Friday, October 18, 2013

How I Sold 910 Copies of My Book in One Week



Not to brag, but rather to share and encourage…

During the entire month of September, my self-published suspense novel Valley of Thracians sold a grand total of four copies. This was despite the fact that the book had received favorable reviews on Amazon; it had been featured and spotlighted on many book blogs; and I had written guest posts on various authors' websites.

My marketing strategy since publishing the novel at the end of January included its being part of the KDP Select program, making it available for Kindle exclusively at Amazon. During the month of March I ran a five-day free promotion, and the book was downloaded by over 8,000 readers all over the world, making it a 'bestseller' for three days, if you can define a free book as something that 'sells'. But after the digital book went back to its normal price of $4.99 a copy, sales dropped off steadily, reaching a new low with the four books sold in September.

Clearly, potential readers were not being enticed to buy the book. I needed to do something to increase sales.

I had heard about BookBub many months ago from other authors who were raving about their great sales after posting paid advertisements in the targeted newsletters. In comments on writers' forums the authors said, without exception, that they had made their money back and that advertising in BookBub was the only place guaranteeing such a high success rate.

Consider this: BookBub sends newsletters to readers according to their specific tastes in books. Looking through the various categories, I considered Valley of Thracians a suitable candidate for the Action and Adventure newsletter, which reportedly has more than 200,000 subscribers. Twice during the month of April I applied to advertise in BookBub and twice I was rejected.

This is the other thing I learned on writers' forums. BookBub is very selective about the books it includes in its newsletters. I believe that my applications were rejected for two reasons. I had just run a free promotion during the month of March. And, I did not have very many reviews on Amazon at the time.

Is advertising a wise investment in your book?

The summer passed and with the sales drop in September, I decided to make another attempt to advertise in BookBub. By now, my novel had garnered 37 reviews on Amazon, and the overwhelming majority of them were 4 or 5 star reviews. My application was successful. I paid $180 in advance and scheduled the promotion.

Another major advantage of selling books solely through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing is that I can change the price at will. On October 1st, I lowered the price to $0.99. The BookBub advertisement was scheduled for October 3rd, giving me two days to try promoting the discounted book by myself on Facebook and Twitter. My own efforts did not result in more than a handful of sales. And then the newsletter came out.


The wording in the advertisement is BookBub's. I would never have thought to describe my novel as a cross between "Taken" and Indiana Jones. But, it did the trick! When I checked my book's ranking on Amazon the next day, it had peaked at 176th place in the overall ranking for the paid Kindle Store. In the Action and Adventure category, the book was listed in 10th place, behind the likes of Dan Brown, Tom Clancy, and Daniel Silva. In the Travel Adventure Fiction category, my book was ranked in first place.



I hesitated about checking how these great rankings translated into actual sales. I decided I would only look at the Kindle reports at the end of the week-long discount. Also, there was one additional element of the promotion.

Results of my promotion

For the discount period, I had basically put all my eggs into one basket, spending money only on the BookBub advertisement. However, I had a good feeling for EReader News Today, the newsletter that had helped me "sell" more than 8,000 free copies of my book back in March. With this newsletter, you don't pay in advance, but rather a percentage of the sales recorded as having taken place through the link they provide. A short advertisement appeared in this newsletter on October 7th, however, as I would later see in the statistics, not too many sales took place as a result.

When I finally checked my reports, I was amazed to see that I had sold 910 copies of Valley of Thracians. And that was just on Amazon.com, as there were a few sales at Amazon's Canadian and UK sites. You can easily do the math. 910 copies at 35 cents royalty each is $318. I had more than covered the expense of the advertisement. And a few additional sales were made after the book went back to its original price of $4.99.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. I could not have afforded advertising the book at its original price and I certainly would not have sold as many books if I had not reduced the price to $0.99. I highly recommend advertising through BookBub, as their newsletters reach exactly the kind of audience that will be interested in your book.

See also:

** How My Book Became an Amazon Bestseller (for 3 Days)

** The Kindle Author Who Has Never Seen a Kindle

** How I Found My Editor


46 comments:

  1. Ellis, this is great! thanks.
    Godwin

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  2. Excellent article and congratulations on such fabulous results! Because I chose to publish through BookBaby rather than KDP and take advantage of their formatting services and ability to push the book through multiple platforms I can't do free offers... With some coordination I can drop the price a bit for a while - so maybe when I have enough reviews I shall BookBub! What's the criteria they work on - do you know?

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    1. You need to check their website. I listed in the article the reasons why I think they originally rejected me.

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    2. Thanks, Ellis. I will check into this option.

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    3. Sometimes they'll just reject you and you haven't got a clue why. I worked with them successfully some time ago and it was great. But with our newest book (which has lots of good reviews, hadn't been discounted recently, has a great cover, is the best book this author has ever done), it was rejected. I asked why, since I had had conversations with them before but they refused to give a reason. I felt quite stung that I had been one of the initial people to sign up with them and now that they're big and popular they just dismiss me out of hand.

      So if you can get in, it's great. But if you can't, you'll probably never know why.

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  3. I had a 99 cent sale and also became an Amazon bestseller, even without BookBub. Readers love bargains! I'd love to do a BookBub promo but it's too expensive in my genre. I hope your 900+ downloads garner you more reviews. Thanks for sharing your experience!

