Here’s the hook line:
My latest book is the #1 Young Adult Steampunk new release in the US and UK on Amazon Kindle. Err...can I call it my latest when the book was first released nine years ago?
Here be the goods:
I once had a worldwide bestselling series called The Hunchback Assignments. The series was published by Random House in the U.S. and various other publishers in various other countries from 2009-2012. The first two books sold well in the U.S. The next two not so well. So the series went out of print (except in Canada where it continues to do well—thanks to my home country!). But when I looked at the sales over time I felt it just didn’t sell enough (I’m sure this is a common feeling among authors). It should have been more popular, darn it! Was it the cover? The publisher? The market? The…. (insert Psycho sting) writing?
Since the English rights had been returned to me in all countries (except Canada), I decided self-publishing was a great way to find new readers. When I look at the sales of the original series in the U.S. only about 5% were to ebook buyers. So I felt like a huge chunk of the market had been missed (and also didn’t exist in 2009 the same way it does now).
So What did you do, Mr. Smarty Pants?
I re-examined everything. I read Chris Fox’s excellent book (Relaunch Your Novel) and used the methods inside to revampe the series.
I had thought up the original series title (The Hunchback Assignments) but over the years became aware of how unwieldy it was. It’s unwieldy because it’s long and also because you have to explain it (or at least read the book before it makes sense—you see he’s a hunchback secret agent who goes on assignments and…). So I gravitated towards the German title of the series Mission Clockwork. That was punchier! And I did a poll (at Pickfu.com) to see if that title would work for new buyers:
So Mission Clockwork won the title bout. It seems counter-intuitive to give up all the years of website mentions, reviews, etc that feature The Hunchback Assignments. But these would be new readers I was targeting about a series they'd never seen before. And Kindle is all about social proof. Plus I could still quote the reviews. And I have a review team of about 600 who are part of my newsletter subscribers. So they would kindly leave reviews for me.
(*Enjoying this article? Want to let readers know about Mission Clockwork. I'd appreciate it. Just click on the handy dandy links provided below.)
I wanted something attractive. I looked around and found science fiction books that were doing well on the charts. My research led me to Jeff Brown, whom I contacted and he came up with this:
As a side note, Jeff lives in Mexico. So I assumed he was an ex-pat American. It wasn’t until we chatted that I discovered he grew up in Saskatoon and had once played the bagpipes across the street from my house. Small world.
I have just over 8700 subscribers to my newsletter. On Tuesday (tomorrow as I write this) they will receive notice that the book is available for purchase. I cross my fingers that they’re in a reading/buying mood.
I have bought advertising from several paid book promo companies. (there’s a great list for that at Reedsy.) I also have a Facebook Advertising campaign (I took Mark Dawson’s Ads for Authors course) and an Amazon advertising campaign and a Bookbub campaign.
Why is the book only available on Amazon?
Ah, there’s the rub. I hate disappointing potential readers. But Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program is too massive (and lucrative) to ignore. So I decided to go exclusive with them. Over time I intend to gradually move the books out to other vendors.
How much did all of this cost?
Here’s the list of expenses. There are blanks for Facebook, Bookbub and Amazon ads because those are not a set number. So they may add as much as $500 to the overall cost.
Well the book went live on Friday the 16th. So my review team put up reviews that day. So there’s the social proof. The marketing campaign appears to be working because the book is climbing the charts. I won't know for a while whether or not it will "stick" there.
Are you trying to become one with the Amazon algorithm?
No. Instead. I’ve tried to mind meld with Amazon’s algorithm. Long story short: Amazon’s system decides where you belong in the rankings after it judges your first five days of sales. So the idea is to sell a higher amount each day in those first five days then Amazon (in theory) will deem it worthy and push the book along to its readers if you’ve succeeded. The person who has mind-melded with the algorithm is David Gaughran. Go to his website. Read all his books about selling on Amazon (he’d love it if you read his history novels, too, I’m sure).
