Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pulsing Free, Repricing, And Tagging For The Future

I was going to tease by putting the mid-month sales update at the end of this post, but then decided my observations might mean more if you know better where I've been and where I am.

It's been a slow climb, but December made me finally believe indie publishing can personally be worth the time invested. Earnings certainly wouldn't have paid the mortgage if I still had a mortgage to be paid, but it did mean enough for an extra treat or two for the beasties. With Apple iTunes numbers now accounted for, here are the totals for December:

$ 382.23 - Spoil of War: 489 copies at $1.99
$   85.40 - SECTOR C: 244 copies at 99c
$ 108.85 - Vet Tech Tales: 311 sales at 99c
$ 149.60 - Vet Tech Tales: 88 borrows at $1.70

$ 726.08 - Total

SECTOR C obviously didn't pull its weight in December. A 2-day free run on Jan 6-7 and a featured spot on the Kindle store front page Jan 10-11 helped turn that around. Eyes off the other books, though, meant they turned into slackers instead. At least at Amazon. Spoil continued to rock it in the iTunes stores. Since the Apple report won't be available before mid February, the sales cited below do not include whatever Spoil has made at Apple. For the first two weeks in January:

$     17.50 - SECTOR C: 50 sales at 99c
$ 2549.19 - SECTOR C: 1326 sales at $2.99
$   353.60 - SECTOR C: 208 borrows at $1.70 *December amount used to estimate
$    45.85 - Spoil of War: 78 at $1.99 in US, 86p in UK
$    45.15 - Vet Tech Tales: 129 sales at 99c
$    32.30 - Vet Tech Tales: 19 borrows at $1.70*

$ 3043.59 - Total

The question, of course, is how to maintain the momentum. And this is where things get interesting.

Pulsing Free

Authors are just now starting to make a book that's gone through a free promotion in the past few weeks free again. The jury is still out as to how effective a second and/or third pulse to free might work. Will it generate less interest? More? How does an author reach a new audience to market the free book to? When is it best to pulse the book a second time? While the book is still doing fairly well or wait till it's dropped back to a mediocre rank?

As I write this, on Sunday evening, SECTOR C has just fallen out of the triple digits. Books that have followed the same free route it did are now clamoring for the same spotlight it had. Talk about volatility! Of course, I predicted it would fall back to a 4-digit rank by the end of the day last Thursday, so it's actually kept its head above water 3 days longer than I thought it would. I'm already looking forward to doing this again! I just wish I had a clearer idea of when best to time the next promo. In the meantime, I'm keeping an eye on other double-dippers and their results.

Category Tagging

I mentioned in a previous post a mistake I made in tagging. It wasn't that I didn't think carefully about what I was doing, I simply didn't think big enough.

When you publish a book through Amazon, you are allowed to choose two genre categories for your book from a predetermined list. There's an issue, though. Amazon has two separate catalogs: Books (which includes all books and all Kindle titles) and the Kindle Store. Not only that, not all the subcategories Amazon allows customers to browse by are author-selectable.

So when I first published the book, a near-future medical thriller, I chose the following category paths:

     Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Medical
     Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction > High Tech

Amazon helpfully added the Books equivalent of the Kindle Store category:

     Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > High Tech

My dilemma was this: I wanted the book to be in a thriller category. Thriller by itself is a HUGE category and uber-competitive. I was pretty certain the book could never make it into the Top 100, which meant I needed it in a smaller sub-category. I had the choice of "Technothriller" in the Kindle catalog or "Medical Thriller" in the Books catalog. Gah. Why is there no "Medical Thriller" cat in the Kindle Store? I chose:

     Books > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers > Medical

To add this category, I had to contact Amazon to do it for me as it's not a choice on the author-selectable list.

This past week, SECTOR C rose high enough in the rankings to be where I thought it never would be: on the Thriller bestseller list. And not just the Thriller list, but the umbrella bestseller list of Mystery, Thriller and Suspense. The problem: It was in the Books catalog, not the Kindle Store, so folk looking specifically for Thrillers in the Kindle Store would not see it.

I realized the mistake as the book was climbing up the ranks. I was afraid to try to change anything about the book's details myself because there is some anecdotal evidence that while the book is republishing it loses some of its momentum. I emailed Support and asked them to change Fiction > Medical to the Thriller > Technothriller category in the Kindle Store and was told I had to go in and remove the category myself -- that by policy they couldn't do it.

I opted to wait until the book started losing rank. Tonight, when it dropped into the low 1000s I removed the one category and have asked Amazon to include the other. What this will do at least is set the book up in front of another potential audience when it comes off free the next time even if it has little impact right now.


Yeah, I figured while I was republishing the book's details, I might as well raise the price of it by a dollar.

So I guess I'm not really doing anything to help it reclaim its momentum now, but I am setting it up for a possible replay of this past week's success in the future.

And a final observation: It's funny, isn't it, how quickly we accept a better level of something? Ten days ago, I would have been ecstatic to sell a dozen copies of the book in a day. Today I'm sad that I've only sold 65. So far. There's still a few hours left ...


Whirlochre said...

That leap to 1326 is great news. An 'Arnie's bicep' of a swelling in sales.

Jo-Ann said...

Well done, Phoenix
Success is very wel1 deserved.

1326 sold....I'd be cracking the champagne!

Matt said...

Seeing those numbers, I'm starting to think it's actually possible to make a living as an author.

Jo-Ann said...

PS Did you change Sector C's front cover? You might have mentioned it on a previous post but I missed it.

Looks good.

Artnoize said...

Sector C will become a classic of the genre.

As an admirer of Crichton & Gibson's cautionary/futuristic novels, I would include this book among their best- I hope that reading some of your other work will prove to be as rewarding.

The writing is superb, and the storyline is filled with believable characters and future events.

I do believe the human race is hurtling towards extinction, and the most likely cause will be a microscopic enemy that we inadvertently release.

lexcade said...

Woo hoo! That's really exciting!

I learn so much from you. If I decide to go down the self-pub route, I'm totally pestering you for information and advice.

Torbinrapid said...

I read Sector C as a free-read from Amazon, but have become a fan as a result. I'll be paying for my upcoming Phoenix Sullivan offering!

Phoenix Sullivan said...

@Whirl: There's a 98-lb weakling joke in there somewhere...

@Jo: Yes, it is a new cover. Thank you for noticing!

@Matt: The key, of course, is sustainability. One month is not a trend. But it does open the door to possibility...

@lexcade: Pester away, sweetie. My hope is that being open with numbers and strategy will help others make better-informed decisions along the way. Dream big, but stay grounded ;o)

@Artnoize and Torbinrapid: Thank you for dropping by and for your kind words! I'm always a bit concerned talk about the money/sales side on this blog might be a bit off-putting to readers coming by. Your comments mean the absolute world to me! And without folk like you, there would be no blog like this. I'm so glad you enjoyed SECTOR C!