This report on how my plans for marketing in 2015 are working can be summed up in one word: Super. But for those who are interested––here is a little more detail.
Recap of Strategic Goals:
Recognizing that the Kindle Unlimited subscription service on Amazon was undermining the effectiveness of the Kindle Countdown 99 cent promotions for my books, I decided to:
- take my 3 full-length novels in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series (Maids of Misfortune, Uneasy Spirits, Bloody Lessons) and my short story collection (Victorian San Francisco Stories) out of KDP Select
- upload these 4 books into other bookstores
- make the first book in my series, Maids of Misfortune, perma-free
- advertise Maids of Misfortune as free through a BookBub promotion.
By the middle of January I accomplished all of these goals.
- I uploaded my 4 books to Apple, Nook, Kobo, Page Foundry, and Scribd through Draft2Digital (a simple process of uploading a word document), used the epub that D2D nicely gives you to upload to GooglePlay, and stripped my word document down to upload it to Smashwords to distribute to several library affiliates and Oyster.
- Within 3 days of Maids of Misfortune showing up free in other bookstores, Amazon price matched, and it was now free everywhere.
- January 11, 2015 I had a BookBub promotion of Maids of Misfortune.
There has been a dramatic improvement in my sales and therefore my income.
|November 2014||December 2014||January 1-24 2015|
Total Book Sales
* this figure also includes Audible sales and the Victorian San Francisco Mystery Boxed Set (Books 1-3) that are only sold through Amazon.
** These figures just show downloads from Apple, Page Foundry, and Smashwords
As you can see, even before the BookBub promotion in mid-January, making Maids of Misfortune free had begun to give the other books a boost on and off of Amazon, but the BookBub promotion was what really made a difference in my sales.
Two weeks after that promotion, Maids of Misfortune was still listed in the top 100 Free books on Kindle, ranked #5 on the Nook’s Free list, and #27 in Free mysteries on Apple. In addition, there have been a nice increase in positive reviews for this book on Nook, Apple, and Amazon.
During these two post-promotion weeks, the increase in sales of the other books in the series demonstrates that people who downloaded Maids for free are going on to buy the next books.
For example, on Amazon the average number of copies sold of Uneasy Spirits (Book 2) went from 1.5 a day in November, to 2 a day in January before the BookBub promotion, to 13 a day in the two weeks since the promotion. The average number of sales of Bloody Lessons (Book 3) has gone from 2.2 a day in November, to 2.8 a day in January before the promotion, to 11 a day in the post promotion period.
In mid February, the fourth book in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series, Deadly Proof, will be out, and I can now anticipate that a good number of the people who have made their way through books 1-3 will be ready to buy it, helping with the launch. For example, I have had 36 new subscribers to my newsletter since the promotion.
I don’t know how long Maids of Misfortune will stay visible or what the conversion rate from free downloads of this book to subsequent sales of the rest of my books will be, but I have always believed that my job as author is to give my work the best possible chances to be discovered, and then let the work itself do the rest. This new strategy for 2015 seems to be working to achieve that goal.
Implications for Other Authors:
Will it work for everyone? Probably not. The whole perma-free strategy works best with series. And one of the reasons I hadn’t tried this approach before is that with only 3 books in the series, the long-term loss of sales of one of those books seemed too risky—particularly when short-term discount promotions were working for me. The eminent publication of a fourth book in the series made the shift less risky.
While I was achieving some success in downloads and sales before the BookBub promotion, the effect was limited. So I know that one of the reasons for my success was getting the Bookbub promotion. I am always good about filling out their post promotion surveys––not just so that they have the data to judge when I next apply––but also because I hope this will make them more likely to accept other authors with similar books following similar marketing strategies.
My series also has wide market appeal. Within the mystery category, the books fit in the cozy, historical, and women sleuth sub-genres, and they also fit in straight historical fiction and historical romance categories. This has helped keep Maids of Misfortune visible longer after the BookBub promotion ended.
This in turn has helped the book achieve visibility on the popularity lists (which is what shows up when you browse in kindle store on your devise). Because of the current algorithms, which seem factor in price, it is very difficult for free books to rise to the top of the popularity lists. For example, currently Maids of Misfortune is #60 on the mystery popularity list—yet there are only 3 other free books on the top 100 of this list. So, even with a successful BookBub promotion—continued long-term visibility for a book is not something that many authors can count on.
Once again, I have found that by paying attention to the data on my own sales, reading about other authors’ experiences, and being willing to experiment, I have been able to keep my books visible and selling–something I know is a direct outcome of the opportunities available to indie authors during the rapidly changing publishing and marketing environment.
As usual, I love to hear what strategies are working for other authors.
M. Louisa Locke, January 27, 2015