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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm hoping someone has noticed trends to have a benchmark, or read it about somewhere. What's the norm for other titles by the same author after one of their titles hits the top 100? Does anyone know how long residual sales typically last? I'm assuming it's proportionate to how long the title was in the top 100, how many titles you have, and what rank it topped out at, but maybe not. From where I'm sitting, it looks like the effects last a month or more. Can anyone confirm that? If you have any other insights that would be helpful, please share. I don't think its so cut and dry, but normally if one of my titles spikes (into the top 200-300), the effects are felt on similar titles for about a month. Just wondering what you guys noticed. Thanks so much!
 

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Holly,

My first book was in the top 100 (all books) for 29 days during late Oct into mid-Nov of 2011, topping out at #56 but generally around the high 80s.

It retained a ranking below 2,000 for months afterwards.

What was unexpected about that first hit was the wholesale orders. Outside of CS's extended distribution and outside of Amazon, we received numerous emails asking to purchase wholesale print copies. I don't know the exact number, but we printed and shipped thousands of copies. To this day, a large percentage of my sales (all books) are wholesale. Last month we shipped over 1,500 books that were completely out of the Amazon/on-line ecosystem.

Since it was my first book, I can't comment on what it did to my other titles as they came out afterwards. I think that book was critical to my developing a group of readers who purchase my new books shortly after release.

I've never breached the top 100 since - with most of my new releases getting close, but no cigar. While the new works have sold similar numbers, I think it takes more sales these days to reach that esteemed list.

Regarding "legs," in the last six months, that first work has gradually slipped in rankings, falling into the 5,000ish range down where it now hovers around 10,000 in books, 20-40K in Kindle version. Last month, as an example, was the first month where it sold less than 500 copies (ebook and print), landing at 481 total copies sold.

Hope this helps.
 

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I'll be watching this thread. I like to make conservative projections about book sales/income. It motivates me to hit my deadlines.

I'm trying not to worry too much about Relentless sliding out of the top 100 and into oblivion as I write book two, but it's hard. I don't want to kill myself with promotional efforts. I'd rather focus on writing.
 

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This changes with every successive Great Seismic Rift. I have been in the top 100 five different eras with five different books in the US (not counting the ones T&M did, but those are outliers I can hardly brag about since I was just a cog getting pitched on the assembly line).

In 2010, you could have a good launch and stick for months at 99 cents. I had a top 30 bestseller in Nov 2010--(a book that is lucky to sell a copy a day now in English but recently hit #8 in DE in German translation--so there is a "long tail," just not the one popularized by indie myth). If I remember right, that was selling around 300 copies a day when it was hot.

In 2011 you could still hit and stick for months--Liquid Fear sold 900 copies a day for three months and it peaked at around #19 I believe but was mostly in the 30-50 range. (I call this the "99 cent skanky cover era " because I suspect SOME folks--no names mentioned--may well have bought their way onto the bestseller list because let's say you are a multimillionaire and you can buy an entire ecosystem--fake reviews, 1,000 people to buy your books on the day of release--and you automatically shoot up and get "locked" onto the bestseller list.

Now what is really interesting is about how many copies a day The Home sold this January when it was hanging out in the 50-80 range. Yes, about 900 a day. I really didn't follow that since it was Amazon doing the lifting and was kind of boring. I am only interested in outcomes when I can do something to affect them. Suffice to say I let it slide on its own after they were done with it. In a while I will get interested to see what I can do with it. But it suggested that despite the exponential growth in the presumed number of Kindle owners, actual total book sales did NOT keep up with the growth--again, another reason I think Amazon is doing the freebie stomp. The whole ecosystem looks a little inflated to me, inflated by 50,000 free books every day and clearly decimating--and double-decimating--the bottom line.

And Zon also changed the pricing weight, of course--goodbye, 99 cent bestseller (except when Amazon chose to do a marked-down price with a blitz.) What that pointed out to me was that the whole system is incredibly dynamic except at the very top now. And all of it is due to Amazon algorithms, and hardly nothing to do with "reader behavior,' "building a fan base," and the popular "good cover/good description" myth. If you shoot the most professional book ever assembled up the charts at 99 cents, it it is still likely to vanish in a day or two--simply because Amazon has made it so. They are shaping behavior at the same time they are reinforcing existing behavior by "giving the people what they want."

