Author Topic: How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)  (Read 9290 times)  

Offline Al K. Line

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How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)
« on: April 24, 2016, 05:15:53 am »
I'm actually selling some books at last. I'm going to lay out what I did, and why I think I'm actually selling, but please take it for what it's worth - just the approach I took and nothing else.

Background:

I began my publishing journey the beginning of 2014, and since then I have worked my fingers to the bone publishing as of today 19 novels. So, that right there says a lot. None, and I mean none, of them have made me much money, and some of my launches have been so damn depressing that I honestly wondered if they were actually going to sell any copies at all.

I write across multiple genres and focus on building new worlds, adding something unique to all my work, or at least try. But they have never been easy to pin down in terms of genre, for the most part, and any promos I have done have quickly faded in terms of effect and I'm back at square one - hardly selling.

My Plan

Call it serendipity, something in the collective Kboards consciousness, or just a number of people coming to the same conclusions regarding the path they wanted to follow with their publishing career at around the same time, but I began forming a plan, and writing Black Spark, right about the time Domino began talking about Dead Man, J.A. Cipriano was shooting up the charts with Cursed and Sonya Bateman was doing gangbusters with Wrong Side of Hell.

I tried not to get my hopes up and knuckled down to writing. Since late last year I have written 3 books in a new series: Dark Magic Enforcer. An Urban Fantasy that I can absolutely classify as such. I wanted to try to Write to Market - something Chris Fox has been talking about a lot here and elsewhere and has had amazing results with with Destroyer. I was nervous, wondering if this meant selling my soul to the sell-out devil, but it actually had the opposite effect. I damn well enjoyed myself. I was focused, had a direction, and got excited about what I could achieve while writing something that I could positively classify for a change.

I have a kick-ass dude, tropes regards memory loss, he's covered in tattoos that channel his magic use, and I've tried my best to put my own spin on the genre while still keeping it strictly Urban Fantasy. Whether or not I've succeeded is not down to me to say, but I'm selling books.

Pre-Launch

I released the paperback a week before the kindle version, deciding that I need to be in KDP Select for this to get maximum sales. I'm wide with plenty of books, but for this I wanted to go all in. I have gathered a small ARC team and a few of them graciously left reviews on the paperback so they were there ready.

I emailed my small newsletter a few times leading up to launch, showing them the cover, the blurb, and the first chapter. Hopefully building some buzz. That, or nobody would buy it!

I booked Hungry Author for the main release announcement and that was about it, apart from a couple of small promos that did next to nothing.

The Launch

I did a quiet releases 5 days before the main release date on April 5 and 6.  This gave me time to contact KDP and get the print and ebook linked, thus the reviews showing up. I also emailed my ARC team and got a few more reviews on the ebook. This also allowed me to contact Amazon to get my categories maximized, and I asked for more but you have to call it a day sometime. Having a quiet launch a few days before the main event allowed me to get things lined up as best I could, check everything looked okay on the product page, and bite my fingers nervously. The mad thing was people were buying my book before I told anyone. How did they find it? Because people are actively searching for new releases in the categories I was in, is all I can guess.

Launch day I emailed my newsletter, sold a handful of books, and the next day sold plenty of copies with Hungry Author.

Then I bombed. Okay, that's relative. I was still selling more than the rest of my entire catalog combined, but it looked like it was all over. But then page reads began to kick in, sales began to climb, and 10 days after release my also boughts kicked in. This is where the true magic lies, I am now entirely convinced of this.

At the bottom of my blurb I listed that the initial 99c price point would finish on April 11 and I sold a shed load of books on the final discount day. I wanted to hold off on increasing the price to $2.99 until the also boughts kicked in and this paid off. I returned to full price at the peak of my rankings..

Since then I have been ranking between #400 and #800 in the store.

Moving Forward

Book 2 came out yesterday. I will announce it to my newsletter on April 26 once I know everything is okay with the listing and hopefully this should maximize sales as it will be the final day of it being 99c. I plan to keep writing this series as long as people want to read it, and hope that I don't just disappear into obscurity once more.

Takeaway

Don't give up. I wrote 17 books in a little over two years, and none of them had done anything remarkable. I guess I'm just stubborn and have always looked at it as a long term plan to have enough work out there to allow to me to earn a living that way.

This time I wrote a series trying to keep genre, expectations, and the reader firmly in mind. Maybe it's just that male driven Urban Fantasy is having a massive surge in popularity, or maybe it's that, combined with actually having a proper plan of attack and thinking about things before doing them. Or maybe it's blind luck and this was a waste of time reading.

That's not for me to decide.

I simply wanted to lay it out there for everyone that reads this. I know from firsthand experience how depressing and hard it can be to keep on writing when nothing seems to click with readers. But the only way you will ever know if you can write something that suddenly takes off is to keep on keeping on.

Get a genre specific cover, work the hell out of your blurb (I tweaked and tweaked mine, rather than rushing it as I usually do), ensure you actually know what categories your book is going to belong in before you write it, and do whatever it takes to get a little team behind you to get a couple of initial reviews or sales to get you going when you release.

