Sales & Stats

February 2019 Promotion Report

Feb 2019 - BookPromo - FREE Downloads
FREE downloads of book #1, “Monkey Arkwright”, during my February promotion

 

One of the benefits of writing the second book in a trilogy is that with the characters and theme firmly established, you can just crack on with the story. Plus, if you’re a big-name author with thousands of eager fans ready to lap the next instalment of your epic, you’ve got a ready-made audience when your new book lands. But what about indie authors who have hardly set the world alight with their opening salvo? Just in case you were in any doubt, that certainly includes yours truly at this point.

So, when it came to marketing the second book in my “Wardens of the Black Heart” series, Black Hearts Rising, I knew that I had to do something in addition to simply announcing its release on 1st February.

My plan – more of a no-brainer than some cunning gambit – was to give away book #1, Monkey Arkwright, absolutely free. I did this a couple of times last year and managed to shift over 1600 downloads, but looking back now, I can see that there were a couple of issues with this. Firstly, I did not have any follow-up that readers who’d enjoyed their free download could buy. Secondly, I believe that many of these free downloads were due to the result of my book appearing on a “current deals” website. Whilst I was grateful for the exposure – and I did get one review and a nice e-mail from somebody who’d read Monkey Arkwright as a result of a free download – the fact that my book sat alongside electric toothbrushes, deep-fat fryers, and all manner of household appliances meant that in general, it was not necessarily serious readers who were doing the downloading.

To address these pitfalls, I decided to place an advert with ereadernewstoday. Whilst BookBub are the undisputed kings of book marketing, ereadernewstoday are generally considered as being one of three or four companies nestling in the pack just behind. They don’t accept anything – your book must have a number of reviews and have an amazon average of at least 4 stars. I’m pleased to say that whilst I’ve not set the world alight in terms of sales, Monkey Arkwright has some excellent reviews on both amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.

I paid $40 for the advert, with the promotion running between 4th and 6th February. I’m quite pleased with the results: 701 downloads in total, with 585 of these coming on the first day of the promotion. I’m hoping that these downloads will kick-start interest in my series. I know that plenty of people will download the book just because it is free and that many may not even open the first page, but let’s say that a quarter of the downloads will get read. That means that 175 readers will actually read the book. Now let’s use a truly conservative estimate that 10% of those readers will enjoy it enough to download book #2 – that’s 17 or so sales for Black Hearts Rising.

I’ve no idea how likely all of this is because to be honest, I’m just plucking figures out of the air. However, I have registered 5 additional sales of Black Hearts Rising during and after the promotion, so it’s a reasonable start. I’m assuming that as some readers will have added my book to their ever-growing to-be-read queue – and if reader’s Goodreads pages are anything to go by, these are big queues – it may be two or three months before I can fully assess the results of the promotion.

Feb 2019 - BookPromo - PAID Downloads
Paid downloads of book #1 & #2 (“Black Hearts Rising”), during and after my February Promotion

If you are an indie author thinking of using a promotion service, hopefully this short article will be of some use. I’ll certainly be using ereadernewstoday for future promotions.

Sales & Stats, Writing

Book #2 – Progress Report – August 2018

writing

Five weeks since the July progress report, and I’m pleased to announce that the sequel to Monkey Arkwright continues to rumble on apace. Despite having a two-week holiday since then, I’ve managed to complete another six chapters, totalling roughly 16,000 words. This brings the total to 24 chapters/66,000 words.

So, as we arrive on the cusp of Autumn – or more commonly known as writing season – I’m in a good position to polish off the first draft well ahead of my original target (end of the year). The six chapters written most recently have yet to be subject to the editorial scrutiny of my editor (youngest daughter, Rachel), but nevertheless, I’m thrilled with my progress. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that there a few issues to smooth over in the second draft stage, but I feel that I’ve really hit the groove with the story on this one. There are plenty of new characters and storylines introduced whilst the central narrative involving Lorna, Monkey and Charles Gooch is advanced by the events unfolding in the chapters written so far.

I’ve got a busy week ahead after which it will be full-steam ahead in completing the eleven chapters to close the second part of the trilogy. Allowing myself time to sharpen the dialogue, tighten the story and fix any nagging issues, I’m optimistic about unleashing book #2 in the first quarter of 2019.

In terms of sales, I have to report that Monkey Arkwright has come to a grinding halt. However, I was heartened when I checked my KindleUnlimited page count yesterday to see that 380 pages had been read! This is almost certainly some brave soul reading the whole lot in one day! So, whoever and wherever you are, a big thank you from Monkey HQ.

Sales & Stats, Writing

Book #2 – Progress Report – July 2018

pixabayCC0 - books

At the time of my previous progress report, in May, I was at the twelve chapter / 30,000-word mark. I’m pleased to report that despite spending a lot of time watching matches in a sensational World Cup, I’ve managed to finish eighteen chapters. That clocks in at just under 50,000 words and represents half of book #2.

