Monday, August 01, 2011

How I Didn't Sell 1 Million Copies in six months: July Sales

Amazing new stupendous ebook developments this month!
Okay, maybe that's a bit of an overstatement, but I have discovered that "free" sells. Or at least it leads to numerous downloads. About the middle of June I made this book free on iBooks and Smashwords:

And now it's free on Kindle (just click the above image but click right now because this offer is only good for 12 10 9 minutes--kidding, I was going all slap chop on ya). There is a trick to this because you can't actually just choose "free" on Kindle. Instead Amazon will set your price to the same as the competition. So once Amazon "noticed" that Draugr was free on other websites it automatically made it free on Amazon kindle. Even though I'd read about other people having "free" success, it isn't until you see it for yourself that you believe it. The book became free on Kindle somewhere around July 6th. Within a day it had shot up the "free" charts to as high as #52. By that time there had been 2000 downloads. In the next two days there were another 3000 downloads. Then it began to drop out of the top 100 and the downloads have slowed to about 100 a day so that the total for July is 7402 copies. To put this in perspective the book first came out in 1997 and sold 5000 copies in the space of a year. It took 4 days to "sell" that same amount for free. So Amazon's distribution model really does work (no surprise, eh). In that same time only about 80 copies were downloaded free on iBooks and 0 on Smashwords. What? You want to see a chart? Okay!

This chart shows the # of total sales I've made in the last six months (it's the tiny column second from the right) and the green column is the total free books I've given away. Now how to get those "free" people to buy books? Ah, there's the rub and the dub (and why I did the little experiment). I hope that over time there will be an increase in the sales of the other two books in the series:

Aren't they cute? Don't you just want to take them home and cuddle them (on your eReader that is)? Anyway, my theory is that this massive # of downloads will lead to more sales of these two books in the next few months as people read Draugr. Or those thousands of copies of Draugr might sit unloved on people's kindles. Poor electronic words...just waiting to be read. I was pleasantly surprised that there was an immediate increase: Drang sold 4 copies in June and jumped to 18 copies in July on Kindle. Loki sold 7 copies in June and leapfrogged to 16 copies in July on Kindle. So that's a nice increase for both the books. Obviously, I'm not going to get rich from that (it is an extra $69.36 in my pocket, tho, since I make 2.04 per book--they sell for $2.99).

But what about my total sales you ask? Ah, I knew you wanted to see another chart. Consider yourself charted:

As you can see by that chart sales stayed steady for July. Here are the totally exciting numbers:

Feb: 12
March: 43
April: 377
May: 274
June: 139
July: 148

So there hasn't been a huge jump. In fact DUST sold 77 copies on Kindle in June and 79 in July. Gee, that is consistent! I still plan on keeping DUST at .99 cents until I've sold 1000 copies (it's at 727 right now). As a point of interest 126 copies of my books were sold on Kindle this month and 21 on B&N (0 on Smashwords and 0 on iBooks--hmmm guess buying every Apple product in existence doesn't help e-book sales). I don't know what that means other than, well, Kindle is king obviously. The good news is I've nearly sold 1000 copies in total. That should happen next month. Oh, and I haven't included Kobo numbers in this because they don't send me my report until mid way through the month...but I only expect 4 or 5 more sales through them.
By this point I had hoped I'd be making enough money to be on a beach somewhere with my feet up while I hired retired ewoks or sasquatches to bash out my novels. I mean isn't that what the internet promised? Easy riches? But I'm satisfied with chugging along. I've done all the experiments that I can think of so far (other than releasing a brand new book--which is in the works) but I may make other books free (there is a theory that if you make a book free and then switch it to "paid" status it will jump up the charts--there are many theories in the e-book biz, I'm finding. is like a bunch of pig entrails that we're all staring at to find the future).
Anyway, it's still fun. And yo! Look over there--it's a  another rainbow to chase!


Unknown said...

As always, very insightful stuff Arthur. I think the free experiment will clearly lead to more reviews (hopefully positive), and I'm more and more convinced that positive reader reviews are going to be the currency of success moving forward in the digital age.

I don't view free and cheap book promotions as devaluing books as others might see it. Mostly because I think it ceases to be ONLY a book when you start publishing on your own. It becomes a product (cringe away), and as such it needs to compete with the other products out there. And while you'll not likely be competing with Stephen King when it comes to exposure, brand recognition, etc. you can certainly compete with him on price.

I think it is absolutely a logical and 'good' thing to do. I'll be watching to see if it manifest into more sales. (Hoping it does!)

