Friday, January 6, 2012

The Sales Voyeur: December Sales

Whether it's for the beginning of world domination by Amazon or merely the first volley in a new battle for customers, December 2011 will be remembered as a watershed moment in ebook sales. Amazon's Select program with its ability for authors to now promote their book for free for up to 5 days at author discretion has already changed the way books sell on Amazon. That, coupled with strong sales of classics and traditional bestsellers at Christmas-time, has made it at once easier and tougher to send a book up the rankings.

Easier because, in many cases, free sells. Right now, today, free can be a powerful promotional tool, and the ability to control the promotional timeframe for the right book at the right time can pay off handsomely. How? By giving books and authors that "chance" everyone whines about. It can get your book noticed. What it can't do is sustain that notice. As an exclusive partner, this is what Amazon can offer. It isn't right for all books, but for the books it is right for, free can put an otherwise obscure book on the charts for its 15 minutes of fame. The unknown factor is whether or not free as a promotion will continue to work in the long term. Being flexible in this environment is the name of the game.

Harder because 1) if you don't want a book exclusive to Amazon, you lose the advantage of the bump free can bring, and 2) the divide between the bestsellers and the under-performers is widening. Where once selling 10 books a day could get you a ranking of, say, 10,000, it now takes 15 or 20 sales. The rankings -- and, in turn, the bestseller lists -- are more volatile than ever.

The Numbers

Anecdotal evidence on the Kindleboards and elsewhere seems to indicate in December that the rich got richer and the poor stayed poor as the gap started gaping. Many authors report double and triple their sales average over the last months. In any other month, my own sales would have been Good ++. As it is, they only merit a Good rating.

Spoil of War came off a November-long free ride at Apple and Amazon. I'll update with sales numbers from Apple whenever they come in, but Spoil enjoyed being the #1 Historical Fantasy in the US, UK, Canada and Australia iTunes stores throughout much of December. No matter how many or few sales were made, the real joy there was in seeing it go head-to-head with the big boys and to come away with over 150 ratings averaging 4 to 4.5 stars across all the sites. As of Friday morning, Jan 6, it's at #8 in the US store, (OMG) still #1 in Canada, (*swoon*) #1 in the UK, and #3 in Australia.

After its sales bump coming off free in Amazon with over 25,000 copies downloaded, Spoil settled in at Amazon selling 5-10 copies a day.

In a milestone month, it passed its 1000th lifetime sale in December.

The breakdown:

285 - Amazon US
.92 - Amazon UK
..4 - Amazon FR
..9 - BN
.14 - OmniLit
___________

404 - Total + Apple Sales

SECTOR C didn't go free, but early in the month it did get a lovely free mention from Kindle Books for a Buck and had a paid sponsorship (a $60 ad) on Kindle Nation Daily on Dec 28. In this particular instance, the free feature pulled in more short-term sales than did the paid spot.

The breakdown:

228 - Amazon US
.10 - Amazon UK
..6 - BN
___________

244 - Total

Vet Tech Tales: The Early Years debuted on Dec. 13, and I immediately enrolled it in Amazon Select. I offered it for free for 2 days, Dec 22 and 23, and 1347 readers picked it up for free. Once off free, it quickly became the #1 bestseller in Veterinary Medicine and went on to become the #1 or #2 bestselling Hot New Release in 3 separate categories: Medicine, Science and Animal Care & Pets. It's only eligible for the Hot New Release lists for a few more days, so I'm hoping its visibility remains high for those last days.

Being in the Select program also means the book is available to be borrowed through Amazon's Prime Lending Library. Still waiting to hear how much each borrow earned for the month of December and will update as soon as we know.

The breakdown:

270 - Amazon US
.41 - Amazon UK
___________

311 - Total Sales
88 - Borrows

What's Next

This past week I removed SECTOR C from all retailers save Amazon and entered it into the Amazon Select program. The reason is pretty obvious: 6 sales at BN and no or neglible sales in the other stores vs 238 sales in a month through Amazon.

Today and tomorrow SECTOR C is free. I've requested mention on a couple of the major books-for-free sites, and a feature on Free Kindle Books and Tips has already given the book a nice bump. As of noon today, it's already #292 in the free store, #1 in Hi-Tech SF and #4 in all of SF.

A new release from a new Steel Magnolia Press author, Lindy Corbin, is also free today and tomorrow. It's a Regency Romance novella: Gypsy Bond, and it's already #23 in free Historical Romance without any extra push. If you miss the free period, you can also pick it up later for just 99 cents.

The contemporary novella, A Vision of Sugarplums, by Jennifer Blake that Steel Magnolia offered free throughout December finally got price-matched to free on Amazon on Dec. 27. It had over 12,000 downloads, and in the 2 days it's been back on the paid list has made the best-seller list for Contemporary Romance in Amazon, and is hovering around the #1300 rank. Even backlist titles get new life sometimes.

Last year, many indie authors saw sales pick up mid-January after new Kindle owners downloaded their favorite authors then got adventuresome looking for more, and then continue high for a couple of months. One year, however, does not a trend make. I'm as eager as the next author to see what this new year brings.

3 comments:

Sarah Laurenson said...

Something new every time I turn around. Thanks for keeping us up to date with all your research and results!

Chrystalla Thoma said...

These are great numbers, if you ask me! The quality of your work in combination with your informed marketing efforts are bearing fruit. Congrats and may this new year be even better! :)

Stavros Halvatzis said...

Congratulations on hitting the no. 1 spot in high tech scifi, Phoenix. And BTW, I wholeheartedly concur about pushing one's book exclusively on amazon. The benefits of this far outweigh the disadvantages right now.