Is it really all about the numbers?

So long Christmas TreePJ Sharon here, coming to you from the hills, and enjoying country life. As many of you spent Superbowl Sunday watching football, laughing at commercials, and being entertained by Beyonce, I was out ringing in the spring. For me, the beginning of February marks a turn toward warmer weather and longer days. I know there will likely be plenty more cold and wintery weeks ahead, but I figure there are less ahead then there are behind. It’s also my birthday month—time to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going.

Whether we’re talking about football scores, rising temperatures, or adding another year to my age, life seems to be all about the numbers these days. It certainly is when it comes to the book promoting business. Sales figures, rankings, budget—all very important to pay attention to when seeing what’s working and designing any future marketing plans. One of the benefits (or curses) about Indie publishing is that you have immediate access to your numbers. You can follow your rankings and sales to determine if your current promotion is working or if you need to change tactics the next time around.

I’ve done a few FREE promotions through Amazon’s KDP Select Program so I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at them. Whether they are as effective as they once were, or if all of these FREE books are killing the publishing industry are topics for another day. For today, I’m happy to share the all-important numbers of an Indie-published author trying to make a dent in this tough book economy. Last week, I had my second Contemporary YA novel, ON THIN ICE, available for FREE for three days. I thought you’d be interested in seeing how one of these FREE runs is done, and decide for yourself if it’s worth the work and expense.

January 1-25th 20 copies sold (2 borrows) (I won’t include all the foreign sales, but this title does tend to sell well in the UK)
Amazon Ranking: #75,623 in Kindle Store

FREE Run January 26-28th
Saturday, Jan 26th
Amazon Ranking: #64 in Kindle Free Store
#2 in Kindle store>Kindle e-books>Teens>Romance

Sunday, Jan. 27th
4,171 additional downloads
#19 in Kindle Free Store (highest ranking achieved in Free Store)
#2 Kindle store>Kindle e-books>teen>romance

Monday, Jan. 28th
3,791 additional downloads
#1 in the Teen Romance category…woohoo! Not bad for a book that has been on the “shelf” for a year.

Also notable were the foreign downloads. It’s always so cool to imagine people overseas reading my books!
UK=143; de (Germany)=24; France=5; Spain=2; Italy=1 (crazy Italians!); Japan=3; and Canada=15

Now, realize that when the book went back on sale in the paid store, no one had actually purchased it in three days so the ranking dropped to about 245,250th in the Amazon Paid store (yikes!), but once post-promotion sales started, the rankings jumped back up and hovered between 11,000th to 15,000th all week. I got a slight bump from pre-promo sales of 1-3 books a day to about 10 a day. That’s already beginning to fall back down to about 5 a day with total sales since coming off the FREE promo adding up to 50 copies of that one title sold in the past week. That’s more than double what I sold in the first three weeks of January. I’ve seen a slight boost in sales of my other titles as well. There have also been 24 borrows (as good as sales at $1.81 per borrow), and I’ve gotten a few positive reviews for ON THIN ICE.
Not the results I’d hoped for, but worth the effort? Sure. So here’s how I advertised the sale.

I gave myself a $100 budget figuring I would make up the cost with a post-promo sales bump of about 50 books. I’ve broken even on the promo after one week. Running the promotion on a Sat.-Mon. made it easier for me to be there to monitor results and landed at the end of the US Figure Skating Championships, which I wanted to honor by giving the book for FREE that week and getting it into skater’s hands.

I contacted the following sites several weeks (a month ahead of time in most cases):

Book Bub-It cost me $30 to advertise my FREE run but they are the current “premier” advertising site. It costs more for other genres, but most people are saying it’s worth the ad cost, especially if you’re offering a discounted book.( .99-2.99)
Story Finds-$20
Authors on the Cheap-$25
Book Goodies-$15 for 3 day ad.
Bargain e-book Hunter-$5
Orangeberry Book Tours-$10

The following sites were free to advertise with:
(ENT)E-reader News Today (they book up months in advance and sometimes aren’t open for scheduling), Indie Book of the Day, Pixel of Ink, Awesome Gang, E-reader Café, Free Book Dude, Ask David, Books on the Knob, Free Booksy, The Kindle Book Review, E-books Habit, YA Promo Central, Book Blast (Kindle Fire Department), and I did a post on the Readers Guide to E-Publishing (RG2E) on Saturday.
You’ll find many of these sites and their links listed on Kindle Book Promos at Kindle Book Promos and Media Bistro/Galley Cat.

The day of the sale, I also posted to Snicklist, Addicted to e-books, Free Kindle Fiction, Good Reads (Free Romance Books group), Google+, World Literary Café (WLC), and as many FaceBook pages as possible that had to do with Figure Skating and the US Championships—(Stop back next week when I’ll be talking about niche markets).

Some of the sites have restrictions (many won’t publicize erotica-not that I’m writing that, but some of you are), and some have some gate-keeping systems in place. Digital Book Today requires 18 reviews with an average 4.0 star rating before you can advertise with them. It took some time to weed through all of these sites, but now that I have my list and links, it only takes me a few hours to set up a really comprehensive and relatively inexpensive promotional blitz. Of course I also schedule my tweets to go out three to four times a day, ask my network peeps to spread the word, and spend some time promoting on Face Book throughout the three days.