Just check the Bookbub books if you need more proof. Books that go up and stick are an anomaly-usually supported by different outliers, most of them summarized as "luck." That luck being how the algorithms crunch onto the popularity list, time of day, if you have a series, etc. Since I don't write series I never see a dramatic lift in my backlist when I have a lucky hit. I do see a small lift and also long-term fanbase building, but that doesn't move enough mountains to get anyone on the bestseller list.

It's not a clear-cut answer but residual sales usually last as Amazon's machine is built to sustain them (heck, otherwise we'd all also be bestsellers all the time on Nook, Kobo, and Apple, right?) And I suspect--I can't prove it yet, so I will wait for Edward Robertson to break it down--that we have just undergone another seismic shift on March 1 in conjunction with the Death of the Freebie (patent pending).

So if you are lucky and boost your backslide with promotion, you can stick around a few weeks and get the happy Amazon machine kicking in alsobots and email recs to support you--notice the recurring themes of "luck" and "Amazon machine." A 99 cent book and a 3.99 book will get wildly different treatments, just as a free run boost is different from a paid-run boost--and these are all ever changing. And a name author will stick longer on the pop charts and get the golden halo of Amazon recs and an tighter grip on the pop list. It really is a system designed to reward the top, but doesn't that describe every system ever designed by humans?

I know this is a wildly unpopular view, that some authors feel frustrated because this makes it seem like it is out of their hands. I feel the reverse is true. Once you accept it is luck and you spend some effort figuring out whatever algo game is in place, you can increase your luck. I have sold a lot of books but I am not that talented of a writer, and I don't have all that much ego about it. I can say "I sold a lot of books" but I know it was really Amazon that sold a lot of books. It's easier to let the machine do all the hard work anyway.

There's no consistent performance because the variables are nearly endless and are ever-changing. I guess the short answer is "You won't know until it happens, and even after it happens, you really won't know why." However it rolls, good luck and have fun, Holly. We don't own this sandbox anyway, as we keep getting reminded.


 

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scottnicholson said:
This changes with every successive Great Seismic Rift. I have been in the top 100 five different eras with five different books in the US (not counting the ones T&M did, but those are outliers I can hardly brag about since I was just a cog getting pitched on the assembly line).

In 2010, you could have a good launch and stick for months at 99 cents. I had a top 30 bestseller in Nov 2010--(a book that is lucky to sell a copy a day now in English but recently hit #8 in DE in German translation--so there is a "long tail," just not the one popularized by indie myth). If I remember right, that was selling around 300 copies a day when it was hot.

In 2011 you could still hit and stick for months--Liquid Fear sold 900 copies a day for three months and it peaked at around #19 I believe but was mostly in the 30-50 range. (I call this the "99 cent skanky cover era " because I suspect SOME folks--no names mentioned--may well have bought their way onto the bestseller list because let's say you are a multimillionaire and you can buy an entire ecosystem--fake reviews, 1,000 people to buy your books on the day of release--and you automatically shoot up and get "locked" onto the bestseller list.

Now what is really interesting is about how many copies a day The Home sold this January when it was hanging out in the 50-80 range. Yes, about 900 a day. I really didn't follow that since it was Amazon doing the lifting and was kind of boring. I am only interested in outcomes when I can do something to affect them. Suffice to say I let it slide on its own after they were done with it. In a while I will get interested to see what I can do with it. But it suggested that despite the exponential growth in the presumed number of Kindle owners, actual total book sales did NOT keep up with the growth--again, another reason I think Amazon is doing the freebie stomp. The whole ecosystem looks a little inflated to me, inflated by 50,000 free books every day and clearly decimating--and double-decimating--the bottom line.

