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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well, this is a dark day I didn't want to see again.

Sigh. Right, so I have two series: an urban fantasy series (The Black Parade) and a science fiction series (Of Cinder and Bone). As of about the last 1-2 years, I've been noticing that the Black Parade's sales are tanking at a consistent rate and I'm not sure why. I schedule monthly promos and it does indeed move free copies, but lately, it's been the same story: when I do a promo, it moves free copies, but no one buys the paid titles. I also don't only promote the first book. I rotate through three of them: The Black Parade (Book #1), The Deadly Seven (Book #1.5, PNR short story collection), and Back to Black (Book #2.5, novella) just to keep from overexposure. I make sure that I'm not doing the same book within 90-120 days on one particular promo site as well.

Examples below.

January 2021: ReaderIQ promo - 296
February 2021: My Book Cave promo - 456
March 2021: N/A
April 2021: Fussy Librarian promo - 665
May 2021: Freebooksy series promo - 809

I've been on the permafree structure since around 2014-2015 and this is perhaps the first time since I published that my sales are flatlining across the board, in both series, but in particular, I wanted to ask advice about the UF series' bizarre performance. Usually, yes, the free titles move copies and sales trickle in later on, but that's stalled out completely. Readers are not returning for the paid titles on Amazon nor on Smashwords, so I wanted to see if anyone had any thoughts on what's up. I've been positively reviewed by both Publishers Weekly and NYT bestselling author Ilona Andrews, so I can infer readers aren't being scared off by bad reviews or lack of reviews. I'm sitting at 172 reviews/ratings with 4.3 average rating as of this post. I've been published long enough that this is genuinely confusing me and I'd like to see what other authors are experiencing, whether you're in this genre or not.

FYI: do not tell me to change the book covers. Yes, I know I'm supposed to put a hot girl in leather pants holding a weapon on the front of a UF/PNR series. No, I am not changing the covers. Just a heads up before anyone starts that debate. I understand the consequences of my refusal to change the covers to the UF/PNR standards. I know there is a level of success I'm not going to reach because I won't conform, so let's keep moving.

Lastly, I've been considering due to the flatlining sales if I should put the entire thing together in a boxed set. I'm not sure how--I'd definitely have to hire someone to format it--but if that's possibly the answer, I'm up for it. Otherwise, I have no idea why the hell my sales are dead in the water when there's clearly interest in the books from readers.

I'm genuinely curious about your thoughts and experiences, so if you have time, please chime in. I'm not upset or anything. I'm just not sure how or when this pattern emerged and I'd like to try and reverse it if at all possible. If the industry itself is showing that the permafree model is beginning to fail across the board, then I'm happy to start researching what will work instead.
 

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Hi Kyoko M.,

Have you tried price pulsing the second consecutive book in your series? I've found that pulsing between $2.99 and 99¢ for my second in series in both my UF and Sci-fi series to be extremely helpful. When I drop the second book to 99¢ I find that sell-thru book 2 > book 3 is only about 50% (with $2.99 book 2 > book 3 sell-thru is closer to 85%) but I usually make up the money in volume of Book 3 sold. I also catch the readers who aren't quite hooked yet with a 99¢ price. Pulsing means that I collect the 70% commission from folks who ARE hooked, at least part of the year.

At the moment, I am trying something new. I'm returning to UF this year, and so I have made book two in my UF $2.99, but also, available "free" on BookFunnel--but if they get it "free", I collect an email address. This adds approximately 2 pre-vetted fans (i.e., they like my writing!) to my email list per day. I hope that these fans will help the launch of the next UF series ... but the jury is still out on that.

Other things I do: I remind my fans that my books are all available via their library on Overdrive and to borrow at Scribd.

Although I still book newsletter promos, I find that FB ads produce better sell-thru. You might try experimenting with those. There are a lot of free resources online in both the author and general advertising communities that are very helpful.

I also have come to LOVE Freebooksy's series sale feature. It has been my biggest and bestest find of the year, but might not be helpful if your series is less than five or six books.
 

