The problem was I did not have a big enough fan base to make a big splash with my debut novel. That’s the nature of the business when as writers we don’t have a platform. I met a successful first time author, who had offered her latest draft of her novel, chapter by chapter each month as a podcast. Members of her writing group served as each character and she as the narrator. She built an audience of over 10,000 listeners. Her book had strong sales from the get-go. That is what I call a very successful platform to launch her book from.
My platform was, essentially, my blog and articles I wrote every month (for an online writer’s group about what I was learning about the business of becoming a professional writer) just wasn’t creating enough of reach for an audience. I also began networking, guest blogging, participating in a series of Blogger Book Fairs (which I will be doing again next month – promoting the four books of the series), guest speaking at local sci fi/fantasy cons, selling my book and an anthology featuring my published short stories at a local book fair, also weren’t gaining me a lot of momentum, but they were helping me build “street cred.”
Malachite Quills supported my decision to begin looking at other opportunities to build the Highmage’s Plight Series fanbase. I looked at that challenge as a real opportunity. I had written other books in the series, so I focused on getting them polished, copyedited, and finding a wonderful cover artist, so I could brand a look. Don’t get me wrong, the cover of the Plight is great, but now I wanted to pull out all the stops – as cheaply as possible. Publishing my first book, as you likely know, didn’t mean I could give up my day job.
So I worked on building a stronger presence on twitter, Facebooks, etc. and keeping my website current and inviting.
I have published three more books in the series in the last twelve months, one with another small press publisher and two I recently self-published in September 2014. One, a new sequel to Highmage’s Plight, I offered as a 99 cent ebook.
In the past month I promoted the cover reveals to limited success. My technique was a bit awkward perhaps, but it seems to have helped my launch. The traffic to my website for the past month has increased to three times what it had been with the length of stay reaching on average of two minutes and two separate page views. I remember when I was getting an average of thirty seconds not that long ago.
Today, two weeks later after launching those books on Kindle (and other epub formats) Highmage’s Plight’s and that 99 cent sequel have sold a combined 200 copies. When I just looked at Highmage’s Plight ranking on Amazon, I saw it at 9,236. It had been ranked around 10,500 most of the day, my highest ranking ever for any of my books.
During that time, Books 3 and 4 of the series sold a combined 100 copies on Kindle and my ranking for the series on Kobo jumped to 3,300 in the Fantasy Category. To give you a sense of what that ranking means is that according to Kobo, there are currently about 10,000 books in their U.S. listings for Fantasy. In Canada, where Kobo has a larger market share, the series is in the 4,400 range. That represents being in the top third in Fantasy, too.
What’s happening? Malachite Quills over the summer lowered Plight’s ebook price to $2.99, making it more attractive, which combined with Book 2’s 99 cents, resulted in the matching purchases. Books 3 and 4 are selling for $4.99. So, some readers are buying all four books at one time. The book covers are eye catching as well, giving a great glimpse into my epic fantasy tale. The combination is taking me to a new sales level.
So, how can you replicate a breakout in your sales? A. Dare to believe in yourself and your work, B. write more truly wonderful books (it is essential to be prolific), and C. consider going hybrid (meaning self-publishing and being published by a traditional publisher like Malachite Quills – not a vanity press) and publishing some of your books to Kindle. Amazon Kindle is truly the “elephant in room,” which can help you reach the most buyers. If you published a book years ago (and have the rights back), which has never been offered as an ebook, consider self-publishing it to Kindle.
It should make sense that the more books you have published, the more you will sell. For me, that’s meant doing whatever I could to get more books in the series published, while working on my other novels for publication. I’ve one under consideration with an agent in New York. I doubt he’ll take it, but he asked me for it after a pitch at one of those sci fi conventions I go to network, where I hope to meet future fans.
Having a novel published by Malachite Quills made me a more interesting prospective client than someone who has never been published.
So, my advice, don’t be afraid to try and don’t give up when facing challenges. It’s been two and half years since Highmage’s Plight was published, but consider this, ebooks don’t vanish from bookshelves. They don’t have limited press runs. You can build the demand for your story, can help drive demand for your books and your “brand.” I’m not suggesting selling every ebook you self-publish for 99 cents. One writer I know did that two years ago. He’s sold well and has tons of great reviews and had stellar comments from every publisher who rejected those novels. Comments that gave him confidence he was a great writer. My strategy has been to offer just one book as a loss leader because I had control of the pricing model for that book, a strategy that is paying off.
Consider if a similar approach can help you sell more books… and Dare to Believe.
Author of Highmage’s Plight,
Merchants and Mages, Human Mage, and Highmage
You will find the Highmage’s Blog at: www.dhr2believe.net.
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