Monday, September 08, 2014

Ebook Sales Down? Here Are 15 Tips!

It happens to everyone.

Sales slump. Riding high in April, shot down in May.

No one knows why some titles sell and others don't, or why some sell for a while and then taper off. My own experience defies any long tail explanations. Sales tend to fluctuate, and I'll see spikes on titles I released back in 2009. Some of my ebooks have broken the Top 100 many times over many years, proof that there is no such thing as "backlist" when ebooks are forever. Your title is brand new to someone who has never seen it before.

A decline in sales is natural. So natural that I wrote about it back in 2010.

But what can a writer do when sales begin to flounder, other than panic, get depressed, and curse the universe?

1. Write more. The more titles you have, the more you'll sell. Even if you only managed to accrue 1 fan, a new title means 1 sale.

2. Advertise. I still use BookBub, BookSends, and EbookBooster. If anyone has other suggestions, list them in the comments.

3. Sales. Kindle Countdowns and free periods always seem to goose sales in a title/series.

4. Increase prices. Huh? But you just said to try sales! I know. Try both. Amazon's new KDP Pricing Support Beta has suggestions. Try following them and see what happens (when I switched to suggested sales prices, my profit went up).

5. Collaborate. It never hurts to cross-pollinate with other writers' fans.

6. Try a new genre. The road to success is littered with folks who shifted gears, tried something different, and finally succeeded.

7. Change covers and book descriptions. Can't hurt. Or maybe it can. But you won't know until you try.

8. Try other retail outlets. If you're KDP Select, opt out and try other platforms. If you're on other platforms, try KDP Select.

9. More formats. Are you in audio yet? Do you have paper versions? Foreign languages? I'm currently #47 in Germany.

10. Billboards. I was talking about these back in 2008. A billboard is anyplace that points people to your work. Besides the obvious social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon), you should have a website that links to your books, allows readers to sign up for your newsletter, and announces what is coming soon.

11. Pre-orders. Amazon now allows this for KDP authors. I've used it to decent success (I was the very first self-pubbed author who had a pre-order page, back in 2010).

12. Pen names. Your name isn't selling? Invent a new one.

Now here are some things to avoid:

13. Don't whine in public. To quote Stephen Lynch, Charlie Brown will never get laid. No one likes a loser, and those who wallow in self-pity tend to bring more bad luck their way. Complain to your spouse over a beer, not online where you'll develop a bad rep. Always stay upbeat. And remember that the Internet is Permanent. Don't post shit that could come back to haunt you later.

14. Don't spam. Tweeting your ebook link twice a day is the limit, and don't do it more than two days in a row. People want information and entertainment, not sales pitches.

15. Don't quit. I've posted previously that if you can quit, you should. This is something I've been saying on this blog since 2005. (Damn, I'm old.) The fact is, no one knows when success (whatever your definition of success is) will come. I don't truly know if you'll ever get what you want out of this biz, but I do know that you won't get anything if you don't keep trying.

Like much in life, it all comes down to luck. Keep expectations low (no one owes you a living), keep working hard, keep learning, keep experimenting, keep at it, and you will improve your odds.


Jonas Samuelle said...

Do you have any recommendations for translators?

Are new covers always required for foreign language releases?

Robert Michael said...

Thanks for the positive post. I am experiencing a personal crisis (unemployed, sales down, just got robbed of both vehicles and electronics last night) and I needed to read something positive today.

Jude Hardin said...

...keep working hard, keep learning, keep experimenting, keep at it, and you will improve your odds.


I've decided to take my Nicholas Colt series in a new direction (with Lee Child's permission, of course). Also, this is the first time I've tried the pre-order option for a self-published book.

Anyone who's interested can read an excerpt on my website.

Donna White Glaser said...

