Wednesday, 1 April 2015

How not to publish, No. 3: The books should pay for themselves

Since I began publishing, my philosophy has been that the books should pay for themselves. And when I started, I didn’t have much choice in the matter. Finding $5 for a promotion was a real stretch. A year and a half on, things have changed (audiobooks are coming soon! Watch this space!)

I can’t remember which site that first promotion was with (I didn’t keep very accurate notes), but I made the mistake of advertising the book at full price. I think I got one sale. Maybe. So if rule one is make the books pay for themselves, rule two is that people love a bargain. That’s all pretty self-evident, and if you were looking for some fantastic insider tips, I’m sorry but there aren’t any (there really aren’t. Rule three would be; don’t buy anything from anyone who says they have a guaranteed way to sell anything - especially books.) But the other mistake I made early on was not tracking the sell-through rate. I paid for an ad, saw an upward spike in my sales graph and was happy. What I’m only realising after going through the data in more detail is that often, when I’d run a promotion targeting the US, the increase in sales was actually coming from Germany or Italy, and the increase in sales in the Book 2 ebook was linked to the sales of paperbacks in a bricks and mortar store. The spike in the sales graph was merely down to coincidence.

I’m coming up to the end of a three-month promotion binge that began in February. This time, I’ve been tracking sell-through, mailing list sign-ups and a few other factors. Broadly speaking, the results are thoroughly disheartening. Whilst I’m not certain I’ve learned anything new, it has confirmed a couple of points I should have taken to heart twelve months ago:

First, almost all promotion services available to authors are aimed at selling books on

Second, zombie books are hard to market. They’re not quite science fiction, they’re not quite horror. When using mailing list/promotion sites to advertise a book that’s on sale, I’ve tried advertising the series as ‘Horror’ and as ‘Science Fiction’ and where possible also as ‘Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction’ and ‘Horror Undead’ as well as just ‘Zombies’.
The best results have been advertising as ‘Horror’. Sales were 40% higher than as ‘Science Fiction’ (which was higher than the rest.) The top four sites, by sales, on which I tested this are:

EreadernewsToday ($15, 200 - 400)
FussyLibrarian (£10, 20 + 10 Barnes & Noble)
Booksends (£25, 50)
ChoosyBookworm (Free, 10)

(in brackets: price, and number of downloads on day of promotion from Results may vary etc, but I use the above four for every promotion I’ve run.

I’ll post up a full table of results when my mega promotion is finally over. However, I have already come to the conclusion that this type of promotion just doesn’t work for my books. I’m developing a new marketing plan at the moment that’s based around content creation. More on that soon, but the first part of that plan is: in addition to aiming for 4,000 words on the novel each day, I also have to write 1,000 words on something else. For the next 10 days, it's going to be this blog and then... well, like I said, more on that soon.