Monday, January 20, 2014

A Self-Pub Journey: Sales and Marketing Break Down

So, I keep getting asked about sales and "progress" with BREAKABLE.

I get it. Everyone wonders. But have you considered that asking an author how many sales they've had is akin to asking anyone else what their salary is? Food for thought, perhaps.... Personally, I find it an awkward question. And I know I'm not alone. But the purpose of this blog is to share what I'm learning. So I'm going to share as much as I feel comfortable sharing. Enjoy!

In a highly unscientific visual demonstration, sales since the book released look something like this:

But what does that mean?
That surge is the first couple weeks the book was out. There's no doubt that the rush on full price sales happened in that first week. Then again after my promo in December.
However, the thing I've found interesting is where the sales occur, and which of my marketing efforts have had an impact on them.
For example, on the advice of a friend, I did a free giveaway in December and had over 4000 downloads in 4 days. That's a lot of word-of-mouth. I hit #1 in Teen / Ya - Romance on Amazon, and had a bunch of new reviews. And sales, which had slowed considerably in early December, picked up and were stronger than they had been prior to it. So, count me a happy camper.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. I'm here to talk about sales and where I would put my efforts if I was to do the whole thing again. Here's what I've learned...
Interest Point #1: Sales Formats
My sales have consistently been 30% paperback. I kind of expected that in the first week or so as all my very supportive family and friends rushed out to buy it. But I wasn't expecting that portion to continue.
Would those buyers have purchased it as an ebook if it wasn't available in paperback? Or are they fans of the ebook coming back for a physical copy? I don't know for sure, but I'm inclined to think "no". Only a handful have taken up the Matchbook opportunity which allows buyers to purchase the eBook for $0.99 if they've bought the paperback. It seems to me those paperback buyers are predominantly paperback-only readers. So that's a pleasant thought.
Interest Point #2: Sales Platforms
Nook purchases in the first six weeks made up less than 5% of sales. And self-sales (personal to me - either hand-to-hand or from my website) made up less than 2%! It's funny, but I really thought more people would by direct from my site. Or from me. Instead I would get friends and family telling me they'd already bought it, or online contacts not telling me until they'd already read it. *Shrug* It's not a biggie, just something that surprised me.
Interest Point #3: Marketing Efforts
Giving ebooks away is the most effective  form of marketing I've tried. (And I ran a blog tour of genuine YA book review sites that had a collective online reach of over 50,000 unique readers in my first 10 days). Nothing says "Buy Me" like a $0.00 price tag, I guess. But to be honest, I was stoked that so many people jumped on board. It was something I couldn't do initially because I wasn't exclusive to Amazon. But after I saw how small the Nook portion of my sales were, it seemed silly not to at least TRY the exclusive deal with Amazon. And just the response to that free promo sealed it for me. I'm not certain I'll ever go back to dealing with more than one provider. But I'll let you know if anything new I learn changes that.
Interest Point #4: Reviews & Sales
Expanding on that big ol' web coverage tour I did, it's very clear to me that readers have become skeptical of positive reviews. There's no doubt that the really popular reviewers have an impact on their readers choices. But there's also no doubt that simply having a positive review posted doesnt equate to a bunch of sales. Or any sales, in some cases.

Keep in mind, the great reviewers are posting new reviews daily. It's a rare reader that can afford to buy books every day. So even when they trust a reviewer, your best hope becomes that they add your book to their Goodreads To-Read list. Which brings me to...

Interest Point #5: Goodreads

It would appear that with the exception of the free giveaway, more people have found my book through Goodreads than any other source. As a reader I was very skeptical of Goodreads (in my experience, their mobile apps are CRAP-OLA), so I was hesitant about putting a lot of time into Goodreads at the beginning / prior to release. I now wish I'd done A LOT more work there before the book came out. I think if I'd known then what I know now, I'd be a good two months ahead of where I'm currently at in sales. That said, I can apply that to the next books. So it isn't all a loss.

Interest Point #6: Amazon Rankings

They really, really are just a snapshot. I honestly thought that books which were with popular authors, or sold well, would be "held up" in the rankings. But I got to #1 in Teen / YA - Romance and you wouldn't have a clue if you'd looked 24 hours later. Similarly, I've been down in the 300,000's and back up to the 12,000's in the same timeframe. And that sucker drops fast. Very, very fast... *Sob*

The biggest surprise of all: Amazon doesn't combine sales feeds. So that means if you sell like hotcakes on and stink on, you can top a category in one and bottom out in the other. even more surprising: Paperbacks and ebook stats aren't combined on the same site. So... if one format is doing great, the other can still stink in the rankings. That rubs.

Anyway, I'm going to spend some time this year getting into the nitty gritty of what I did, what I think worked, and what I think didn't. Frankly, no one is more surprised than me that I went exclusive with Amazon, though the paperback is available on B & N through Amazon's extended distribution network... (Yes, you read that right. The mind boggles).  If there are specific aspects of my marketing efforts you want more info about, let me know and I'll prioritize those posts. But I am going to cover everything over the next few months. And get another book out. And try the "effective" bits again with that...

Did I say the mind boggles, already? Yes, well, I'm pretty much living in that space right now.

See you again soon!

Your Turn: Any questions? Feel free to let me know which parts of the marketing / sales decisions you'd like more info about.

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