Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Some Books Will Never Be Rock Stars

The reality is all the promo in the world for a well-edited, well-covered, well-blurbed book won't guarantee success. If all it took was promotion, traditional publishers would be striking gold with 100% of the books they publish instead of having the 20% that hit prop up the 80% that fizzle. Some books simply resonate while others don't.

Theme, genre, state of the economy, general mood of the country, saturation in a market -- all play a role in whether a book is well-received or not. What finds an eager market today may find a less-than-welcoming audience in 6 months. What sells well in one store may not sell at all in another. It's the fickleness of art.

Sucess, of course, has many definitions, many variations. And the tools to measure success vary too. Is a book that manages to launch big, hit a New York Times bestseller list its first week out and then disappear more successful than the book that doesn't make as big a splash at launch and never makes the list but over the year outsells the book that does? Is a trad book that earns out its advance or an indie book that earns enough to cover its expenses and so turns a profit a success?

In my last post, I touted the initial short-term success the Steel Magnolia Press books are seeing using our launch strategy. I'll just add here the updated stats for our two latest releases. These books launched last week, went free Thursday and Friday and have been in the paid store since Saturday.

Catering to the Italian Playboy by Tamelia Tumlin

Rank highs so far of:

#170 Overall US store
#14 Contemporary Romance
#35 All Romance

#122 Overall UK store
#12 Contemporary Romance
#17 All Romance

1250+ Total copies sold
52 Total copies borrowed
10,700+ Total copies downloaded free

The Rent-A-Groom by Jennifer Blake

Rank highs so far of:

#192 Overall US store
#15 Contemporary Romance
#44 All Romance

#229 Overall UK store
#18 Contemporary Romance
#31 All Romance

1100+ Total copies sold
106 Total copies borrowed
24,700+ Total copies downloaded free

We're prepared for these numbers to start to slide in the next day or so. Well, mentally prepared if not emotionally. I still get a twinge watching SECTOR C's slow slide (it's in the #7000s now - boo). And we plan to bolster revenue of these two new releases with a price change soon. I'll have a post on our current pricing strategy later this week.

But this post started out talking about books that don't rock it on the lists. In the interest of full disclosure, we've seen some of those too. Books that are selling OK but not in the numbers hoped for. A couple of SMP novellas have seen only a couple of hundred sales since November. They did not have benefit of our current launch strategy and we'll be relaunching those books around May 1 to see if they can achieve rock star status then. We think they will.

The Extinct anthology also continues to be rockstar-challenged. The good news, however, is that after 11 months, it's finally earned out its advances and expenses and is ready to start paying royalties to the authors involved. Aside from 3 more scheduled free days through April, we'll be looking at other ways to make the book more appealing to a wider readership.

The anthology and the individual stories had their first free runs a couple of weeks ago. The anthology had over 2000 free downloads, which spiked 43 sales plus 4 borrows since. The individual stories had a combined total of around 3800 downloads with about 50 paid sales afterward. Far from the number of sales many other titles have seen after a free run, but a nice bump from what had been selling. Between the complete anthology and the individual short stories, we'll have something free from the collection every weekday starting tomorrow and going to the end of April, and will evaluate our promotion strategy again based on those results.

Sales for Vet Tech Tales didn't seem to notice there was a free day in there on Jan 31 when only about 450 copies were downloaded. After its flurry of sales and borrows the first week after its launch in December, this month it's settled into selling about 10 copies per day. A respectable number considering I've taken my eye off of it promotion-wise until I start posting new tales from Volume 2 on my other blog. Still, no rockstar sales for it.

This, of course, is the wisdom handed down to us by traditional publishers and investment strategists: A diversified portfolio of many titles will help ensure a steady income. Having a large number of titles is your hedge against future uncertainty.

I'll also add the lightning analogy in regard to educating yourself about the market. While you'll never know in advance where, or even if, lightning will strike, when you know something about its properties you can at least position yourself in a place where it's more likely to find you.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Three keys to success: talent, practice, timing.

Since people either have talent or they don't, and practice is completely under their control, timing is the biggest variable. A book may not be a rock star now, but something could happen that would boost it's appeal (with Linsanity gripping New York, imagine the boost in sales a basketball themed romance novel would receive).

All we can do is hope we're talented, work on our craft, and let Fate take care of the rest, if it so chooses.