And Zon also changed the pricing weight, of course--goodbye, 99 cent bestseller (except when Amazon chose to do a marked-down price with a blitz.) What that pointed out to me was that the whole system is incredibly dynamic except at the very top now. And all of it is due to Amazon algorithms, and hardly nothing to do with "reader behavior,' "building a fan base," and the popular "good cover/good description" myth. If you shoot the most professional book ever assembled up the charts at 99 cents, it it is still likely to vanish in a day or two--simply because Amazon has made it so. They are shaping behavior at the same time they are reinforcing existing behavior by "giving the people what they want."

Just check the Bookbub books if you need more proof. Books that go up and stick are an anomaly-usually supported by different outliers, most of them summarized as "luck." That luck being how the algorithms crunch onto the popularity list, time of day, if you have a series, etc. Since I don't write series I never see a dramatic lift in my backlist when I have a lucky hit. I do see a small lift and also long-term fanbase building, but that doesn't move enough mountains to get anyone on the bestseller list.

It's not a clear-cut answer but residual sales usually last as Amazon's machine is built to sustain them (heck, otherwise we'd all also be bestsellers all the time on Nook, Kobo, and Apple, right?) And I suspect--I can't prove it yet, so I will wait for Edward Robertson to break it down--that we have just undergone another seismic shift on March 1 in conjunction with the Death of the Freebie (patent pending).

So if you are lucky and boost your backslide with promotion, you can stick around a few weeks and get the happy Amazon machine kicking in alsobots and email recs to support you--notice the recurring themes of "luck" and "Amazon machine." A 99 cent book and a 3.99 book will get wildly different treatments, just as a free run boost is different from a paid-run boost--and these are all ever changing. And a name author will stick longer on the pop charts and get the golden halo of Amazon recs and an tighter grip on the pop list. It really is a system designed to reward the top, but doesn't that describe every system ever designed by humans?

I know this is a wildly unpopular view, that some authors feel frustrated because this makes it seem like it is out of their hands. I feel the reverse is true. Once you accept it is luck and you spend some effort figuring out whatever algo game is in place, you can increase your luck. I have sold a lot of books but I am not that talented of a writer, and I don't have all that much ego about it. I can say "I sold a lot of books" but I know it was really Amazon that sold a lot of books. It's easier to let the machine do all the hard work anyway.

There's no consistent performance because the variables are nearly endless and are ever-changing. I guess the short answer is "You won't know until it happens, and even after it happens, you really won't know why." However it rolls, good luck and have fun, Holly. We don't own this sandbox anyway, as we keep getting reminded.
LOVE THIS. All of it. I needed to read this today. Thank you, Scott!
 

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We had 10 titles in the Top 100 on Amazon in the last year. Two have stuck. The rest didn't. Last month, we briefly had 2 titles in the Top 100 - a contemporary romantic suspense box set and a historical romance box set. There was sales influence between them, but the contemporary set didn't stick.

Book 1 that stuck stayed for about 3 weeks in the Top 100 in Oct/Nov 2012. It was a brand-new single title, first in a new series - contemporary romance priced at 99 cents. It did well for about 6 weeks all told and sold 25,000+ copies. It's in the #4000s now, with the sequel due out late April.

Book 2 that stuck stayed for about 7 weeks in Dec/Jan and has been wandering in and out of the Top 100 since. A box set of 4 backlist historical romances priced at 99 cents, it released in November and has sold over 50,000 copies. It's at #149 on .com right now, #119 in the UK and #34 in CA. It originally peaked at #14 in the US.

So even the two that stuck have few similarities beyond author, price point and general genre.

Amazon WILL help boost 99c books, BUT you have to prove the sustainability and popularity first. Book 2 didn't start getting dedicated Ammy love for about 7 weeks. And it hasn't gotten high-level email rec love at all while it's in the Top 100. Only when it dipped below #100 did it start getting a boost. Two Amazon email promos, though, have put it BACK into the Top 100 at separate times, and cross-promotion of other titles have put it back there, too. 

From a numbers (sales and algorithmic) standpoint, I know why a book hits in the Top 100 and I know why the ones that sustain there do. What I don't know is how to perform the magic that transforms a Top 100 shooting star into a book that lingers there for a while.
 

