(PRELIMINARY) POST-MORTEM OF A FIVE DAY SALE
The five day sale of The Dark Horde that is, where I had the ebook available free on Amazon.
It really is too early to draw much in the way of any conclusions from this (so why the hell am I doing this? you may ask), but I thought I’d share some observations and thoughts… It may be of use to others considering doing a similar thing, or otherwise be of interest to others J
The thing is, for me at least, promotion/marketing/getting attention is easily the hardest aspect of the “writing journey”. Writing itself can be challenging at times, even tedious, but ultimately it’s something I enjoy doing and am driven to do (and have always done, regardless of whether I shared it or not: it becomes its own reward in that sense). Editing and polishing a work tends to be harder to push through and get done as I’ve found: by the time you’ve gone over and over something a few times, you’re really not that excited about it anymore, so much as what you’re working on next. But it has to be done. Finding a publisher (whether that be a publisher in the traditional sense, or just someone to manage your self-publication) need not be as hard as you can make it: it depends on what your goals are (if your goal is simply to “get it out there” then it’s unbelievably easy to do this these days, scoring a publishing contract with one of the big publishing houses is a much more elusive goal). Finding a distributor is easy for ebooks (Amazon, Smashwords etc), and around the time of a paperback release, it’s not sooo hard to find a small distributor either (however if the book’s been out too long, or if you’re seeking a large distributor to get you into large bookstore chains, that’s harder). But all of these challenges to me are dwarfed by the challenge of getting publicity. And ultimately, publicity (which in turn affects how many sales and how much money you make) I think is all that really counts.
Perhaps I’m preaching to the converted by saying this, but the “best” written book (just like the “best” designed game, the “best” composed album or the “best” drawn artwork) really won’t do much; in terms of others experiencing it and your sales; if others don’t know about it in the first place. Conversely even mediocre works can be best-selling juggernauts with highly successful marketing: I for one, would put 50 Shades of Grey (which took years of constant marketing before it took off mind you) and Twilight in this category (although admittedly I haven’t read either of them, so I’m not really justified to say that). Meanwhile most awards (short of major international awards like the Booker prize) won’t really turn works into best-sellers. Yes they’ll help establish credibility and increase exposure, but the rest depends more on marketing/publicity than anything else I think. I tried to find a recent article I read in the Age on this about the (relatively small) impact on sales that comes from even winning the Miles Franklin award, but it’s eluded me. Suffice to say there’s plenty of articles out there about this (which I’ll skip for sake of brevity).
But to return to my own sale (yeah yeah I know that’s what this post is supposed to be about), my situation prior to this, with regards to my horror novel The Dark Horde could be summed up as thus:
- On a whim to see what happened, I sent it off to the annual Writer’s Digest Competition for Self-Published works. The contest had over 3000 entries, and only two fiction categories: Literary Fiction and Genre Fiction. They gave my work a score of 92% and it was one of eight Honorable Mentions awarded in the Genre Fiction category. I also submitted a chapter on it to a short story competition around the same time (and then forgot I’d even entered) only to discover that it won. –After this success, I figured it was deemed good enough by others (as you never really know: your own judgements or that of friends and family is far too subjective) to merit entering in more competitions. So I entered a handful more and thus far have been a finalist in at least half of them J
- Most reviews I’ve had commissioned (typically bloggers with no prior experience of me or my work) have raved about it, I mean like really raved about it. And even those who didn’t rave, still supported it and praised it for the quality of writing and horror.
- Meanwhile I have boxes and boxes of the printed book sitting in a UK warehouse due to get pulped soon because they’re not selling: even after reducing the price to the lowest possible - £2.99 (with free delivery in the UK)
So I thought I’d try something else: A free sale on Amazon for five days, to see if that can make an impact. At the same time I contacted a bunch of blogger and promo sites to either do posts about the giveaway, or feature the book/me on their site. I also then spammed, I mean posted, a lot on Facebook (including various interest groups) and Twitter. Something had to work J
It’s hard to estimate exact numbers of downloads I got over the free period as a result, but my estimate (based on a tool to estimate sales based on overall Kindle rank) is somewhere in the range of 1000-1500 downloads. Within about 12 hours of the sale commencing, The Dark Horde had climbed to a rank of #6 in Horror (it might have got higher I dunno) and #17 in Thriller. It stayed in the top ten Horror for another day and a half, and got no lower than #26 in Horror (as far as I saw and I checked maybe thirty times) until the sale ended.
EDIT 18/06/2013: It turns out that I can get exact figures for the number of downloads, and not only that, I got about twice as many downloads as I'd estimated! (Not a bad mistake to make haha). The exact breakdown is as follows:
- 2413 total downloads for the five days
- Of these, 2224 came from Amazon.com (i.e. primarily the US, but also Australia)
- 140 came from Amazon.co.uk (i.e. United Kingdom)
- 26 came from Amazon.de (Germany: Wunderbar!)
- 13 came from Amazon.ca (Canada)
- 4 came from Amazon.co.jp (Japan)
- 3 came from Amazon.in (India)
- 2 came from Amazon.it (Italy)
- 1 came from Amazon.es (Spain)
Is this good? Honestly I don’t really know, and I have no idea what impact will be on the longer term, but I do know that it’s gotten the work noticed by A LOT more people: aside from downloads, it’s seen it featured on a number of sites (and not just the ones I contacted), shared around Facebook and is still being constantly mentioned on Twitter right now. All that has to do something right? –And all up I maybe spent $200 total on marketing (I’ve spent thousands before for arguably less impact) and some of the best promotion I got here and here, was free or close to it.
(I should also add that there was a number of other great posts: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here, all of which helped too of course)
So as Neil Gaiman would say, I’m really just “making this up as I go along” and seeing what works and what doesn’t… I don’t know how much my experiences will translate to someone else, as I think what works/doesn’t work for one person, doesn’t at all mean that the next person will have a similar experience: factors such as timing, the personalities of the people involved (including whether they personally like you/your work or not), your genre, “brand strategy” and luck all play a part… But I’m learning from my own experiences (and yes making mistakes) as I go along, to hopefully do better next time…
I think that’s what the “journey” is all about J
I’ll leave you with a “motivational speech” Neil Gaiman gave last year, that I only happened to stumble onto yesterday, that resonates very strongly with me (I made up my IT qualifications and bluffed my way through my interview to get my first job in IT fourteen years ago for instance; an industry I’ve worked in ever since), and I think serves as inspirational words of wisdom to anyone following the “creative path”:
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