You know, I might give raising the price of my books a try. I did a BB promo at the end of July and rode the wave but this month it's definitely waning. I guess it couldn't hurt. I was surprised at how that BB ad juiced my audio sales. Hadn't expected that and it was a lovely surprise.
I'd love to get my books translated, especially to German but right now it's cost prohibitive.
I think the Write More tip is the most dead on. Well, maybe Write More and Write Well.
Thanks for the tips, Joe! It's easy to get caught up in the "what should I do? what should I do?" panic of falling sales but the tips you listed are the only ones that have long-term success.

John Ellsworth said...

Joe, I check your blog daily (3X ?) and am always hopeful for your messages like this. Always greatly appreciated, especially coming from a guy who has been there, done that.

Thank you as always.

John Ellsworth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
T. M. Bilderback said...

Joe, I feel like you're talking directly to me.

Like Robert Michael above, I'm having a personal crisis, and I needed to see these comments from you.

I'm definitely keeping the writing going, and have a couple of projects in mind that are different than my normal stuff, and I have a collaboration in the queue with a certain blogger/writer that I won't name.

You have a knack for providing the right talk at the right time, and it's greatly appreciated.


Jude Hardin said...

I might give raising the price of my books a try.

I've been experimenting with prices as well, but keep in mind that BookBub requires that a book's price be constant for at least 90 days.

Donna White Glaser said...

Jude Hardin,
Ooo! Good point. Thanks for the reminder.

Craig Hansen said...

A good book PR site with low prices:

Silas Payton said...

Jude, Congrats. How did you get Lee to agree to that? Was it a similar deal to using Joe's Universe? Hope it goes well. It's a great idea.

Thanks for the post Joe. Any idea when we'll be seeing Last Call? I certainly look forward to its release.

Robert and T.M. Best Wishes. Hope you get through okay.

Jude Hardin said...

Was it a similar deal to using Joe's Universe?

Totally different. Lee isn't involved, other than allowing the Jack Reacher universe to be used as a backdrop.

Jill James said...

Excellent advice. I needed this right now. I'm thinking of trying the new Kindle Kid Book Creator. I'm thinking of trying my hand at some erotic romance. Never know what will be THE thing that hits.

C.J. Carella said...

Thank you for the great advice. #1 (Write More) has worked great for me; every time I release a new book all my sales spike. I usually get three great months of sales after a new release, and then things slow down fairly dramatically, so that tells me I need to release at least one book every four months, and hopefully I'll manage to do that (shooting for a book every three months) by this year. I'll also try some of your other recommendations later this fall.

Thank you again for providing so much hope and inspiration!

Alexander Mori said...

As always, GREAT things to think about. One question I have for anyone with thoughts: Any advice on how to reach influencers? Doesn't have to be confined to book bloggers/reviewers. I see people with strong social media followings and have not yet sent my books for fear of pushing my work and coming across as super-selfpromotional. As of now I focus on my twitter account and blog, trying to keep them updated with relevant information/entertainment. But I'm not sure I'm doing enough.

bettye griffin said...

My sales have dropped to alarmingly low doesn't help that I haven't had a new release since January (the new one is currently being edited for an October release). Last year was my best year ever, had me wondering if I could give up my part-time work...this year I'm considering becoming a full-time employee. Released a different genre under a pseudonym. Am putting together a nonfiction how-to project. And reminding myself that I write because I love it, but that it might not be the supplement to my retirement I was hoping it would be...

Alan Spade said...

I received an email from The Kindle Book Review ( )where they say they have 38,000 email subscribers and social media fans, and that until October 1st, you can get a featured post for only $30 versus $40, but frankly, I'm not sure about the value of this website. I'm very suspicious about "social media fans" these days, and besides, this site is not one of the sites quoted by Paul Draker as very valuable for the self-published author.

For what it's worth, I've also received an email from The Fussy Librarian where they quote Bookbub, Ereader News Today, Pixel of Ink, Kindle Nation Daily, eBookSoda and BargainBooksy.