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Lastly, I've been considering due to the flatlining sales if I should put the entire thing together in a boxed set. I'm not sure how--I'd definitely have to hire someone to format it--but if that's possibly the answer, I'm up for it. Otherwise, I have no idea why the hell my sales are dead in the water when there's clearly interest in the books from readers.
This is a good idea. I would put the entire series in a box set, price it at $9.99, and put it in KU. Right now, I see that only some books in the series are in KU while the others are wide. I would choose whether you want to be wide or in KU. If you choose KU, make sure all the books are off the other platforms before doing the box set. If you choose wide, all the books should be wide before you do the box set. And yes, get a genre appropriate cover for the box set, and making it 3D wouldn’t hurt either. Then apply for a $0.99 BookBub. If they accept you for an International only BookBub, you can still make it a success by promo stacking some of the smaller sites for the US market. Keep the price at $0.99 after that and run AMS or other ads to maintain if you can. If you’re in KU, pages read is where most of the money will be made.
 

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Why won't you change the covers? Do you have to change them to something you find boring?

I understand the resistance. I do not find most covers with solo men interesting. I write sexy romance. Many successful authors use photos of solo men. I've used them a few times, despite how much they bore me, and sometimes they've done well and sometimes they haven't. There is a functional part of my resistance. I don't get what readers like in these covers so I struggle to get the covers right, even when I get a photo based solely on the model doing well for other people previously.

I've done better, overall, with covers I do get.

But there is a dysfunctional part as well, an unwillingness to change or not feel special or accept less than perfect. And it has been as asset at times--I credit much of my success to my obsession with nailing tone, and the tone I want is often couples. But it's also cost me money many times. (It's been titles as often as covers for me. Those have cost be majorly).

I'm struggling right now, with how to cover my next series. Men in suits... It's just so boring! But if the cover works for the book and it sells books, then I can deal with boring. And if I can sell with a concept I like, say objects, that's great too.

But covers with say, ladies, don't sell as well in my genre except under specific circumstances. I've tried them. I have a bunch now for various biz reasons. But I'm planning to retire most, even though they're what I like, because the market has spoken.

Why can't you change your cover to something you like that is still attracting new readers? That's the advice I'd give to all authors who are seeing declining sales. Even if they're current covers are 100% on market.

Too many potential readers have seen these covers. They've decided they don't want them. You need to put a different package on the books if you want those people to reconsider.

If the books are good and the blurbs are good and the ads are good, the covers and titles are what is left.

In terms of permafee, I've heard from a few authors that their sell through has fallen since COVID-19. But that is beyond our control.

You need to do something to attract new readers. If it's not changing covers, it's changing strategies. Put out a bundles or put the whole series in KU or advertise on a new platform. Your results only going to decline if you keep doing the same thing again and again.

If you don't want a typical UF cover that is your call. But you can get a new, better cover that isn't typical too.

(And ask yourself if you are truly willing to let the covers stand between your and success. Would you take 5k to change the cover? 10k? 100k? Because, assuming your assessment is correct, you are losing money everyday because of your covers. Have you tried typical covers? They're not as bad as they seem when you can get them the way you like).
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Hi Kyoko M.,

Have you tried price pulsing the second consecutive book in your series? I've found that pulsing between $2.99 and 99¢ for my second in series in both my UF and Sci-fi series to be extremely helpful. When I drop the second book to 99¢ I find that sell-thru book 2 > book 3 is only about 50% (with $2.99 book 2 > book 3 sell-thru is closer to 85%) but I usually make up the money in volume of Book 3 sold. I also catch the readers who aren't quite hooked yet with a 99¢ price. Pulsing means that I collect the 70% commission from folks who ARE hooked, at least part of the year.

At the moment, I am trying something new. I'm returning to UF this year, and so I have made book two in my UF $2.99, but also, available "free" on BookFunnel--but if they get it "free", I collect an email address. This adds approximately 2 pre-vetted fans (i.e., they like my writing!) to my email list per day. I hope that these fans will help the launch of the next UF series ... but the jury is still out on that.

Other things I do: I remind my fans that my books are all available via their library on Overdrive and to borrow at Scribd.

Although I still book newsletter promos, I find that FB ads produce better sell-thru. You might try experimenting with those. There are a lot of free resources online in both the author and general advertising communities that are very helpful.

