Friday, September 09, 2011

How I sold more ebooks than Stephen King (for 48 hours)

We interrupt regularly scheduled blogging for an ebook update. To my surprise and delight my epubbed novel

has shot up the Kindle charts in the US and UK and is outselling Stephen King. Yes, that Stephen King!

I blame him and Ray Bradbury for turning me into a writer (and Tolkien and Frank Herbert and...). I'll explain how the sales jump came about in a second, first a few braggardly details: Currently the book is #680 on the Kindle US store and #158 on Kindle UK. It has made several bestseller charts including #15 overall on the Kindle US  Horror charts and #4 in Children's Spine-Chilling Horror (who doesn't love chilling the spines of those children?). In the UK the numbers are even higher (it's a smaller market): #1 in Children's Horror and #2 in Horror overall.

Actually, that #1 spot deserves a graphic:

Now let me attempt to explain how it was achieved:

I sacrificed an organic carrot to the god of ebooks.

Oh, wait that's not it.  Dust has been for sale as an ebook since February and has once before briefly cracked the top 1000. At the start of September I priced the book at free (who can refuse free?) on iBooks as a brief promotion. This was discovered by Amazon (okay, I told them) and since they have a price matching clause in their epub agreement they matched the price. On iBooks I had given away about 5 free copies. Amazon Kindle beat that in the first five minutes.  In the course of a week I gave away about 8000 books on Amazon UK and 11000 on Amazon US (that's a swack load of free books). The book reached #32 on the US free charts and #5 on the UK free charts. For me it was free advertising (the vast majority who have downloaded a free book likely won't read it...assuming they're hoarders like me). More reviews began to appear within days on both websites. I changed the price of Dust to 1.49 on KindleUS (Dust had previously been .99 cents and not doing well, so I chose 1.49 because...well...because Seth Godin's book was 1.49 and it was in the top 10). Then I chose .99 for the UK price (I chose the .99 pence for the UK because most of their top 20 bestsellers were in that price range...I have to sell 2 ebooks to equal the royalty I receive on a paperback). I changed the price to $1.99 on iBooks (anyone bored of all these geeky details yet?) and emailed Amazon to let them know that the book was no longer free on their competition's website. They changed the book back to the prices I had chosen.
And, blammo (that's an official epub word for wow), it shot up the charts.
A chart? Sure, I've got a chart for you:

This is Dust's kindle sales in the US over the last month. The lower the number the better the sales. Like golf. But more literary. Dust started at #849 on AmazonUS paid 48 hours ago and #736 on Amazon UK and has been climbing ever since (warning here are even more geeky details: it takes about 67 copies sold in the space of 24 hours to climb from #849 to #700. To add more perspective Dust sold 48 copies last that's more sales in a day than the book had all month). I don't know exactly why when it switched from free to paid status it ended up in such a good position on the charts. Is it because several people downloaded it accidentally thinking that it was free (Amazon does warn when a books price is changing)? Or is it some kind of magical algorithmic kindly thing? That part is beyond my limited IQ.

I don't expect this to last. I think Dust is successful because it has been on Amazon for over ten years in one format or another and has 20 reviews that average 4 stars. This lets prospective buyers know that it's a good gamble. I think that the fact that it's for young adults and doesn't have a romance angle or vampires, will limit the audience in the long run. I just want it to find its happy "sales" place.

And I'm enjoying the ebook ride right now. Go Dust go!


P.S.: Here's the horror sales chart with Mr. King. Expect the position to reverse quickly.


Catherine Stine said...

Art, you are, in turns, hilarious and generously informative. Both are priceless. Thanks for being the indie guide.

Unknown said...

Thanks Catherine,

Now don't encourage my goofy humour! : )

Lena Coakley said...

But why does Mr. King look so happy about it?

Hoping that DUST continues to climb, Art!

Unknown said...

Mr. King knows that I am just a fly that Cujo can step on whenever he wants.


Linda L. Richards said...

Thanks for sharing all this stuff, Arthur! I've been following your progress since earlier this year and have found your journey incredibly inspirational. (Hence I now have four e-books available and I keep adding backlist as quickly as I can squeeze covers out of my designer.)

One question: any advice on how to convince readers to ad reviews? I'm always too shy (too Canadian?) to ask!

Unknown said...

Hi Linda,

I asked friends who I knew had already read the books. Even a reviewer who reviewed Draugr ten years ago. Many of the reviews tho came from giving all the free copies away.

Good luck with your books!

Anonymous said...

Your blog is full of energy, color, and great info. Thanks for sharing!

P.S. I saw your cover on the blog of Christopher, who did my first novel cover, too. Isn't he great?

Unknown said...

thanks for the kinds words. And yes, Chris is great. Everyone check him out. http:://

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Go Dust go! Couldn't happen to a nicer guy (you, not Stephen). :)
p.s. it's very interesting that you got reviews so quickly from (some)of those free books. As always, thanks for sharing!

p.p.s. I raved over Hunchback today. :)

Unknown said...

Thanks Susan. And thanks especially for raving about Hunchback. I really appreciate the company that you've put my book in!

Lynne Sears Williams said...

One sacrificial carrot, charts & very nice graphs. Think I shall drop price and see what happens! Brilliant!

Unknown said...

Thanks Lynne,

Pricing is still a great mystery to me. There are so many books at .99 cents that the competition is fierce. I wonder if my 1.49 price actually looks better in the sense that it has a little more "gravitas" to it. Yes, silly of me thinking 50 cents ads gravitas...

Linda L. Richards said...

But the whole pricing dance is quite interesting. I've been fooling with the pricing on all my e-books since I began: sometimes .99, sometimes $2.99. It seems like everyone who is gaining any traction does that sort of thing. (You, for instance!) Now, after reading your posting and going away and pondering, I'm inspired to give one of my e-books away to see what happens. (It's fun, isn't it? This whole see what happens thing.) Trouble is, I can't see on Amazon how to give one away! They seem to want a .99 minimum. Here's a question I never, ever thought I'd find myself asking: how can I give one of my books away?

Susan B James said...

I am very happy for you. It gives me hope.

Linda L. Richards said...

Never mind: I went back and read it again and figured it out. I think!

Unknown said...

Hi Linda,

Yes there is a bit of a trick to giving a book away on Amazon. You can't choose free. But if you make your book free on another competitor (ibooks or Kobo or Smashwords) you can then inform them that it's free. You do that by clicking a link on the page for your book that says "tell us about a lower price". Within a week or a month (if they so choose) they will make it free.

Unknown said...

Thanks Susan! Yes, hope, it's what we all need!

That and coffee (or tea for me).

Georgina said...

Hi Arthur,
I asked Amazon how to list my book for free and they said I couldn't do it. How did you do it? Perhaps because you're a long standing author? Any hints on this?
Georgina Young-Ellis
Author of The Time Baroness

Unknown said...

Hi Georgina,

Just read my previous comment...up above...

It explains the method.

A'nol said...

About a week ago I decided I needed some new books on Kindle.
Sometimes you find the best books in YA. I am 61 so kinda past that age range. :) Bought Dust, yes it was no longer free. Started it yesterday, finished it today. Thanks for a wonderful time.

Unknown said...

Thanks for picking up DUST. And you're the perfect age for Young Adult. After all it's literature for the young at heart.