How to sell 11,000 books in less than 4 weeks

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The title might be a little click-baity and just a tad misleading. I can’t tell you how to sell 11,000 books in four weeks, but seeing as that is what I’ve just done, I figured I’d have something to say about it.

My annual sales report for Oct 2015 to Sep 2016 mentions that in those 12 months, I sold 16.6k books. Then in the month of October I sold almost as much in just a single month. The 11k mentioned in the title was just one book. I sold other titles as well. In fact, the very point of selling the 11k books was to sell more different books.

So, what happened?

Well, I finished the Moonfire Trilogy and wanted to do an ad campaign to get more people into the series. I’d made book 1 99c for a while immediately after launch back in June and sold about 700 copies. But then I put the price back up so that I could concentrate on finishing the rest of the series (because refreshing sales dashboards is very distracting).

When that was done, I didn’t want to do another 99c promotion on the same book, but I did have something else. The Moonfire Trilogy is a sequel to the Icefire Trilogy. That series is now about four years old, and while it’s still selling, I felt I could play with it a bit. It also feeds into the Moonfire Trilogy. I spent a bit of time correcting some oopses I’d found, paid for another proofread, because there are always mistakes, always. I tizzed up the covers, and I put one very important line at the very end of the 900-page book: “The Moonfire Trilogy is set in the same world twenty years later. Click here to get the first book”.

Then I did something outrageous: I lowered the price for the entire trilogy to 99c. Then I applied for Bookbub. They said yes.

The ad ran on 8 October.

This happened:

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And this:

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And this:

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I sold 3046 books on that day on Amazon, with another 1500 on other platforms. The Bookbub site gives an estimated number of sales of 2400 copies. I needed to sell 1500 to break even on the cost of the ad.

I was happy. I know from running my own promotions that sets of books always do better than single books, because obviously they’re a better deal.

So I was very happy.

I expected the book to quickly sink into my usual comfort zone: oblivion. This particular book sells a good bit on Kobo, but rarely sells at all on Amazon (people there tend to prefer the individual volumes). I had planned to leave it 99c until this upcoming weekend’s Science Fiction and Fantasy promotion and I hoped to ride a bit on the tail of the promotion. I thought I might sell another few hundred. I sold EIGHT THOUSAND.

The book didn’t sink back down. It stuck to a ranking of around 3000 in the Amazon US store and it’s pretty much still there when I’m writing this. And yesterday, this happened in Amazon UK:

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I have NO idea why any of this happened, except to say a huge THANK YOU to all who bought it. It’s been a tad nuts, to be honest.

The ingredients to this success? Bookbub, no doubt, but to do so much better than their estimate? A good deal, lucky timing, and decent-sized community already familiar with your name. I’ve been featured by Bookbub seven times, so readers of Fantasy and SF will have seen my name a few times, and many more readers will have heard about my books from the SF/F promotions. That’s all I can think of.

The book will be featured in the SF/F promotion this week, and I’ve decided to keep it 99c until 21 November. Next week and the week after, a number of SFF promotion buddies will post to their mailing lists about it. It’s truly amazing to have such a great community.

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Moonfire Trilogy: snippet

Moonfire

Because I can. Book 1 is finished. I’ve had a talk with a content editor today, will be making a few tweaks. Like the Icefire Trilogy, the series will have multiple point-of-view characters, and one of them is meteorology student Javes (Javesius). As part of their education in their final year, the students have all been sent on field placement, and he was sent to a very small town in northern Chevakia at the very edge of the desert.

This is one of the things that happens to him:


Within moments, Javes was surrounded by dusty, dark people. They were all yelling at the same time.

“Where has the dust devil gone?” a man screamed. “Where are all my horses?”

“Is it coming back?” another man wanted to know.

“The devils are meant to stay in the desert,” a woman said, her voice indignant. “They don’t come as far south as this. Pashtan said so.”

“Pashtan said nothing about that this could happen.”

“I don’t know why you ever believed him. He’s not even from here and knows nothing about our land.”

“Pashtan is dead!” Javes called out over the din.

A good number of people fell quiet. They stared at him.

“Dead?” a woman said.

“Yes, dead. You know, not alive. Same as the other cart donkey. Had the flesh tripped from its bones. The cart was turned over and everything covered in dust.” He wiped his face. He didn’t think he’d ever felt more exhausted in his life.

More people fell quiet.

“And you survived?” a man said, his voice incredulous. “The city kid? What sort of magic is that?”

“It’s not magic. It’s only because—”

“You survived! That’s a sign. You should have Pashtan’s position.”

“You could not possibly do any worse than call dust devils into town!”

“He did that because you cheated him out of two bottles of cider—”

“Quiet!” Javes called.

People stopped yelling.

“I will contact the meteorology department for a replacement meteorologist—”

“What are you talking about? There has been a sign. He died while you were here. You survived and he died. That’s a sign. We have a new meteorologist.”

Several people nodded their agreement. “It’s a sign.”

No, no. Javes was overcome with a feeling of total horror. “I can’t stay because I’m not finished with my education yet.” That was the only thing he could think of saying, and it came out really lame. But his mouth was dry and his mind blank. He shuddered at the thought of spending his entire life in Pashtan’s simple square house with its two rooms, of trudging past all the weather stations in a donkey cart every day, and doing this day in day out, and sitting at the plain wooden desk every night to work out the curves and trends and traipse to the telegraph office every few days to send the results to Tiverius.

The life of a regional meteorologist.

That was not what he had signed up for, was it?