Monday, May 21, 2012

What I have learned about Indie Publishing in six weeks.

How changing prices affected sales of my ebook.

 It's been about six weeks since I took the decision to walk the Indie publishing route and publish my novel, "I Can Hear Them Singing Now" at $4.99, as well as three Erotic shorts at $0.99, written by my alter ego, Amy Hilton. And, while I realise it is far too early to draw any firm conclusions, I do have a few thoughts about the journey so far.
 I signed up with Amazon's KDP programme but only listed two of the four works with their free promotion campaign:
 "I can hear them singing now" and "The Tupperware Party."
 Both were offered as free downloads on one weekend, starting on Saturday and ending on Sunday. The belief behind this is, heaps of people will download the book, read it, enthusiastically tell their friends and write glowing reviews that bring in huge sales. At least that is what I was told and expected.

My experience

 My experience was different.
 On the first day around 200 copies of each book were downloaded -- nowhere near the 15 000 some authors have reported -- but, in truth, I did no marketing at all, other than to a small Twitter following, some of whom retweeted. On the following day, approximately 50 copies of each book were downloaded.
 Monday came and the expected spike in sales was not there, nor on Tuesday or, in truth, on any other day after that. Sales remained exactly as they were before the promotion, averaging a few a copies per day.
 Reviews? Nothing, nada, zip.
 There could be two reasons for that. Some people who downloaded may not yet have read the novel and I have the feeling, the majority of erotica readers prefer to keep that fact secret. I am hoping reviews will yet arrive.
 Next I decided to experiment with the pricing of "I can hear them singing now" and see what effect that had on sales. I figured, if, like John Locke and Amanda Hockings, I priced the book at $0.99, thousands of people would rush to buy it. I have to admit, pricing it at such a low price-point stuck in my craw but I figured the money that was going to pour in would provide adequate comfort. I aggressively marketed the price-change to my growing Twitter and Facebook followers and announced it on every reading forum I could find. And...

$0.99 novels are crap?

 Nothing. The sales trickle dried up. Could it be that serious readers (and "I can hear them singing now" is a serious book) believe $0.99 novels are generally crap? So I upped the price to $2.99 and sales of one to two per day began to dribble in. Then I got a review from award-winning author, Jeannie Walker and interest seemed to pick up a little. So, I tinkered with the price again and pushed it to $4.49 which I figured was a fair price for the blood, sweat and tears I invested in the book.
 Sales continued but slightly less than at the $2.99 price-point but the added royalty at the high price, compensated for the small loss in sales.
 So what have I learned so far? For me (and I stress, this is for me. Your mileage may vary):
  • Amazon's free promotion generates "sales" from people who want free books. I think it harms more than serves the cause of Indie Publishers. In addition, it cuts off sales from other sources. I do not think I will participate in it again.
  • Twitter is a lot more useful than Facebook when it comes to getting the message out.
  • Building readers is a one-reader-at a time process that requires relationship-building and personal interaction.
  • There is no quick, over-night path to success -- the Indie Publishing game is a lot like farming. It takes time to nurture and grow the saplings and there is no way you can make them bear fruit before they are ready and you have run the course.
  • It's a fun ride and a serious kick to wake up and see you are a couple of dollars better off than when you went to sleep!


kkrafts said...

My experience has been basically like yours. The one thing I'd like to know is, how do you get people (prime members) to borrow your book?

Carryou Ministry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hilton Hamann said...

I also wish I knew how to get Amazon Prime members to borrow my books. So far I have only had one borrowed.
Keep us updated.

The Aquablogger said...

Hilton, thanks for sharing your experiences. I didn't download your book because, since I'm under a self-imposed deadline to finish my first, I didn't want to commit to reading someone else's (also I didn't want to spend the time figuring out the Kindle someone gave me; can you believe it??!) While I do my own marketing or social activism (like my tweets for Dream Activists in danger of deportation), I can read entries like this wonderfully clear and helpful post.

Hilton Hamann said...

@The Aquablogger thanks for taking the time to pop by, read and comment on the article. I think the whole, "giving books away so they'll be read and talked about and generate sales" is something of a pipe-dream. In truth, I think the process ultimately does enormous harm to writers, as it promotes the idea that we are so desperate to "sell" work -- that not even, we ourselves value -- that we will give it away.
The fact is, if I gave a doorman, waiter, cabby...whatever, a $1 tip he or she would rightly be insulted. Why then do readers figure they should get a writer's work (that may have taken years to produce) for less than a buck...or even pay for it all?
Because we've allowed that to happen!