By the way, The Fussy Librarian is not one of Paul Draker's most valuable site for self-publishers, although its number of subscribers has grown to 46,886.

By my own experience, Ereader News Today (I also tried ebookbuster, but it didn't work for me) has been the only promo site where I didn't lose money after a promo so far. I have not managed to get a Bookbub nor a BookSend so far.

Anonymous said...

Does BookBub require a book's price be constant before or after the promotion?


Anonymous said...

FWIW,I think sales softening is part of a retail cycle. I'm new to Indie pubbing (heck, I'm new to writing, having only been a pen monkey for a little over 2 years). So far, my Sept sales are at Aug's level, which was my best month ever. But the day to day trend is going down.

I have seen in several other business venues a real slowdown from the beginning of Aug to about the middle of October, so I wasn't too surprised to see my numbers soften. I don't think it's just a 'Back To School' thing w/ families buying pencils; I think it's sort of a cultural thing where people are sort of getting back into a groove after the summertime.

Back in the day, the TV networks didn't release new programming until the end of Sept or beginning of October. So those suits knew something I imagine. As in their potential audiences weren't ready to be entertained- that's my conclusion anyway.

I'm redoing a lot of covers, blurbs, reformatting stuff, putting up Create Space editions, and preparing to roll out new releases in Oct thru to Feb.

Oh... and spending a couple of hours a day at Mike Sullivan's blog in his writing advice section.

Keep your chin up- the slowdown's pretty widespread; it ain't just us here!

Meg Wolfe said...

The Fussy Librarian is a rapidly-expanding PR site, and very affordable:

Nope, I'm not quitting. Uh-uh. No way. Thanks for the succinct list.

Terri Herman-Ponce said...

I needed this reminder. And I didn't know about KDP Pricing Support. Cool stuff. I'm going to give a new pricing strategy a try.

Jack Price said...

This came at the right time. I'm working with a brilliant designer on a new cover... I'm hopeful it will boost sales but it's all risk. Thanks Joe.

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

Thanks for the powerful reminders, Joe. And thanks for your tremendous response regarding Michael Bunker. Well said.

Jude Hardin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
w.adam mandelbaum said...

Been said before, but worth saying want to write for money? Broaden your possibilities. My kindle sales aren't anything to write about (pun intended) but I'm involved in a ghosting project -private, not legacy -that is a very decent payday. Seek additional venues in which to write-don't get stuck in only eBook land.

Jude Hardin said...

Does BookBub require a book's price be constant before or after the promotion?

From their website: "We won’t consider a book if it has been offered for a better price in the last 90 days, or if it will be offered for less in the near future."

Anonymous said...

Joe forgot one key point: write a good book!

Now that everyone can publish, and Kindles are full of free stuff, we need to be extra special to pull in readers.

E.B. Black said...

If I could quit, I would have by now!

Joseph Ratliff said...

"Like much in life, it all comes down to luck. Keep expectations low (no one owes you a living), keep working hard, keep learning, keep experimenting, keep at it, and you will improve your odds."

There is SO much wisdom buried in this one section. I read it for the last 30 minutes, over and over ... got something new out of this ONE statement each time.

Paul Draker said...

Alan Spade said: not one of the sites quoted by Paul Draker as very valuable for the self-published author.

Hi Alan,

I wouldn't view my old list of ad/promo partners as especially authoritative...

Results with each partner will vary by book and genre depending on the tastes (and budgets) of each promo partner's specific audience. IOW, YMMV. I've just started doing some experimenting with Fussy Librarian and a few newer sites now, so can't say yet how effective they will be for me, let alone for others. I've also never done a free promo, only $0.99 promos, so I have no idea how free works.