The reason that I’m so pleased with this figure is twofold. First up, I’ve stated on several occasions that autumn/winter is my main writing time, so to get so much done in spring/summer is a major achievement for me. Secondly, with the help of my youngest daughter Rachel, I’ve managed to edit the whole lot. I wouldn’t call this half of the book finished by any stretch, but it’s certainly more polished than a rough first draft, so let’s call it version 1.5. There are a few sections that I’m not 100% happy with and these parts will certainly need tinkering with. It’s an ambitious approach that I’ve taken with the second part of the trilogy, with multiple plotlines in progress and the main issue with this approach is how best to sequence the chapters. The question I keep asking myself is how long can I leave plot A alone while I develop plot B? Furthermore, there’s a question of keeping the character’s actions real: how long would they wait before taking action in one plot in order to go off and service my other plot? You’ve got to credit your readers with some intelligence and capacity to remember what happened four or five chapters ago, but nevertheless, I want to give the story the best chance to shine, so it all requires some thinking about.

My general aim is to get the first draft (or draft 1.5) finished by the end of the year, and then spend two or three months tightening things up. I’m aiming for somewhere between 85,000 and 90,000 words, so the fact that I’m already 50,000 words in will mean some trimming here and there as I aim to improve the presentation of some of the earlier chapters. As previously stated, I’ve got a humdinger of a closing sequence over the final quarter of the book, so I want to save plenty of words for this section!

In my last blog post, I talked about how 80% of the story would be seen from Lorna’s point of view, but as things have progressed, this is likely to be less due to the sheer amount of stuff going on in the third person plot. It’s a bit of a juggling act and finding the right blend will be the key to delivering the maximum impact with the revelations that are to come.

In other news, I’ve reached my target of twenty reviews of Monkey Arkwright on Amazon. This breaks down to ten in the UK, eight in the US, and one apiece in Canada and Australia. Finally, although my sales have stalled on 52, I was delighted to see a spike in my Kindle Unlimited page reads this month: 405 pages read, which I reckon equates to one person who’s read the whole thing, and another who gave it a go and then gave up after 16 pages! You can’t win ‘em all.

Sales & Stats

The Economics of Promotion

dollars-cc0

Back in December, I wrote a blog post about cutting the price of Monkey Arkwright to its permanently low price of £0.99. My reasoning was that with the number of sales that I was getting, the difference between £1.99 and £0.99 was negligible to me.

A few days ago, I made the decision to raise the price to £2.99. After a very good run of sales in April – I’m talking about a handful across a two-week period – sales have now slowed to a crawl, and I’ve not had any for over two weeks now. My grand total is 52 and doesn’t look like increasing anytime soon.

Given this background, some readers may be wondering why I’ve made the crazy move of trebling the price of my book. Let me explain. Two avenues of promotion open to me as an indie author are the Amazon countdown deal and paid promotion via one of many sites offering such a service.

If my price is stuck at £0.99, then the Amazon countdown deal is a no-go, because I can’t set it to less than £0.99 and generate excitement over the sales period by having it climb back up to its normal price of …. you’ve guessed it …. 99p!

Most promotional websites are interested in highlighting bargains to readers who’ve signed up to their mailing list. So, quite reasonably, they aren’t interested in 99p books that have been available for 99p for the past few months. Instead, they insist that the promotional price is at least half of the normal price over the last 90 days. I think you can see where I’m going here but just in case you’re not paying attention at the back, I need to keep my price relatively high for the next few months to give me a shot at a reasonable promotion in the autumn.

There is a third reason: I have a theory that if you charge enough for something then somebody somewhere will buy it. Plus, in the back of my mind, I can almost hear the voices saying that my book can’t be very good if it’s only 99p! After briefly considering setting the price of my book at the maximum possible – approximately £150 if I remember correctly – I settled on the far more sensible figure of £2.99. I remember reading some guidance when I started this indie author lark, and it suggested an initial price of either £0.99 or £2.99 – for some reason, the profits generated from a £1.99 book was the lowest of the three price points mentioned.

So, in closing, I’d like to apologise for redefining the word permanent when talking about the price of Monkey Arkwright. So far, the outrageous cost that I’ve slapped on it hasn’t generated any sales, but I can live in hope.

Sales & Stats

Free Giveaway Experiment & The Department of Rocket Science

rocket science

I’ve already had a couple of periods this year where I’ve made Monkey Arkwright free to download from Amazon. The idea behind these offers is that you get your book out to people in the hope of building a fanbase and gathering some reviews.

However, with my latest two-day giveaway, I wanted to try a sneaky experiment. That’s right folks, authors are equally capable of a bit of skullduggery, just like their evil protagonists! In all seriousness, the idea was to see how many people would download my book if I gave zero notice. Without paying a promotion company, and not telling any of the people who usually help me spread the word, would people notice that there was a free book available? In other words, what effect do paid promotion and social media activity have on the results?

Well, the results are in, and I’m glad to say that 20 hardy souls have stumbled across my book and downloaded it for free during the last two days.

Contrast this to the January giveaway (£30 spent on promotion = 847 downloads) and the April giveaway (nothing spent and 768 downloads).

