Why Do Some Books Sell Themselves? 3 Possible Factors

Shut-up-and-take-my-money

Authors dream of readers like you… ūüôā

Whenever discussing a marketing plan for self-published books, I make a point of saying, “Books don’t sell themselves.” You have to get it out there in front of readers. You have to be willing to spend money in order to make money. But, some books seem to need little more than a nudge and they’re off to the races. And, why is that? Case in point, my third self-published book (and, technically, first by me). It’s not breaking records by any means, but it’s the first book I’ve put out that manages to sell 1-2 copies a day with little (I ran a small ad back in mid-September) to no marketing on my part. Compare this to my other novels, which are adult suspense/thrillers, and could collect a ton of dust (and have!) if I didn’t promote them on a regular basis. So, what are some factors that might affect this? Let’s take a look at just a few¬†possibilities.

1. Quality of the writing – Truly bad writing won’t sell. I don’t care how much you promote it. I’d like to think that, while my writing is far from perfect, it’s at least good enough to entertain readers. And, to me, that’s one of the most important qualities to have.

2. Genre – Let’s face it. Some genres just sell better than others. I personally know a few people who churn through 5-6 erotica or romance novels a month. And those types of readers are often not picky about who they read next or who published them. They’re just looking for a good, well-written story. Romance sells. Self-published romance sells and competes very well with the top traditionally published authors. In fact, I’d argue that you can’t find the same level of competition in other genres, but that’s just my unscientific opinion. If you write erotica, I envy you. If you write good erotica at a high rate of speed, you can be a money-making machine. Honestly. They’re out there.

3. Topic/Category – So, you’ve got a well-written story in a genre that should be selling, but still no luck? Well, maybe rollerskating detective nuns aren’t everybody’s thing. Seriously, though. Maybe you’re topic is too niche. Or, is your story so mainstream that it looks like everything else in its category? This “factor” could go both ways. If your story is too different, you may find that new readers won’t take a chance on it. But, if your story is too similar to every other book in its¬†category, you may find yourself competing with the big boys (and girls).

So, why does Danny Dirks sell with little to no promotion (in multiples countries, mind you)? Well, I think it gets help from all 3 of these factors. I think it’s well written, it’s a YA fantasy with dragons, and there isn’t a ton of competition in the “Arthurian” category (apparently). Even at a high ranking (see example below), it still graces the top 100 of 3 sub-categories.

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,371 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#44 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Arthurian
#46 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Children’s eBooks > Fairy Tales, Folk Tales & Myths > Collections
#64 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Arthurian

What do you think are some other key factors that might make a book “sell itself”? Let us know in the comments and thanks for stopping by!

Observations from a Book Fair

 

BelmarBookConBooth

I took this before I had my standing banner up (wind was an issue), but now I think I have to get some book stands… yep. Looks too flat. :-/

I did a book show on Sunday for the first time in what seems like a long time, though it was really just last year. I’ve done several shows since first publishing in 2011 and I was a little bit excited for this one. With doing physical shows, it can help to have a short-term memory. That isn’t to say you should forget what worked and what didn’t, but you should be able to go into it with a fresh attitude. It’s probably why I don’t do more than a couple of shows a year.

I sold 6 books in 6 hours. Three to one person. It’s actually as good as I’ve ever done at this kind of event. Now you see the need for the short term memory. Shows aren’t (typically) money-making events. They’re face-time events.

I considered the day a success, but not just for the sales (which did help me break even for the costs), but the simple fact of getting out and talking to readers and fellow writers. I spoke with many people, gave out a lot of business cards, and chatted with my booth neighbor, horror/sci-fi/paranormal author K. Edwin Fritz. It was a beautiful day and we had some laughs and shared stories about writing and publishing. We each had some sales and chatted about best marketing practices both in person and online. It was refreshing.

As it turned out, the town of Belmar was also having an Octoberfest that day. There was great foot traffic, but the most common thing I heard was, “I didn’t know this was going to be here today!” So, lots of foot traffic, but little in the way of book buying traffic. There were about 25 spaces, but only 20 authors showed, which was fine. They also tried doing panels and readings but, apparently, they didn’t realize there was going to be a live band right in front of the square where we were set up. Hey, it was their first time doing this, so things like that will happen.

I’ve got one more scheduled book-selling event this year, in November. And, while at this show, I was approached to speak at the New Jersey Speculative Fiction Writers monthly meeting next year. Looking forward to that opportunity. I’m also looking forward to doing a few more shows next year. This was my first with more than one paperback. With luck, I might have a fourth this time next year. I’m convinced that having more books helps to sell more books. It helps if they’re good as well.

If you’re doing a show soon, or considering doing a show, I wish you the best of luck. It’s often what you make of the experience that makes the event successful or not.