But keeping in mind that every book will perform differently at every partner,
here's a more current list of my favorite partners, and the sales ranges I've seen from each ad:

BookBub (all hail the king) : 2,500 - 5,000 sales.
Pixel of Ink : 150 - 250 sales.
Ereader News Today : 100 - 350 sales.
Kindle Books & Tips - 50 - 250 sales.
BookSends : 50 - 150 sales.
BargainBooksy : 25 - 50 sales.
eBookBooster : 25 - 50 sales.
eReaderCafe : 20 - 30 sales.
BookGorilla : 25 - 50 sales.

Given the promo/ad cost for each partner, it's worth noting that many are individually ROI-negative. The only three that are on an individual basis consistently ROI-positive or break-even (at 35% of $0.99c) are BookBub, Pixel of Ink, Ereader News Today, and (usually) Kindle Books & Tips.

But the others are still useful. Layered on top of the bigger, more ROI-positive partners, they rest can help boost a book higher on the genre lists (or in the overall Top-100) where the greater visibility generates more organic sales and slows the post-promotion decline.

** Kindle Nation Daily : I haven't noticed a measurable boost in sales from my experiments with KND, despite their high ad costs which can reach into BookBub territory. Curious what others who've tried them are seeing?

*** Goodreads basic ads were almost completely ineffective for me. Zero ROI.

Also, gang, what partners am I missing?



Paul Draker said...

Also, I haven't found a partner (other than BookBub) that can effectively drive sales on non-Kindle platforms (Nook, iBooks, Kobo, Google, etc.).

Any suggestions? :)

Liz Crowe said...

all great stuff but I sure do wish Bookbub would take my dang cash…they did one freebie book ad for me and now won't take any of my other submissions! I will check out the other 2 you mention as well.

Alan Spade said...

Thanks so much for all that useful data, Paul! :)

I haven't found either a useful partner that can drive sales on other platforms than Kindle. I suspect that those lists of subscribers are more rewarding with a platform efficiently using algorithms like Amazon.

That's certainly one of the main strength of Amazon, to have created an environment where authors could have leverage and be rewarded.

If someone has used eBookSoda, I would like to know if it was worth the cost.

Penny Hart-Woods said...

Really nice piece, I like people who tell it like it is. Thank you. :)

Amber Dane said...

Good post.

Alan Spade said...

Ok. I've done my homework regarding ebookSoda and... not impressive, I would say:,187331.msg2696245.html#msg2696245

Ava Morgan said...

Great tips. Thanks! #1 and #15 go hand in hand. I like the positivity in your first tip. Even if one fan likes your newest book, it's still one more person who will buy your next book. A little progress is better than no progress.

John said...


If someone has used eBookSoda, I would like to know if it was worth the cost.

It's not. I used it once, got zero movement. And this is for a series that's selling pretty well (200 books a day on an average day). I didn't see a bump at all.

Bookbub is basically the only worthwhile ad these days. I've been paying $200-$300 per ad, and getting $1000s in ROI. Every book I've put on the ad has hit the Top 100 of All Paid and sold insanely well across the series months afterward.

If you can't get into Bookbub, and your book qualifies (good cover, reviews, etc.), try this trick:

Tell them your book fits into multiple categories (besides the one you chose) and that you'll settle for those if your first choice is not available. Also, always tell them any date is fine, then adjust your promos accordingly.

The more flexible you are, the more likely Bookbub will have a spot for you.

Alan Spade said...

Thank you for your answer, and most of all for the trick about Bookbub! I'll definitely try that!

Jude Hardin said...

It never hurts to cross-pollinate with other writers' fans.

That's obviously what I'm trying to do with my collaborations with Joe, and now with the Jack Reacher thing. But I've often wondered why my Nicholas Colt character never took off in a big way.

That might be a good subject for another blog post. Why do some fictional characters resonate with millions of readers while others languish in relative obscurity? Is it mostly marketing? Something about the characters? The plots? The author's skill at generating suspense?

All of the above, I suppose. But there are a lot of good books that never get noticed much, books with all the right ingredients, solid marketing, etc. So there must be something else.


Harry Maxwell said...

Very nice Joe.