Gayle Nastasi said...

I always enjoy reading about your chugs, Art! Congrats on the decent sales. Once my next goes online (if a certain someone will actually finish the cover art, LOL) I have one up there already I may set to 'Free' just to see how it affects things here. :-)

Thank you for keeping us posted on progress!

Unknown said...

Curious, but if Amazon drops your price to free, do they then waive the download charge they assess to each unit sold?

Catherine Stine said...

Ah, thanks for the update.

Steph said...

Thanks Arthur, those are very interesting and useful findings. I shall certainly do some free books too. It's a valuable promotional tool to get yourself known about.

Heather Leask Armstrong said...

Darn. I'm not on your charts. I bought Dust and Draugr on my new touch screen Kobo which I love even though I still prefer reading real books. They're just more... cuddly? I'm almost done Daugr and looking forward to re-reading Dust. I like to keep that one fresh in my mind as the students at my school read it as a Lit Group book and even though I have 10 copies there are never enough left over for me to read. I am just beginning to explore the idea of offering eReaders in my library and have read that some librarians are choosing Barnes and Noble readers over Kindle - - something to do with the licencing. I am dismayed about Apple's decision to kick Kobo out of their app store although as a Blackberry Torch user it doesn't affect me much. The Kobo app for Blackberry is really good - runs aw well as my Kobo reader and the fact the screen is smaller is kind of offset by the fact everything is in colour although the black and white of the Reader is I suppose a little easier on the eyes. The best thing I like about Kobo is the vast selection of Canadian books - including yours. One of the Winnipeg school division libraries is seriously considering going "totally eBook" (whatever that means). I think that would be a real shame actually but I guess to keep my school library and myself viable incorporating eReaders or at least having resources for students with iPod touches will be something I will have to investigate.

Janette Rallison said...

Thanks for all the information. And you don't really want ewoks writing for you. They would just write a bunch of ewok paranormal romances and those are so over.

Linda L. Richards said...

Great post, Arthur. I'm curious, though: even without free, your April numbers looked very good. Why would April have been better than May or June?

Unknown said...

Gee, I wrote a long clever reply and it didn't get posted. Doh! Here's my unclever one:

E.J. Yep, they're product. Once we've created our works of art we have to see them as product. If we want to eat that is. And there have been 2 reviews so far that I can attribute to the free books.

@Gayle Good luck with the cover! Tell us when it's up.

@ Catherine: Your Welcome! : )

@ Ren: There is no download fee. Yay!

@ Steph: I do see it as being a very valuable promo tool. 7000 people who had no idea I existed at least saw my name and my book long enough to download it.

@heather. That's really interesting about how libraries are dealing with ebooks. It's one of the great challenges for school systems. Yep "real" books are cuddly, ebooks are more transportable. And apple didn't kick Kobo out, you just can't buy a book directly from the app. Instead you have to go to the website and buy the book. A slight aggravation.

@janette. What? Ewok Paranormals are out of fashion. Must stop work on my next book now! Guess I'll switch to Ewok vampires.

@Linda. In April Dust was mention in the Pixel of Ink blog and email newsletter which has something like 20,000 subscribers. So it shot up the charts, as high as #800 or so, and sold about 300 copies that month. The sales slowly dropped as each month went by.

Lisa Yee said...

Wonderful post, Art. Very insightful. So sorry that part of your head is missing though.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Lisa. The missing head parts haven't affected my writing...

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Pig entrails! Ah yes. And I'm so glad you posted this, as I was just wondering if all the stories about FREE could possibly be, well, TRUE. And thank you for the charts. I always like to start my morning off with those.

p.s. I'm linking to this in my blog post today on Notes from the E-Revolution. :)

Unknown said...

Thanks Susan! May there be millions I say, millions who visit your blog. : )

Dotti Enderle said...

This reminds me of all the e-books that are sitting on my kindle unloved. But I will get around to reading them...someday.

Kathleea said...

I put a free children's ebook on Smashwords and have had over 200 downloads of it. So that's 200 people who know my name and maybe they'll check out my YA books. Kindle has sold more of my books than the other Ebook sites. I am toying with putting up a short story on Kindle and making it free. BTW I love your charts!

Unknown said...

AH, Dotti, many are the unloved books on my ereaders. I do seem to buy at a faster rate than I can read. Must it's sooooo easy.

@kathleen Yay you love my charts! Free certainly does seem to the beginning. I think a free story is a good idea...with a clickable ad for your book, of course!