It’s also traditionally (as in since last year) when e-book sales pick up. At this early stage, new entrants to the market can have a significant effect.
New e-reader owners tend to go on binge-buying sprees, which makes sense – they need something to read on their new toy.
The real boom starts on December 25th and continues through February. However, a smaller boom starts at some point in November – after all the shiny new e-reader models have been unveiled – and millions of Americans crack under the temptation, forego waiting to see who loves them enough on Christmas Day, and decide to treat themselves.
It’s also when all the big releases from the biggest writers flood the charts, while indies spread their peacock feathers and strut back-and-forth in the Also Boughts – hoping to catch a reader’s eye who isn’t too weighed down with Grisham, King, or Connelly.
I had a good month – sales and revenue were up – but much more importantly, A Storm Hits Valparaíso is finally with the editor (or to be more accurate, the first half is with the editor and the second half will be in a few days). This is a book I first started working on almost six years ago. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to publishing it.
Before I get into this month’s numbers, as always, I have two alternative reading choices for those who don’t enjoy looking in someone else’s wallet:
1. If you want to know all about why A Storm Hits Valparaíso took so long, why I walked away from it in the middle, and how I got the idea for it while teaching English in Peru, you have to read this excellent interview by Red Tash.
2. Some of you may have heard me speak about my side-project South Americana - my blog focused on strange stories and historical oddities from South America. I haven’t been able to devote much time to it yet, but I posted something there last week which might interest you. Potosí: The Lost City of Silver is an account of the strange and tragic (and true) history of what was once the richest city in the world, and is now one of the poorest. It’s famous silver mine – which was said to have produced enough to build a silver bridge from Bolivia to Madrid – is still operational, and I got to visit it in 2005. Read more over at SouthAmericana.com.
Okay. The numbers. First of all, I don’t know how long I’m going to keep posting these monthly reports. I think the initial point has been made: namely, that an unknown, unpublished writer can do okay. Second, if things continue to improve – and I think they will kick on a bit with my next release – then this might start to seem like a vanity exercise.
I know, I know. You were there in the dark days of June when the sales dropped below three digits, and the darker days of September when my sales fell by 64% as my Icarus-like soar towards the sun was undone by hubris and the melting wax of no new releases.
I’ll probably keep doing it for a while yet – if people find it useful – this is just a thought which crossed my mind recently, and I’m nothing if not a prisoner to my own serotonin levels.
Let’s get to it. Sales jumped this month, almost doubling my October total. In fact, it was my second-best month in terms of sales and revenue, and by far the best outside the time of a new release. There were a number of reasons for that, aside from the purported rising November tide, which I will get to below.
A handful of those November numbers are Smashwords partner sales that need to be redistributed to earlier months, but I haven’t done it yet. They seem to be getting snappier on the reporting – especially from Barnes & Noble – which makes things a little easier.
Revenue clocked in at around $560 for the month – which is great. I raised the price on Let’s Get Digital to $3.99 half-way through the month and sales didn’t drop at all. If anything they increased slightly. It’s hard to tell for certain as I had so many promo bursts, but I think the “baseline” level of sales has gone up a notch, despite the higher price.
Smashwords sales saw a big increase. Even aside from the 17 sales that need to be redistributed, sales there tripled – mostly down to sales finally getting going (to some extent) on Barnes & Noble and Apple. I only seem to sell shorts on Apple, and mostly Let’s Get Digital on Barnes & Noble. Not sure why, but I’ll take it.
Barnes & Noble sales are going in a nice direction: August 1; September 3; October 5; November 11 (and that’s just the first three weeks – all that have been reported). As for Apple, I seem to sell little in the US. Instead the sales are coming from France, Germany, Australia, and Canada. Hey, it’s all seeds and acorns.
As with any time I have had a nice sales bump, the real action was in the US. I started the month trialing some Facebook ads (for free, a friend had a coupon). They increased the September/October baseline slightly. We are still experimenting with them, and I can’t make a solid pronouncement on their effectiveness for shifting books (they are certainly great for getting Facebook Page likes). The only thing I know for sure – so far – is that the optimum time to run the ads is for a couple of days, then switch them off for a few more.
I had a bigger bump at the end of the month when I was featured on the Kindle Lovers Facebook Page (to get featured there, don’t post yourself, follow the instructions here). Like most promo opportunities, I first heard about that at Kindle Boards.
Both of those bumps, though, paled in what happened in the middle of the month when I guest posted on Joe Konrath’s blog. He has a huge readership, and I suppose it was natural to see some increase (not the reason why I was so excited to do it, but, again, I’ll take it).
I didn’t know when the guest post was going up, and only become aware of it when this torrent of traffic started coming through to the blog. Joe was kind enough to say some nice things about Let’s Get Digital and Transfection and sales of both jumped.
This increase put Let’s Get Digital near the top of the bestseller list in its “genre”, and that extra exposure brought a lot of extra sales when the traffic from that guest post faded. Once it did, I raised the price to $3.99.
I had planned to do it earlier in the month – I had been meaning to test out that price point for some time – but I wanted to give Joe’s readers a chance to purchase at the lower price first.
(Speaking of which, if any of my blog-readers want to purchase at the old price of $2.99, email me and we’ll work something out.)
That higher price means I’m now earning $2.60 per copy sold, rather than just over $2. And, as I said above, sales don’t seem to be adversely affected at all. If you have never trialed a price point higher than $2.99, I recommend doing so – just make sure you give it enough time (say, a month) to evaluate it properly.