Goodreads Giveaway Postmortem

Some of you might remember that I ran a Goodreads giveaway for my new YA fantasy novel. I was using a new tactic that involved a shorter time frame, fewer books, and a broader audience.

Mulraney_PENDRAGON_BOOK1_PrintEdition (1)

The giveaway began on August 27th and ended on September 7th. A total of 1409 people entered to win 1 of 5 books. Yay! Over 650 people added the book to their “to-read” list. Yay! The winners came from around the globe, with a representations from Peru, Romania, Italy, Great Britain, and the US.

So, did it do anything for sales of the book? No. Boo! In fact, since the contest has ended, the number of folks with it on their “to-read” list has dropped slightly. This makes me believe that they only added it because of their potential to win¬†it. Anyway, it doesn’t make me any less enthusiastic about sending out copies to the winners. And, I think I might just run another giveaway soon to try and spur further interest.

Total sales of Danny Dirks thus far? 16. :-/ Good thing I had that BookBub run to lift my spirits. ūüėČ

BookBub Postmortem

KDP-Spike

Now that the dust has settled from this week’s Multiples of Six (by Andy Rane) BookBub promotion, it’s time to look at some of the numbers, not only in terms of sales, but reviews and other intangibles.

Book Sales

Before this week, Multiples had languished around #400,000 in the Amazon store, with the occasional sale coming once or twice a month. Divisible had a little more consistency as past readers would discover it. But, it was still only 4 or 5 copies a month at best. On 9/1, Multiples went free (normally $3.49) and Divisible went on a Kindle Countdown sale at $1.99 (normally $2.99).

                            Multiples (KU/KOLL borrows)            Divisible (KU/KOLL borrows)
September 1      404                                                             9
September 2     47,294 (9)                                                409 (2)
September 3     9,044 (9)                                                   114 (13)
September 4     3,083 (15)                                                 78 (10)
September 5*   61 (18)                                                        37 (16)

5-day total        59,825 (51)                                                647 (41)

*Free ended early morning of September 5, so sales on this day were back to full price for Multiples.

Now, on top of this, I’d kind of forgotten about the audiobook for Multiples. The numbers haven’t fully caught up, but as of this writing, I added 143 audiobook sales as well. A pleasant side effect.

Divisible climbed as high as the upper #200s on Amazon on 9/2. It’s still hanging strong in the lower #1000s and is still in the top 15 of its sub-categories (Thriller/Assassinations, Spies & Politics/Assassinations, and Spies & Politics/Political). Multiples had a nice little boost of paid sales when it came off of free and I always expect half of those to be returned as I think someone clicked “Buy” thinking it was still free. But, it’s in the mid #2000s now and in the top 20 of its sub-categories (Thrillers/Assassinations, Spies & Politics/Assassinations, and Thrillers/Conspiracies). Hopefully, hanging around¬†the top 25 of a few of the Thriller categories will help keep it going for a little while. We’ll see.

Reviews

At the beginning of this little venture, Multiples had stood at 21 reviews, the last of which came 13 months ago. This, despite having given away thousands of copies in 2012. As I write this, I’ve added 10 reviews (8 five-star, 1 four-star, and 1 one-star). Even more special to me are the three¬†new reviews for Divisible, which had been out for 9 months, sold ~100 copies, and had no reviews (2 five-star and 1 four-star).

Intangibles

Traffic to my website has certainly increased during the week. Lots of searches for this crazy Andy Rane guy and his writing. ūüėČ Also saw a bump in newsletter subscribers, which is nice. And, lastly, the big question has been about book 3 to close the trilogy out. Well, this rush has sparked the flames of that story once more and I’m going to start focusing my efforts on completing that novel.

In the end, this wasn’t just a boost in visibility, but a bit of a boost to my own ego. I have no delusions of being an amazing writer. I just want to tell entertaining stories. This was a reminder that, despite how I feel sometimes, I seem to be doing an ok job. ūüôā

Thanks for the support and I hope my fellow indie authors find this information valuable!

Wow… BookBub… Wow

That’s pretty much all I can say. As you might have seen yesterday, I ran a BookBub ad for book #1 in my suspense thriller series (Multiples of Six by Andy Rane). The first book was released back in 2011 and did reasonably well over the years (~1200 actual sales). But, being a slow writer, I saw little to no response when I released book #2 in the series, nearly 2.5 years later. I then went on a run of failed BookBub submissions. I’d gone down the free road with Multiples in the past. I’d probably given away just over 20k copies of that book prior to yesterday. So, in my mind, it only made sense to run a sale promotion instead of a free promotion. I wanted my $0.99, darn it! Well, it wasn’t to be, and after countless rejections, I finally asked for a free run. Apparently, I just had to say the magic word (free!) and that would’ve gotten me in long ago (kidding, but it kinda felt like that). Finally, the BookBub folks¬†relented and let me into the pool.

