Saturday, November 5, 2011

October Sales and Freebooking

Today I've got some observations on the free book strategy as well as some solid and anecdotal sales figures from October.


We need a term for the marketing strategy of offering an ebook free for a short time. I propose adding "freebooking" to the publishing lexicon.

After about 72 hours of being free on Amazon, Spoil of War has done better than I anticipated. For the last 60 hours, it's bounced between #37 and #42 in the overall free store and has continued to be #1 in Fantasy. In Historical Romance, it's moved back and forth between #7 and #8. And in overall Romance, its been between #17 and #19. Right now its rankings in the categories are the same as they were when I posted on Thursday. Only the overall rank is different.

#1 Historical Fantasy
#1 All Fantasy
#7 Historical Romance
#17 All Romance
#40 Overall in the Amazon Free Store

Times Downloaded: 7102

I really expected it to start taking a nose dive yesterday and am very surprised it held its rank this long. It'll probably start falling today. Needless to say I'm quite delighted so many readers have taken a chance on the book despite the handful of low ratings on Amazon.

It's also free in the Apple iTunes/iBooks store. I distribute there through Smashwords, but won't get the results from its time being free there for awhile yet. Silly me didn't download the iTunes app so I could watch sales in that venue until late Friday night, after Spoil had been free there for a week.

Right now, after a week, Spoil is, in the Apple free store:

#3 Fantasy
#8 SF/F

It also has 18 ratings on Apple -- all given since it went free -- with a solid 4-star average. There are no text reviews there yet, but this gives me a better idea of how average readers who likely haven't seen the 1-star reviews on Amazon are actually reacting to the book on its own terms and not on what other people think of it.

I'm afraid folk who grabbed a copy because of the kerfluffle on Amazon are going to be disappointed that the book isn't nearly as controversial as those low raters make it out to be ;o).

I am a bit disappointed to see it's still free on Apple. I changed the price from free on Smashwords on Wednesday as soon as Amazon made it free since Amazon will keep it free for as long as it remains free on another site. Smashwords should have fed them the unfree price on Thursday or Friday. I'd hoped that Amazon would have have it back to 99c by tonight (Saturday night). Not sure when it will lose free status now.

Theoretically, the timing could not have been better for the book to go free, climb the ranks then be made unfree while it still has visibility. It's frustrating to do everything right and on time on my part yet not be able to influence the vendors to follow through in a timely fashion. All the feeds and bots to do this should be automated.

The real test of the marketing strategy of free, of course, is to:

1) Help sell other books in the same series as the free book (Spoil is a stand-alone).

2) Help sell other books the author has in the same genre (My other book is a near-future thriller and my next book will be Part 1 of the Vet Tech Tales, so no help there -- although I have seen a small spike in sales in the UK where Spoil is not free)

3) Drive enough residual interest in the book so when it goes from free to paid, readers will be willing to splurge real money on it and keep it selling (which is where I hope the free strategy helps Spoil -- so having it go back to paid status while it's still high on the lists is the most important bit of the strategy, apart from the visibility it gains)

More updates to come on the freebooking experiment (go ahead, use "freebooking" in your own sentence -- you know you want to).


Like in August and September, sales continued to be pretty divisive between those doing OK and those doing GREAT.

Both Spoil and SECTOR C fell into the OK category. They both had more sales, but I also lowered the price on them mid-month, so the net gain was less.

Spoil of War:
39 Amzon US
10 Amazon UK
1 Amazon DE (Germany)
5 BN
1 Smashwords

56 Total

61 Amazon US
5 Amazon UK
6 BN

72 Total

I also gave away 35 copies of SECTOR C through a LibraryThing contest, and 28 folk claimed the book (the totals above are all paid copies). I've gotten a couple of short reviews from a couple of the LT winners so far, so that's nice.

As for more broad-spectrum sales, anecdotal sampling over in the Kindleboards forums yields some good info as always. Special thanks to Jason Letts for doing some of the compiling this time around so I didn't have to :o)

Again, some people reported by the book and some people aggregated their totals. My aggregated total, for instance, is 56 + 72 = 128 sales across 2 titles. All figures exclude free downloads.


1-9 = 10 (Note 3 reports of zero sales)
10-99 = 19
100-499 = 14
500-1000 = 4
1000-2800 = 2
2800-4399 = 1
4321 = 1
5800 = 1

29 single titles sold fewer than 100 copies vs 23 that sold more. That's 56% of this sample of 52 titles.


1-99 = 8 across 2-11 titles
100-199 = 4 across 2-3 titles with one other across 14
200-499 = 15 across 2-6 titles with one other across 9 and another across 17
500-999 = 8 across w-7 titles with one across 11
1000-1499 = 6 across 2-25 titles
1500-2499 - 3 across 2, 10 and 23 titles
2500-5000 = 7 across 2-33 titles
5001-10,000 = 7 across 2-14 titles
10,001-15,450 = 3 across 3,4 and 8 titles
29,500 = 1 across 43 titles

Again, this is very anecdotal and a random sampling of folk who chose to respond. Don't read more into than just some fun with numbers and a tiny glimpse into what people are selling via self-publishing venues.

Freebooking (just had to say it one more time).


Bradley Convissar said...

I'm also very curious to see how my free book affects future sales. I published a horror short, 3K words, on Amazon on Tuesday and it has surpassed 10,000 downloads since then and has bounced between #40 and 50 on the free titles. It has pretty much stayed in #1 for free horror and free short story since Thursday. And I want to see if this translates into sales, though it can take a while because people (and I am one of them) don't usually get to reading free stuff for weeks

Sarah Laurenson said...

Always interesting to see what's going on in the stats. Also interesting to hear your particular journey and what different methods you're trying.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Thanks for stopping by, Bradley! I popped over to your site. Your doxie Friday is a real cutie!

I'm surprised how quickly some people do get around to reading free work. My novel is 112,000 words, and it's already gotten 28 ratings/reviews between Amazon and Apple (25 ratings on Apple). I've seen a small spike in sales for SECTOR C, which is a totally unrelated genre. I'm betting there would be some nice cross-over sales if I had a similar-genre title on tap. There does seem to be a reported halo effect for about a week after being free where people will buy the book because of the additional visibility it's gained. We'll both find out, I guess :o) Good luck!

@Sarah: Thanks! If you think it's interesting from your side...

I also have a major-ish project completion announcement for Tuesday *sly wink*