I’ll be dropping the price back to $2.99 before December 12th, as I have a KND promotion scheduled, and I want to maximize any boost (their readers don’t tend to buy above that price in large numbers). I’ll probably raise it again after, but we’ll see.
Let’s Get Digital reached a milestone of sorts, passing 1,000 copies sold. The free PDF version has now been downloaded more than 4,000 times, and that has been a significant promotional tool from me (and, I hope, my contributors).
Out of all the emails and tweets I have received from readers of that book (tip: put your email address in the back and make it visible on your blog) around half of them first heard of the book through downloading the free PDF, or somebody copying it and forwarding it on to them. Many of these readers themselves either purchased the paid version, made a donation, or spread the word further.
Some also purchased my shorts. I reorganized my blog slightly so that each e-book now has its own sub-page, with a large version of the cover, review quotes, purchase links to all the major stores, and a link to a sample. You can see the one for Transfection here as an example, and they are all accessible from the “Books” tab in the top bar.
I highly recommend doing this. It only took me a few minutes and I can directly attribute an increase to it (going by messages I have received). With that, and everything else going on, sales of my shorts tripled this month. I already have all my covers in the bar down the right-hand side, and already had a general “Books” page (that’s still there at the top), but thought I would experiment with further sub-pages dedicated to each release.
I think of all these things as little bits of fly-paper – trying to trap all the readers buzzing around my blog – but I probably should keep that to myself.
Anyway, it seems to work, and I’ve now sold well over 400 shorts – which is great because I haven’t released one since May.
November also saw the climax of my crowdfunding project. I raised over $2,300 by using the crowdfunding site to take advance orders for the paperback and e-book versions of A Storm Hits Valparaíso – which should be released just before Christmas.
Thank you to everyone who participated – I was overwhelmed with the response. I’ll be writing a post about the whole experience once all the orders are fulfilled in January (when the paperback is released). Needless to say, it was a hugely positive one.
I brought in more than I was targeting, which has allowed me to think a little bigger for this release. I’ve commissioned a hand-drawn map from a great artist to go in the front of the book. The first draft looks fantastic. We just need to add some place-names, tweak a little, and it’s done. I’ll be showing you what that looks like in the run-up to the release, along with the brand-new cover for the book (the one in the sidebar is just a placeholder).
I’ve got a few promo tricks planned for this release, but they have to remain top-secret for now. I’ll post about them afterwards – whether they work or not. Despite the cost of fulfilling pre-orders, the costs associated with publishing, and some promo, I think this book has already turned a profit.
I also have some media exposure lined up for later in the month. I’ll talk about that when (and if) it happens. But mostly I’m just pumped about releasing this book. I started working on it in 2006, and the whole thing was a steep learning curve from start-to-finish. I gave up on it several times – sometimes working on other stuff, sometimes walking away from writing altogether – but it always pulled me back.
This is the book that I was querying for 18 months – the one that got an agent saying he wanted to represent me, who then (I think) changed his mind (as I never heard from him again). I’ve lived with this story for a long time. Finally pushing it out into the world fills me with excitement and trepidation.
What’s also cool about releasing it is that I get to work on something else. I’ve been rewriting it since August. I haven’t worked (properly) on something new since July. That’s way too long. I’ve been examining my process and my productivity, and I have some big changes planned aimed at increasing my writing speed and my output. I’ll be talking more about that when the time comes.
But yes, new projects are in the pipeline. I’ve several more historical fiction novels outlined, plenty of shorts to come, and a dystopian novella. I’ll also be spending a lot of time over at SouthAmericana.com - building up its readership and posting regular narrative non-fiction vignettes from South American history and culture. I have a vague idea about turning that blog into a book too, but mostly it’s for fun (with the happy side-effect of connecting me with my target audience).
This blog has been going great – over 30,000 views last month, a record. It’s the only metric I get on the free WordPress set-up, but I’m considering moving to a custom WordPress solution on my own domain soon.
Two things give me pause. First, I’m starting to get a lot of traffic from Google – appearing high on key searches – even for generic terms like “pricing” – and switching over can hurt that (at least at first). Second, one of my posts (actually, a fantastic guest post from Mainak Dhar) was featured on the WordPress.com homepage resulting in around 5,000 views in a 24 hour period (and significant traffic for another 48 hours). There was an indication that they might feature me again, so I might drag my heels a little on the changeover to a custom site.
In my experience, traffic spikes like this tend to be “drive-by” readers – in that they will read the post, then move on, not delve further into the site, or do anything like click on book purchase links (such clicks were lower than average on that day). The real value in that traffic was the 200 or so new subscribers to the blog (hi guys) – another reason why you should have your blog subscription links in a prominent position.
So that’s the general plan for this month and next year: more novels, more shorts, a collection (or two), a novella, a non-fiction title (if I can squeeze it in), translating as many of those releases into as many languages as possible through a revenue-sharing model, and continuing to grow the readership of both blogs. Oh, and I’ll probably start selling books direct in January – still considering how.
Thank you to everyone who featured my books on their blogs in the last month. There are too many to name, but I should have thanked you all individually. If not, apologies for the oversight and thank you. I would also like to thank everyone who is spreading the word about Let’s Get Digital and my shorts – it’s really making a difference.
November was an exciting – if tiring – month. There is a lot to look forward to this month, and beyond. But if I’m going to get any of that done, I’ve got to get back to work.
Enjoy your weekend!