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Brian's Sales and Marketing Thread

Discussion in 'Marketing' started by BWFoster78, Aug 31, 2015.

  1. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    Good to know. I only need to sell 5.9x as many books to make the same $.


    I'm in the money. I'm in the money. :)
  2. danr62

    danr62 Sage

    Well, I went and downloaded AoP again, and cleared the "furthest page read".

    When I opened it up, it brought me to the cover of RotM, so it seems that you may have marked the sneak preview as the starting point of the book. I can now see that I completey missed the prequel part of the book.
  3. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver


    That's odd. I haven't had anyone else point out that issue, and I just opened it in my Kindle App (I downloaded it for free during my last promo b/c ... why not?). Mine opened up to the start of the novella.

  4. danr62

    danr62 Sage

    Huh, yeah, that is weird

    Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk
  5. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    I’ve been thinking a lot about my goals, where I am, and where I need to go.

    What I’ve discovered about my writing progress is that it is very cyclical. From when I started 4 and a half years ago through now, I go through periods of high productivity followed by periods of little to no productivity. If I want to be a successful author, I’m going to have to become more consistent.

    On the positive side, though, I’ve seen some good signs lately (as I’m now securely out of a recent valley): a) I’m getting more done during my high productivity periods due to improved efficiency, b) my latest low point was shorter than previous ones, and c) I still got some stuff done during the low period instead of abandoning writing completely.

    Positives aside, though, I’ve got to get better if I’m going to meet my goals. Just take a look at my proposed release schedule:

    1 9/1/2015 Abuse of Power

    No promo. Sales very low.

    2 10/1/2015 Rise of the Mages

    Promo’d AoP freedays. Sales way exceeded expectations.

    3 1/1/2016 Repulsive

    Free AoP promo planned. Intend to update back matter of both AoP and RotM to advertise Repulsive. I’m on track to meet this publication date, though it’s taken me more time than I had hoped. I’m very interested to see how this one performs. I’d be thrilled with a similar number of sales and reads as RotM.

    4 4/1/2016 Man in White Prequel Novella?

    On one hand, I have no confidence in novellas, and I’m not sure that taking time away from writing my main series is a good idea. On the other hand:

    - The plan is to tie this into the Rise series.
    - I’d like to keep my Amazon publisher cred momentum rolling.
    - My strategy at the moment is to not publicize a book when it premieres. Instead, I promo the previous/first book in the series. That’s a strong tactic. Some people, however, believe that pushing a new release heavily is a good idea. It would be interesting to experiment with that, and this novella would be a good test subject. Plus, I’m sure Ankari would love the promo this would give his anthology :)

    I’m still considering this one. I’m going to spend late December and all of January working on Gryphon. It that goes well, I may see how this one comes together.

    5 7/1/2016 ???

    The goal is to publish a title every three months, but realistically, I just don’t think it’s going to happen. The only way to meet this aggressive schedule of having Rise 3 complete by 4/1/17 is to have both Gryphon and Attractive complete by mid September at the latest. I don’t think I can do that and devote time to publishing two novellas.

    6 10/1/2016 Gryphon (Rise 2)

    This gives me 9 and a half months to bang this thing out. That’s pretty realistic if I don’t hit more than one long or two short low periods.

    Promo RotM at a temporary price reduction to $2.99. Not really planning an all out blitz, though.

    7 1/1/2017 Attractive (Repulsive 2)

    Since this series is only slated to be a trilogy, I’ll promote Repulsive fairly heavily here and discount down to $.99.

    8 4/1/2017 Rise 3

    Here’s where things get fun. Everything I’ve read is that the 3rd book in a series is the one with the potential for sales to take off, so I want to really hit promos hard. Apply for Bookbub. If I get it, offer RotM free. Otherwise, $.99 temp reduction. Raise back permanently to $2.99? Regardless of Bookbub or no, major promo lineup/budget.

    9 7/1/2017 Man in White Sequel Novella?

    It’s going to be tough getting Rise 3 out on schedule, and there will be no time to finish the Repulsive trilogy. If I publish anything at all here, it will be a short work. Any promos will be dependent on too many variables to discuss here.

