"On the Express from the Austrian Alps to Venice. The last thing on my mind was book sales." (Photo: Gina Occhiogrosso)
There are reasons I don't get into publishing and this is the main reason why: Success is a guessing game more synonymous with luck than solid business practices or science.
My books took a bit of dip this month compared with rocket-propelled sales of the past three months in which I sold over 100,000 Kindle E-Books of one single title alone: THE INNOCENT. That book was purposely priced at $.99 for a period and we (meaning myself and my pub StoneGate Ink), believe that the special price propelled the sale initially. And then, once it reached a certain rank (say below 50, sales snowballed) It also served to expand my audience by enormous numbers.
However, when you price a book that cheaply you also pretty much give away the store. Even so, I made a personal profit of over $15,000 for that one book. Not bad change. But in May, when we changed the price to a more realistic and reasonable $3.99 and later, $2.99 (remember folks, I am traditionally published and receive only a 50% commission for which an agent takes 15%), we then earned a very reasonable profit from a book that was once acquired by Delacorte Press and blurbed by the likes of Harlan Coben and Don Winslow. We sold something like 13,000 copies during May which we were happy about. The irony? If Random House had held onto the E-Rights for both THE INNOCENT and GODCHILD (which also hit the Top 30), I would have finally earned out my mid-six figure advance with them. Bad timing on their part, great timing on mine.
The final sales strategy analysis? According to indie publisher and bestselling author Aaron Patterson (who is also my publisher) "The end result was about a 5k increase to the bottom line, but a hugs loss on the people reached. The question is: Is it better to reach a huge amount of people for a time and give up sales, or try to make as much as you can no matter how many sell? I believe in both. Put books on sale, test the market as each author will have different stats. Some will sell well at a buck and others it wont matter. I have one author that sells just as good at 2.99 as she does at 8.99. So we keep it at 8.99. "
Then came June, the Amazon Summer Sizzler thing, the tag debacle and who knows what else, and sales dropped off significantly no matter what the price. Apparently, a lot of indie authors and no doubt, legacy published authors as well, began scratching their heads as early as June 2nd at the virtual tanking of their ranks. Since this was an across the board phenomenon much has been written and speculated about what happened. Indie expert and bestselling author Joe Konrath addressed this issue yesterday in his blog by pointing out the following:
"Summer is slow. But once the holiday season comes around again, there will be another boost in sales across the board. This year should be bigger than last year, as ereader prices come down and move from early adopters into the mainstream. In other words, no one needs to panic. No business has constant, unstoppable growth. Sales fluctuate. This is normal."
This a is a rapidly changing and emerging business. Which is why I'm a full-time writer and not a publisher. E-Books are still in their infancy, and for any of you who have children, you know how everyday can be an adventure when you have a baby hanging around. One minute the cuddly little kid is cooing in your arms, snuggled up all warm and cozy in the nape of your neck, and next, he's projectile hurling chunks all over your new gaberdine suit.
So what to do?
Listen the experts when they tell you not to worry about minute-by-minute sales. Like Konrath says, this is "a marathon not a sprint." It's E-Books. Our books aren't about to be removed from the shelves anytime soon. Like Patterson says, keep experimenting with prices until you find that "sweet spot." You don't have to be in the Amazon Top Ten in order to make a good living (although it is rush for the ego, believe me..., but again quoting Joe, "what goes up must come down").
But also listen to your heart...Your writing heart that is. No doubt it will tell you to write more books, and to write them as well as you are humanly capable. There is no better way to guarantee excellent sales than by introducing a new book to your fans and future fans.