With so much competition these days you can be sure that other authors are doing all of this and an awful lot more, so we owe it to ourselves to give our work the best possible chance from the get-go.

Okay, I don't know if this is helpful or just rehashing old ground, but I wanted to write this up as I've had so much help from these boards. Maybe it's a little bit inspiring (or depressing), or maybe it gives somebody hope they can sell some damn books too. Either way, please be kind. I'm not one for putting myself forward like this and I am in no way saying this is a plan that works, but it definitely helps give your release the best possible chance.

A Few Musings

The debate over going exclusive with Amazon or going wide is never going to end, but seeing how many page reads I get on Black Spark has me convinced I would never have got such decent rankings without being exclusive. I can't imagine every one of those reads equivalent to a book sale would have been a purchase if I wasn't exclusive. Would I be selling more if I had gone wide? I don't know. But I am selling books, and that gives me hope moving forward. It's a tough call, and I think it really depends on the categories you are in. If the top books are all exclusive then it will be harder to join them if you are wide, but maybe you will do better on another platform? Ugh, you could go around in circles forever over this.

Categories are nowhere near as important as also boughts. You should see the also boughts for Black Spark, it's like a Kboards meet-up. Amazon is doing a good job with their recommendations, and it reflects in the rankings.

Get eyes on your blurbs, and write out as many versions as you can stomach.

Respond to feedback. I've just updated Black Spark after reading a few reviews and they were right, so I fixed it.

Keep writing. But some form of marketing is important. I don't think the answer lies with all the promo sites though. I've used loads of them, and what happens is I get better rankings and sales, then fall back to where I was before. Personally, I can now see that I need to check on the baseline rankings for my releases and see if I am onto a winner or if I need to move on. This is hard to accept and I never have before - I just wrote the next in series and released to crickets. I honestly never really minded as I get nice emails from people, but it's also kinda nice to sell some books.

I guess I'm saying I did a lot of things wrong, and although making a plan and writing the most bestest book in the Universe is no guarantee of success, it will do better if you put your marketing hat on before you spend a month, a year, or more, to write your next novel.

Sorry, I'll shut up now.




Removed link to your book--sorry, links to one's own books in the Writers' Cafe are seen as promotional.  --Betsy
« Last Edit: April 24, 2016, 05:44:44 am by Betsy the Quilter »

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    Offline Samuel E. Green

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    Re: How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)
    « Reply #1 on: April 24, 2016, 05:27:59 am »
    Awesome stuff, thanks for the write-up.

    Have the sales for the new series affected the others much? I checked the rankings and there seems to be a fairly big gap between the new series and the older stuff. Do you think it will just take a little while for the other books to get picked up by those who loved the new series, or is the new series hitting a completely different market?

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    Offline Al K. Line

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    Re: How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)
    « Reply #2 on: April 24, 2016, 05:31:37 am »
    It's definitely a different market. There has been little in the way of sell-through so far. Maybe it will change over time, but I don't know. Heck, I wish I could sell plenty of my backlist, there's enough of it!

    Offline Mark E. Cooper

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    Re: How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)
    « Reply #3 on: April 24, 2016, 05:31:54 am »
    Grats. Keep up the good work. Now you have something to build on, it will only get better.

    Offline Al K. Line

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    Re: How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)
    « Reply #4 on: April 24, 2016, 05:33:05 am »
    Thanks Mark, I appreciate it.

    Offline JTriptych

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    Re: How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)
    « Reply #5 on: April 24, 2016, 05:40:07 am »
    Thanks for sharing your experiences. Like you I write across different genres- it may not be the best strategy in the world for me, but its something I want to do- I just cant follow what others are doing, but thats just me- I just want to be different. I have no problem at all with others who write to market- more power to them!

    Looks like UF is the hot new market for indie authors.  8)

    Offline Matthew Stott

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    Re: How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)
    « Reply #6 on: April 24, 2016, 05:40:14 am »
    Hey, well done! This has again made me realise the project I should probably focus on first...
     
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    Offline Patty Jansen

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    Re: How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)
    « Reply #7 on: April 24, 2016, 05:41:49 am »
    It's definitely a different market. There has been little in the way of sell-through so far. Maybe it will change over time, but I don't know. Heck, I wish I could sell plenty of my backlist, there's enough of it!

    Being wide is the key to selling backlist.

    I wish I could do great launches. I'm trying, but I fail so hard at the writing to market thing because I just rather write what I want. But selling backlist... the more I have, the more it spills over, especially on non-Amazon sites, where you can also jack the price up a lot more in between specials.