Joseph said...

But I thought this whole indie thing was supposed to be easy. Over night success.


Joe Konrath said...

Why do some fictional characters resonate with millions of readers while others languish in relative obscurity?

Luck, Jude.

I've been saying this for years. Sales are luck. No one knows. There's no pattern, no sense to it.

Hitching your star to someone else's may work, but it may not. My books with some collaborators have done exceptionally well, and with others they've done so-so.

I have known Lee Child for a while. He's been commenting anonymously on my blog for years.

He fell into the same trap that many do; believing he deserves his success, and then backward-engineering why. The conclusion he drew was that cream rises to the top. He's wrong--it's luck. But luck doesn't sit well with most people. That's why so many billionaires write how-to books. They truly feel entitled to their riches, and feel they can be an example for others to do the same.

In fact, 100,000 people can follow the same path with the same talent and same hard work, and only 1 will achieve what Lee has. Hell, only 1 will achieve what I had, and Lee paid more in taxes last year than I've earned in my entire career.

Wondering why you aren't successful yet is poison. It's like wishing on a star, or hoping to win the lottery. There are random forces at play that do not care about you, and function without any predictability.

All any of us can do is keep at it. Or quit.

You've been a longtime reader of this blog, Jude. You know it took me 12 years to land a book deal. You know I had 500 rejections. You watched me slowly release ebooks, get my rights back, and watched my sales take off.

I was the right guy in the right place at the right time. Yes, I played it smart, took risks, worked had, and maybe some arguments can be made that I have talent.

But it all came down to luck. If Amazon never released the Kindle, I'd probably be writing for the Big 5 under my tenth pen name, making $10k a novel and not earning out.

Stop wishing, stop hoping, stop dreaming, stop wondering. Just keep trying everything you can think of until something takes off.

Jude Hardin said...

He fell into the same trap that many do; believing he deserves his success, and then backward-engineering why. The conclusion he drew was that cream rises to the top.

I've never heard Lee say that his books sell better than Author X's because they're better than Author X's. I have heard him say that it was a slow and gradual progression (he didn't hit #1 on the NYT list until the 12th Reacher book, for example), and that availability--the mechanics of the marketing team working to make sure the books were everywhere--played a huge part.

And I think he would agree that luck is a factor as well. He lost a job at a television network, a career that had spanned almost two decades, and if that hadn't happened he might have never been compelled to write his first novel.

I was the right guy in the right place at the right time.

But you were able to take advantage of the situation because you suddenly had a major distribution channel for eight unpublished novels. So it wasn't totally a matter of luck. You were ready when the time came because of the hard work you put in years earlier.

Jude Hardin said...

So instead of random forces at play that do not care about you, and function without any predictability, maybe one of our definitions of luck could be when preparedness meets opportunity. :)

Veronica - Eloheim said...

Joe, you were willing to act when new opportunities arrived.

Many people simply can't do this....

You can't have change without change!

Uncertainty is a fact.

People spend a lot of time/energy/money trying to deal with the feelings that the fact of uncertainty brings up.

Most of these coping mechanisms lead to limitation and life getting pretty small.

"I don't know how it will turn out" - which feels really uncertain - becomes "I won't try." The result being that nothing new is ever attempted.

Uncertainty is the place of creativity.

Every painter has faced the blank canvas, every writer has faced the blank page/ one knows exactly what will end up there.

Does that feeling paralyze you or intrigue you?

Joe Konrath said...

I've never heard Lee say that his books sell better than Author X's because they're better than Author X's

It was from a conversation we had years ago, and it stuck with me. His participation in Authors United, and the BBC interview he did, support a position of legacy entitlement, which I strongly disagree with. But I could very well be misrepresenting him, and he might very well disagree with me. I haven't spoken with Lee in a while, and I shouldn't put words into people's mouth.

That said, it took a lot of self-control not to fisk his BBC appearance. Had it been available as a transcript, I would have.