I know it sounds like a lot of work. That’s because it is. I haven’t found an easy way to reach this many new readers so quickly, or give my sales a boost in any other way that doesn’t require an equal amount of effort or money. I try to do one big promotional event per month. February’s event will be a three day FREE run with HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES right after Valentine’s Day, hoping to hit those new Kindle owners whose thoughtful men bought them an e-reader. After that, these two titles come off of the Select program and will be available once again on BN and Smashwords. I also plan to upload them to I-Tunes and Kobo this go around so that they are available on as many distribution channels as possible. Then I’ll leave the kids alone to see how they fend for themselves while I focus my efforts on gearing up for the release of book two in The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael, WESTERN DESERT, due out in June. It’s going to be a busy spring!

As far as other promotions, there are always the .99 cent sales, blog hops, blog tours, Good Reads giveaways, and contests. Each requires effort and planning and will yield different results depending upon the genre you write in, whether it’s your first or fifth book, and how the wind is blowing on any given day. All we can do is keep writing, add quality material to our cyber shelves, and hope our sails (and our sales) catch the wind when it blows our way.

Today’s Unlocked Secret: Don’t get too hung up on the numbers. Like age, the number doesn’t define us. How we navigate the rough seas tells us who we are. Happy sales!

Any questions?




30 thoughts on “Is it really all about the numbers?”

  1. Thanks for the information! I’m new to writing paranormal romance novels and, while not meant to be erotic, my first “Immortal Relations” was called that by the only retail bookstore that carries it. My second in the series, “Immortal Relations, Love and War” has far less, “Explicit Togetherness” but it has the warning that it is an Adult Book. I just had my first Book Signing at my local Hastings and the results were gratifying. For me, it isn’t the number of books sold or borrowed…it is that the stories are out there BEING READ. I’ll not see the “return on investment” (cost of CreateSpace Publishing) anytime soon, but that isn’t my goal in writing (my third book will be out soon). Thanks again for all the possible sites that I’ll try to use for a “FREE” KDP on the second book when the third comes out. For fun, I scheduled my next book signing for Halloween in vampire costume. 🙂

    1. I love signings for that reason too. There’s nothing like handing that signed copy to a reader you know is going to read it, hopefully love it, and pass it along to friends. It gives me the warm fuzzies every time:-)

  2. Wow, Paula. You should be running a “How to” site with a small fee. Lots of ground work covered to set the stage for success. Keep up the great work and continued success with balancing your many acts.

    1. Thanks, Sis! I’m still learning and unfortunately everything in this business changes on a dime, so there is no one tried and true way of doing anything, let alone being successful at it. It’s all hit or miss, but the more we share information with each other, the easier it is for everyone to find what’s working and what’s not.

  3. I always gain from you. Thank you for sharing your efforts, numbers and results. I love the how to info. I thought about sharing it, but wasn’t sure you wanted the world to know your ‘how to’. It’s a ton of work. I’m glad that you’re there to help us get at it.
    Another article to keep!

    1. I post the information, Sandy, so that others don’t have to spend the time I did figuring it all out. By sharing information, we streamline the process. There is far too much work to do and ins and outs to discover in this business to do it all alone. I so depend on others in the writing community for keeping me up to date on what’s happening and how to…feel free to share it.

  4. YIKES! Paula, you are a fount of information. I save all your posts. Congratulations on a job well done. You keep going girl, you will keep moving forward. I am so, so, so familiar with promo work. Uh oh, a heavy sigh just escaped. Marketing is another career, that one is over for me, never to return. I know, I will hire someone to do it for me. No, not an agent, not a publisher, but a selling expert, maybe the person who does the promo for Julie Andrews and her daughter. You don’t think they do all that work themselves, do you? I think I will eat these words b/c in July, with a finished manuscript under my arm, I plan on pitching at the RWA conference. Then the roller coaster begins its ride. Whoa!

    1. Thanks Sandy. The hard part is that everyone’s results vary greatly. There are some who have terrible results and others who have phenomenal success, and then there are those of us cracking the whip trying to make it happen. The bottom line is that we all do the best we can and hope for a lucky break…just like the old days:-)

  5. Learning the ropes of who to advertise with, and where to post, is one of the most intimidating bits of those considering indie pubbing. You’re right, it’s a lot of work! Kudos to you for being savvy enough to figure it out. Congrats on those sales/potential lifelong readers!

    1. Thanks Meg. All of this information is available through my yahoo groups like Marketing For Romance Writers and IndieRomance Ink. Those folks are tireless about sharing information. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Wow you’re just a fountain of info. I bookmarked this posting so I can go back and use it all when the time comes. Thanks.

    1. Great, Dale. I’ll be sure to help you out on the tweeting side of things. You guys at the WG2E are always so helpful at spreading the word when I do my FREE runs. Thanks!

  7. This is interesting. I haven’t jumped into the self-publishing game yet. I always wonder about the end result of free book promos. Sure, the rankings probably go up, which is good, but does it then translate to sales? I am one of those that worry about the over saturation of free books, lol. Seems like we’re just teaching people to expect all books to be free all the time.

    1. It’s a valid concern, Kristin. A year ago, the free promise were netting great sales boosts. Now, not so much. Oversatiration of free books and consumer expectation is definitely causing problems. Only time will tell where it will all lead.

  8. PJ, thank you! So timely. I just pulled Riley’s Pond off all the other sites in preparation of transferring it onto KDP Select. I want to run freebie promos to coincide with the release of Designer Genes. I worried I’d done the right thing, but after reading your blog, I’m excited to do this. I appreciate you sharing.

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