Author Topic: Two years down the track, can I nudge my first book's sales up a notch?  (Read 906 times)  

Offline PeterRowlands

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 109
    • View Profile
It's coming up to two years since I published my first Kindle mystery drama, Alternative Outcome, and I have a question. At this stage in the life of a book, is there an appropriate and recognised strategy one should consider to give the book an effective marketing boost?

Up to now, sales have merely stuttered along, but I still have a lot of faith in the book itself. So can I view it as a "slow burner", and cling to the belief that I can still turn some elusive corner with it? If the answer is yes, the question is how?

On the upside, the book now has nearly fifty reviews on Amazon.com with an average score of 4.3, and whenever I run Select free days I get several thousand downloads. (I have the next free promotion booked for Feb 5-9.) In between these promotions I have a single ad permanently running on AMS, which seems to generate an intermittent trickle of sales and ongoing KU reads. But I accept that my efforts have been limited, and I'm light years behind the success that some of the seasoned authors on this forum seem to achieve.

The original book is the first in a series, by the way, and in the past two years I've published two follows-ups. The original book is priced at 99c, and the follow-ups at $2.99. Oh, and I have a stand-alone more or less ready for launch.

Bottom line: can I regard my first book as being on the brink of something greater, and if so, how can I nudge it forward? Where would you spend your money - and how much?

Thanks in anticipation for any wisdom members might have!
« Last Edit: February 02, 2018, 07:13:36 AM by PeterRowlands »

Mystery dramas with natural dialogue and vivid three-dimensional characters
Peter Rowlands | Website | Facebook | Blog | Twitter

Online dianapersaud

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1873
    • View Profile
    • Diana Persaud
Re: Two years down the track, can I nudge my first book's sales up a notch?
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2018, 07:15:44 AM »
Your cover and title don't scream "mystery" to me.

When my books under perform, I tweak the cover, pitch and (thrice) the title.

You already have 2 years worth of data with your current cover, title and pitch. So if you make a change, you can compare it to your previous data to see if it helped sales/borrows or not. You can always change it back.

Diana Persaud | My Website

Offline LilyBLily

  • Status: Arthur C Clarke
  • *****
  • Posts: 2051
    • View Profile
Re: Two years down the track, can I nudge my first book's sales up a notch?
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2018, 07:25:20 AM »
I would certainly try a cover change for the entire series. This is standard in the mystery genre, as you know, and there are many ways to go with the images. Also, considering culling the most evocative terms (not phrases or whole sentences; words) from your reviews to work into your new blurbs. Readers do try to summarize the feelings they get from a story and they often are better at it than we are.

Offline PeterRowlands

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 109
    • View Profile
Re: Two years down the track, can I nudge my first book's sales up a notch?
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2018, 07:31:47 AM »
Your cover and title don't scream "mystery" to me.

When my books under perform, I tweak the cover, pitch and (thrice) the title.

You already have 2 years worth of data with your current cover, title and pitch. So if you make a change, you can compare it to your previous data to see if it helped sales/borrows or not. You can always change it back.

This is all sound advice. Thanks for the very quick response. I'm sure you're right about needing to take advantage of the two years' accumulated data.

Also, considering culling the most evocative terms (not phrases or whole sentences; words) from your reviews to work into your new blurbs. Readers do try to summarize the feelings they get from a story and they often are better at it than we are.

This seems like sound advice too. Thanks, Lily.

Mystery dramas with natural dialogue and vivid three-dimensional characters
Peter Rowlands | Website | Facebook | Blog | Twitter

Online DrewMcGunn

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 113
    • View Profile
Re: Two years down the track, can I nudge my first book's sales up a notch?
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2018, 07:57:20 AM »
I'm probably too new to give you any relevant advice (however that won't keep me from weighing in). My first book hasn't been out for more than 90 days as of yet, so I'm still learning how to drive new readers to it, while working on getting the rest of the series published.
If you're putting out new material in the series, I'd keep plugging away on marketing, whether that means running discount or free promos and AMS, especially if you have a decent conversion rate to your 2nd book in series.
I wouldn't care if I was four or five years into a series, if I'm writing new material for thit, I would think the first book is the primary book to introduce readers to your series.
Anyway, take it with a grain of salt.