I decided to add an¬†incentive to buy book #2 in the series by lowering that book’s price, in a Kindle Countdown Sale, from¬†$2.99 to¬†$1.99. The joy of the Countdown is that you still get your regular royalty rate, even if your sale price is less than $2.99. So, I would make $1.39 on each copy of the sequel that sold. This was going to be how I recouped the BookBub fee (US$250 for a free thriller). That meant I would need to sell ~180 copies to break even.

I’m a closet optimist. I wear the pessimists mask in public, but I’ve always got high hopes, no matter what. But even I was leaning toward pessimism on this one. I thought the exposure would be good, but I held out no hopes of getting some of the kinds of numbers that romance authors see on a regular basis (a 40k free run is very common for romance, from what I’ve seen). I’m happy to say that my fears were alleviated by midday on Tuesday. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

In preparation for this week, I had notified several sites of my book going free (Pixel of Ink, Ereader News Today, to name a few). So, I was pleased when I cleared 400 copies of Multiples on Monday alone, with 11 sales of Divisible. Eleven down, 169 to go! Not sure where they came from, as I couldn’t find a major site listing my book, but it was a nice start and pushed me up to just over #1000 in the free store by late Monday. My expectations at that point were at least to get into the Top 100 Free list on Amazon. Knowing BookBub’s past successes, I thought I could get that far.

Then I woke up Tuesday morning to a surprise. At 7:24, Multiples was already at #610 on the Free list. I watched the numbers climb slowly during the morning, despite telling myself I wouldn’t keep checking. What can I say? I’m weak. I was really waiting to see what happened when I got the suspense/thriller email from them. It arrived around the same time it normally does, at least for me; ~11:45 AM. That was when things got crazy. Like, stupid crazy.

It was so torrid for a while that the rankings couldn’t catching up. Two hours after I’d received my email, I’d crossed the 20,000 unit¬†mark. Amazon was still saying it was ranked¬†higher than it should have been. I left the house and my KDP dashboard behind for a while in the afternoon. If it was this crazy during the afternoon, what would happen as evening approached? When I returned, I saw what I could have only hoped to see.

Number 1 in Kindle Store-2

Multiples was the #1 free book in the entire Kindle Store. No categories to get in the way. Just #1 overall. It’s 11:08 PM Tuesday evening as I write this bit. I have given away 44,718 copies of Multiples of Six, and sold 379 copies of its sequel, Divisible by Six. It’s now 11:38, and I’m entering this into WordPress. In the¬†half hour that’s elapsed, the numbers are now 45,190 and 382. 472 books in 30 minutes. And that’s slowing down! Oh yeah, and I made my ad fee back… and then some. ūüėČ

As I polish¬†up this post on Wednesday morning, the ride isn’t quite done, but we’re on that slow coast back into the station. Tuesday’s grand total for book #1, according to Amazon, was 47,295. I’m not sure where their cutoff for the day is, but I’m guessing 12 AM PT. Today, I’ve added another 1641 copies in the wee hours, giving me a 60 hour¬†total of 49,343. Oof! Book #2 fared well overnight and reached 409 units sold on Tuesday. Another 16 have sold this morning, giving me a 60-hour total of 434. Multiplied by $1.39 = ~$603. Not bank-breaking by any means, but not too shabby either.

Multiples of Six is still #1 on the free list as I post this. Later, however, someone else’s book will appear on BookBub and more than likely push me out of the way. Sure, I’ll get some play for a few days. My sale lasts until the 5th on both books. But the rocket to the top is over. Looking at Monday’s BookBub freebie, Jackpot by Susan Fleet, it’s still¬†at #14 on the Free list. I’ll have to see where I stand in 24 hours. For now, though, I’m just excited to see how long the tail end lasts. At this point, it’s not unrealistic to expect over¬†55k total giveaways, possibly more. The ‘Bub turned out to be everything I had imagined it could be. Now, as my wife said, “Guess you’d better get your ass in gear on book #3, huh?” Yes dear!

If you’ve got any questions about my experience with BookBub, I¬†hope you’ll ask¬†them in the comments below. No secrets here! Or, if you’ve had experience yourself, please feel free to share! Thanks for stopping by. ūüôā

Some Thoughts on Goodreads Giveaways

Mulraney_PENDRAGON_BOOK1_PrintEdition (1) vs bookcover_divisibleBySix_6x9withBleed_25percent

At the moment, I’ve got two giveaways going on over at Goodreads. One for my suspense/thriller, Divisible by Six. the other for my recently released YA fantasy, Danny Dirks and the Heir of Pendragon. I’ve run giveaways in the past, but never two at the same time. The results are interesting so far.

