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How Do You Keep Your Book Sales Momentum Going Over the Months and Years?

| Posted in Book Marketing, E-publishing |

27

When you first release your book, you’re excited to share it with the world, and you’re ready to devote tons of energy to marketing. Blog tours, forum posts, interviews, guest posts, tweets, Facebook updates, advertising campaigns… if you can do it, you will. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll have a great launch, jumping to the top of the Amazon sales rankings. (Don’t worry — we’re not all that lucky, especially with first books, but it’s possible to “win” the slow-and-steady way too, especially if you’re committed to making a career of writing and publishing.)

Inevitably, your time and enthusiasm for marketing wanes, or maybe you feel you’ve exhausted your options (as awesome as Bookbub is right now, they’re only going to promote the same book so many times). Other authors come along with fresh new releases and fresh enthusiasm for marketing. You scowl as your awesome book gradually drops in sales ranking, falling out of the Top 100 lists, and daily sales drop as well. You remember some pundit saying how awesome ebooks are because, unlike with paperbacks, they can stay on the shelves forever, putting money in your pockets year after year. That’s only true, though, if people continue to find and buy your books.

So, how do you keep your sales rolling in, month after month, year after year?

It’s been almost two and a half years since I released my first Emperor’s Edge book, a negligible amount of time to those authors who have been in the biz for decades, but a small eternity in our new e-publishing era, one in which independent authors are making full-time incomes solely on their ebook sales. The Amazon sales charts are particularly volatile, with their rules changing and algorithms being tweaked all the time. Top sellers come and go. Some of the authors I interviewed last year or the year before who had hot new break out books have fallen off the radar in the 12-24 months since.

I haven’t been doing this long enough to swear that I know the answer, but I’ll tell you what I’m doing to keep my Emperor’s Edge series selling and to keep the monthly paychecks high enough that I’m able to continue to pay the bills (and buy chocolate bars and lattes — we all know how important those are for a writer).

First off, I’m continuing to write and publish.

I know this sounds obvious, but some folks get so hung up in the marketing side that they put the writing on the back burner. I’m averaging about three book releases a year right now, and I usually sneak in a short story or novella or two in there as well. My writing schedule isn’t that grueling, and I’ve come across authors who spew out a lot more words a day than I do. If you’re trying to figure out how to get more done each day, you can check out one of the books like, 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love. 10k sounds a little insane to me, but even if you manage 1,000 words a day, you could get two novels out in a year fairly easily. That was my word-count goal when I was still working the day job.

Continuing to release new books in my flagship series is the most important thing I do to keep my name out there where people can stumble across it. Because I’ve gotten to the point where many current readers automatically buy the next book when it’s published, a new release will rise up into the Top 20 of my genre category at Amazon, at least for a while, and this is one way new readers find me. They spot the series for the first time via the new release, and, if they think it sounds interesting, they can go back and try the first book. If they like that, they can go on to buy all of the titles.

I’m planning to publish the last book in my series’ current story arc at the end of the summer, but I won’t do something crazy like killing off the main characters until I’ve written another series that has proven itself capable of being the bill-payer. Fortunately, I still enjoy writing about those characters, so this isn’t any sort of hardship for me. The point is, though, to think like a business person as much as like an artist. Once you figure out what’s popular, it’s probably worth making that your focus.

Note: as I’ve stated before, it’s important to get your readers to sign up for your newsletter, and/or follow you on Facebook/Twitter/your blog so that you can get in touch with them when you have a new release. Don’t assume people will just know that you have a new book out and buy it without any input from you.

Second, I continue to engage in high-result/low-time-investment marketing tactics

I’ve never had a lot of luck with blog tours and interviews and such. They’re a lot of work (time that could be spent writing the next book), and unless you can get onto a very popular blog, they’re unlikely to result in many sales.