Drew McGunn

Offline PeterRowlands

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 109
    • View Profile
Re: Two years down the track, can I nudge my first book's sales up a notch?
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2018, 08:03:21 AM »
If you're putting out new material in the series, I'd keep plugging away on marketing, whether that means running discount or free promos and AMS, especially if you have a decent conversion rate to your 2nd book in series.

Good luck with your books! I'm sure you're right about keeping on pushing the first in the series. The tricky part is finding out how to get some real traction with it - especially once it's been out there for a while.

Mystery dramas with natural dialogue and vivid three-dimensional characters
Peter Rowlands | Website | Facebook | Blog | Twitter

Online Arches

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 347
  • Gender: Male
  • Denver
    • View Profile
    • Michael Arches
Re: Two years down the track, can I nudge my first book's sales up a notch?
« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2018, 08:19:13 AM »
It's coming up to two years since I published my first Kindle mystery drama, Alternative Outcome, and I have a question. At this stage in the life of a book, is there an appropriate and recognised strategy one should consider to give the book an effective marketing boost?

Up to now, sales have merely stuttered along, but I still have a lot of faith in the book itself. So can I view it as a "slow burner", and cling to the belief that I can still turn some elusive corner with it? If the answer is yes, the question is how?

On the upside, the book now has nearly fifty reviews on Amazon.com with an average score of 4.3, and whenever I run Select free days I get several thousand downloads. (I have the next free promotion booked for Feb 5-9.) In between these promotions I have a single ad permanently running on AMS, which seems to generate an intermittent trickle of sales and ongoing KU reads. But I accept that my efforts have been limited, and I'm light years behind the success that some of the seasoned authors on this forum seem to achieve.

The original book is the first in a series, by the way, and in the past two years I've published two follows-ups. The original book is priced at 99c, and the follow-ups at $2.99. Oh, and I have a stand-alone more or less ready for launch.

Bottom line: can I regard my first book as being on the brink of something greater, and if so, how can I nudge it forward? Where would you spend your money - and how much?

Thanks in anticipation for any wisdom members might have!

With a couple of minor tweaks, I could've written your post. In other words, I've shared the same experience with my mystery series, but I've reached an entirely different conclusion from the same evidence.

My conclusion is that some books sell and some don't, and I don't know why. It doesn't really matter. If a series has had multiple opportunities to take off but hasn't, my view is it's not worth beating an almost dead horse. Your giveaways have been successful, but something is keeping people from reading through the series. I'd focus my time on writing something else that might take off instead, namely a new series.

I agree with the other posters who say your covers could be more genre specific, but it could be a case of throwing good money after bad. If I were you, and I basically am, I'd move on and start a new series. Best of luck to you.
« Last Edit: February 02, 2018, 08:20:47 AM by Arches »

Online Lady Vine

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1138
  • Eye right books. Eye like two reed. Bye my books.
    • View Profile
Re: Two years down the track, can I nudge my first book's sales up a notch?
« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2018, 08:23:08 AM »
A cover change might help, but I've found that once my books die on Amazon, there's nothing that can be done for them. Conversely, on Google Play, my first ever book under my main penname, a book I wrote 5 years ago, sells more now than it did in its first year. It sells consistently year after year, and it isn't even in the charts (due to the adult content). In fact, most of my early works sell just as well, or better, over there now.

With a less crowded marketplace, that sort of thing is achievable. You might want to consider that.
« Last Edit: February 02, 2018, 09:02:22 AM by Lady Vine »

Offline Patty Jansen

  • Status: Isaac Asimov
  • ********
  • Posts: 12008
  • Gender: Female
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Destroyer of Science Fiction
    • View Profile
    • Patty Jansen Author of SF and fantasy
Re: Two years down the track, can I nudge my first book's sales up a notch?
« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2018, 08:36:20 AM »
What Lady Vine says. Get your rear end out of Select. Upload wide. Market wide. And write the next series.