I also have come to LOVE Freebooksy's series sale feature. It has been my biggest and bestest find of the year, but might not be helpful if your series is less than five or six books.
Ah, that's a good point--I hadn't considered changing the pricing since before the pandemic, the sell through was at least stable. I was recommended to raise my book prices when Ilona Andrews scooped me up back in 2018 and talked to me about it before she made the blog post about The Black Parade. Before we talked, I had the two non-novels in the UF series at .99 cents and then the novels at I think $2.99 and $3.99. Since they've gone out of vogue, it might be something to consider. When you say price pulsing, are you using the Countdown promo method or are you just actually changing the price of the book itself on a scheduled basis? I'd like to learn more on the strategy. Thanks so much for chiming in.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
This is a good idea. I would put the entire series in a box set, price it at $9.99, and put it in KU. Right now, I see that only some books in the series are in KU while the others are wide. I would choose whether you want to be wide or in KU. If you choose KU, make sure all the books are off the other platforms before doing the box set. If you choose wide, all the books should be wide before you do the box set. And yes, get a genre appropriate cover for the box set, and making it 3D wouldn’t hurt either. Then apply for a $0.99 BookBub. If they accept you for an International only BookBub, you can still make it a success by promo stacking some of the smaller sites for the US market. Keep the price at $0.99 after that and run AMS or other ads to maintain if you can. If you’re in KU, pages read is where most of the money will be made.
Okay, thank you! I was unsure about boxed sets because I haven't really seen that much research/threads about them yet, so I'll get to work on putting that together.

Bookbub won't talk to me. It's probably a while off before I can ever get them to give me a promo. I've tried for years with no luck. I'm going to guess The Black Parade needs to be closer to the 300 review range before they'll even consider it, at least based on what I saw for the requirements.

Thank you so much for the feedback!
 

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I've been accepted by Bookbub with way less than 300 reviews. My guess is, the Black Parade cover might not be working for them. I can't tell what it's supposed to be. Horror? Paranormal? It's a cool cover, just not very reflective of any specific genre.

Your dragon covers are cool, though, and definitely fantasy. I haven't been able to crack into the Fantasy category at Bookbub myself, though. I think it's just VERY competitive.

Also, my sales this month have been way worse than usual. Is anyone else experiencing this or is it just us?
 

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Bookbub won't talk to me. It's probably a while off before I can ever get them to give me a promo. I've tried for years with no luck. I'm going to guess The Black Parade needs to be closer to the 300 review range before they'll even consider it, at least based on what I saw for the requirements.
I’ve never gotten a BookBub for a single title, but they’ve accepted my box set. First time they accepted it only had a handful of reviews (less than 20 for sure, maybe even less than 10!).
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I've been accepted by Bookbub with way less than 300 reviews. My guess is, the Black Parade cover might not be working for them. I can't tell what it's supposed to be. Horror? Paranormal? It's a cool cover, just not very reflective of any specific genre.

Your dragon covers are cool, though, and definitely fantasy. I haven't been able to crack into the Fantasy category at Bookbub myself, though. I think it's just VERY competitive.

Also, my sales this month have been way worse than usual. Is anyone else experiencing this or is it just us?
It is paranormal with horror elements, so yes, you can tell what it's supposed to be because you were right. I do think I have a better chance of getting a Bookbub ad with the dragon hunting series, though, just because the covers are more eye catching and I wasn't having to compromise with the genre norms. The dragon hunting series has done better (at least I think) because it's science fiction, which is a smaller pool of readers, and while there are totally zillions of books about dragons, mine is one of the few that aren't about either high fantasy LOTR style dragons or dragon shifters, which kinda seem to be the most common types. Sales are low, but not upsettingly low for that series right now. It's only been on bookshelves since 2016, so I wasn't going to try for a Bookbub ad until I had a bit more clout.

Sorry to hear your sales aren't good this month. I'm interested in hearing if others are experiencing something similar too. Thanks for weighing in.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
I’ve never gotten a BookBub for a single title, but they’ve accepted my box set. First time they accepted it only had a handful of reviews (less than 20 for sure, maybe even less than 10!).
Congrats! I tried reading their "requirements" and I still can't make head nor tails of what they consider to be worth it to them. As I mentioned to some further up, I'm waiting on my dragon hunting series to get a bit more clout and then I'll try submitting that instead since the covers are more eye catching and compliant with the genre norms.
 