Joe Konrath said...

when preparedness meets opportunity.

Woody Allen said 80% of success is showing up.

Maybe. But when someone else has the power of yes or no, showing up, plus talent and hard work, may not be enough.

My very same books that were rejected by publishers have earned me hundreds of thousands of dollars. My very same books that were accepted by publishers have earned me 10x what I made through them now that I have my rights back.


There is nothing intrinsic in a bestseller. Sure, there are formulas that work, and a minimum amount of ability required, but you can't qualitatively compare two mysteries and figure out why one sold a million copies and another sold a hundred.

Texas Bullseye fallacy. Anyone can attribute significance after the fact. The trick is to predict it.

In publishing, that's impossible. No one knows. If they did, every Big 5 book would be a huge bestseller.

Sarah Allen said...

I just gotta say, I love these practical tips. I feel like they can easily be incorporated by both indie authors and trad pubbed authors looking to supplement their publishers efforts. Great tips, thanks!

Sarah Allen
(writing blog)

C.J. Carella said...

I totally agree that success depends in a lot of variables that aren't in our control. You may write a potential best-seller and happen to release it just as someone with more name recognition releases a similar book, condemning yours to obscurity, for example.

There are no guarantees, so the only thing to do is keep showing up until you hit that bullseye - or until you die trying. The only thing that's guaranteed is that you'll lose if you stop trying.

I started last November. I'm finishing my third novel right now (and yeah, I'll get back to work in a few minutes), learning what works and what doesn't by trying new things (and by reading blogs like this one, of course). No instant success here, but I've sold over $5K from Amazon KDP so far, and I'm hoping to double that amount in 2015 and triple it in '16.

I'm not holding my breath waiting for my books to sell 100,000 or a million copies. If it happens, awesome. If it doesn't, oh, well. Either way, I will keep writing, trying new things and having the time of my life.

Joshua Simcox said...

"He fell into the same trap that many do; believing he deserves his success, and then backward-engineering why. The conclusion he drew was that cream rises to the top. He's wrong--it's luck."

I would attribute Lee's success to an appealing formula (backed with solid craftsmanship) and the power of legacy distribution more so than luck. He's really no different than Coca-Cola in the sense that he produces a product from a successful formula that millions of people enjoy consuming.

The concept of a problem-solving knight errant was certainly nothing new when Child penned his first Reacher--THE A-TEAM and MACGYVER were doing it way back when I was a toddler--but he refined the formula until it reached a new level of commercial appeal. Maybe luck was a small part of the equation, but Child strikes me as someone who knew what he was doing from the very beginning--right down to the way he structures his sentences for maximum impact. To say that he built his entire career on luck would be selling the man short.

w.adam mandelbaum said...

The human brain is inter alia, a pattern seeking mechanism--and often finds patterns where none exist. The mind is scared shirtless of randomness. Luck in publishing scares those who buy into the myth that if you work hard, take your vitamins, and do the Hokey Pokey, you will turn yourself around. One of the great things about this blog is the repeated statement that the above myth ain't necessarily so. Luck is the uncontrollable factor, you can be prepared as all get out but sometimes opportunity doesn't show up. So the moral of the story is continue playing the game as the more you play, the more possibilities to get lucky arise. It isn't fair, but fair is a large part of the words fairy tale.

Nick Marsden said...

Holy crap! A real post about publishing without a negative word about someone else! I nearly had a heart attack. I just pop in here to see if you'd ever get back on track with the original purpose of this blog: to help new indie writers. To actualy be a "guide to publishing", not a place where you bitch and moan about Hachette/Amazon/New York. It's good to see some real advice here again.

Thanks, man!

Harry Maxwell said...

Joe take a shot and two beers, call me in the morning.

Anjo Bordell said...

Ah, BookBub! My submission was rejected within 12 hours. In my effort to "think positive" and to heed JK's tip #13, at least it's better than waiting around for months to be rejected by some big name industry agent/publisher. #jerks

Meb Bryant said...

