On 9th July 2019 I made a big ol’ public declaration to sell a thousand copies of my fantasy novel The End of Magic by Christmas, and I promised to keep folks in the loop with the ups and downs of sales and marketing with a weekly update.
A few caveats…
- I can only do this in the USA… Unbound have the UK rights and I have no visibility on sales other than the twice yearly statements.
- I’m going to stick with Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.
- I’ll be counting both Kindle and Paperback sales.
- Here’s the big finale!
So this is Christmas, and what have you done? Sold a thousand copies of your book? Er… no. Let’s have a quick recap since my last update, and then figure out what worked and what didn’t.
You may recall that I had a bunch of promos booked for the run-up to Christmas:
- BookRunes and BookRaid (22nd November – $25)
- Bargain Booksy (4th December – $45)
- Fussy Librarian (5th December – $24)
- Ereader News Today (16th December $35)
- Book Barbarian ($35 – 24th December)
And here’s how they did…
BookRunes and BookRaid – 22nd November:
Bargain Books – 4th December, then Fussy Librarian – 5th December:
E-reader News – 16th December:
Book Barbarian – 24th December:
Quite disappointing in the end, it has to be said. I was hoping for bigger spikes than that, and in between the promos I was running Bookbub ads to maintain what little sales momentum I had. Here’s what the daily sales look like since my last update…
Which gives a not-so-grand total of 286 copies sold since I embarked on this challenge!
A mere 714 copies shy of my target. I’m not completely sure how much I spent on ads, but it was in excess of £700… So what went wrong?
It wasn’t a series:
Something I realised very early on was that this kind of promotion is most effective when promoting a series of books. Book one is your loss leader, and you upscale with the subsequent titles in the series. All I had was a loss leader! Fellow author Ian Sainsbury summed it up here in this exchange on Facebook…
I only had one territory:
Because Unbound have the UK & Commonwealth I could only run this promo on Amazon US, and that can really hamper the effectiveness of the promotions you run. You’re much more likely to be chosen for a Bookbub newsletter promotion when you tick the “International” box, for example.
Real life happened:
I took a holiday in July, and for seven weeks between September and November I was heads down on rewrites of a screenplay and a new novel and let the marketing slip and the sales dropped to nothing. Only myself to blame, but you can’t be a writer unless you write and these are both important gigs.
Too Few Reviews:
For much of this experiment I only had six customer reviews. They were good, but most casual customers will need more convincing than that. I did change strategy to get more newsletter promotions and boosting my mailing list, and then in December Amazon decided to merge the UK and US reviews, so I now have 27 ratings with a 4.7 average.
I might be too British:
I’ve definitely had a stronger reader response from my fellow Brits. I have a writing style that’s quite wry and ironic and Brits generally enjoy that, and Americans can often find it a little baffling (this doesn’t just apply to The End of Magic, I’ve known this about my writing for a while). Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams and even Monty Python have cult followings in the US when compared to their profiles in the UK, and my writing owes a lot to their influence, so I guess I’m in the same boat. I take some solace that there are plenty of writers who never cracked the States who make a very good living. I do love you, America, but it seems it was not to be (at least, with this book)…
I still don’t know who my readers are:
I can’t tell you the number of reviews that start with a variation of “I don’t normally read fantasy, but I loved this…” Here’s a few recent examples…
Knowing who your readers are is the key to driving sales. I’ve experimented with ads for fans of Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch and they’ve been very hit and miss. Nothing has made me think: that’s it! That’s my readership! So it’s entirely possible that The End of Magic falls between the cracks: not grimdark enough for Abercrombie fans, not funny enough for Pratchett readers. If anyone who’s read the book has any thoughts do please let me know!
And here we are at the end of this great experiment. I’ve learned a lot and have even more to contemplate, but thanks to everyone who’s joined me, encouraged me and — most importantly — bought and read The End of Magic. If you haven’t so far, then you can find it here.
And if you’ve just stumbled across this and want to see how it all began, here’s the first week of the challenge and there are links to the subsequent weekly updates at the end of each page.