Kindle Forum banner

1 - 20 of 57 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,017 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have just sold my 50,000th ebook since January 21, and I want to give some details as to how I got from there to here, as well as an analysis of the individual titles and why they have or haven't sold. I want to stress that everyone's path to success is different, and there is a good deal of luck involved. I'm also not 100% convinced that I have achieved anything permanent, which is why my plan is to write as many books as I can over the next few years. I feel like I've got a chance to build something sustainable and I don't want to let that go. I have received fantastic advice and help from Vicki Lieske, Saffina Desforge, Gordon Ryan, Mel Comley, Ed Talbot, J. Carson Black, Debora Geary, and so many others that I can't list them all, and so I want to offer what help I can. I hope this will be useful to some of you.

Success due to preparation:

I had so many near misses with traditional publishers that I had a stable of strong books to go on the market. I learned how to write a page-turning thriller through years and years of hard work. I have a lot to learn, but I've put in enough time to go from being a crappy writer fifteen years ago to someone who can always write a solid story and can occasionally write a top-notch scene or a character that will stay with the reader long after the book is done.

If there is one lesson I could share on the craft side of the equation it is to learn how to make a gripping first chapter. Remember that it is mystery that drives reader interest, not explanation. Give intriguing hints and resist the urge to explain. Almost as deadly as having nothing happen in your first paragraph (e.g. describing the weather or having the character wake up) is having too much happen. You can make a reader's heart pound with a cliff-hanger on chapter fifteen, but they don't care enough about your character in the first chapter for this tactic to be effective as an opening. You need to develop danger (literal or figurative), character, and intent simultaneously, which is no easy task.

But if you can learn to write a gripping first chapter and then learn how to build and sustain tension, you will find readers.

Success due to major bits of luck:

I found some readers on the Amazon forums before the place was flooded with self-promotion and the hammer came down. I gifted 200 copies each of The Devil's Deep and The Righteous, 150 copies of Implant, and 175 copies of The Red Rooster via the Amazon forum. I received dozens of reviews from the Devil's Deep giveaway, about 25 from The Righteous giveaway, maybe 10 from the Implant giveaway, and one that I can see from gifting The Red Rooster. Clearly, over time, the forum became inundated with so many giveaways that this tactic is now worthless, especially when you consider that it costs money to give away copies. I was lucky to give both Devil's Deep and The Righteous a nice boost on the initial release.

When I lowered the price of The Righteous, I happened to get mentions of the price reduction on ireaderreview.com and Pixel of Ink, and these gave a major boost to my sales and set off a virtuous cycle in the Amazon algorithms. The Righteous also got some nice blog mentions, including a great review from BigAl. Implant got a great boost from ereadernewstoday.com. The biggest thing that helped The Righteous, however, was a mass email from Amazon just when I hit the top 100 that included the book with a bunch of other new thriller titles. Sales went through the roof and I sold 1,000 copies on back-to-back days for that book. The Righteous climbed all the way to the top 20 as a result.

Missteps:

I put my books up as a last-ditch effort and so I didn't do enough editing and cover work prior to the release of the first few books as I should have. The cover deficiency was easily rectified, but even though I've since sent my books off for editing and uploaded better copy, I will always be saddled with a few reviews complaining about formatting glitches or editing errors, even though someone buying the book now would never experience these problems. Don't make this mistake.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,017 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Here is an analysis of the different books. I've sold a couple thousand additional copies on Amazon UK, B&N, and Smashwords, but these are the Amazon US sales for various titles through last night.

The Righteous: 32,879

The Righteous is my big title. 99% of these sales came after I lowered the price to 99 cents and it made its run. I've never been quite satisfied with the cover, but it's not bad, and the premise-a thriller set in a polygamist enclave-is different enough to set it apart from the other books in its category. Sales have slipped from April, but it is still selling 250-300 copies per day.

Implant: 6,531

Three fourths of these sales were at 99 cents. It briefly hit around 160 in the overall list and spent a lot of time in the 200s. Once sales slipped to about 50-60 a day, I raised the price back to 2.99 and it has continued to sell around 20 copies a day at the higher price.

Mighty and Strong: 4,162


This is the sequel to The Righteous and all of these have sold at 2.99. My big mistake was releasing this book before I'd done a thorough proofreading, but I've since published a cleaner copy.

Devil's Deep: 2,357

About 2,000 of these were at 2.99. It has a great set of reviews, thanks mostly to that initial giveaway, but the reviews that continue to trickle in are still strong. I've recently lowered the price to 99 cents in an attempt to make a run up the rankings.

State of Siege: 1,039

90% of these sales were at 99 cents. It has never gained any traction. I also released a sloppy version of this early on, but the bigger problem is that it's probably the weakest of my major titles.

The Red Rooster: 598

I only released this at the end of March, and it got a slow start, only selling 105 copies in the first month, even though my other books were selling thousands of copies. At the end of the month, I gave away 175 copies (trying, unsuccessfully, to get some reviews) and put an excerpt in the back of Devil's Deep, and it has sold about 500 copies this month. It has a great cover by Jeroen Ten Berge and this was my favorite book to write, so I think it has a lot of potential. All of these sales have been at $2.99.

Kingdom of the Bears: 84

This is a children's fantasy that has nothing to do with my other books and has a cover I made myself from a stock picture. Still, it's a good fantasy book, one I'm proud of writing. My children love this and even though it has only sold a few dozen copies, I've received fan mail, including from a woman who said her daughter read it aloud to her younger brothers and another woman who said her granddaughter has read the book three times already.

I released book #3 of The Righteous series three days ago and have already sold 47 copies at $3.99, and have sold over 150 copies of a Righteous novella in only two weeks. I didn't include these, because they're too new to show up. But you can see that a related book sells better than unrelated books and that a strong book is not enough to generate sales, even when you have other books that are selling.