Offline PeterRowlands

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 109
    • View Profile
Re: Two years down the track, can I nudge my first book's sales up a notch?
« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2018, 08:37:15 AM »
I agree with the other posters who say your covers could be more genre specific, but it could be a case of throwing good money after bad. If I were you, and I basically am, I'd move on and start a new series. Best of luck to you.

Wow! I suppose if one asks a question, one has to roll with the punches! It's painful to consider simply giving up on my existing book (in fact all three of them) and going right back to square one: an extremely radical solution that I must say hadn't occurred to me. But every point of view is helpful, so I do take note of what you say. Thanks for the good wishes.

That said, I take some comfort from the fact that I've had so many positive reviews for my first book in the US (none of them prompted by me in any way). As I said in my original post, I really do still have belief in the book, and suspect that its limited success may be largely down to my inexperienced and sporadic promotion efforts, not to fundamental flaws in the product itself. That's why at this point I'd rather look for ways to get more exposure for it - e.g. with a cover change, or following some of the other suggestions posted here.

Mystery dramas with natural dialogue and vivid three-dimensional characters
Peter Rowlands | Website | Facebook | Blog | Twitter

Offline Sarah Shaw

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 745
  • Gender: Female
  • Prague
    • View Profile
Re: Two years down the track, can I nudge my first book's sales up a notch?
« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2018, 09:00:46 AM »
I would certainly take LadyVine and Patty J.'s advice before taking the advice to give up on the series. At least give wide a chance. Some books that do poorly on Amazon & KU do brilliantly on other platforms. And vice versa. But since you've already tried KU why not give the alternatives a go?

Online AliceS

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 546
  • Gender: Female
  • Asheville, NC
    • View Profile
    • Website
Re: Two years down the track, can I nudge my first book's sales up a notch?
« Reply #11 on: February 02, 2018, 09:07:49 AM »
I chugged along with rare sales until I released the 3rd in a series. Then it took off and I thought I was on top of the world...until I hit The Cliff. Then I had to learn to market better. It's a lot of ups and downs until you have ____# of books out. This number keeps changing. When I started, people said it would kick in at 5. By the time I had 5 out, it was 10. Now I am approaching 10 and I'm hearing 20. And I genre-hop so that's even worse.

I have a little mystery series that is my red-headed stepchild. I didn't know squat when it came out. Now I do. I'm going to give it a 3rd book, a nudge out of the nest and kiss it goodbye. It's wide and I do sell a couple now and then. Despite loving the main character I need to move on. I think it might be in an untrendy niche at the moment.

Everyone's path is different. I'm the tortoise so I have to be patient.


Science Fiction, Fantasy and Mystery
Alice Sabo | Blog | Facebook | Website

Offline PeterRowlands

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 109
    • View Profile
Re: Two years down the track, can I nudge my first book's sales up a notch?
« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2018, 09:31:11 AM »
I would certainly take LadyVine and Patty J.'s advice before taking the advice to give up on the series. At least give wide a chance. Some books that do poorly on Amazon & KU do brilliantly on other platforms. And vice versa. But since you've already tried KU why not give the alternatives a go?

Thanks for the positivity, Sarah. One always has to brace oneself for the shocks when holding one's activities up to scrutiny!

I hear what you're saying about trying other platforms, and you could be right, but I suspect that I'm further behind the curve with marketing than a lot of the people who have been responding to this thread. I've been pleased with the take-up of Select promotions, and feel there could be mileage yet with Amazon. I feel where I've probably failed is in not making the right moves to capitalise on the strong reviews and many free downloads I've had. In other words, probably I simply haven't been as tireless or intelligent with my marketing as I should have been.


I chugged along with rare sales until I released the 3rd in a series. Then it took off and I thought I was on top of the world...until I hit The Cliff. Then I had to learn to market better. It's a lot of ups and downs until you have ____# of books out. This number keeps changing. When I started, people said it would kick in at 5. By the time I had 5 out, it was 10. Now I am approaching 10 and I'm hearing 20. And I genre-hop so that's even worse.