    10 10/1/2017 Repulsive 3 (last)

    Another 3rd book in a trilogy. I’m probably either going to be very happy writer at the end of the calendar year or a very sad one. Major promo lineup/budget offering book free. Apply for Bookbub obviously.

    11 1/1/2018 Repulsive box set

    Promo the heck out of this thing, too.

    12 4/1/2018 Rise 4

    Another tight date. Six months is kinda short to release in this series. I could switch this with the MiW box set (assuming I’ve written it!), but anecdotal evidence is that summer months are actually bad for sales. I’d rather stick with the major release in April and what I consider a minor one in July.

    Promos for this one and the rest of my “scheduled” releases are highly dependent on way too many unknowns at this point.

    13 7/1/2018 Man in White Box Set (Rise 4.5)
    14 10/1/2018 Rise 5 (last)
  6. Russ

    Russ Istar

    This is a very good approach.

    Whether or not you meet your goals having this kind of plan is very valuable.

    I think more authors who want to make money at writing need to prepare plans like this and talk about them. How do you build a business without benchmarks, goals or a plan?

    Keep up the great work.
    BWFoster78 likes this.
  7. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    November AoP Promo Results:

    New price with no advertising $0 11/13 thru 11/15 – Total Sales/Reads 4/110

    Wow! 4 copies sold with no advertising at all. That was an unexpected result. Instead of 1 sale/12 days, I got 4 sales/3 days. That’s 16 times as many sales. I only needed 5.9x to break even, so a little more than double the actual dollars not even counting any potential for sell through. These results are very preliminary, of course, but I think the lower price point is something that I seriously need to consider.

    Ranks on the morning of 11/15:
    #158,242 Paid in Kindle Store
    #1113 in Books > Romance > Fantasy
    #1707 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Sword & Sorcery
    #2096 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Sword & Sorcery

    Doesn’t take much to rise 100,000 places in the Paid Kindle Store :)

    Bknights $5.50 11/16/15 - Total Sales/Reads 0/0

    That’s disappointing. BKnights is generally considered to be one of the better value propositions in the promo world. On the other hand, many people have noted that the service works a lot better for free than for $.99.

    The good thing is that Bknights always refunds your money if you fail to get sales, so the cost of this one is zero’d out. I’ll used the Fiverr credit for the promotion that I plan to run in January.

    #209,246 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
    #1416 in Books > Romance > Fantasy
    #2035 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Sword & Sorcery
    #2544 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Sword & Sorcery

    And it doesn’t take much to fall 50,000 places :)

    Betty book freak $8.00 11/17/15
    Reading Deals $15.00 11/17 - 11/19
    Read Cheaply $0.00 11/17 - 11/20 – Total Sales/Reads 4/0

    Yay! Actual sales from a promotion. Of course, I just paid $23 to get make $1.38, so maybe I shouldn’t be celebrating too much. At this point, the promo is looking like a total bust.

    #74,464 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
    #541 in Books > Romance > Fantasy
    #1063 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Sword & Sorcery
    #1260 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Sword & Sorcery

    Wow, that’s quite a jump, but it’s still not really high enough to generate a lot of traffic on its own.

    Sweet free books $5.00 11/18/15 – Total Sales/Reads 1/0

    I think we can officially call the a bust now as I have no more sites lined up.

    #65,961 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
    #459 in Books > Romance > Fantasy
    #979 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Sword & Sorcery
    #1164 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Sword & Sorcery

    New price with no advertising $0 11/19 to 11/22 - Total Sales/Reads 0/0

    #102,075 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
    #748 in Books > Romance > Fantasy
    #1289 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Sword & Sorcery
    #1543 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Sword & Sorcery


    Ouch. Over the entire promotion period, I sold 9 books and got no page reads. That number, however, counts 4 sales that happened before I ever ran any promotions. I have no idea where those sales came from, either. Regardless, basically, I spent $28 to make 5*$.34 = $1.73. That’s -$26.27.

    Sales of RotM have been solid through the period (with page reads steadily declining), but considering how few sales of AoP I got, I can’t credit any of continued success to sell through.


