How can we be successful if our books don’t sell?
Not to put too fine a point on it, indie author ebook sales are down across all sales venues including Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iTunes/iBooks and Smashwords. No, I don’t have any charts or analysis for you, but I network with best selling authors, and many indie authors like me, who just plod
along, racking up sales when and where we can. Every single indie author I know is scratching his or her head wondering where our sales went.
The Christmas Boxed set frenzy happened. If you had a Christmas book between Thanksgiving and the week after New Year’s, and promoted it, you sold a boat load of books. January was dismal for sales. Even those of us who fought hard sales campaigns and had the advantage of a Bookbub slot did not see the downloads on FREE books we usually do, or the magnificent jump in sales and crossover sales once the title went back to priced. We did sell books, but not the sales we anticipated.
Practically speaking, life gets in the way of books sales. So does the weather which has been awful. Readers, authors and fans in the snow belt have spent most of January shoveling snow, entertaining kids at home because schools closed and some were without electricity and/or Internet service. Buying books was not a priority. Some of those boxed sets that racked up lovely sales in December had as high as fourteen books in the sets. It takes a bit of time to read those fourteen books before the readers starts browsing for more reads. I bought several of those sets with a total of fifty books and novellas. I have yet to finish a single set.
We indie authors love to promote holiday books. So along comes Valentine’s Day. I have a title in a romance/Valentine’s boxed set of twelve authors. Every single author in the set campaigned hard and steady on for sales. We engaged a Thunderclap, hired a promo service, had a fabulous and well-attended Facebook launch party, shared in promotion on all of the best sites and the set has thus far has not climbed onto Amazon TOP 100 paid. Our hard work and the really wonderful books in the set did earn the set a slot on the USA Today best seller list. The reviews are terrific. The set has a decent sales rank but not what we hoped or anticipated. The authors are top notch, the books are great and the promotion spot on.
So what else is there that might affect sales?
A tired market. Since the introduction of Amazon’s subscription service, Kindle Unlimited, borrows are way up. Some days I see 28 borrows to 16 actual book sales. Authors don’t get paid on those borrows until the buyer reads past 10% of the book on his or her eReader. I subscribe to KU and I have six books on my Kindle Fire I downloaded in November that I have not had time to read. When the subscription service first opened, I downloaded books and read them as fast as I could and ordered more. I was excited to have such a wealth of choice of books. I’ve mellowed out. I had
to stop reading, catch up on my laundry, mop floors, take the dog to the vet, go to a wedding, visit with family, cook Christmas dinner, plan a book signing, order posters and swag, attend the signing, and write a book. Still haven’t finished the WIP. I am flooded with guilt at leaving my poor characters hanging mid-book.
Indie authorship is not easy.
Once we write a book, we have to jump to the other side of the equation which is beta reading, copy editing, revising, hire a cover artist and formatter, published the book, and get busy promoting the thing. Not to mention networking with other indie authors, or lending a hand if an indie has a blog interview to comment upon or needs a tweet sent out. I don’t know about you, but I get tired. When I’m weary, I see my world as weary. We need to take step back. Do something nice for yourself. Rest. The sky won’t fall. And here is a fact. Readers continue to buy ebooks. Readers are always looking for new authors to read or new releases by favorite authors. We need to give our readers and book buyers time to catch up. You will see an uptick in sales as soon as everybody has filed their taxes in April. You might even see a little uptick in March with St. Patrick’s Day events.
To get a better take on your authorship, do this for yourself. Go into Author Central, tick sales info and then tick author rank. While your books might be sucking mud to China, you might be pleasantly surprised at your Author Rank. On January 27, 2015 my Author Rank based on the sales of all of my books on Amazon was 19,083. A promotion ran the next day on one of my titles and wrapped February 1, 2015. My current author rank based on all sales is 1375. However, when I tick over to contemporary romance, my author rank is 175. It peaked at 81. So even though one of my titles has a sales rank at about 47,000. My author rank is pretty good. Only 174 romance authors are ranked higher. And hey! There are thousands of romance writers publishing ebooks.
Here is something else you can do while you are taking a break and we wait for the market to reinvent itself. Never fear. It will. Amazon is offering indie authors with titles enrolled in Select the opportunity to buy a sales campaign right inside of Kindle Direct. I cannot yet say we will see a return on investment for the 100$ a campaign costs. However, I can tell you this much, since my campaign started, Amazon has shown my ads 133,321 times somewhere on Amazon. And Amazon is where book buyers live 24/7 around the world.
Who said to be successful we indies must sell a book or 100 every single day?
We don’t. That is pure, unadulterated hype. Everyone in the digital industry wants a slice of the indie author. Let me put it another way–they want to get into our wallets. I get emails and newsletters every dang day telling me how successful an author I can be if only… I pay $179 for this Webinar, or pop for $399 for that review tour–but wait! Buy now! For a 25% discount. Honey, I’m sitting on my pocketbook.
When we publish a book and it sells a few copies, we feel good. It’s an affirmation of achievement. When the book earns a few nice reviews, we start dancing on table tops and shouting it out. Then the line of ‘also bought’ shows up on Amazon, and there is my title with eighteen reviews right next to a book with 343. Off come the dancing shoes. It is so not fair to your book and those readers who posted those 18 reviews to discount them. So, don’t.
If I complete the first three items on my To DO LIST every day–that is S.U.C.C.E.S.S. No lie. If a sister author sends out a clarion call to comment on an interview she’s done and I do, that is success. Answering a fan letter is success. Writing a blog is success. Updating my Amazon bio or revising a book description is success. Success is similar to knitting a sweater; you study the pattern, buy the amount of yarn called for and start it by hooking one stitch at a time. You won’t have the whole sweater just by studying the pattern. No instant sweater. That pattern is the guide. However, if you stick with it and knit a little every day, you will eventually have a sweater. That is the way of indie author success. We compose one word at time, sell one book or ten, at time, lend a helping hand to a colleague, tick up a five star review on Amazon that caught our eye, or in a sudden flash of clarity find just the right title for a WIP. Every little thing we do contributes to our success as an author. And some of what we do has no dollar value at all.
So. Sales are down. It is not me. It is not you. It is not my books. All business markets hit plateaus. All business markets have shake outs and then find the level at which they work best and steady on. Compared to print, the digital book universe is in its infancy. IMO, we just have to roll with it. Our books are digital. Their lives are infinite. Think about this: The very first romantic intrigue, the Tale of Genji by Muraski Shikibu, was published in about 1000 AD and is still in print and, now it is in digital. The Tale of Genji has it all: romance, travel, encounters with the supernatural, and a perfect hero. Works for me.
This blog post has been on my To DO LIST for four days. Success reigns!
I’m, Jackie Weger. Y’all have a good one. Oh. I want to mention that eNovel Authors at Work earned a spot as Finalist for Best Resource Site for indie authors in a survey by Indies Unlimited, an independent blog I highly recommend to every indie author. We have a little badge right there on the right to show you. We are very proud of this achievement.
Comments are always welcome and we’d love to hear what you are doing to help your book sales in a down market.