Feb 152012
 

Mike Oakes is a fellow Dead Robot Society forum member, and he left the below comment after my last post.  I started to reply directly to his questions, but I quickly found that my reply was becoming longer than the post on which he’d left them.  So I decided I would simply create a new post on the topic.  Read his comment below, and my reply after.

Mike Oakes says:

Congratulations

I read the first few chapters of your book when you had it in the crypt of the DRS forum. It stood out to me as a book that could get published. When I saw that you were releasing it, I was excited to see how a skilled first time writer would fare in the open market. I’d say breaking even in two months is faring pretty well. It gives me faith that good work will at least usually be rewarded.

I get the impression that your sales have ramped up and are still going strong. Is that true? A post on any specific sales figures would be very interesting.

Again, congratulations.
And good luck in the future.

 

Hi Mike. First of all, thanks for the kind words.  They mean a lot to me.  I’m still getting used to the idea that people actually like my writing, and every note I get from someone makes me smile at the thought.  So thanks for today’s smile. Big Smile

As for the sales of Half Past Midnight, yes – sales are still going strong (knock on wood), or at least what I consider strong.  There are plenty of folks that have paved the way before me, and I’ve tried to study what they’ve done to maximize my results.  If you want to see how the big kids do it, I strongly suggest you read the blogs or listen to podcasts of people like Nathan Lowell, Robin Sullivan, Joe Konrath, and a whole host of others.  They are the folks that can really show you how it’s done.

Me?  I’m still very new at this business, so I’m not sure what the veterans would consider strong sales.  I can tell you that I’m not about to quit the day job and pursue my writing career – at least, not yet.  I’m even less sure how to respond to the question regarding whether or not my sales have ramped up.  It’s just not a simple yes or no question in my case. Let me explain.

HPM sales started pretty slow when the book first released in mid-December.  That was pretty much as I expected.  Like I said, I’m a new author with no following, and there are tens of thousands of other new authors on Amazon.  So during my first two weeks, HPM worked its way up to about ten sales per day.  My math showed that 95% of those sales were on Amazon.  So on January 1, I removed the book from Smashwords, Nook, and other venues, joined Amazon’s KDP Select program, and sales stayed the same – still about ten per day.  Then came what I call “The Great Experiment”

Let me preface this part by giving credit where credit is due.  You see, I was lucky enough to have also had my book chosen as a Red Adept Select title.  Up at the top of my page here, you will see a carousel of books entitled “Red Adept Select Titles” (and I would encourage you to read any of them that strike your fancy – they are all extremely well done).  Suddenly, I was in the same “room” as these fine folks, most of them well established writers with a wealth of knowledge and experience that they were more than willing to share.  It was these fine folks who convinced me to try The Experiment.

On January 3, I took a gamble based on their advice.  I posted an ad, made a couple of announcements on social media sites, and made the book free for a day.  Suddenly “sales” (which I put in quotes, because giving something away for free is not the same as selling it) completely shot through the roof.  Hell, they blasted the roof completely off the house, left the atmosphere, and destroyed a nearby asteroid!  On that one day, I gave away more than 11,300 copies of the book.  That’s more than eleven thousand, three hundred!!!!!

And that’s where the magic started.  Those 11,300 “sales” shot my book to the number two spot on the Amazon “Top 100 Action and Adventure – Free” list, and into the twenties of their Top 100 of all free books.  That, combined with the two ads, gave me some incredible exposure.  More importantly, for the next week after the book was no longer free, HPM continued to sell at a rate of more than 100 copies per day.  That kept it in the charts, but now it was suddenly in the Top 100 Action and Adventure – Paid list.  In fact, for three days, it stayed in Amazon’s Top 100 of all paid books!  This triggered what I like to call the Ouroboros Effect.  The more visible a book is, the better its sales, which keeps it visible in the charts, which triggers more sales, which keeps it visible in the charts, which…. well, you get the idea.  Half Past Midnight rode the Ouroboros express for about a week, and then began to taper off until after a few weeks it finally leveled out at about twenty sales per day.

… Until this week. For some reason, sales are now climbing again.  I’m pretty sure I understand why it did so well immediately after The Experiment.  I think it was simply a combination of having published in a genre that was hungry for new material, following a good marketing strategy, and pure luck.

But I have no idea how to explain this latest bump in sales.  For some reason, sales have gone back up to around fifty per day, and I haven’t done anything to promote it.  There is nothing that I can point to and say, “here’s why sales are increasing”.  Yet for the last few days, Half Past Midnight is once again in Amazon’s Top 100 Action and Adventure-Paid on both the Kindle (now #66) and Book (now #82) lists.  It’s not back up where it was before, but it’s there nevertheless.  I was expecting a bit of a bump toward the end of February, because I have an ad scheduled to come out then.  But this latest bump is a complete mystery to me.

 UPDATE – Before I posted this, I spoke to my editor, Lynn O’Dell.  When I expressed my puzzlement over the recent uptick in sales she checked and pointed out that Half Past Midnight is now linked in Amazon’s “Also Bought” lists to other post-apocalyptic novels such as William Forstchen’s One Second After, Des Michaels’ Terawatt, Ray Gorham’s 77 Days in September, and David Crawford’s Lights Out, all of which have significant fan bases.  It’s something that sometimes happens when an intermingling of fans occurs.  I have no idea if it will continue – if it will result in a continued sales increase, or if it’s simply a short-lived phenomenon.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s just another twist on the roller coaster – and I’m going to continue to enjoy the ride for as long as I can. Cool

So Mike, I hope that answered your questions.  If not, just ask again and I’ll be happy to respond.

Be safe everyone. Bye

  5 Responses to “In answer to Mike’s question…”

  1. That’s fantastic, thanks for the info. I try to get as much knowledge as I can from the heavyweights, including the ones you mentioned, but it’s nice to see that knowledge put to use with good results by someone who I would say is more in my boat: just a guy with a book (and maybe a hardworking but understaffed marketing department).

    And in my opinion, you have had good results. There are a lot of crazy numbers that get thrown around, but I think fifty books a day is great. I guess the big question is how long it will last. If you could maintain that number for the length of time it takes you to write a new book, you’d really have something. Then just get Amazon to throw in health insurance and a 401k, and you almost could quit your job. Almost.

    And there’s always the chance that your sales will increase, especially as you put new books out.

    Not to promote greed, but now that you’re linked in with the also-boughts, I wonder if you could get away with a price bump. The last thing you want to do is drop in sales, so it might not be worth the risk.

    I hope you continue to do well. Keep us updated.

  2. Actually, if I bumped the price, it would disqualify me from the ad that I have coming out in a few weeks. However, I have heard from several other authors that they end up with an entirely different audience when they bump the price, and sales sometimes actually go up when they do so. Right now, I’m content with the percentage I’m getting at $2.99. On average, I think I get around $1.70 per sale. That takes into account the lower percentages on print and international sales (I actually make less on a $9.99 print version than I do on the $2.99 Kindle version).

    As for tomorrow, who knows? I have a good group advising me, so I’ll lean on them quite a bit when tomorrow comes. Smile

  3. […] is a sort of followup to my post from February 15 (In answer to Mike’s question…) in which Mike wanted specific sales numbers from when I put HPM up for free.  In that post, I […]

  4. […] take ad nauseam about the relationship between rankings, title visibility, and sales (see “In answer to Mike’s question…” from February of 2012, and “Answering Mike again” from March of that same year), […]

  5. […] no sales.  It was the exact opposite of the Ouroboros Effect I wrote about in an old post “In answer to Mike’s question…“, and this time instead of boosting my sales, it actually killed […]

Leave a Reply