, 8 people have downloaded the full version.  The coupon expires on September the 7th (although I’m not sure if that means it can still be used on September the 7th.  If anyone knows the answer to this and is reading, please leave a comment).

So, I’m pleased with the number of downloads so far, although I hope they continue.  The question now is, how many people will actually write a review?  That, of course, is the important part.  My goal: 2 people.