On the flip side, advertising can deliver small to huge results (depending on the popularity of the venue) and it only takes five minutes to fill out a form and send money to a site. It’s a struggle to find those popular sites that actually deliver sales, but they are out there. Right now, Bookbub is moving a lot of books for folks, and I’m still hearing good things about Ereader News Today, though I haven’t used them for a while. Pixel of Ink is another big site, though they’re not taking new sponsors at this time (I did, however, have them pick up EE1 a few months ago when it jumped into the Top 100 free at Amazon, thanks to a Bookbub ad).

Watch the Writers’ Cafe on the Kindleboards to see how people’s ads with various venues are going. It’s a good site for keeping up with what’s working and what’s not this month. (Note: I don’t actually have an account there; I just watch. Forums can be a huge time sink without much of a return, insofar as selling books go. If you join, do it because it’s fun and something you’ll do in your free time.)

I also post on Facebook and Twitter (and keep meaning to get more serious about Google+). This is less about selling books and more about keeping in touch with my readers between releases. If you follow me on Twitter or peep at my author page on Facebook, you’ll notice that I don’t plug my books very often (typically only if I’m running a rare sale or releasing a new book), but I believe there are a lot of intangible benefits to connecting with readers this way. Social media sites can be the beginning steps to building a community that has a life even when you’re not around, and there’s no limit to the ways a community can help you, should you ever need it. Also, it’s really fun to hang out with people who share your sense of humor (and they must if they enjoy your books, right?)!

Neither Twitter nor Facebook need to take a lot of time each day. If you grab the apps for your phone, you can check in while you’re waiting in line at the grocery store or watching the kids’ soccer practice.

Lastly, I don’t worry about sales ranking — I just pay attention to the bottom line

I know that if I can sell 400 ebooks a month for each of my Emperor’s Edge titles, I’m making a nice monthly income. Your requirements will vary, of course, depending on how many books you have out and what their sales prices are (most of my EE books are $4.95 so I take home $3+ from each sale), but once you know how many you need to be selling and what you have to do to achieve that, it becomes a numbers game rather than a cross-your-fingers-and-hope game. If you’re crossing anything, you’re not ready to rely solely on this income.

For me, giving away a lot of Book 1s in my series (often via an ad) will result in a very good sales month, one that’ll carry over into the next month. Not everyone who tries Book 1 will go on to buy the rest of the series, but lots of people do. This month, April, is a slower sales month for me. It’s been a couple of months since I released anything (and that was my sequel to Encrypted, a novel with some fans but one that never sold as well as my core series), and it’s also been a couple of months since I had a big boost from running an ad on a popular site. I did run an add on a small site earlier this month, but it only resulted in a few hundred extra downloads of my free book. That said, I’ll still sell 400+ ebooks a month across my EE titles this month.

If people enjoy your books and if you keep the publish-and-plug cycle going, you’ll continue to have readers in different parts of your series, and sales will continue to trickle in. The longer you’ve been publishing and the more fans you have who spread the word, the more of those steady trickle-in sales you’ll get. As long as your book continues to sell, Amazon and the other sites will continue to help you, too, with your books appearing in other authors’ also-boughts and in personalized email recommendations.

I expect May to be a good sales month for me, because I’ll have a new EE book out. As I already pointed out, nothing helps more than releasing a new book, especially in a series that’s already proven itself. The great thing about independent e-publishing is that you can find out quickly which of your books/series are most popular and have the most potential to bring home the bacon each month. Those are the ones you probably want to focus most of your energy on. This doesn’t mean you can never branch out and try new things (it may be the next adventure that really takes off, after all), but I believe that having a series like that is key to getting to a point where you can rely on your book-publishing income month after month.

Do you have any thoughts on this topic (some extra tips for people?) or questions? Let us know in the comments!

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Comments (27)

For the Storm Phase series I’m on track to sell basically the same number this month as I did in January, February, and March. The daily average has been the same. I haven’t done any promotions or ads since December. Book 2 came out in November and Bookbub in December. I find it very encouraging to have steady sales since Book 3 comes out in June. Maybe Wattpad is sustaining it?

