Monday, June 27, 2011

Selling a book as a team

My suspense novel, One Small Victory, has recently been released in Turkey - my first foreign sale.  Dani, our fearless leader here on The Blood Red Pencil, asked how the sale came about, and since that involved some teamwork,  the story of how it happened fits our June theme of teamwork.

The book was originally published in 2008 hardback by Five Star Cengage/Gale and had moderate success there. Then I published it as an e-book myself via Smashwords in 2010, where it is available for a number of electronic devices. Later I published it directly to Kindle, and in February of this year a small publisher, Books We Love Publishing Partners, brought out a paperback version via CreateSpace

Once the book was available in all those formats and venues, the challenge was how to let readers find it in the midst of all the millions of books available for the e-readers.  I joined several online groups that focus primarily on e-books and how to market them. Members there support each other in a number of ways.

One of the things we did was participate in a special sale in March that was sponsored by Smashwords, but supported by Amazon as well. We could offer our books for a deep discount, or even offer them free for a short period of time. I had read blogs and articles by successful authors such as Joe Konrath  and L. J. Sellers, about how offering a book for free could really boost sales, so I took the plunge. I set One Small Victory to be free for the second and third week of March.

All of the authors promoted the sale via our blogs, Web sites, Facebook, Twitter, etc, and the sale got a lot of attention.

I didn't realize that anything significant was happening with my book until a friend e-mailed me to say that it was number 2 on the best-seller list on Amazon. There are two lists there, one for best-selling paid and one for best-selling free. One Small Victory was in the top ten on the free list for suspense, mystery, thriller, and women sleuths for several weeks, and has stayed in the top 50 ever since, even though it is now no longer free.

The book eventually sold over 30,000 copies in March, 11,530 of those paid and the others the free download.  It continues to sell anywhere from three hundred to a thousand copies a month, and that has kept it on those best-selling lists. When I was contacted by the publisher in Turkey, she said she was interested in the book because of those rankings at Amazon.

That would not have happened without the help and support of  my online team. I love the community of writers and editors I have found on the Web that is so willing to offer advice and support.   

And of course everyone here at The Blood Red Pencil.
Maryann Miller is an author and freelance editor. Her latest book is Open Season, which has gotten nice reviews from Library Journal and Publisher's Weekly. One Small Victory, is a top seller in the mystery bestseller list at the Amazon Kindle store. Visit her Web site for information about her books and her editing services. If you have a good book, she can help you make it better. She will stop playing with her horse and work, honest.

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  1. Congrats! I'm glad to read about your success in self-publishing. Hope it continues.


  2. That's awesome! I actually posted on my blog last week about the uproar over low-priced eBooks. Unlike many, I don't see it is a bad thing or something that's going to destroy the value of the book industry. I got my fair share of 'not nice' mail over it, but I think your example proves my point.

    It's about getting books in the hands of readers, and once they have something they want, they'll pay for it. Restaurants give out free food all the time when they have something new on the menu, and other companies do similar things. Just a way of doing business.

    Folks tend to get all squirmy (particularly writers, I've noticed) when you put the word the words writing and business in the same sentence. :-) But that's exactly what it is when you're selling on Amazon, etc.

    Wish you much more success!


  3. If you crunch Maryann's numbers, even at a $1/book, the take isn't bad! Nice job, gal. The best part is you have some control over the numbers. Royalty statements always make me a little suspicious. By the time you get some money for what you sold, so much time has elapsed and it's gone through several channels... who's to know if what you're getting paid is accurate unless you ask for an audit. With foreign rights, the whole thing becomes even more obscure. We should have a post about audits here, and all the +s and -s associated with them.

  4. So, Maryann, I just crunched some numbers based on your sales. ;) Can you write another post explaining how you get paid through Amazon? Do you get one big check at the end of the month? Direct deposit? How does this work? Nosy crows want to know, and I find it curious that nobody ever wants to talk about hard cash when it comes to book sales. We should have a theme some future month titled Cold Hard Cash. Will you spill?

  5. Hey, if giving away free copies ... or low priced copies ... helps get attention, I'm all over it. But here's something that has bugged me: how does a ridiculously low priced Kindle book impact the print version on Amazon ... I mean you can only take those things so low.

  6. Good for you Maryann and well deserved!
    Morgan Mandel

  7. Thanks for the endorsement, E. J. It is so interesting to get the reactions from different folks on what the price of books should be. There are some readers who think a low-priced book means it is of poor quality, but once you get some numbers generated, enough people read the book and like it and tell others it is a good deal. I have purchased a lot of books based on that kind of recommendation.

    Dani, I will be happy to talk about cold hard cash and payments, etc.

    Christopher, I don't see that the sales numbers for the e-book has impacted sales significantly one way or another for the paperback edition. There seems to be two groups of readers, those who are really liking e-books and going totally electronic with their reading, and those who still like a paper edition. That might be an interesting topic to research for a future BRP post.

  8. From a strictly environmental position, I like the idea of POD books and collecting them like one would a piece of art or craft. You read everything in e-book format, and buy only the books you really want as treasures on the home shelf. I've been doing this for a long time anyway - get the library book, then buy if I really love what I read. I think technology and low-priced books actually create higher sales for authors in that it's cheap and easy to download a book for $2.99 rather than spend the time and petrol going to the library. Or am I the only one thinking along those lines?

  9. Dani, regarding the environmental issues, people are really divided about the benefits of the e-readers because of the carbon footprint of manufacturing them as well as disposal issues. I have not done any research into the pros and cons, just reading on other blogs and writer's groups without any data to support one side or another. Maybe looking into it would be a good blog post for you, since you do such a good job ferreting out information.

  10. Yay Maryann! That's so exciting. I'm also glad to read another author's view on pricing low to pull in readers, especially since you're not YET a huge author like Konrath or Meyer.

  11. Forgot to say, congratulations on getting into the Turkey market. I hope there will be enough sales that the next book (and previous ones) will also break the barriers.

  12. I might write about that, Maryann. It's hard for me to imagine any gadget that holds thousands of books in electronic format, having anywhere near the environmental impact of paper books from old-growth forests printed with highly toxic inks that end up in water systems and landfills. Not to mention the intense energy use of all those printing presses and the miles the books have to be shipped rather than text over the ethers. Remaindering is an environmental nightmare as well. I might have opinions about this though. Can you tell? ;)

  13. You must read 100 books on your e-reader for the environmental costs to break even. ~ Daniel Goleman

    Just for starters.

  14. Thanks, Helen, for the "not YET as big as Konrath or..." I keep hoping.

  15. Please heaven, let's not get big-headed in the process. ;)

  16. LOL, no worries there, Dani. I know who still cleans the toilets around here.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice.