Saturday, December 3, 2011

Nov Sales Recap and Why I Love Apple

Tired of hearing about freebooking yet? I hope not, because the saga is far from over. We've seen it can be an effective strategy for gaining visibility and exposure among an audience eager to download free books. How, though, does that translate into sales among the readers who don't frequent the free shelves?

Well, I don't have the answer to that yet, based on this current campaign, but Spoil of War has crossed another milestone, so I thought I'd share.

Remember when I was frustrated with Apple for keeping Spoil free long past the time I wanted it to be free? They unfreed it yesterday, about the same time some other free books that I'd been following went unfree too, although those books had been free for a shorter period of time. Guess it was time to clear the old books off the free shelf to make room for new ones.

I've notified Amazon and am waiting for them to reprice Spoil (I see the other books haven't been repriced on Amazon either, so this appears to be a normal cycle).

Meanwhile, I can amuse myself by following the book's progress through the various iTunes stores. Did you catch that plural? As informed as I kid myself that I am, I completely missed the fact that Apple has 123 regional store fronts. Not all of them carry ibooks, much less books in English, but there is a healthy selection in the UK, Canada and Australia stores that I was totally missing before I found out how to access those storefronts last week. In case you have the iTunes app loaded and haven't figured it out, if you scroll ALL the way down to the bottom of any page, there's a little button with your country's flag on it. Despite there being no instruction for doing so, if you click that button, a page opens up that allows you to click through to any regional store of your choice.

And here is why I have grown to love Apple. At least why I love Apple US, UK and Australia. I only like Apple Canada right now, but that could change.

Spoil of War is not special. I don't share these stats because I think it is, but because this is a sales tool given to us by these online stores. Not every free book will enjoy this kind of exposure, but for those in popular genres that resonate with readers, these are results that can be replicated. In fact, because there are a number of blogs and Facebook pages that push free books, and because the majority of these sites elect not to push erotica or books with controversial content -- such as Spoil -- Spoil received even less exposure than many free books. Still, Apple gave the book the same in-store exposure every other free book receives.


When Spoil went onto the paid list yesterday, I expected it to drop off the bestseller lists completely. However, it was #5 on the Historical Fantasy list yesterday afternoon in the US and Australian stores, and by Saturday morning it had climbed to #3. Not getting real-time updates means I don't have any kind of a feel for what this means in terms of actual sales. It could mean 2 sales or 20. Amazon and BN, with their real-time updates, have spoiled me (pun not entirely unintended). Not knowing sales numbers for an indie author is something akin to a 10th-circle-of-hell punishment. Having to wait 30-60 days to discover what the numbers mean is an excrutiating eternity.


Spoil has 133 ratings from all 4 regions now, for a 4.3+ average.
78 5-star
30 4-star
17 3-star
5 2-star
3 1-star

With 76 ratings for a 4.5 average, the US store has by far the most ratings, including 3 5-star text reviews that I love.

If it does nothing else from a business perspective, putting the book up for free has helped me see that the majority of readers are responding positively to it. This is priceless information for any author, and especially priceless to me.

Visibility and Placement

I could not afford the kind of "front of store" placement the book has earned in the Apple stores. Say what you will about the difficulty of finding a book that isn't in the Top 100 in a genre in iTunes (and there is plenty to say on that subject), if you're in the Top 100, you can be seen. In the Top 12, you're golden.

In just a bit over a month, Spoil went from no visibility as a paid book to a paid book with the following placements.


Let's do this one pictorially.

Historical Fantasy

 All Fantasy

Historical Romance

All Romance: The featured category is an "Under $5" list, which comes up with a default sort by "Recent Bestsellers." Spoil is in the middle of the first page.


Historical Fantasy: #3 paid list; first spot for What's Hot
All Fantasy: top third on the What's Hot list
All SFF: first page (top 36) of New & Notable
Historical Romance: 2nd row of the What's Hot list
All Romance: 1st page (top 36) of New & Notable
Historical Fantasy: top row on What's Hot
Fantasy: middle of the What's Hot list
All SFF: 1st page of the Featured list
Historical Romance: top third on the What's Hot list
All Romance: 1st page of the Featured list

Historical Fantasy: top row on What's Hot
All Fantasy: bottom row of What's Hot
Historical Romance: middle of the What's Hot list
Total Downloads and Current Rankings
Amazon only, since I don't yet have Apple's numbers.
Spoil has been free in the US store since Nov 2.
#474 in the Free Store (highest rank was #37)
#4 Historical Fantasy (highest rank was #1)
#21 Historical Romance (highest rank was #5)
Spoil has been free in the UK store since Nov 23.


#169 in the Free Store
#2 Historical Fantasy
#10 Historical Romance

Spoil has also been for sale at the following sites during Nov for 99c, $1.99 and $2.99 (it's $1.99 everywhere now -- or will be once Amazon puts it back in the Paid Store):

Smashwords - 3 at $2.99
BN - 8 sales at 99 cents; 1 at $1.99
Omni - 2 sales at $2.99
Amazon UK - 16 sales at 75p/99c before it went free
Amazon DE - 1 sale at 86e

31 Total Sold

SECTOR C, meanwhile, has been the neglected child. I'll have a paid ad for it on a popular site around Christmas, so I hope that will generate interest again.

60 - Amazon US
1 - Amazon UK
1 - BN

62 Total

December Plans

By mid-month, I'll also be releasing the first volume of the Vet Tech Tales. For a sneak peek at the covers for Volumes 1 and 2, click over to the Confessions of an Animal Junkie blog :o)

Jennifer Blake's novella, A Vision of Sugarplums has just made it into the Apple iTunes store for free and Amanda le Bas de Plumetot's "Last Seen" short from the Extinct anthology has just been repriced to free there. So two more ebooks to try to take through the freebook ride on Amazon in December. (When did freebooking become a full-time job?)

Wish us luck!


Landra said...

I wish you the best of luck and thanks for keeping us updated. I was wondering how the books were faring in the sales circle.

Little tidbit- Did you know that my review of Spoil is the 2nd most viewed page on my blog ever! I have no idea how much this influences some of those downloads at all but I get at least 1 to 2 people looking at that review 5 out of 7 days a week.

Jo-Ann said...

Aargh! The whole freebooking thing is looking more and more like a full time job. I hope it's not eating into your writing time too much, Phoenix.

I wish Amanda LBdP all the best with her foray into freebooking. I thought "Last Seen" was beautifully written, quite exquisite.

lexcade said...

OMG!!!! That's so exciting! *You were on the same line with George RR Martin [dies]*

Wishing you guys the best of luck through the holiday season!!!

Phoenix Sullivan said...

@Landra: I'm honored to hear that! I'm betting I know where most of that traffic originated from :o), and I'm also betting it helped to change a few minds. That's another huge reason I'm so happy to see as many positive reviews as I am on Apple - to validate your instincts and Cate's.

And apologies for letting you down on the meme for the AJ blog. Something, though, had to give over the busy last few weeks ;o(.

@Jo-Ann: What is this "writing time" you speak of? LOL! We all have to find that balance, don't we? Hope you enjoyed the ride while it lasted! As soon as I have Apple numbers for you, I'll share. And I'm happy to share here too if you don't mind the numbers being made public. I wouldn't presume otherwise.

@Lexcade: Yeah, me and GRRM are like *that* now, don't you know. A couple of weeks back we were rubbing shoulders over on Amazon's Historical Fantasy list. Oh, and, yes, that would be Johanna Lindsey next to me there on the Historical Romance list on iTunes *yawn*. Spoil isn't really fantasy or romance, but if it can cuddle up next to the greats for a few short minutes, I don't care what anyone calls it :o). This has been fun while it last(s)(ed)!

Sarah Laurenson said...

Writing time? My butt is about to be slashed by Koala claws while a certain Goblin pulls out my toenails because I neglected to squeeze writing time in last month.

Will do better this month (I hope!).

Thanks for the continuing saga. I passed the link on to a new friend who is considering this journey.

Jo-Ann said...

Hey Phoenix
Make the numbers as public as you like, I really dont mind.