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It is paranormal with horror elements, so yes, you can tell what it's supposed to be because you were right.
Good point. I guess I mean, in most genres, there are a lot of "copycat" covers, and while they're not my favorite thing in the world, they tend to be the best-performing books across the board. I write YA a lot, but I still haven't succumbed to putting a young lady in a leather jacket with a glowing hand (and preferably a purple background) on any of my covers.

I also refuse to write romances with a man chest cover, even though I'd probably do better if I did. ;)
 

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Well, this is a dark day I didn't want to see again.

Sigh. Right, so I have two series: an urban fantasy series (The Black Parade) and a science fiction series (Of Cinder and Bone). As of about the last 1-2 years, I've been noticing that the Black Parade's sales are tanking at a consistent rate and I'm not sure why. I schedule monthly promos and it does indeed move free copies, but lately, it's been the same story: when I do a promo, it moves free copies, but no one buys the paid titles. I also don't only promote the first book. I rotate through three of them: The Black Parade (Book #1), The Deadly Seven (Book #1.5, PNR short story collection), and Back to Black (Book #2.5, novella) just to keep from overexposure. I make sure that I'm not doing the same book within 90-120 days on one particular promo site as well.

Examples below.

January 2021: ReaderIQ promo - 296
February 2021: My Book Cave promo - 456
March 2021: N/A
April 2021: Fussy Librarian promo - 665
May 2021: Freebooksy series promo - 809

I've been on the permafree structure since around 2014-2015 and this is perhaps the first time since I published that my sales are flatlining across the board, in both series, but in particular, I wanted to ask advice about the UF series' bizarre performance. Usually, yes, the free titles move copies and sales trickle in later on, but that's stalled out completely. Readers are not returning for the paid titles on Amazon nor on Smashwords, so I wanted to see if anyone had any thoughts on what's up. I've been positively reviewed by both Publishers Weekly and NYT bestselling author Ilona Andrews, so I can infer readers aren't being scared off by bad reviews or lack of reviews. I'm sitting at 172 reviews/ratings with 4.3 average rating as of this post. I've been published long enough that this is genuinely confusing me and I'd like to see what other authors are experiencing, whether you're in this genre or not.

FYI: do not tell me to change the book covers. Yes, I know I'm supposed to put a hot girl in leather pants holding a weapon on the front of a UF/PNR series. No, I am not changing the covers. Just a heads up before anyone starts that debate. I understand the consequences of my refusal to change the covers to the UF/PNR standards. I know there is a level of success I'm not going to reach because I won't conform, so let's keep moving.

Lastly, I've been considering due to the flatlining sales if I should put the entire thing together in a boxed set. I'm not sure how--I'd definitely have to hire someone to format it--but if that's possibly the answer, I'm up for it. Otherwise, I have no idea why the hell my sales are dead in the water when there's clearly interest in the books from readers.

I'm genuinely curious about your thoughts and experiences, so if you have time, please chime in. I'm not upset or anything. I'm just not sure how or when this pattern emerged and I'd like to try and reverse it if at all possible. If the industry itself is showing that the permafree model is beginning to fail across the board, then I'm happy to start researching what will work instead.
It's not just you or your books. We find ourselves in competition with streaming movies at $10 a month. We all definitely need new ideas. I tried lowering the price on all my books and even that didn't help. It's really a downer.
 
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
It's not just you or your books. We find ourselves in competition with streaming movies at $10 a month. We all definitely need new ideas. I tried lowering the price on all my books and even that didn't help. It's really a downer.
Ouch. Man, I'm really sorry to hear that. In a small way, though, it is comforting to know we're struggling together. It's tough out there. Thanks for weighing in.
 

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The economic consequences of the pandemic have altered a lot of entertainment revenues, including eBooks. Obviously, it doesn't hit everyone equally. My own sales have gone up and down. I still get sales, but they're not consistent. So, some of what you are experiencing is the greater economy. And yeah, with a lot of people still at home, they are finding other forms of affordable entertainment, as Marti Talbott mentions.
 