Now, it might not be fair to compare these two giveaways as they are vastly different books, but the information might be useful for someone planning to do one in the near future. If you read the information that Goodreads provides, they suggeest focusing your target audience, running the giveaway for as long as possible, and giving away as many books as you can. So, when I set up the giveaway for Divisible, I followed these rules. That giveaway runs from July 24th to October 7th; almost 2.5 months. I’m giving away 10 signed copies. Almost five weeks into the giveaway, as of this writing, ~70 people have added the book to their “to-read” list and 178 have entered to win a copy.

Recently, I read a very interesting article over at Catherine, Caffeinated that tossed all of the ideas of what was right and what was wrong on its head. Essentially, she says to do the exact opposite of what Goodreads tells you. Make the giveaway short, give away a few copies, and make it available to readers across the globe. I was intrigued by the ideas and the timing couldn’t have been better. I wanted to give away some copies of Danny Dirks to get the name out there.

So, the giveaway for Danny Dirks began on August 24th and runs until September 7; two weeks. I made the book available to all members of Goodreads, no matter the country. I’m giving away 5 signed copies. Five days in, as of this writing, 169 people have added the book and 356 people have requested a copy.

What does this prove? Well, it could be nothing, really. To compare a YA fantasy to adult suspense/thriller isn’t even like apples to oranges. More like rutabagas and kumquats… ūüėÄ Anyway, I think the point is that, by shortening your window and widening your audience, you might have a better chance at getting exposure. The two most popular times for a book to be added during a Goodreads giveaway are when it’s on the “Recently Listed” list and the “Ending Soon” list. So, the closer you can get those two dates together, the better off you might be. Not sure if there’s a magic number, but 14 days seems to be working out quite well.

If the point of the giveaway is to get your book’s name in front of the most people, this method might be the way to go. Now the true test might be the reviews gained per book given away, but that’s for another day. Hope this little bit of data is helpful.

Have you run a giveaway recently? Any advice to share? Leave comment and thanks for stopping by. ūüôā

Need book swag on the cheap? Wait for a coupon.

Vistaprint

Always wanted a banner with your book cover on it for those shows you do at the local library or independent bookstore? Maybe you wanted postcards, or a brochure, or something fun like a handle bag or custom pen? That stuff can be expensive, but if you use the Groupon going on right now for Vistaprint, you can get $70 worth of stuff for just $27.

I’ve used this method in the past for getting book swag. Banners, magnets, bags, pens, etc. My only disappointment is that they don’t do bookmarks. However, I’ve heard of folks making postcards and cutting them in half. As an independent author, it’s important to budget your marketing spend accordingly, and you can get quite a decent amount of stuff¬†for $70. This one looks like it’s only for a limited time, and it can be regional, but it’s something I definitely recommend you keep an eye out for. I know Groupon is a good¬†source for these coupons, but Living Social can also have them and if you’re looking to make a big swag purchase (t-shirts!), it can put a major dent in your bill.

Know of any good deals on book swag? Or have you done this yourself? Leave a comment below and thanks for reading! ūüėÄ

OMG… the BookBub Gods Have Finally Smiled Upon Me

So, yeah… BookBub. If you haven’t heard of them, then you’re more than likely not a self-published author. If you have, then you know that running an ad with them can often be a marketing and financial boon. I might have set the record for submitting my book (Multiples of Six by Andy Rane) to them… and getting rejected every time. Well, apparently, they just never wanted me to make money off of it. Every time I submitted, I would offer to lower the price of my novel to $0.99. I submitted to them well over 15 times, perhaps 20. Each and every time, I got the standard rejection letter. So, when my next opportunity came to submit, I broke down and submitted the book as a freebie. And now I’m in. My scheduled day is September 2nd.

Mind you, this isn’t the first time Multiples has been free. It’s just the first time in a very long time. You see, back in the day, when the KDP Select ¬†program was in its infancy, going free could be miraculous. My first free day was in February of 2012. I gave away 6700 copies in a single day (thanks to being picked up by Pixel of Ink and Ereader News Today). The next day, the book went back to being $2.99¬†and sold another 450 paid copies over the next month. It was awesome. A few months later, I ran another promo. This time, I gave away another 9000 copies, but the post-free bump was less than half of what it had been a few months before. Amazon had changed their algorithm. A free sale was no longer equivalent to a paid sale. I ran my last free promotion for that book during the summer of 2012. I gave away another 2500 copies, but saw no post-free bump at all.

I’ll admit, I really didn’t want to go free with that book again. ¬†But, now I’m looking forward to it. I only have one other book in that series and maybe it’ll help generate sales and reviews for both.

If you’re looking to promote your book, take a good look at the options. BookBub can be a tough nut to crack into, but the results are well documented. Be sure to check out some of the other sites listed above as well.

Have you had success with BookBub or other marketing sites? Tell us about it in the comments below!