Sales Myths and Conundrums

Some ideas about sales are as realistic as this.
Why do some books sell and others remain stagnant? And how do sales cycles work? And what’s the deal with Kindle Select? Is it worth it? Everyone with a stake in the publishing world has been trying to figure these things out. Now that I’m a seasoned self-publisher–ha! I’ve only been at this a year–I have some theories.

Reviews
For a while, I thought it was mainly positive reviews that created buzz and spurred sales. Now, I’m not discounting reviews as a very important factor in the success of a book, but I don’t think they’re the only factor. I’ve watched dozens of books take off up the sales charts with mediocre to poor reviews, and I’ve also heard reports of books experiencing a sales spike after they receive negative reviews. And I’ve watched well-reviewed books lose momentum. Don’t get me wrong: I want people to enjoy my books. That’s why I write them. I want to entertain. But one bad review isn’t going to kill a book. However, an accumulation of reviews that are critical of the same thing–especially poor editing–will do real damage.

Visibility
People can’t buy books they can’t find, and it breaks my heart to see good books, especially those by my friends, languishing because of lack of marketing. Amazon is good, but you can’t just upload a book and hope it sells. Experimentation is required in marketing in order to find what works best for you at the moment. That may mean ads, sponsorships, genre bestseller lists, book review blogs, or giveaways, but it’s got to be out there. People have to be able to see it in order to buy it.

Sales Fluctuation
For a long time, I believed that once a book fell in the ranks, it was all over. I don’t know if that was a hold over from the traditional publishing days when you had one month to make a book into a hit, or if it was just based on my fear of failure. But based on what I’ve observed, the idea that a book cannot recover if it slips in sales is untrue. I’ve watched lots of books go up and down over the past year. Sales fluctuate, and now I have actual numerical proof. All of my books has slipped and then recovered later. Sales fluctuate.

Kindle Select
I’ve given away all my books as free promotions on Kindle Select, and I’ve had fantastic results. In March, I experienced record sales income, which is truly staggering to me, and grown my Facebook page rather significantly. In contrast, I’ve watched other free promotions that did not result in the same sales. I’m not sure why. Maybe the markets for those books were smaller, or Amazon was slow that day. I don’t know. But I’m starting to think that the more books you give away on the free day, the better the bounce later. That could be a natural result of larger markets or more attractive books, or it could be something built into the algorithm. Not sure.

So how to wrap up? Well, I guess my message with this blog is that none of us really have book sales figured out, and because of the rate of change in the indie pubbing industry, we will probably always be riding sales fluctuations and doing major marketing experiments. All I know for sure is that I appreciate everyone who has read one of my books. I love being able to share them–especially now that I can give them away for free so easily–with other people, and I hope you all enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.

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Comments

  1. I left this out, but I think having more than one book out helps a great deal. Just wait until Atone is out!

  2. I’m curious whether your books enjoyed robust sales before the Kindle free promotion. My book had sold exactly eight copies–including the seven I had sold to friends and the one I had bought myself. Then I offered the book for free and was stunned and delighted to see thousands of copies downloaded, including dozens in other countries. Now the book is again for sale at the apparently prohibitive price of $2.99 and I have not sold a single additional copy. Not one. I haven’t even gotten a review. Is this normal?

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