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Phoenix, haven't you been tracking your goat-sacrifice ratio?

Sheesh, I better shoot you over some data. (Hint--it's the dark of the moon.)

Oh yeah, the other obvious thing is that it is much, much easier to do with a new title! That goes back to the Amazon machine.
 

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scottnicholson said:
Phoenix, haven't you been tracking your goat-sacrifice ratio?

Sheesh, I better shoot you over some data. (Hint--it's the dark of the moon.)
Awkkk! That's it! I plugged "gibbous moon" into the goat-sacrifice algo I was using. Man, ya get one little variable wrong...
 

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scottnicholson said:
This changes with every successive Great Seismic Rift. I have been in the top 100 five different eras with five different books in the US (not counting the ones T&M did, but those are outliers I can hardly brag about since I was just a cog getting pitched on the assembly line).

In 2010, you could have a good launch and stick for months at 99 cents. I had a top 30 bestseller in Nov 2010--(a book that is lucky to sell a copy a day now in English but recently hit #8 in DE in German translation--so there is a "long tail," just not the one popularized by indie myth). If I remember right, that was selling around 300 copies a day when it was hot.

In 2011 you could still hit and stick for months--Liquid Fear sold 900 copies a day for three months and it peaked at around #19 I believe but was mostly in the 30-50 range. (I call this the "99 cent skanky cover era " because I suspect SOME folks--no names mentioned--may well have bought their way onto the bestseller list because let's say you are a multimillionaire and you can buy an entire ecosystem--fake reviews, 1,000 people to buy your books on the day of release--and you automatically shoot up and get "locked" onto the bestseller list.

Now what is really interesting is about how many copies a day The Home sold this January when it was hanging out in the 50-80 range. Yes, about 900 a day. I really didn't follow that since it was Amazon doing the lifting and was kind of boring. I am only interested in outcomes when I can do something to affect them. Suffice to say I let it slide on its own after they were done with it. In a while I will get interested to see what I can do with it. But it suggested that despite the exponential growth in the presumed number of Kindle owners, actual total book sales did NOT keep up with the growth--again, another reason I think Amazon is doing the freebie stomp. The whole ecosystem looks a little inflated to me, inflated by 50,000 free books every day and clearly decimating--and double-decimating--the bottom line.

And Zon also changed the pricing weight, of course--goodbye, 99 cent bestseller (except when Amazon chose to do a marked-down price with a blitz.) What that pointed out to me was that the whole system is incredibly dynamic except at the very top now. And all of it is due to Amazon algorithms, and hardly nothing to do with "reader behavior,' "building a fan base," and the popular "good cover/good description" myth. If you shoot the most professional book ever assembled up the charts at 99 cents, it it is still likely to vanish in a day or two--simply because Amazon has made it so. They are shaping behavior at the same time they are reinforcing existing behavior by "giving the people what they want."

Just check the Bookbub books if you need more proof. Books that go up and stick are an anomaly-usually supported by different outliers, most of them summarized as "luck." That luck being how the algorithms crunch onto the popularity list, time of day, if you have a series, etc. Since I don't write series I never see a dramatic lift in my backlist when I have a lucky hit. I do see a small lift and also long-term fanbase building, but that doesn't move enough mountains to get anyone on the bestseller list.

It's not a clear-cut answer but residual sales usually last as Amazon's machine is built to sustain them (heck, otherwise we'd all also be bestsellers all the time on Nook, Kobo, and Apple, right?) And I suspect--I can't prove it yet, so I will wait for Edward Robertson to break it down--that we have just undergone another seismic shift on March 1 in conjunction with the Death of the Freebie (patent pending).

So if you are lucky and boost your backslide with promotion, you can stick around a few weeks and get the happy Amazon machine kicking in alsobots and email recs to support you--notice the recurring themes of "luck" and "Amazon machine." A 99 cent book and a 3.99 book will get wildly different treatments, just as a free run boost is different from a paid-run boost--and these are all ever changing. And a name author will stick longer on the pop charts and get the golden halo of Amazon recs and an tighter grip on the pop list. It really is a system designed to reward the top, but doesn't that describe every system ever designed by humans?