    Offline Sonya Bateman

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    Re: How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)
    « Reply #8 on: April 24, 2016, 05:53:04 am »
    Woo-hoooo!! Huge congratulations, Al!!! :) I saw you in the also-boughts and thought YAY, another Kboarder! :D

    Here's to continued awesome sales for you!
    Good, fast, and cheap editing. PM me for details or visit https://blackratchetstudios.wixsite.com/all3editing

    Offline Mark Dawson

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    Re: How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)
    « Reply #9 on: April 24, 2016, 05:54:15 am »
    Good work. Keep writing, put a box set together, and enjoy the ride.

    Offline MinnieC

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    Re: How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)
    « Reply #10 on: April 24, 2016, 05:59:17 am »
    Yay, congratulations!  8)
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    Offline A Woman's Place Is In The Rebellion

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    Re: How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)
    « Reply #11 on: April 24, 2016, 06:15:34 am »
    Well done, Al! When you write in different genres, I def think it helps to have one clear winner of your books so you know where to focus your energy. Hoping for my own clear winner this year:)

    Love your covers, btw. Rebecca did a great job as always!


    Offline Al K. Line

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    Re: How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)
    « Reply #12 on: April 24, 2016, 06:20:49 am »
    Well done, Al! When you write in different genres, I def think it helps to have one clear winner of your books so you know where to focus your energy. Hoping for my own clear winner this year:)

    Love your covers, btw. Rebecca did a great job as always!

    Absolutely. And I hope you get one. Rebecca is the business, and I think she is becoming the go-to for Urban Fantasy at the moment.

    Thank you for the encouragement everyone, I wasn't sure if I was just blathering or it actually helped  :P

    Offline Justawriter

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    Re: How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)
    « Reply #13 on: April 24, 2016, 06:39:09 am »
    Great post! Gorgeous covers, really striking. Who made those for you?

    Offline Al K. Line

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    Re: How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)
    « Reply #14 on: April 24, 2016, 06:41:16 am »
    Great post! Gorgeous covers, really striking. Who made those for you?

    Thank you. It was Rebecca at http://rebeccafrank.design/

    Offline NoCat

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    Re: How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)
    « Reply #15 on: April 24, 2016, 06:51:22 am »
    I was more or less in your shoes. I've found some people will cross to backlist, but not many. Less than 8% for me, from what I could tell.

    Fortunately, having front-list that is doing well is awesome. :)

    Congrats on finding something that worked! It's a good feeling, eh?

    Offline A.A

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    Re: How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)
    « Reply #16 on: April 24, 2016, 06:51:43 am »
    Congrats!!
    I also believe also-boughts are so important - which directly follows on from writing to market (something I haven't been great at doing so far!)

    Offline PhilipColgate

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    Re: How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)
    « Reply #17 on: April 24, 2016, 06:56:56 am »
    Great post.  Thanks for sharing.  17 books!  Wow.  Sure, you changed your approach, but you stayed productive and determined and that's the real secret here. 

    Offline Keith Soares

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    Re: How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)
    « Reply #18 on: April 24, 2016, 06:59:22 am »
    ...You should see the also boughts for Black Spark, it's like a Kboards meet-up...

    Ha! So true! I've seen this a lot, too.

    Congrats on the success!

    K.
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    Offline RMGauthier

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    Re: How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)
    « Reply #19 on: April 24, 2016, 07:02:57 am »
    Thanks for sharing your experiences, I know how difficult that can be but you offer hope to those who reading. Good luck in all of your endeavors.

    Offline Felix R. Savage

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    Re: How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)
    « Reply #20 on: April 24, 2016, 07:05:01 am »
    Massive congrats, Alkaline! very inspiring. Keep it up!

    Sign up for my rare and 100% non-spammy newsletter to get a FREE book! Limited time only.
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    Offline Gator

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    Re: How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)
    « Reply #21 on: April 24, 2016, 07:08:27 am »
    Congrats!  And thanks for sharing the details.

    Offline C. Gockel

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    Re: How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)
    « Reply #22 on: April 24, 2016, 07:28:02 am »
    Thank you so much for sharing! Good luck.


    I write books about Change, Chaos, and Loki
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    Offline Bbates024

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    Re: How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)
    « Reply #23 on: April 24, 2016, 07:37:54 am »
    Awesome post!

    Offline Al K. Line

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    Re: How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally)
    « Reply #24 on: April 24, 2016, 07:58:56 am »
    I was more or less in your shoes. I've found some people will cross to backlist, but not many. Less than 8% for me, from what I could tell.

    Fortunately, having front-list that is doing well is awesome. :)

    Congrats on finding something that worked! It's a good feeling, eh?

    Haha, yes, front-list is rather nice  :) It's a very nice feeling. It's weird, this is the only release I have ever felt stressed over, but maybe that's because I could see it making sales and hoped for the best this time.

    Great post.  Thanks for sharing.  17 books!  Wow.  Sure, you changed your approach, but you stayed productive and determined and that's the real secret here. 

    I never planned on giving up, although I did feel like I was going around in circles a few times. I do think that is the secret: keep on writing. Either you get something that takes off, or you build enough of a backlist to enable yourself to write full time.

    And thank you everyone else, I'm happy to have contributed.

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