Alice, I like your style! Thanks for this light note. I love your depiction of the ever-moving target. My equivalent is number of reviews. In the very early days I heard that ten was a great landmark. Then somebody said that when you reach fifty, Amazon might look more kindly on you. Now that I'm nearly there, I suspect not, and now wonder what that particular magic number really is ...

Mystery dramas with natural dialogue and vivid three-dimensional characters
Peter Rowlands | Website | Facebook | Blog | Twitter

Online Rex Jameson

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1814
  • Gender: Male
  • Speculative fiction dork
    • View Profile
    • Speculative Musings
Re: Two years down the track, can I nudge my first book's sales up a notch?
« Reply #13 on: February 02, 2018, 09:54:52 AM »
You have great reviews. You have done a little bit of AMS. Have you done any major promotions through the typical outlets recently? KND, ENT, BookBub feature, etc.? Most of these allow you to submit every so often, and if it's been a year or so since you've tried, there's no harm in trying again. The success or failure of these might tell you if the cover/blurb/etc. need to be redone. Or you could redo everything as others have suggested, go with a reputable cover designer, etc. and then try the features.

It's possible to try BookBub ads, but if it's a 99 cent book as a series starter, you're really relying more on follow on series purchases from the BookBub ad clickthrough. Might be useful to try some AB Testing on the series starter to see if you get any traction. If you try this, I'd just do 30-90 bucks worth (whatever you're comfortable with trying) of AB Testing that clearly indicate the starter is 99 cents and a deal (with a good hook) and see if you get any results. But I'm not sure how Mystery fairs nowadays, and others have expressed concerns about the impression of the cover for Mystery audiences. YMMV.

Online Arches

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 347
  • Gender: Male
  • Denver
    • View Profile
    • Michael Arches
Re: Two years down the track, can I nudge my first book's sales up a notch?
« Reply #14 on: February 02, 2018, 09:59:54 AM »
Wow! I suppose if one asks a question, one has to roll with the punches! It's painful to consider simply giving up on my existing book (in fact all three of them) and going right back to square one: an extremely radical solution that I must say hadn't occurred to me. But every point of view is helpful, so I do take note of what you say. Thanks for the good wishes.

That said, I take some comfort from the fact that I've had so many positive reviews for my first book in the US (none of them prompted by me in any way). As I said in my original post, I really do still have belief in the book, and suspect that its limited success may be largely down to my inexperienced and sporadic promotion efforts, not to fundamental flaws in the product itself. That's why at this point I'd rather look for ways to get more exposure for it - e.g. with a cover change, or following some of the other suggestions posted here.

Of course, you have to do what's right for you. I wouldn't, however, let the reviews influence your decision much. I have 129 reviews for my first mystery book, all organic, and a 4.2 rating. I love that book, and my readers seemed to love it, too. I even wrote a fourth in the series because I liked the characters so much, hoping that would do the trick.

But the question is what's the best use of your time and money as an author? Is it marketing or writing new books. I'm not suggesting you take the books down, but every change you make in the future will cost time and money. High quality covers are expensive. New covers cost me $200 each, and it could take years before I earned that back. Going wide is an option, but promoting to a wider audience will cost a lot of money, too. Will the books ever recover those costs? Who knows?

I can tell you that I've sporadically marketed my mystery series since the last book came out in June 2017, hoping for that spark that would get me a new audience. All I've gotten in return was slight blips now and then. I don't recover the cost of the marketing effort. The least expensive option is to leave the books up and start a new series that might do better.

Offline PeterRowlands

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 109
    • View Profile
Re: Two years down the track, can I nudge my first book's sales up a notch?
« Reply #15 on: February 02, 2018, 10:12:30 AM »
You have great reviews. You have done a little bit of AMS. Have you done any major promotions through the typical outlets recently? KND, ENT, BookBub feature, etc.? Most of these allow you to submit every so often, and if it's been a year or so since you've tried, there's no harm in trying again. The success or failure of these might tell you if the cover/blurb/etc. need to be redone. Or you could redo everything as others have suggested, go with a reputable cover designer, etc. and then try the features.