I know this is a wildly unpopular view, that some authors feel frustrated because this makes it seem like it is out of their hands. I feel the reverse is true. Once you accept it is luck and you spend some effort figuring out whatever algo game is in place, you can increase your luck. I have sold a lot of books but I am not that talented of a writer, and I don't have all that much ego about it. I can say "I sold a lot of books" but I know it was really Amazon that sold a lot of books. It's easier to let the machine do all the hard work anyway.

There's no consistent performance because the variables are nearly endless and are ever-changing. I guess the short answer is "You won't know until it happens, and even after it happens, you really won't know why." However it rolls, good luck and have fun, Holly. We don't own this sandbox anyway, as we keep getting reminded.
Very well said. Thank you
 

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scottnicholson said:
This changes with every successive Great Seismic Rift. I have been in the top 100 five different eras with five different books in the US (not counting the ones T&M did, but those are outliers I can hardly brag about since I was just a cog getting pitched on the assembly line).

In 2010, you could have a good launch and stick for months at 99 cents. I had a top 30 bestseller in Nov 2010--(a book that is lucky to sell a copy a day now in English but recently hit #8 in DE in German translation--so there is a "long tail," just not the one popularized by indie myth). If I remember right, that was selling around 300 copies a day when it was hot.

In 2011 you could still hit and stick for months--Liquid Fear sold 900 copies a day for three months and it peaked at around #19 I believe but was mostly in the 30-50 range. (I call this the "99 cent skanky cover era " because I suspect SOME folks--no names mentioned--may well have bought their way onto the bestseller list because let's say you are a multimillionaire and you can buy an entire ecosystem--fake reviews, 1,000 people to buy your books on the day of release--and you automatically shoot up and get "locked" onto the bestseller list.

Now what is really interesting is about how many copies a day The Home sold this January when it was hanging out in the 50-80 range. Yes, about 900 a day. I really didn't follow that since it was Amazon doing the lifting and was kind of boring. I am only interested in outcomes when I can do something to affect them. Suffice to say I let it slide on its own after they were done with it. In a while I will get interested to see what I can do with it. But it suggested that despite the exponential growth in the presumed number of Kindle owners, actual total book sales did NOT keep up with the growth--again, another reason I think Amazon is doing the freebie stomp. The whole ecosystem looks a little inflated to me, inflated by 50,000 free books every day and clearly decimating--and double-decimating--the bottom line.

And Zon also changed the pricing weight, of course--goodbye, 99 cent bestseller (except when Amazon chose to do a marked-down price with a blitz.) What that pointed out to me was that the whole system is incredibly dynamic except at the very top now. And all of it is due to Amazon algorithms, and hardly nothing to do with "reader behavior,' "building a fan base," and the popular "good cover/good description" myth. If you shoot the most professional book ever assembled up the charts at 99 cents, it it is still likely to vanish in a day or two--simply because Amazon has made it so. They are shaping behavior at the same time they are reinforcing existing behavior by "giving the people what they want."

Just check the Bookbub books if you need more proof. Books that go up and stick are an anomaly-usually supported by different outliers, most of them summarized as "luck." That luck being how the algorithms crunch onto the popularity list, time of day, if you have a series, etc. Since I don't write series I never see a dramatic lift in my backlist when I have a lucky hit. I do see a small lift and also long-term fanbase building, but that doesn't move enough mountains to get anyone on the bestseller list.

It's not a clear-cut answer but residual sales usually last as Amazon's machine is built to sustain them (heck, otherwise we'd all also be bestsellers all the time on Nook, Kobo, and Apple, right?) And I suspect--I can't prove it yet, so I will wait for Edward Robertson to break it down--that we have just undergone another seismic shift on March 1 in conjunction with the Death of the Freebie (patent pending).