Thanks for the informative post, Joe. Going back to the grindstone now.

Geraldine Evans said...

Thanks, Joe. Commonsense, as always.

I'm today trying some promos for the first book in my 15-strong mystery series, which I finally managed to persuade amazon to price-match to free in the US.

Hope they don't decide to switch it back to paid before the promos start!

Geraldine Evans said...

Someone up the thread asked about translators.

I'n trying where you can put your book/s up for free with no upfront costs and you share the royalties.

As there's no way I'd ever manage to afford to get a series translated (or even ONE book!), this seemed the only option to enable me to see my books in translation.

Though, since doing this, I've read a post on Joanna Penn's blog where she asked for translators interested in a royalty-share deal to contact her. So if you, too, have a load of visitors to your blog it might be worth trying that.

Joe Konrath said...

and the power of legacy distribution more so than luck.

Getting legacy distribution like Lee has gotten is indeed luck. Maybe 1 author in 50,000 gets that kind of distribution.

he refined the formula until it reached a new level of commercial appeal

Shh. No one tell Travis McGee.

To say that he built his entire career on luck would be selling the man short.

So am I also selling myself short when I say my career has been built on luck, too?

It's always luck. You can't force people to buy your book. Most people don't know your book even exists.

Jude Hardin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joshua Simcox said...

"So am I also selling myself short when I say my career has been built on luck, too?"


"Shh. No one tell Travis McGee."

Exactly. When you were a kid, it was Travis McGee. When I was a kid, it was the A-Team and MacGyver. Lee did nothing new. He took a proven formula and refined it through a series of books that slowly gained more commercial success than either of the other previously mentioned IPs. I could be wrong, but it seems there was more calculation than luck involved.

Ripley King said...

I put a lot of free content on my blog, and Blogger has a gadget for translating every page. Now that's sweet.

Joe Konrath said...

I could be wrong, but it seems there was more calculation than luck involved.

Have you ever read a good book that wasn't successful? Have you ever read a successful book that wasn't good?

Calculation doesn't mean much without luck. Deliberately targeting a specific audience, or using a proven formula, is no guarantee you'll be seen, let along bought. Too many steps along the way involve things beyond the writer's control.

ORIGIN was an extremely calculated effort by me to emulate the success for Jurassic Park. It got over 50 rejections before I self-pubbed. Jack Daniels was specifically meant to evoke the fear of serial killer thrillers such as Thomas Harris, and the fun of mystery and police procedural authors like Robert Parker and Ed McBain. When I published, there were modern successful authors in each field, Patterson and Evanovich.

But I never got Lee Child level distribution, so my sales were modest... until the Kindle came along.

I got lucky that I sold the series. Unlucky that it didn't become a bestseller. Lucky that ebooks were developed. Unlucky that my series was controlled by a publisher who had no clue what to do with it. Lucky I found a way to get those books back. Lucky that when I did, the sold.

Some of my favorite authors never had huge success. Thomas Cook, Rob Kantner, Graham Masterton, wrote as well or better than Lawrence Block, Robert Crais, and Stephen King. Yet they never achieved the same sales.

Blackburn, by Bradley Denton, had a serial killer as the hero years before Dexter. F. Paul Wilson invented urban fantasy, but never hit the heights of Jim Butcher or Laurel K Hamilton.

Luck always plays a part, no matter how deliberate or talented or hardworking the author is.

Steven M. Moore said...

Hey Joe,
I've always thought I had you beat on both age and number of rejections before I went indie.
Yeah, sales are flat. I keep writing because it's fun and I have a very efficient support staff. I'd like to increase my number of readers. Note that I said "readers." I'm not in this for $$$, but I'd like to cover costs. My pricing seems to follow yours closely, so I think I'm competitive there.
PR and marketing isn't my forte, but your ideas are a useful checklist to keep trying.