What about the other books in the series?
There are four books in total the series. Book Two will be released on April 3rd (so two weeks after the first book). Then the third book on May 1st and the fourth on May 29th (4 weeks later). This is because Amazon’s various charts (new releases/popularity/etc.) reward new books the best in the first 90 days of a book being released. So if I do this properly each book will get the most attention possible in that time period.
Wait! Wait! Wait! Do you have a graphic that outlines what the launch week will look like?
Of course I do! Here it is. Feast your eyes on the tiny details. Please ask any questions you have in the comments.
Will it work?
Well, tune in and see. You can watch the rankings here.
Or click the cover:
Will you post about the results once all is said and done?
Yes, and perhaps in the middle of all this if there is anything that comes up. But I will definitely do a wrap up post.
Other resources: tons of info at Kindlepreneur--I could do a whole post about the good stuff there. Just click the link: Kindlepreneur. Tons of support at 20booksto50K Facebook Group and SFF Facebook Group.
Did I mention I’m not afraid to ask for help? Please share the book to your friends and followers. And if you want to share the blog...then just click on the share tabs at the bottom of this page.
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Prepare yourself for graphs and stuff...
This is the third blog post in my self-publishing adventure. If you'd like to read them in order click the links:
I recently released the third and final (?) book in the Amber Fang series. I am both thrilled with and frustrated by the results. My first goal was to break even. Goal achieved! But barely!
OK, let's start with the money first. This is what I spent on all three books.
And this is the income generated...
And because I promised a graph...
I really like pie. But I don't like pies where I only get a sliver of a piece. And if I want to feel sad, I can go..."Oh, I wrote three books and made $642.00." Ah, but who wants to feel sad? Besides Eeyore that is?
The books made an okay amount of money. Not the yacht-owning, oil-rig spurting amount I had been promised by my imagination. The books should have made more. Here were my mistakes:
1). Having a year pass between book 1 & 2. Oh, I thought I could write faster, but life got in the way. That time lapse meant that the first book fell way off the charts by the time the second book came along. And it's much harder to push an "older" book back up the charts. Next time I'll write and release all three books within weeks of each other.
2). Going Wide (to start). If I'd started with Amazon only, I would have been able to test out the Kindle Unlimited audience (where an author gets paid for page reads). After sales slowed down on Amazon I could have taken the books to Kobo, iBooks, etc. I didn't do this at first because I didn't want to disappoint readers who don't use Amazon. But it is much harder to now take them off all the other vendors and just put them on Amazon.
3) I spent too much on ads on Book 2. Most of those ads didn't convert at a rate that was helpful to the launch (and to making my money back). Amazon rewards books that are new by pushing them up the charts faster. If I'd had all three books ready to go and spent the ads on book 1 then book 2 and 3 would have mostly taken care of themselves.
There are other things I'd change. But that's a start. Still, I'm learning.
Hey, must be time for another chart. Here is a breakdown of the sales by vendor.
That's a pretty big drop off. Book 1 had 4000 sales. But 2 had 400. And 3 had 141 (now those two books just came out in November and February, so they're not quite done selling). Again, if I'd had all three books ready to go I think there would have been better sales across all three. Readers like reading their sequels immediately. Not a year later.
My Big Fat Takeaway
It was worth it in terms of understanding how the "system" works. Don't make my mistakes! But also these books are completely paid for now. So every single book that sells from here on in is a profit. And I have several options to kickstart the series again...from trying for a Bookbub in the US or moving all the books into Kindle Unlimited (or even giving them new ASIN's so they look like brand new books on Amazon). I do believe there are still plenty of readers out there who would enjoy this series.
So that's the final update.
And it's all been training for my next experiment. This:
The launch of this series is coming March 20th. Watch the skies...or at least the bookshelves.
Never give up. Never surrender.
P.S. Click this lovely image to learn more about the Amber Fang books.