Posted in Book Marketing | Posted on 21-10-2013|
As authors, we’re always looking for ways to sell more books. We’re sure everyone (or at least %0.01384 of the population) would adore our stories… if only they knew about them. Obscurity is the enemy, so it’s no wonder that most of us spend hours browsing online forums, blogs, and the pages of Amazon itself in an attempt to figure out the magical formula for getting our books in front of more potential buyers. In the fast-changing digital marketplace (*cough* especially Amazon), fame (AKA visibility) is fleeting and it’s entirely possible to go from being solidly mid-list to having only handfuls of sales from one year to the next (or one month to the next).
I’ve had a good year, so I can’t complain, and May (the release of my sixth Emperor’s Edge novel), June, and July (release of EE7) were particularly fine, but the overall trend this year has been of fewer copies of each title in my series being sold each month. This is, I believe, largely due to the fact that free books aren’t getting quite the visibility at Amazon that they once did. Outside of promotions, I get far fewer downloads of EE1 than I was getting a year ago. In addition to the free lists no longer being displayed side-by-side with the paid lists, my book has dropped so it’s not anywhere near the top of the Top 100 Free for Epic Fantasy any more. That’s natural: there are always new authors coming along and running promos, using KDP Select free days, experimenting with perma-free through price-matching, etc. I just took a look at the Top 20 free in epic fantasy and most of the books were new to me (with the exception of Joseph Lallo’s Book of Deacon which never seems to fall out of the Top 20 — I’d glare and give him the squinty eye, except he’s a really nice guy).
I’ll pop back up there when I pay for an ad on one of the sites that can make a lot of people aware of your books (I have a Bookbub ad lined up for next week), but I don’t expect EE1 to linger in the Top 10 for long. Also, there’s a limit to how many times you can advertise the same book with the same two or three sites that actually deliver a lot of targeted readers.
Of course, everything that happens in the free lists is true for the paid listings too. Sure, some authors are still knocking it out of the park, but others are finding that it’s harder and harder to keep selling well over time, even if you have a great launch. I used to say that if you could work your butt off and hand-sell those first 1,000 ebooks or so, Amazon’s algorithms would kick in and help you continue to sell. I think that’s still true, but if you slack off altogether on your own marketing efforts, you might drop to a much lower level of sales than you might prefer. It seems inevitable, too, that books and series will naturally have their peaks, and then sell less well down the road, no matter what we do (on the positive side, there’s nothing to keep us from writing new books and new series, and it’s unlikely that the sales of the old will dwindle to nothing).
But for those who want to keep tinkering and getting the most visibility and the most sales, what are some tactics we can try?
Price Pulsing + Advertising
Something I’ve done before but didn’t have a name for is what David Gaughran calls “price pulsing” in his Let’s Get Visible: How To Get Noticed And Sell More Books. As we’ve talked about before, selling well on Amazon causes Amazon to promote you so you continue to sell well (or even better), at least for a while.
It’s no surprise that it’s often easier to sell well with a less expensive book. Sure, there are exceptions, but for a lot of readers, they’ll try a 99-cent ebook without the hemming and hawing that might go on for an unknown author listed at a higher price point. Of course, the 99-cent price isn’t attractive to authors because you only make about 30 cents per sale since the 70% royalty doesn’t kick in until you list at $2.99 and up (up to $9.99 that is).
With price pulsing, you try to get the best of both worlds. You might set your regular price at $2.99 or higher, but then run 99-cent or even free sales to increase the sheer number of books delivered to people’s e-readers. This gives your Amazon ranking a boost and can increase your visibility in Top 100 lists and other books’ also-boughts, thus resulting in more readers simply stumbling across your books. When you end the sale, you may enjoy that amplified visibility for a while, ultimately selling more copies at your desired price point than you were before. Eventually, the sales may drop off again, but by then you’ve gotten more people to try your series, made some extra money, and perhaps earned a few more reviews. In a couple of months (perhaps to help kick off your next release), you might give this a try again.
It should be noted that just dropping your book to 99 cents may not result in increased sales. I’ve tinkered with this myself with Encrypted (which has never been free), and I rarely saw a bump when I dropped it from $4 to 99 cents if I didn’t do any extra promoting. Bookbub is the best at delivering a lot of targeted readers right now, but they’re also getting harder and harder to get into (not to mention they’re quite expensive for the popular categories). Some folks are having luck with Freebooksy, Kindle Books and Tips, and Kindle Fire Department. A new one I’m trying that isn’t yet charging is The Fussy Librarian. They’re following a similar model to Bookbub (targeting their audience so mystery fans get mysteries and SF fans get SF). Many of these sites want to advertise “bargain books” anyway, so they work well with the price pulsing method.
Do you have to plunk down money to do promotions? No. It’s a popular tactic since some of these sites can reach many readers and because many authors would rather spend their time writing than coming up with clever promotional ideas, but if the money’s not there, you can still go the old-fashioned route of putting together Twitter and Facebook campaigns, sending out emails to that mailing list you should have started by now, running contests on your blog, giving away paperbacks on Goodreads, trying to get yourself interviewed on other people’s sites, and whatever other schemes you can come up with to build awareness of your books. I’ve heard of quite a few people having success running group promotions (i.e. a bunch of historical romance authors will get together, put together a sales page with all of their books listed, and go in together on promotions and buying advertisements). You’ll likely find that all of these promotional methods will be more effective when you’re running a sale on your book.
For myself, I’m plugging the ever-free EE1 right now (it would be interesting to try the price-pulsing technique with going back and forth between free and paid, but I’ve had it for free for two years and figure I might as well keep it that way — I know that’s a lot of what’s helped me increase sales in non-Amazon marketplaces), but I intend to run some sales on my EE1-3 omnibus before the holidays. I had good luck with it at Bookbub in May (I dropped it from $8 to 99 cents for a couple of days, and sold 1500 copies at Amazon), but this time I’m going to rework the blurb and do one of those 3D covers, where it’s super obvious to a reader that they’re getting three novels. I’m also going to (finally) upload a version to Smashwords, so it’ll be available there and at iTunes and Sony as well. We’ll see how that does to get some new folks into the series.
How about you guys? Have you played around with advertising and running sales? What were your results?