Thanks for this encouraging and interesting advice. I've tried some of the promotional services, but usually to promote Select free weeks, not on an ongoing basis. A lot of food for thought here.



Mystery dramas with natural dialogue and vivid three-dimensional characters
Peter Rowlands | Website | Facebook | Blog | Twitter

Online Anarchist

  • Status: Arthur C Clarke
  • *****
  • Posts: 2435
  • Methodological individualist
    • View Profile
Re: Two years down the track, can I nudge my first book's sales up a notch?
« Reply #16 on: February 02, 2018, 10:27:18 AM »
I recommend creating a marketing strategy before you do anything.

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas Edison

"Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." - Sun Tzu

Offline ParkerAvrile

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 358
    • View Profile
    • Parker Avrile's Steamy Gay ROmance
Re: Two years down the track, can I nudge my first book's sales up a notch?
« Reply #17 on: February 02, 2018, 10:43:03 AM »
I agree with the marketing strategy advice. Get some.

The covers are beautiful, you have sufficient if not plenty of reviews, and the books themselves look interesting.

The problem is lack of strategy IMHO.  Because Book #1 has been 99 cents for so long, how do you get a BookBub? I don't think you can. If the books had been $3.99-$4.99 for the last two years, I think you'd have a terrific shot at getting a 99cent BB. But your book, 99 cents isn't a special deal, it's just the price.

I would raise the price on the books to help afford more AMS etc. ads and I would start a new series with a more targeted plan. How do you make free/99cent seem special when it really isn't special any more? This is a challenge we all face.

The problem with free is nobody's reading all those free books they download. I have thousands. The books I read are the books I was excited enough to buy. The books I read FIRST are the ones I was excited enough to pay more than 99 cents for. Somehow, you have to figure out a plan for reaching that market of readers who has money to spend for high quality.
Visit my website for free reads & giveaways for lovers of steamy m/m romance https://parkeravrile.wordpress.com/blog/

Offline PeterRowlands

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 109
    • View Profile
Re: Two years down the track, can I nudge my first book's sales up a notch?
« Reply #18 on: February 04, 2018, 05:21:58 AM »
I agree with the marketing strategy advice. Get some.

The covers are beautiful, you have sufficient if not plenty of reviews, and the books themselves look interesting.

The problem is lack of strategy IMHO.  Because Book #1 has been 99 cents for so long, how do you get a BookBub? I don't think you can. If the books had been $3.99-$4.99 for the last two years, I think you'd have a terrific shot at getting a 99cent BB. But your book, 99 cents isn't a special deal, it's just the price.

I would raise the price on the books to help afford more AMS etc. ads and I would start a new series with a more targeted plan. How do you make free/99cent seem special when it really isn't special any more? This is a challenge we all face.

The problem with free is nobody's reading all those free books they download. I have thousands. The books I read are the books I was excited enough to buy. The books I read FIRST are the ones I was excited enough to pay more than 99 cents for. Somehow, you have to figure out a plan for reaching that market of readers who has money to spend for high quality.

Thanks for this, Parker. It's nice to hear from someone who actually likes my covers! Tricky to deal with all the conflicting advice, but I must say yours seems very sound. I imagine I've been in the same position as many "new" writers - struggling during my first couple of years to get my head round all the multiple aspects of marketing and the varying possibilities.

I've often thought the same as you about people not necessarily reading free downloads - but on the other hand, I only started building up a substantial number of reviews once I started running Select free weeks, so some people must have been reading them. As for raising the price, I hear what you say, and will definitely give it some thought. That said, I had my first book at $2.99 for more than a year, and finally reduced it after struggling to make any headway. A lot of people seem to make the first book in a series very cheap, so I went along with that ... but perhaps there are other ways of looking at it.

Thanks again for the positive strategy advice!

Mystery dramas with natural dialogue and vivid three-dimensional characters
Peter Rowlands | Website | Facebook | Blog | Twitter