My adult books are volatile and sell poorly unless heavily promoted, despite having fans of them. I’m about to redo the marketing and blurbs on them and run a Bookbub ad on the newest one, if they’ll have me again.

Needless to say, I’m concentrating on Storm Phase and YA for the foreseeable future.

I think Book 3 is that magic number where a series really becomes A SERIES and starts to take on a life of its own. People remember the characters and want to check in on them regularly.

But I think it’s a good idea to start a couple of different potential series, especially if you’re a prolific writer. You never know which one will take off to a greater extent than the others.

I’m hoping Book 3 is magic. I think it will be. Book 2 brought stability and minimum wage level income from my writing. I’ll have Book 5 out by this time next year, so I’m excited to see how it goes.

I think it hurts that my adult books are standalone but related books in a series. Just not the same. But I’ve also had three Wattpadders, bless them, tell me the blurbs were boring and they only read the adult books because they loved the YA books so much. One keeps on insisting I fix the blurb for White Tigress so more people will discover it. Hard to argue with that.

I’m also kicking off a new series that’s upper MG this summer. Whether I write more will depend on sales crossing over from fans of the other books.

Thank you for this. I appreciate getting advice from someone who has a number of books out and has been selling well for a while.

I haven’t released my first book yet but I’ve had a Kindle and been shopping “indie” since the beginning. I’ve also seen a lot of authors who sold well at one point disappear later on. I remember one lady from the Kindleboards who sold more than 50,000 copies of her first book only to sell next to nothing with her later books and there have been quite a few. The reviews weren’t that bad so I can’t even imagine how that’s possible.

The other books probably weren’t out when she did so well on the first book. If she didn’t collect email addresses of fans, then there wouldn’t have been a way to tell them about the new releases. Also, if the other books aren’t part of a series, they’re less of an auto-buy for most people.

That, and if it was early in the indie movement there may have been less price competition, especially at $.99 which was huge early on.

This is great timing for me! My debut novel came out in February, and I have lost days staring at sales rank data.

I have pulled my hair out over doing blog tours and interviews – while staring at my ranking. I concluded blog tours had zero impact on sales. More hair pulling & teeth gnashing ensued.

Three months later, my brain has kicked in and I know what to do. I need to write the next book and then the next one after that.

By the way, biggest compliment I have received so far, was a reviewer comparing my wee book to Emperor’s Edge 🙂

“By the way, biggest compliment I have received so far, was a reviewer comparing my wee book to Emperor’s Edge.”

Hah, that’s neat!

Good luck with the sales!

Lindsay, I’m curious, what do you know about Freebooksy? They look very similar to Bookbub. Good site? Worthwhile?

I know I’ve tried it. I can’t remember if it was a total flop or one of those ones that just wasn’t significant enough to leave an impression (i.e. break even). Unfortunately, most of the sites fall into one of those two categories. 😛

Good to know, thank you!

I’m working on book 2 in my series, and it’s definitely a leap of faith since it’s impossible to tell much about how people are liking the series from 1 book. I’m glad to hear that book 3 is the magic number, because I’m hoping by next summer that’s where I’ll be. As always, thanks for your great advice!

My sales stabilized once I brought out Book 2.

As a self-published paranormal Kindle book author, I found this article very interesting.

Thought provoking post!

I don’t think it takes a lot to get a new series going. Now, by that I don’t mean the actual writing of the novel, but instead the writing of the ideas. And I don’t even want to get into the marketing side of it. When you’ve gotten your run out of certain characters and you need a change, it’s good to have something on the back-burner that’s ready to go.

If you take the time to outline some of those ideas that come to you each week or each day, you’ll be in a much better position to start a new series when the time or the need arises. Perhaps you’re thinking of a new concept of magic, or maybe an idea for a great character has entered your consciousness. New terrain features such as mountains or deserts, or even a completely new form of government could all form the basis for a new series.

