About Last Month

So as many of you know I did a few special free promotions last month, utilizing Amazon's Kindle Select Program. Well, I got my statement today, and while I knew I had sold a lot of ebooks, it turns out I sold a lot more than I had first thought. To give you an idea, November and December of 2011 were my best two months of the year in terms of sales, mostly because it was the holiday season. Well, in January I made about the same amount of money that I did in November and December combined, if not a little bit more. Sounds great, right? Well, it is, but we have to keep in mind that this past holiday season was the biggest so far for ereaders, so ebooks were being bought up like crazy.

My best seller for the past several months has been The Calling, which usually maintains the same sales ranking, bouncing back and forth between the 2,500-4,000 area. Typically that means I'm selling 20-30 copies a day in the US Kindle Store (in the UK Kindle Store, it bounces back and forth between 1,500-2,500 and sells maybe 10-15 copies a day). In January, it kept the same ranking, but I was selling a lot more. In fact, for the month of January alone, between the US and UK Kindle Stores, I sold 1,379 units of The Calling alone. To put that in perspective, that number is more than all of the ebooks I sold in October combined. I'll talk more about The Calling next month, when we come up on its one-year anniversary (hard to believe, really, it's only been a year), and it should be interesting. But for now, let's look at the promotions, shall we?

In the first week of January, I made The Dishonored Dead and No Shelter a Kindle exclusive and free for several days. My reason for doing this? Well, they weren't strong sellers to begin with. In December The Dishonored Dead sold only 45 copies, while No Shelter sold only 30 copies. They definitely needed a boost, so I thought I'd see what a few days free might do for them. Well, here's what happened for these two titles in the month of January:

The Dishonored Dead 

  • Free Units: 2098
  • Units Sold: 93
  • Units Borrowed: 45

No Shelter 

  • Free Units: 14,735
  • Units Sold: 894
  • Units Borrowed: 130

As you can see, there was quite an increase, especially with No Shelter.

The next week, I did another special promotion, making Man of Wax and Phantom Energy free for a few days in the Kindle Store. In December, Man of Wax had only sold 127 copies, while Phantom Energy (which has always ever been a labor of love) brought in a whooping 3 copies. Here's what happened for those two titles in the month of January:

Man of Wax 

  • Free Units: 25,520
  • Units Sold: 1055
  • Units Borrowed: 112

Phantom Energy 

  • Free Units: 374
  • Units Sold: 7
  • Units Borrowed: 2

As you can see, Man of Wax had an incredible increase, though it should be noted that, unlike No Shelter which I didn't mess with the price, after the promotion I made Man of Wax 99 cents for a few days, to try to propel it back up the charts. My hope was that it might breeze its way into the Top 100, where then I could change it back to $2.99 and it would, in theory, stay for a few days, as most readers browse the Top 100 constantly. As for Phantom Energy, well, again it has always been a labor of love and I never expected it to make much money to begin with. But I'm proud of that little book. Oh yes I am.

Anyway, the main question at hand is was all of this worth it?

I believe so. I definitely made more than I would have on Barnes & Noble and Smashwords, and I even gained a bunch of new readers (I received some emails, a lot of readers signed up for my newsletter, etc), though of course the downside is that, as is the case with free books, readers who normally don't read dark violent thrillers downloaded Man of Wax, tried it, and hated it so much they posted one-star reviews. Three one-star reviews out of eighteen ain't bad, I guess, considering that eleven of those reviews are five-star, but it still doesn't help the algorithm. Yet despite that, Man of Wax is selling better this month than No Shelter, which has thirteen reviews, most of which are five-star. So that's surprising.

After all, a promotion like this is a short-term boost. In the month of January alone, I sold nearly 4,800 ebooks. That's quite a lot, compared to what I had been selling (it helps, too, that I have a lot of ebooks available). But what is the lasting effect? Well, currently here are my sales for those titles which I'd run the special promotion on last month:

The Dishonored Dead 

  • Units Sold: 41
  • Units Borrowed: 6

No Shelter 

  • Units Sold: 57
  • Units Borrowed: 3

Man of Wax 

  • Units Sold: 98
  • Units Borrowed: 6

Phantom Energy 

  • Units Sold: 4
  • Units Borrowed: 1

Obviously the sales haven't stayed the same, but I never thought they would. The purpose of the promotion was simply to give those books a boost, and it looks like, for the most part, it has, considering that we've just entered the second half of the month. Will those sales increase as the year progresses? It's impossible to say. Unfortunately, much of it has to do with Amazon's algorithm, which can be unpredictable. As I mentioned before, one bad review can suddenly make your book stop selling, or at least slow down quite a bit. Which is scary, really, when you've started to depend on the money coming in.

The Calling, which I mentioned at the beginning, continues to sell very well. Will it continue? I certainly hope so, but I can't count on it. Do I plan on making it free anytime soon? No. Right now I don't want to do anything to jinx it, and while making it free for a few days might shoot it up the rankings even more after the promotion, there's no telling how high (or low) it might go. And once it peaked, the sales might dip and keep dipping, way below what it's selling now. So it's a gamble, like everything else in life. You have to look at the long-term, but at the same time you have to worry about the short-term, because who knows what will happen in a year (or even next month). Everybody talks doom and gloom of what will happen when Amazon becomes a monopoly and decides to screw over writers, and while that might happen, I figure it's best to take advantage of the 70% royalties right now than to be screwed over by the 25% traditional publishers offer. Besides, Amazon really isn't doing much of anything with their self-publishing program; they don't really have to lift a finger and can just sit back and continue to take 30% or 65% royalties, so why they would eventually mess with it is beyond me.

But that's something to worry about later.

For now, I'm focusing on prepping The Inner Circle for an April release. At the moment, making sure the book is the best it can be is the only thing I'm worrying about.

As it should be.