    - It’s a lot harder to sell a book for .99 than it is to give it away.
    - Successful promos work by selling enough books for the Amazon algos to kick in. If you’re giving away books, maybe a $30-$40 budget makes sense. If you’re trying to sell a book, maybe you should go big or stay at home.
    - Promoing a book that has a huge flaw (cover) and is a hard sell in the first place (novella) probably isn’t a great idea.
  8. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    This is my last post on this thread for a while. To anyone who finds it in the future, I hope that you get out of it that you absolutely can succeed financially in writing. Pauline is doing it. Greg is doing it. I'm on my way to doing it.

    Writing is not a get rich quick scheme. Heck, it may not even be a get rich at all scheme. But don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it. If you have a dream and are willing to work hard, I believe in you.

    If you ever need anything, my email address is [email protected]

    Don't hesitate to ask.
    Russ and PaulineMRoss like this.
  9. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

    Thanks for all the information, Brian. There's no substitute for hard data from those who are already published.

    To emphasize the point that it takes time to build a writing career, one book at a time, here are my average daily royalties by number of books:

    1 book out: $2/day
    2 books out: $20/day
    3 books out: $44/day
    4 books out: $52/day {so far; I expect this to drop somewhat before book 5 is out}

    Obviously, it isn't realistic to expect this to increase indefinitely, and there are daily/weekly/monthly ups and downs, but overall, it's fair to say that the more books you have out, the greater the earning potential. With the usual caveat: every author is different, writing to a different genre, etc, etc. I have no idea whether my results are typical or not. I know people who have far more books published and make less than this, and others who've made way more with their first book. So actual results may vary. But making money IS possible.
    Russ likes this.
  10. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    Hi Brian, I can't thank you enough for disclosing your business plans and data. It's really nice to see an honest evaluation of your efforts and what one can realistically expect from certain strategies. I have one question, and I'll try to keep it brief, but you know me...I'm sort of wordy.

    Okay, so I'm an artist and sort of inconsistent (if I'm being totally honest), and I always have been. I've run my own small business as a costumer for years, but I never meant it as a real business, just as a hobby business that would net me enough spare cash to justify the money I spend on personal hobbies like sword-fighting and archery, and the materials I have to buy to continue to make my own stuff. It simply wasn't something I planned to ever be successful, and my business is all 100% word of mouth, but it kept me busy enough that I never needed to advertise.

    Writing is very different, in that you spend a lot of time up front, writing the novels, and then you have a finished product that you continuously promote and offer in the future (opposite to costuming, where I take on new projects, complete them, and then look for the next).

    My husband is my polar opposite. Where I'm disorganized and inconsistent, he's an intrepid planner and works toward goals in a way I can't easily mimic. He's offered to make my spreadsheets and basically chart and track anything I need as I move toward self-publishing as you have done, but I'm not sure what data he needs to effectively track anything. So on to my question:

    Is there anything that comes to mind, now that you're further along in this process, that you wished you charted better or tracked more thoroughly at the beginning? I guess my concern is that when I buy fabric, I don't delegate which bits are going to what projects, so I tend to later give a price quote to a client on a particular project, regardless of what I spent on materials in the past. I'm sure I never lose money because the materials are less than 15% of the overall price (the rest is labor), and since writing is so different, I want to be sure I'm being honest and accurate as I journey forth into uncharted terrain.

    I know you're a more analytical person, so I imagine you had a good plan when you began selling books and running promotions, but I wonder whether there's anything you wish you might have kept better track of, or whether there's anything you undervalued or overestimated based on your initial assessments, but for which you have now realized a more accurate figure.

    Hope that makes sense. If it doesn't, I'll try to be more clear. I guess I'm just looking for what data I need to start tracking right away, and what comparables I should keep in mind before I publish, so I can most accurately keep track of sales in the future (like differentiating between free downloads, free copies given for reviews, or whether there is any difference between those things at all).