Whatever it is, just writing out a few paragraphs and saving it for later could help. If you do that enough you’ll eventually have 5 to 10 ‘sample series’ in the works.

Picking and choosing which one you like best, or combining several elements from each, could be the step you need to actually sit down and begin.

I personally never had any success with ads, interviews, etc. I believe what got me on the move was the book cover and then on top of that it was a great book for my audience.

Since, I serialized the series I have been able to set my first book for free once I had enough other products out there for my fans to purchase.

For two years I have been able to say goodbye to the day job. All of that with only 8 products out.

Just like you I am looking toward a better month in May as I have a new release being added to an already successful series.

Lindsay,

I laughed out loud when I read the title of this blog post. Momentum? What momentum? I can’t even get off the ground!

I’ve got two novels out, a short satire, and a third novel coming out next week.

Total flatline.

Oh well… just keep plugging away, I guess.

J

Solid advice. Our motto at Cool Gus is: the best promotion is a good book. Better promotion is more good books.

One mistake I made was releasing five standalones in the past two years. While they had success, including a #2 national bestseller on Nook, I would have been better off publishing books in a series. I’ve corrected that and look forward to moving forward once more.

Reader perspective, for what it’s worth:

1) free book 1
I’m an occasional book thief. If I can’t at least sample a book 1 from a new author, I often DL it, simple as. I could apologize but it would be unrepentant. As a voracious reader I love bookbub. It’s true that I delete a lot of the free or .99 titles before I’ve finished them, but it’s also true that it has increased my book purchasing. For example, I read the first Emperor’s Edge novel and have since purchased all related titles except the Encrypted short story – and that’s just because I haven’t had time yet.

2) social media presence
It helps to know when new books are released, it keeps authors fresh in my mind. On the warm and fuzzy side, it also helps me feel connected and that does make me happier about the whole experience. I’m struggling for words here, but it transforms what could be a pretty isolated event into something fuller, more alive. Quite literally, really, since I can’t ring up Vonnegut and have a chat. I think this strongly relates back to #1 – the downloading of books is easy peasy, and having a connection to a readership has to combat this.

Thank you for this post and update. It’s always interesting to find out what’s working for authors in the murky quagmire otherwise known as book marketing.

[…] How Do You Keep Your Book Sales Momentum Going Over the Months and Years? | Lindsay Buroker […]

I haven’t had any time at all to devote to my writing, much less marketing, for a while and was having trouble getting back into it. Somehow, all your solid and straightforward advice makes me feel motivated again. Thank you!

Yet ANOTHER great post; is there no end? (I hope not!). Lots of great information here to process and make notes of for future research. Thanks!

There’s definitely something to writing a series. My debut novel was a standalone, and I’m constantly being asked if there will be a sequel. I always feel kind of bad when I say no!

I’m working on a series of novelettes now. The first comes out on the 7th. I’m hoping I’ll be able to point people in its direction next time someone asks about my standalone. The genre isn’t the same, but the series is appropriate for the same age group, so a girl can dream. 😉 (My standalone is YA, and my series is geared toward a New Adult audience.)

I agree that you start to really start seeing an increase in profit/sales after your novels become a “series” BUT that also is the same point in time when the digital pirates cause you to lose the most money in sales. When series of ebooks are published, pirates know that they can easily group the 3 or 4 etc novels of your series into a group package available for download for free on a number of sites. Some of them will actually make money by selling your ebook series on some sites as well. Unless you can stop ebook theft from happening with your series you just finished putting all the time into.

Have a look at my starting blog and services if you are at all curious: http://stopebooktheft.com (Lindsay, feel free to let me know if this is an issue for you though)

Thanks.

[…] to get yours any eyeballs. You know you want this, and you’re willing to get there using a slow and steady method. Sometimes you feel like you’re getting nowhere, though—especially in the beginning, when […]

A great post and there’s some great comments. Just started my Patreon page to try and plug my short stories and poems. Will be focusing on them and trying magazines and journals.

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