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  4. Way to go, Ellis. This level of detail is really hard to find. Thanks.

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  5. Hi Ellis, thanks for sharing this great information as I will be launching my first book next month, Conflicted Hearts and appreciate all the tips! :)

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  6. Thank you for sharing! I'm so happy you've found such success!

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  7. Thanks for sharing you experience in such detail. (Clicked over here from AW, btw. I'm ralf58 there.)

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  8. Very interesting to a newbie, still unsure of whether I'll take the indie plunge.

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  9. That is awesome! Thanks for sharing your strategy.

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  10. Thanks Ellis for sharing. Bookbub promotion in March helped my sales afterwards, listing the book to #1 in Historical Fiction.

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  11. Thanks for sharing your strategy, Ellis. I'm doing all kinds of marketing for my two novels, Friend of the Devil and Germania. These last two month so we've sold seven books each month. We feel giddy as schoolgirls. BookBub might just be the ticket.

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  12. As someone in the writing kindergarten, this is such great info. Thank YOU Ellis! You are an admirable risk taker!
    @lucymaina

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  13. Great blog Ellis. Did you feel that you had to lower the price to .99 to get volume? I'd love to know how many you would have sold at the original $4.99. I have plenty of reviews but my genre is a hybrid. It's a legal suspense novel in the context of violence in baseball. I don't know how to promote it. I'm really reluctant to spend $180 when my earnings are so minimal, but you gave me pause to reconsider. Mazel Tov

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    1. I lowered the price to make the book more affordable to readers, and so that I could afford the advertisement in BookBub.

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    2. BookBub charges a higher rate for higher priced books.
      http://www.bookbub.com/partners/pricing

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    3. They also don't accept books that aren't discounted in some way from their usual price.

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  14. Way to be awesome! I get BookBub delivered everyday, but it is still a little high for my tiny budget. I'm so glad it worked for you, I'll definitely keep it in mind.

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  15. This is really useful, thanks

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  16. Almost every indie authors has contemplated running a Bookbub advertisement as part of their publishing scheme. Is it worth the investment?

    Although its ads consistently generate lots of sales in the short term, does it create sustainability over the long term? Does it expand an author's platform? To Bookbub or not to Bookbub? That is the question.

    Thanks for sharing Ellis. You have a great blog. Keep up the good work.

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  17. I love BookBub! They create wonderful book blurbs as Ellis pointed out in his post, they're very selective (so make sure your submission is up to snuff), and they know how to market your book to the correct targeted genre. My book received over 16,000 downloads when we used them during the KDP Select period and reached #8 overall in free Kindle books for about three days and it ranked #1 in three different Amazon categories for about a week.

    As Ellis mentioned, run other marketing promotions back-to-back to keep the momentum (and sales) going. Great post!

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  18. I almost didn't click your link because most blogs with similar titles want me to enroll in expensive how-to course and lack personal experience. Thank you for generously sharing your experience. Off to check out BookBub.

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  19. Thank you for sharing this information, Ellis. I have just started the querying process for my book but always with the idea in the back of my head that self-publishing may just be the way to go. Congratulations on the sales and marketing success!!

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  20. Thanks for sharing this, Ellis.

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  21. Great article, Ellis. Thanks for sharing that!

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  22. Thank you Ellis. I will look at this, as my sales have definitely slacked off.
    Scott

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  23. Now that's the kind of tweet I'm happy i followed. Thank you for sharing this info. Mindy Halleck

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  24. Thank you.. But my authors books are all erotica and Booked doesn't take erotica.

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  25. Very useful post Ellis! Thank you. I am writing on my first novel and for sure I will save your advices.

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  26. Thanks Ellis! I'm journeying through this very thing! A great post!

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  27. Very informative post, Ellis, thanks you. I heard BookBub is very picky but I don't think from Bookbub rejected you because you had only 6 reviews - I have seen books promoted on their newsletter with even 2 reviews and by the way they don't matter so much (!). A great reminder to check forums for whatever the question may be and I'll keep an eye on the other marketing newsletter you reported.
    How do you pick up in which category to put your books, Ellis? I heard the small the niche is, the better.

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  28. I, too, have been rejected by BookBub, but your article gives me the impetus to try again. I hope they will accept my bestselling books soon! Great article and thanks for the advice!

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  29. Your articles are wonderful resources for writers. Thanks for the heads up Ellis.. Best, Vanessa de Largie

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  30. That is FANTASTIC! I've been turned down twice by BookBub too :( I'll be applying every four weeks until I wear them down :D I can see that it's worth it! Thanks for the insightful post and best of luck!

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  31. Very interesting and provocative post for those of us indies who haven't yet stuck a toe into the advertising waters. I'm just not sure this pays for a memoirist. That genre is more challenging than fiction. (Even though my book reads like fiction, it is actually true!) So, a bit more research for me but in the meantime, kudos to you. Wondering, since this post is a bit old, how the sales went in the months following?

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  32. Hi Ellis, this was really great information and very encouraging. I'm a newbie with several short stories completed and have been debating on whether to go the traditional route or publish as an Indie author. Your success story has helped tipped the balance toward Indie.

    Thank you.

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  33. How did you get the 37 reviews? I've been banging my head against that wall.

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    1. Contact book reviewers, other authors who write in the same genre, develop a Twitter following - there are many ways, but it takes time.

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