So if you are lucky and boost your backslide with promotion, you can stick around a few weeks and get the happy Amazon machine kicking in alsobots and email recs to support you--notice the recurring themes of "luck" and "Amazon machine." A 99 cent book and a 3.99 book will get wildly different treatments, just as a free run boost is different from a paid-run boost--and these are all ever changing. And a name author will stick longer on the pop charts and get the golden halo of Amazon recs and an tighter grip on the pop list. It really is a system designed to reward the top, but doesn't that describe every system ever designed by humans?

I know this is a wildly unpopular view, that some authors feel frustrated because this makes it seem like it is out of their hands. I feel the reverse is true. Once you accept it is luck and you spend some effort figuring out whatever algo game is in place, you can increase your luck. I have sold a lot of books but I am not that talented of a writer, and I don't have all that much ego about it. I can say "I sold a lot of books" but I know it was really Amazon that sold a lot of books. It's easier to let the machine do all the hard work anyway.

There's no consistent performance because the variables are nearly endless and are ever-changing. I guess the short answer is "You won't know until it happens, and even after it happens, you really won't know why." However it rolls, good luck and have fun, Holly. We don't own this sandbox anyway, as we keep getting reminded.
I tend to agree with all of this except the part in red. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks all! This is good info. I tend to look for trends, even if they are fleeting, to see what's happening. Luck might be part of it, but part of it is also predictable. I'm filling in the puzzles pieces that we have.

The first time I had a title inch close to the top 100, (it didn't make it) the book sold 3000 copies in a month (2011). It was on sale for 99 cents at the time and I didn't have any other titles at the time. There were no residual sales from other titles. Once the readers read that 1st book, there was no more and they moved on. We talk about rabid readers in here, but I honestly didn't grasp the concept until recently. The readers literally devour everything like locusts and then scream for more. If there is no more, they move on. I can see it sweep across my titles like a wave. It's worth throwing a 99 cent book under the bus to start that wave. With 29 titles out, it takes sales about two weeks to build across all the titles and then another two weeks to fade. It's a bell curve, from what I can tell. I'm about 30 days out from when the novel fell out of the top 100 and it has yet to fall back down to its original ranking. The interest in wholesale books in interesting. I'm wondering what the effect on audiobook is/ will be.

I've also noticed that amazon likes to promote one of these books for me and it wasn't the 99 cent novel, it was the $2.99 serial. And the other day, I saw an email that had ONLY my paper books announcing a new paperback title by HM Ward. My name was in the subject line. It showed a few of my other paperbacks (YA PNR) under the new novel (adult romance). Amazon does play a factor in things. I didn't realize they were pimping me like that. Its interesting.
 

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I feel like Bookbub may be skewing the traditional top 100. They routinely put books in the mystery/thriller and bestseller categories into the top 100 for a brief amount of time.
 

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holly w. said:
I've also noticed that amazon likes to promote one of these books for me and it wasn't the 99 cent novel, it was the $2.99 serial. And the other day, I saw an email that had ONLY my paper books announcing a new paperback title by HM Ward. My name was in the subject line. It showed a few of my other paperbacks (YA PNR) under the new novel (adult romance). Amazon does play a factor in things. I didn't realize they were pimping me like that. Its interesting.
We have to be very careful what we attribute to Amazon emails and what we don't. Amazon has multiple "levels" of emails it sends out. I routinely see SMP authors and titles (even in subject lines) being promoted to the business email account and my personal one. But 99% of those emails are personalized and very specific to my browsing history. They may well go out to an audience of one: me.

Then there are the mid-level blasts that get sent to a small-medium-size audience about books doing well in the pop lists that are series or stand-alones that get sent to folk who've browsed heavily and/or bought in the genre or series. We get maybe a dozen or two sales from these.

When Ammy sends a high-level email blast to a large audience, you don't have to guess what's happening. You wake up to a nice bump that can't be attributed to anything else and fans start forwarding the emails they've received with your titles in them. I can attribute 1000 sales above the daily average over 3 days directly to the last blast that favored one of our titles. Not inconsequential.

Folk who have not experienced this often don't recognize the kind of difference there is between a mid-level mail and a high-level mail - and just how MUCH marketing impact that high-level mail achieves.
 
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