My sales/marketing advice is limited, but I would suggest spending time on your book description, getting the best cover you can afford, and putting an excerpt from book with the most unrealized potential at the end of your best-selling book. If you have one book that is selling moderately well, you might try to find someone with a similar book, selling at a similar rate, and swapping excerpts.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,087 Posts
Thanks, Michael, and congratulations.  You are so gracious and helpful that I'm sure everybody here is thrilled that you hit this milestone...

edit:

There's some great stuff in these posts and I'm going to make a few adjustments based on what I read here.  There's a lot of advice thrown around on this forum, but this type of practical knowledge based on experience and a hugely successful track record is pure gold.

A ton of people out there read this man's books.  Real talk...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
373 Posts
Congratulations on all your success and thank you for the advice. My books have yo-yo in and out of the top 100's week in and week out, but one thing I hear a lot of authors say is that it does come down to luck too. What is the best method for making your own luck?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
522 Posts
Wow! You're definitely doing something right.

(Now, to do those things myself, too . . . ) ;-)
 
G

·
daveconifer said:
Saffina and Jason, when do we get to see your nuggets of wisdom?
( :DJason's going to come back with something about showing me his nuggets, guaranteed)
I'm six days out from one year in the game. I'll be coming up with something then.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,548 Posts
Michael sincerely congratulations, your success is so very deserved. :-*

That's what I love about this community, we all share our successes in the hope to spur on and give hope to others, that their dreams can be achieved.

As for the advice, it's a two-way thing and I'll always be indebted to you for sharing your nuggets of information on the board and in personal messages.

Long may your sales continue and I echo what you say about the editing and covers of your books, it's VERY important to look at that side of things before uploading. I have to live with a few bad comments about editing and formatting issues too, we live and learn.

 

·
Registered
Joined
·
644 Posts
Congratulations on your success! And thank you for sharing your insight. It's greatly appreciated! 50,000 books since January is unbelievable. I wish you continued success!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
952 Posts
My sales are sluggish for book one. Three more waiting in the wind ready to go for beta readers, with five additional ones in the works. Trying to space them two or three months apart. What threw me off, a thread on the boards an ebook cover designer has a sudden flood for Angels and Demon books. She was wondering if that was the next big thing. What? Now that is what Perceptional Threshold is about! I was considering on buying a banner at the boards for a day...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
137 Posts
Congrats!  That is just astounding.

Thank you for the information.  I've been trying to boost my sales and they've been not great as of late.  Part of it I believe is because both my books are poetry chapbooks, but I still like to think that people would enjoy them if I could get them in front of more people.

I tried to do a few giveaways and it didn't result in any reviews.  I have no problem giving away copies but even if I got a few reviews from it, I'd be happy.  But to get no reviews is discouraging.  So I didn't do a giveaway for my most recent release because of that.

Same thing with bloggers.  I can't seem to find anyone who's interested besides a few.

Do you have any thoughts on this? 

Any advice would be deeply appreciated.

Cheers,
E.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
12,227 Posts
Michael, thank you for sharing your experience with the rest of us. It's wonderful to see one of our own members doing so well and your success is well deserved. I'm not even a thriller reader and I've been eyeing The Righteous and Devil's Deep just because of their cool covers.  :D
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,177 Posts
Congrats!

I picked up Implant on a whim and am enjoying it so far. I bought it because of the cover and the Amazon also boughts.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,017 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Thank you, everyone. I'm far from being an expert on success in ebooks, but I'll do my best to answer the questions.

Alex Sinclair said:
Congratulations on all your success and thank you for the advice. My books have yo-yo in and out of the top 100's week in and week out, but one thing I hear a lot of authors say is that it does come down to luck too. What is the best method for making your own luck?
It seems to me that most writers have a bunch of different stories that interest them. It doesn't hurt to make a list of the exciting ideas and then focusing on writing the ones that seem to have the most commercial potential. I would never suggest writing erotica, say, just because you think erotica sells. It won't be any good if your heart is not into it, and readers can see right through that. But if you could happily write either a quieter story or one with a larger scope, you might have more success with the bigger story.

I tried to do a few giveaways and it didn't result in any reviews. I have no problem giving away copies but even if I got a few reviews from it, I'd be happy. But to get no reviews is discouraging. So I didn't do a giveaway for my most recent release because of that.

Same thing with bloggers. I can't seem to find anyone who's interested besides a few.

Do you have any thoughts on this?
I wish I did. I had great luck early on with reviews, but it got harder and harder to get reviews from free copies even though just as many people were delighted to snap them up. I think the problem is that there are so many different ways to get free books now that readers no longer feel any obligation to return a review in exchange. And of course, you can't really expect a review, as otherwise it wouldn't be a gift.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,000 Posts
Michael, you are clear-eyed and incredibly generous to share with us what you've learned from all the books you've published. I'm going through it with a fine-toothed comb to see which jewels apply to my own work.  (Maybe I should target my propensity for mixed metaphors!). 

I, too, have not-pristine earlier copies of the books, even though I thought they were fine. And those reviews probably do hurt sales. 

Once again I have to thank Kindle Boards Writer's Cafe for providing a forum where so many good people offer advice.  There are so many examples on navigating this often-puzzling journey.   

And yes, Michael, you sure as heck do know how to write a killer opening scene. (See THE RIGHTEOUS.)  You're doubly right that it's all about raising questions, making the reader want to read on and find out why the character finds himself in the position he's in.  That gem right there is something everyone can take away with them and work on--and try to perfect.

Michael, thank you for your honesty, and thank you for your willingness to share your wisdom with us all.
 
1 - 20 of 57 Posts
Top