Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Kindle Select results and Giveaway

First, the giveaway: Shadow Born, the first title in the Shadow Born Trilogy will be available free for one day on Amazon Kindle (Wednesday). I've had such success with the Kindle Select program that I've decided to make regular (but not frequent) use of the giveaway promotion. In this case, I'll be giving away Shadow Born to encourage sales in the entire series. My experience thus far has led me to believe this is a sound tactic, so long as it's not overused. My concern is that with so many authors now giving away so many titles, the summer slump is going to be more like a swan dive... more on that below.

My first experiences with Kindle Select have been very exciting. I've already blogged about the way The Tinkerer's Daughter was downloaded 2,000 times in a single day. This led to massive growth in sales, and led to broad sales growth across the rest of my titles. Since the giveaway, the initial jump has trickled off considerably, but I'm still on track to sell 1,500 books this month. That's more than double my best month prior to Kindle Select (when I sold about 700 titles in December).

I did hit a slowdown in January, but the rejuvenation I experienced from Kindle Select boosted my sales for the month to over 1,000. In February I did another experiment, this time giving away my thriller. I gave it away for two days, hoping for a little better exposure than I got with Tinkerer. I never would have imagined that I'd give away 14,000 copies.. but I did. Despite the massive flurry of downloads, that title only peaked briefly at about 50 sales per day and then trickled off. I believe part of this is due to the fact that I only have one other offering in that genre, which is a short story. Sales of that short have jumped as well, but it's just a $0.99 short so it doesn't count for much in the profit arena. However, this was just an experiment. I wanted to see how the giveaway would affect future sales of the thriller. Just like with Tinkerer, they peaked and then trickled back. Not unexpected, and a valuable proof of theory. On both counts, sales still remain higher than they originally were proving that Kindle Select is an effect means of advertising.

Across the board, I was selling more than 150 books a day for about two weeks. That was nice, but now I'm selling 50 per day on average (on some days, 20). Still better than before but not where I want to be.

I know that doesn't sound terribly optimistic but the fact is, going from a few hundred sales per month to 1,500 sales is phenomenal growth. The difficulty I will face now is the plunge in spring sales that seems to hit this business especially hard. February thru June are notoriously tough for e-book sales. Last year, I managed to buck the trend with slow, steady growth all year, but last year I was selling much smaller numbers. Going from 4 sales per day one month to 6 the next month is growth, but not massive. This year it may be a struggle just to hang on to my 1,500-2,000 sales. I'm counting on Kindle Select to be my ace up the sleeve. The giveaways may cannibalize some future sales but I have enough of a library to entice some of those buyers back for different books. I've already proven this with my experiments. Plus, I'm producing new titles regularly.

My approach for this summer, assuming nothing else changes, will be occasional giveaways and a steady stream of releases. I have already written books Two and Four of the Hank Mossberg, Private Ogre series. I have some details to work out before I write book Three, but I'm very excited to write it and I think it will be the best of the four when it's done. Sometime in March or April I will work on my revisions to book Two and publish it before summer. If things go well, all four books in the series will all be live by December. 

I have also just released Shadow Rising and hope to finish the final book in that series either this year or early in 2013. I'm working on the sequel to The Tinkerer's Daughter right now, which I'm hoping to release before the end of summer. I will have the first draft done by then, but I won't sell the product unless it's polished. That means time. How much time remains to be seen. I won't release the sequel until it lives up to and hopefully exceeds the first, which I don't need to remind you is my best selling title across the board. Because of the subject matter and the feelings that so many readers have developed for that character, I would be remiss to do any less.

If I have the time, I'd also love to write a couple of mystery/thrillers that I have outlined. The greatest problem at this stage is finding the time. I have real-world work and responsibilities that make it difficult to launch a new career. Writing takes time, not just in the initial production but in finessing a good book out of a rough draft, and then doing the publishing work that inevitably follows. Amazon has made this inexpensive and easily within reach of anyone, but my best hope for success right now is in being prolific. One book does not a career make. The eleven titles I've published in the last year are a good start, but still no guarantee of a living wage. One thing I've learned from successful Indie writers like Joe Konrath and Dean Wesley Smith is that writing is not a short game. It's about building a library, about casting a wide net - not only by being prolific, but by writing in different genres and testing new boundaries. I don't think I could ask for better advice than that, and I'm doing my best to follow it. Believe me, if I could have 30 titles out right now instead of 11, I would.

As I close, one irony comes to mind that's slightly off topic but I'd like to share it anyway. One year ago, Indie authors who had started ahead of me were all over the boards announcing that they had surpassed 1,000 sales in a single month. There were threads and blog posts and newspaper articles examining this phenomenon. It really was the turning point when self-published became Indie and literary "failures" became Indie superstars. Well, it's a year later and now those threads are gone. This year, I've surpassed 1,000 sales for two months in a row. If sales had remained at their peak, I could have sold over 4,000 in February. Alas, for now I'm merely a 1,500 a month writer. And the forums are now full of writers who have surpassed 50,000 sales. Hmph. I know I'm riding the wave of a new movement, and that this moment in time will go down in history, but I still can't help but feeling like I'm behind the curve. Ah well, here's to next Christmas. Maybe then I'll have 50,000 sales and everyone else will have ten million.

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