Ernie J. Zelinski said...

Here is my secret to creating more sales of ebooks or print editions. Be committed to being a 1-percenter.

First: Create a damn good book. And disregard the over-emphasis on perfect editing and a great book cover. Instead, follow this valuable advice that has served me well over the years.

"It's better to do a sub-par job on the right project than an excellent job on the wrong project."
— Robert J. Ringer

Second: Once you have written the "damn good book", then put more time and effort to promote the book than 99 percent of writers are not willing to do. My motto is:

"Content may be king but promotion is the supreme ruler."

Just a note that I first started self-publishing in 1989, with my role model being Robert J. Ringer. He is the only person to the best of my knowledge to write, self-publish, and market three #1 New York Times bestsellers in print editions. His books sold several million copies in the 1970's and the 1980's. Not so long two of Ringer's self-published books were listed by "The New York Times" among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

Robert J. Ringer was a 1-percenter and that was the key to his success. It it the key to my success as well. That is why my pretax income from self-publishing (and just a bit from traditional publishing) will likely be around $200,000 this year. (By the way, I only work one or two hours a day.)

Part of being a 1-percenter at marketing is coming up with marketing techniques that virtually no one else is using. I have at least 50 to 100 original creative techniques that I have used over the years to sell over 800,000 copies of my books (mainly self-published). I have used similar unique techniques to get 111 books deals with foreign publishers. My books are now published in 22 languages in 29 different countries. I have accomplished this without using a North American foreign rights agent.

Incidentally, as I write this, the print edition of my self-published "How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free" has an overall sales ranking of 176 on Yesterday it reached 144. I self-published this book over 10 years ago. True, I have never gotten this book in Amazon's top 100. But when I do, it won't be because of luck. It will be because of the many creative techniques that I use to generate sales, techniques that most writers are too lazy or too uncreative to come up with.

Here are three reasons via quotations why I make a great living as a self-publisher today by working one or two hours a day:

“The amount of money you make will always be in direct proportion
to the demand for what you do, your ability to do it, and the difficulty of replacing you.”
— Earl Nightingale

"The great creative individual is capable of more wisdom and virtue than collective man ever can be."
— John Stuart Mill

"The good ideas are all hammered
out in agony by individuals, not
spewed out by groups."
— Charles Bower

Moral of the story: Paying your dues as a writer and marketer takes time. At first, you must put in a lot more creativity and effort into new projects than you get out of them. You will put in five to ten times what you are getting back. Later, you will break even, getting back something equal to what you put in. In time, however, you will get back ten to twenty times what you put in. This is when you will be prosperous and free. People will then wonder why you are so lucky compared to them.

Ernie J. Zelinski
The Prosperity Guy
"Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free"
Author of the Bestseller "How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free"
(Over 200,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
and the International Bestseller "The Joy of Not Working'
(Over 275,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

Shawn Raiford said...

Have you (or anyone else) ever used or heard of "NetGalley" or "PR Newswire"..? I have read that becoming an IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association) has certain benefits but I am not sure..

Shawn Raiford

Sushmita Mustafi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Raeelliott said...

Excellent tips to keep in mind. As an emerging self-published author I have found that having at least two varieties of my book definitely boosts traffic and downloads. I have a free audiobook-style podcast and a recently published ebook for my science fiction novel FRACTURED. Even the tip you mentioned on getting your book translated (something that is still a daunting thought) helps push me in the right direction. Here's to hoping the ebook purchases start coming in as I alter my process! Thank you for these ideas, especially the one on using advertising boards!

Stu Leventhal said...

Joe, Thanks for the pep talk and book promotion advice. I was wondering which selling platform folks were having the most success with, selling on Amazon or Smashwords or somewhere else?

Do you advise trying to learn how to convert your own books to the different sellers formats and also learn loading one's own books to save money or should new author's pay to have that done and work on something else like social media marketing?