    I tested out an editor last week and was pretty disappointed with the sample, but I'm prepared to spend about $2500 on editing, and about $200-$400 on a cover, but are there other significant costs I should expect regarding publishing that are more hidden? Is there a sort of place where you should begin putting things into a spreadsheet? Like just when they cost you money, or should time be also a factor when you're keeping track of what works and what doesn't?

    Thanks again for sharing all your information with us. It's nice to read the inside scoop of a writer's journey through the beginning of self-publishing, because it doesn't really help to compare apples to golf balls (newly self-published vs. the $.99 Amazon millionaires from five years ago, or self-publishers in the first year vs. traditional publishers in their same year).

    I appreciate your time.
  11. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    Pauline, thanks for clarifying your particular results and your earnings broken down in days. That's amazingly helpful.

    I'm sure you did that to be brief, but I had a question to clarify something:

    Do you think it's directly reflective of simply how many books you have available to readers, or was there also a component of business growth to account for the rapid increase in income? I wondered which other variables you could argue made a difference. As in, did you see that jump just because you had more titles available when you were advertising the same as always, or did you with each new release add some level of advertising, free promotion, hiring better editors as your income increased, etc.?

    I really appreciate your constant feedback on this thread, and I just wanted to understand not only how much of an increase you say with each new title, but also try to understand whether there were other elements in play that added to those statistics. This is the hardest thing for me to plan. Like, I have shorts I could publish now, but I don't think they'd even scratch the surface of building a career, but I also don't want to put out three titles next year just to try to earn a better wage like you have, if I'm missing the bigger picture of what it actually takes to grow your business. Hope that makes sense.

    I really look up to you and how you've managed to succeed, but I know there's always a deeper reason for anyone who's successful, beyond just writing a good book and hoping readers discover it. I guess that's the part that's the most mysterious to me. Thanks for sharing your personal business statistics with us!
  12. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

    The big difference, between book 1 and book 2, was that I discovered promotion! So it went like this:

    1 book out: $2/day {no promotion to start with, then a very little dabbling}
    2 books out: $20/day {a big promotion to launch book 2, which was very successful}
    3 books out: $44/day {a big promotion to launch book 3, plus promo on both the other books - even more successful}
    4 books out: $52/day {same as for book 3 BUT not so successful; a later promo campaign was more successful}

    So promotion is necessary (for me, at any rate) to get a new book off the ground, but after that each additional book means that the base line numbers settle a little higher each time.

    Some people are able to sell right out of the gate. Brian's book has done amazingly well, which augurs really well for whenever he gets more books out.

    I think Brian's threads have summed up the necessary steps to make money from this game: write to market; write in series; write/publish fast; promote. And in certain genres (like romance) it may not even be necessary to promote.

    But most of us can't be that hard-nosed about it. I write the books I want to read, and I write as fast as I write, and I don't see that changing any time soon. They don't sell well without promotion, but they DO sell, and when people find them, they tend to read them all the way through and they often go on to buy the others, too. So they're not a runaway success, but there's something there I can build on.

    I should perhaps add: although the money sounds impressive, that $52 a day that's been coming in is only around $1500 a month, and I'm still in the red for the setup costs of these books (covers, proofreading, etc). And that's continuous and ongoing. This month I've had beta reading costs for book 5, next month there are proofreading costs, and in January I get the cover art for book 6. I'm starting work on a new series (Regency romance) to be published in maybe a year's time, and I'm already spending on it, buying books for research. There is no end to it!

    I don't think of myself as successful (yet!), but I know what you mean. The best advice I can give you is not to spend too much time planning. The very best way to learn how the business operates is to go out there and publish something. If you have shorts you could publish now, then why not go ahead and publish one or two? You won't make much money from it (shorts are not big sellers, unless they're erotica), but the experience will be invaluable. You can always unpublish later, or group them into a box set or some such. But better to practice with something like that than something really precious.

    Good luck, and feel free to ask whatever you want. You (and anyone else) can email me at pmross AT paulinemross.co.uk any time.
    Caged Maiden and Russ like this.
  13. Malik

    Malik Auror

    This has been a fantastic thread. Thank you, Brian. It's been elucidating. Thank you, all.