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My gut instinct is:
UF PNR is incredibly competitive. The top earners are constantly releasing new books. Constantly.

Are you releasing new books? Your titles are old enough now that they could be considered backlist. Are you releasing any new series? If you do, it will lift you financially and keep your old titles selling.

Yes, it's time for a box set. It gives you a new product to advertise.

And, if I'm reading the previous posts correctly, you have some books in KU and some wide. That isn't helping you. It's pissing off the readers in KU who can't get everything, and it's pissing off the people wide who can't get everything. You need to pick either KU or wide for the whole series, and stick with it. Then, spend money on advertising your book ones via FB or AMS ads instead of just reduced price promotion sites. The more you use the promo sites for the same title, the less effective they are for that title.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
My gut instinct is:
UF PNR is incredibly competitive. The top earners are constantly releasing new books. Constantly.

Are you releasing new books? Your titles are old enough now that they could be considered backlist. Are you releasing any new series? If you do, it will lift you financially and keep your old titles selling.

Yes, it's time for a box set. It gives you a new product to advertise.

And, if I'm reading the previous posts correctly, you have some books in KU and some wide. That isn't helping you. It's pissing off the readers in KU who can't get everything, and it's pissing off the people wide who can't get everything. You need to pick either KU or wide for the whole series, and stick with it. Then, spend money on advertising your book ones via FB or AMS ads instead of just reduced price promotion sites. The more you use the promo sites for the same title, the less effective they are for that title.
Ah. The reason the two books were KU was so that I could use them to advertise for free. That's the only reason. I never get any KU reads, so I'm totally fine with taking them out of it. The other thing is the two titles in KU are not the main novels--they're more like fun add-ons to the series, so that was why I used them to draw in readers and filter them into the novels themselves. Thank you. I hadn't considered that the KU thing may have been an external frustration. I'm formulating a strategy based on the feedback I've gotten so far, so I appreciate your advice.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
The economic consequences of the pandemic have altered a lot of entertainment revenues, including eBooks. Obviously, it doesn't hit everyone equally. My own sales have gone up and down. I still get sales, but they're not consistent. So, some of what you are experiencing is the greater economy. And yeah, with a lot of people still at home, they are finding other forms of affordable entertainment, as Marti Talbott mentions.
Okay, thank you so much for chiming in. I appreciate it!
 

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I'll brainstorm because you seem to be doing lots of things right. Maybe some of this could help:

Cut down on free. You certainly have enough reviews. People might be waiting for free sales.
Get out of KU (unless you can somehow push ads to sell more reads). Wide is good when KDP slumps.
Make a collection. Especially your dragon book which would look super cool as a boxset.

Write more stuff. You've got some awesome books going but maybe you need to find a waving hand in the crowd.
Short stories (dare I say Vella)? New releases? Adaptations of what you already have (other formats)? Prequels? etc.

Maybe the free promos aren't working as well because you're doing them too much. Try something fresh (and PM me if you find something that's gold ;) ).
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I'll brainstorm because you seem to be doing lots of things right. Maybe some of this could help:

Cut down on free. You certainly have enough reviews. People might be waiting for free sales.
Get out of KU (unless you can somehow push ads to sell more reads). Wide is good when KDP slumps.
Make a collection. Especially your dragon book which would look super cool as a boxset.

Write more stuff. You've got some awesome books going but maybe you need to find a waving hand in the crowd.
Short stories (dare I say Vella)? New releases? Adaptations of what you already have (other formats)? Prequels? etc.

Maybe the free promos aren't working as well because you're doing them too much. Try something fresh (and PM me if you find something that's gold ;) ).
Thank you! The feedback from this thread has been a great help in forming a new strategy. I'm going to create a boxed set for The Black Parade series and dump KU and go wide with all the books in the series. The dragon hunting series is still ongoing, so I won't make a set for that one until it's done, but it's also performing better because it's more recent, so I'm not as concerned with its performance, but now I know what to do once it's concluded. I appreciate your help!
 

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When you say price pulsing, are you using the Countdown promo method or are you just actually changing the price of the book itself on a scheduled basis? I'd like to learn more on the strategy. Thanks so much for chiming in.
I am not in KU, so I just change the price.
 
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