Author Topic: How I revamped a dying two-year old book  (Read 1088 times)  

Offline erikhanberg

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How I revamped a dying two-year old book
« on: January 26, 2016, 09:42:55 am »
I always enjoy reading these kinds of stories in the Writers Cafe, and since this community has been so helpful to me as I write these books, I thought I should share my own turn-around story.

So here was my problem.

Back in late 2013, I released The Lead Cloak, a science fiction book that I already billed as Book I in a trilogy. Unlike some of the incredibly fast paced writers on this site, my writing speed is slow, so I was releasing the book with only 5 pages of Book II written.

I was really happy with it though, and sales kicked off modestly well. 59 the first month, 96 the second, 50 the third, 108 the fourth (my first month of a real promotion).

And then sales really started to drop. I had a high price ($4.99 for 100,000 words) and from the readers that actually read it, I heard great things. I knew I had something, but didn't worry about the marketing and focused on writing Book II.

Slow pace, new child, and suddenly it was May of 2015 by the time I finished the first draft of Book II, almost two years later. That same month, I'd sold just a single copy of The Lead Cloak.

One copy, and I'd just spent years working on a sequel. Who was going to read the sequel if they hadn't read the first book?

I started to get really clinical in my assessment of what needed to be done. I believed I had a good book. (Two good books!) But how to sell them?

I turned to the two most common tools we have for these things: price and cover.

Cover

Thanks to the commenters here, they confirmed what I was already realizing: my covers weren't the right genre for a science fiction adventure. They had a certain old-time sci-fi feel, but it wasn't obvious. And for a book with big action and global stakes, I needed to be obvious. So I found a new cover designer (Rachel, also on this forum) and set out to match cover to reader expectations. (New covers in signature)

Price and Promotions

First, I decided to set a low cover price for Book II. So I settled on $3.99 there. With a highly discounted Book I price.

I was able to get The Lead Cloak into a sci-fi Storybundle. I was in the second ever StoryBundle, so I knew it was effective, and I had some amount of relationship with the site. I was ready to assemble a bundle myself if I came to it, but I was included in another bundle. That was the anchor for my pricing and promotional strategy:

  • As soon as Book II of the trilogy was ready for pre-order in October, I dropped the price of Book I to $0.99.
  • A few weeks later, it went into a "pay what you want" bundle.
  • A few weeks after that, I was able to secure a BookBub (after several previous attempts with the old cover, so clearly the old cover had a lot to do with this) and made The Lead Cloak permafree, which is its status now.

The result:

In three months, I've sold more than twice the number of copies of Book I that I'd sold in two years. Even with the book in permafree as of January 1, I had a good number of sales from the Whispersync for Voice matching with the audiobook, which was a welcome surprise.
Nearly 45,000 free downloads of Book I in the last few weeks, thanks to BookBub.

  • Reviews more than doubled, from 22 to 52.
  • I added 70 addresses to my email newsletter.
  • I got 195 pre-orders of Book II at $3.99.

I know a lot of people don't like pre-order, and I totally get it. But for where I was right now, I felt like it was the thing I needed to really help Book I sell. I'm not sure all of those things would have been as effective if Book II wasn't even out. AND, I didn't want to wait for Book II to get out before doing the promotions. I felt like it would have led to a really slow first 30 days for Book II. Instead, I feel like I'm primed to have a lot of sales over the next 30 days.

We'll have to see how that goes for the real report on Book II, but the way Book I shot up makes me very hopeful.

It wasn't a lot of re-tinkering, but with some good planning and reader-focused changes to price and cover, I was really able to kickstart this all-but-dead book into something kind of cool!

I truly don't know if I would even be in a place to have diagnosed my problem, let alone fixed it, if it weren't for all the wisdom everyone has shared here. Thank you!
 
« Last Edit: January 26, 2016, 09:05:32 pm by erikhanberg »

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    Offline Anarchist

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    Re: How I revamped a dying two-year old book
    « Reply #1 on: January 26, 2016, 09:50:00 am »
    Great write-up Erik. Thanks for taking the time to do it.

    And congrats on breathing new life into The Lead Cloak!
    "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 J.J. Fitch

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    Re: How I revamped a dying two-year old book
    « Reply #2 on: January 26, 2016, 10:01:21 am »
    Thanks for the info!  This will come in handy, I'm sure. 


    Offline EmmaS

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    Re: How I revamped a dying two-year old book
    « Reply #3 on: January 26, 2016, 10:03:58 am »
    Great write-up! I love the way you isolated the potential problem areas and targeted your approach. Looks like it paid off! :D

    Offline ShariLTapscott

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    Re: How I revamped a dying two-year old book
    « Reply #4 on: January 26, 2016, 10:05:32 am »
    Congrats! And thank you for sharing!

    Offline Bbates024

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    Re: How I revamped a dying two-year old book
    « Reply #5 on: January 26, 2016, 10:15:45 am »
    That is AWESOME!

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. It's posts like this that give me ideas. I'm thinking of waiting until my third book comes out Mayish to go perma-free book one. I think it's still the number one tool to get new readers in, and hey If I could get a Bookbub for it I would dance with joy.

    Offline German_Translator

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    Re: How I revamped a dying two-year old book
    « Reply #6 on: January 26, 2016, 10:49:15 am »
    Congrats! I remember the cover discussion - looks much better and more sci-fi than before!

    Just a few of the books I have translated (English <-> German)

    Offline erikhanberg

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    Re: How I revamped a dying two-year old book
    « Reply #7 on: January 26, 2016, 11:55:08 am »
    Thank you all!

    Offline Marilyn Peake

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    Re: How I revamped a dying two-year old book
    « Reply #8 on: January 26, 2016, 03:13:20 pm »
    Thanks so much for sharing your information. And congratulations on the success you're seeing!

    Marilyn Peake | Website | Newsletter | Facebook | Twitter | BookBub | Wattpad

    Offline Viv Phoenix

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    Re: How I revamped a dying two-year old book
    « Reply #9 on: January 26, 2016, 06:29:32 pm »
    Wonderful. I'm happy for your good results. Inspires me. I've been planning to rebrand some of mine in hopes of seeing new life.

    Now, on with book 3! ;D
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    Offline Becca Mills

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    Re: How I revamped a dying two-year old book
    « Reply #10 on: January 26, 2016, 08:48:53 pm »
    Hey, great job! As someone who also tends to write slowly, I find stories like this quite wonderful. :)

    Welcome! :)
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    Offline UnicornEmily

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    Re: How I revamped a dying two-year old book
    « Reply #11 on: January 27, 2016, 06:00:41 am »
    Thank you for sharing, Erik.  And congratulations for breathing new life into an old book!  I've also written quite slowly in the past (I'm trying to change that . . .), and my book that was released in 2012 is intended to have a sequel eventually.  So this is very useful to know!

    Offline erikhanberg

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    Re: How I revamped a dying two-year old book
    « Reply #12 on: January 27, 2016, 01:33:59 pm »
    I have been in the Top 10 for New Releases in Hard Sci-Fi since it came out. So I think building interest with the pre-order option was likely the right way to go. My hunch is that if I only started my promotion of Book I now, there's no way Book II would have any audience to lend me there. So we'll see how these first 30 days treats the book. Thanks for the support, everyone!

    Offline ruecole

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    Re: How I revamped a dying two-year old book
    « Reply #13 on: January 27, 2016, 01:44:46 pm »
    Yay! This makes me very happy to hear! Way to go, Erik! :)

    Rue

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