    So, here's how I'm doing this. I think.

    First off, I'm using my kitty money -- money from horsetrading hot rod parts and playing the occasional gig -- for this, so it's not a hit to my actual savings. This is my new hobby, that's all. If I don't make any money, I'm really not that worried about it; I just want to write. This will cut into my Scotch budget for the next few months, however.

    The majority of the money goes to my editor.

    I've read enough juvenile pap (looking at you, SmashWords) in the past few years while getting a bead on the market -- and seen some of it sell head-scramblingly well -- to realize that editing is crucial to get anything to stand out, so I will spare no expense here. I'd spend ten grand on editing if I had it. People enjoy shiny things.

    On that, I bought a pre-made cover and spent a bit more to have a graphic artist I know punch it up a bit and set the text. I'm very happy with it so far. Again: shiny things. The money I saved here over a major-league custom cover is going to promo.

    I'm planning a month-long blog and podcast tour to coincide with the initial release, tentatively scheduled for 30 September. I plan on doing KDP and SW, skipping KDP-S. This is primarily because I don't want to spend the cash on ISBNs; they're free with SW. I'd rather put that money into promo.

    That ISBN money buys an additional, massive, one-week promo push (see?) of excerpts and blurbs and a customized promo art banner, plus a Twitter and email blast to a separate and very large list, right out of the gate.

    I'm thinking the book will be free for the first five days, or maybe $1.99 with a countdown.

    I have never bought a $.99 book in my life; the $.99 section seems to be the storm drain of self-published fantasy and it's really hard to find good stuff at that price. It's in there, but man, the more you pay, the better the writing gets. It just does. I'd buy and read a $5.99 book before I'd buy and read a $.99 book. But then, I'm an elitist prick and I like pretty words.

    I hope to have Book II out around this time in 2017. My goal is to keep digging through my Boxes of Worldbuilding and knocking out one book a year. Because, new hobby.

    Of course, no plan survives contact with the enemy. We'll just see how things go. But even a bad plan is better than no plan. I'm open to suggestions.
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2016
  14. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    OK, fwiw, ymmv, take it or leave it, and other admonitions.

    If you have shorter works, start your editor search with those. I have so far hired two editors, one on a short story and the other on a novella. Both were a waste of money. The one started but never finished, and so I paid only the up-front money. The other gave me only empty advice and corrections of middling value. Not worth the few hundred bucks. I have a novel in progress and would have been aggrieved and furious if I had spent thousands rather than hundreds.

    Finding a good editor is tough. And slow. So, if you have something short (= affordable), you might consider using that to shop editors.
  15. Malik

    Malik Auror

    So, disregard some of my previous post. Smashwords discourages use of its free ISBN on other sites.

    EDIT 2: Not that it matters, as Amazon doesn't require ISBNs.
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2016
  16. Russ

    Russ Istar

    You may wish to keep in mind that some professional organizations (that can and will help you promote and network) require your book to have an ISBN for you to join.

    You may want to decide which organizations of that nature you want to join before you make the at decision.
    Malik likes this.
  17. Malik

    Malik Auror

    Good to know. Thanks.

    Are you thinking of SWFA, et al? May God smite me with the problem of being eligible to join SFWA without having an ISBN.
  18. Russ

    Russ Istar

    IT was not SWFA but they could be on that list as well.

    I was actually remembering your comment about how your book is really a thriller with a portal entry. My wife is publishing her first thriller and I put together a list of the organizations I thought she should join and sent them to her. IT was a couple of those that I think required as ISBN number to join.
    Malik likes this.
  19. Malik

    Malik Auror

    Screw it. I bought a brick of ISBNs, started a publishing company, and got a separate business license and bank account for it. No half measures.
    Svrtnsse likes this.
  20. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Yes! I've seen you over on Kboards, too. :D

    This is the route I took except for that I haven't gotten the ISBNs just yet. Been saving up for a couple of really nice covers come late fall. Anyway, I hope your launch goes really well! If you have any questions or need extra support, feel free to PM me. I belong to a private Indie publishing group as well on Facebook if you require extra resources.

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