I made the comment on the last two giveaways that I think that the biggest factor in securing a high number of downloads was somebody kindly posting notice of the offer on the HotDealsUK website – I think that the most recent results back this up. Of course, I can’t ignore the fact that this latest promotion comes a mere four weeks after the previous one, so it may be that the free download community (the thought of a group of people living together and living on free downloads amuses me for some reason) is heartily sick of my book and almost everybody who wants it now has it.

Still, I think that it’s fair to say that the more you put the word out on the street, the higher number of downloads you will get. In a result that will have the Department of Rocket Science scratching its collective head, I have concluded that: social media coverage > paid promotion > nothing at all.

Experiment complete, and lab coat stuffed away in the locker for a while, I think that that’s the last free download promotion that I’ll do for Monkey Arkwright until the second book in the series is imminent.

Sales & Stats

50 Up

champagne

No, it’s not my 50th birthday, although that comes in a few weeks. After a good run of sales in April, I’ve had to wait over a week, but yesterday some lucky reader got their hands on Monkey Arkwright, and as a side-effect, I made my 50th sale.

Whilst it feels like a milestone to celebrate, it’s worth noting that my book has been on sale for over five months, and I’d originally set myself the grand target of two hundred sales in the first year. It’s fair to say that internally, I’m rapidly recalibrating my expectations like a back-pedalling politician. However, a few days ago, I did read some pithy comment that most indie authors don’t even sell fifty books. With that last sale in the bag, I do at least feel that I’ve passed some wooden spoon marker.

In terms of my review targets, that’s shaping up very nicely. This weekend, I got my tenth review on Amazon UK; add this to my six US reviews and one from Canada, and I have a grand total of seventeen reviews. This is only three short of my target for the year.

However, as far as being reviewed by a blog or professional review site, this hasn’t happened yet. I have had my book accepted by two sites, but so far, it’s languishing in their dungeons with hundreds of other unwanted books.

Finally, for this news update, I had a nice e-mail from a lady who’d bought Monkey Arkwright. It’s nice to receive feedback, especially when it’s positive, and she was even kind enough to say that she’ll be buying the next book, so that’s one sale on the board. I just need to decide whether to set the release price at £99 or £101. No, seriously, I’m thrilled that there are people out there reading my book. The one minor criticism that I received in the e-mail was that there were too many adjectives in my opening chapter. You know what? She’s absolutely right. I’ve said before that I’m proud of the first chapter; how Monkey and Lorna meeting feels natural, and how it sets up the rest of the book beautifully. But I did crank up the flowery descriptions in those opening paragraphs, and a more direct style is one of my main objectives with Book #2. Not that I won’t slip in the odd bit of purple prose here and there, of course, but it’s all about balance.

Sales & Stats

Afterglow

BlueBars

The period following a free promotion is a strange time. Depending on the number of days that you’ve been giving your book away for free, you’ll have got used to watching those magic blue bars rising from the horizon like newly-constructed skyscrapers

You see, on the Kindle Direct Publishing page, blue bars equal free downloads whilst yellow bars (or maybe it’s meant to be gold bars?) equal bona fide sales – sometimes, but more on that in a minute.

But for now, back to the blue bars. As I noted in my previous post, I got a good run of free downloads over my two-day giveaway, and you’d be amazed how addictive it is hitting the refresh button and seeing that that count has gone up by three or four units in less than a minute. Just imagine if these were real sales as opposed to free downloads. I sometimes wonder if authors such as Stephen King and JK Rowling sit there hitting F5 and shouting out to their other half that sales of their latest book have increased by 300 in the last 30 seconds.

Authors like yours truly, operating at what can only be described as the “lower than a snake’s belly” sales mark, sometimes go for days or weeks without seeing a little yellow mark indicating a sale. So, it does feel gratifying to see that the blue markers move a lot faster. All psychological of course as 700 times free still equals no money! But in all seriousness, it’s nice to know that people are downloading Monkey Arkwright, and hopefully, a small percentage of them will read it.

So, to the point of this post: what happens when the sale period ends. Logic tells you that if you’ve been giving your book away for free for several days, nobody is going to buy it in the immediate return to normal price, right? Well, as it turns out, that is wrong. I had read in more than one place that one of the benefits of offering a free download was a short-term boost in sales. The yellow bars below show that this is indeed the case.

YellowBars

Six sales in one day represents my biggest day of sales since the first few days following the launch. Whilst this seems like cause for joy unbridled, as ever, there is a caveat. I couldn’t celebrate yet because something similar happened last time, and three of my four sales were taken back in the dreaded “Units Refunded” column. Whilst I haven’t found a satisfactory explanation for this, I have come to accept that it must be some weirdness on the part of the Amazon sales algorithm – maybe counting the last few free downloads as a sale. Several times a day after the sale ended, I kept hitting refresh on the “Month-to-Date” tab, praying that my precious sales would not be revoked. I’m pleased to say that although two of them were, four held firm. Even better, I’ve even had two more sales since. Happy days!

MonthToDate

It’s been a pretty good month overall. Two or three people seemed to have discovered Monkey Arkwright on Kindle Unlimited, giving me a health pages read count for the month.