Being an indie author is about more than just writing. As I said in yesterday’s post, my BFF and I had a long phone conversation about our jobs. She jokingly told me I was slightly obsessive in my tracking of sales.
As per usual, she’s right. I keep a very detailed spreadsheet that lists books by retailer and price changes to see how well they sell. Months I advertise, get marked as well – where I advertised, what I advertised, the cost, and the downloads my book received.
However, that gives me a better understanding of how I’m selling books. For example, I know that come April, I’ll be lucky to sell half my usual amount. Advertising has no effect on it. Releasing a book has no effect on it. April just isn’t my month, year after year. Now, I realize my advertising dollars along with my time would be better spent somewhere else – like writing and editing.
I also know that every October, my sales increase. Not just of one book or series, but of all my books. I get that they are all a little dark and as we head towards Halloween, my sales naturally increase as people are looking for darker stuff to read around that time. I also know that I can spend less on advertising in late September and early October and have excellent returns for my money. If I can release a book in October, that’s just a bonus.
Come November and the first two weeks of December, my paperback sales exponentially increase. I will sell as many paperbacks in those five or six weeks as I will the entire rest of the year. Print books still make excellent gifts as it turns out (I know I love them).
The big thing I’ve discovered though, is that being an indie requires you to do both jobs: writer and publisher. And there’s a whole lot more to being a publisher than just having books edited, covers made, and setting up advertising. We need to understand how advertising works for us and when. We need to understand how offering freebies affects sales.
It is the tasks of the publisher that I find most indies don’t understand. I have had dozens ask me why I track sales from year to year and month to month. When I explain it to them, they just give me blank looks. However, these numbers show me a lot of things that most people never would think of (me included). For instance, I rarely advertise The Brenna Strachan Series. It’s a waste for me to spend that money. I will actually have more sales of the series if I advertise Elysium Dreams. That sounds counter-intuitive, but it makes sense once you have the numbers in front of you.
The D&R novels are, for the most part, my gateway books. People read them and if they like them, they then try my other series. This isn’t always true, I have plenty of readers that started with either The Dysfunctional Chronicles or The Brenna Strachan Series and moved to the Dreams & Reality novels from there, but they are in fact the minority.
And readers who have read all the D&R series will see an advert come through for Tortured Dreams or Elysium Dreams and go look at my books. A lot of times, they are looking to make sure they haven’t somehow missed a new D&R release, but if they find they haven’t, they will download another of my freebies. Meaning when I advertise any D&R novels, my downloads of my other freebie books also increases.
Which leads to the question, do freebie ebooks sell books? Um, yeah, they do. For me, the increase is very noticeable. For instance, several weeks of March, I have had Mercurial Dreams set as a freebie. That means the first 3 books of the D&R novels are free. I have had phenomenal downloads of Mercurial Dreams. That’s awesome, but freebies don’t pay the bills… However, as more and more readers grab the first 3 D&R novels for free, they are buying the rest of the series and they are pre-ordering Triggered Reality. Essentially right now, for every 4 books they buy, they get 1 free. Even if they aren’t in love with the novels by the end of Mercurial Dreams, they are buying Explosive Dreams to see if book 4 is the one that they fall in love with.
That brings us nicely to how the D&R novels impact my other books. Readers that are on the fence with the D&R novels will try my other freebies. I have gotten several this month that said things like “I tried the three D&R and then saw you wrote fantasy and tried it too and love the Brenna Strachan books. Are there more in this series?” Although, my favorite has been “I tried D&R because it was listed as horror and had some problems getting through Elysium Dreams. Then I tried The Brenna Strachan series and love it! I read all four in just a week. I don’t know why those aren’t listed as horror.”
Writing good books is only part of being an indie. The other part requires us to understand everything a publishing house understands. Advertisements and books sell books, but you can’t underestimate the power of knowing when and where to advertise, which books help sell your other books, how readers perceive your books (are the Strachan books horror? I don’t think I write any horror, but I find I’m in the minority), and when a $30 advertisement will do just as much good as a $300 advertisement. All of that helps us make better informed decisions as writers to continue writing and for me, hanging around my house in my pajamas all day.