Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What Works To Sell Books? (June 2012 Sales)

Jumping the gun a little bit on June Sales of The Adventures of Reztap, I have gotten a nice bump the last week. Total book (and eBook) sales for June is 17 so far (I don't imagine it will get much higher before the end of the month). Here's a breakdown of how the sales have gone:

6 paperbacks by hand (ordered from Amazon by me - not included in Amazon's sales figures)
5 paperbacks from Amazon
1 eBook for the Kindle (via Amazon's Kindle Digital Publishing)
5 eBooks on Smashwords

Obviously with 17 sales I'm not exactly rolling in the dough. Just the same. it's a nice start and some fellow writers have inquired as to what I've done to get those sales. As I'm doing my best to be transparent with this process for other authors to learn from, here are some details including monetary figures.

Business cards: In late May, I ordered 250 business cards with the book cover on one side and two web sites and a coupon code on the other about where to order the book from. These were originally ordered to be hand out at Comicpalooza here in Houston, but through part of the learning process, I realized I hadn't ordered far enough ahead and the cards arrived several days after the convention ended. I did hand out a small spattering of homemade marketing materials, but they were done at the last minute and hardly had the look of any professionalism to them; I also left out pertinent information like the name of the book. Ahh well.The business cards have been distributed to friends, family and a few comic book and trading card retailers in the Houston area. Have they been a success? Well, no one has used the coupon code on the back of the card, so I can't really tell - someone may have ordered a paperback or the eBook directly from Amazon using the information, but the coupon code is not valid for those sites.

Conventions: The Comicpalooza convention was fun, but without the proper marketing materials in hand, I miserably failed to take advantage of the opportunity. It was a great learning experience and I'm looking into doing a book signing at the ArmadilloCon coming up at the end of July. Of course, I need to contact those folks - I may already be too late to get my name on the program. I will learn about how long a lead time I need for it for next year, when I hope to have two or more books available. Again, this year is a learning experience.

Book Giveaways: I did a book giveaway on Good Reads web site (www.goodreads.com). Four books just shipped today to the winners. DId it result in an increase in sales? Really too early to tell. Honestly, that has been the most difficult part of the process -seeing what tactic works and what doesn't. I have to believe it's been positive for word of mouth, though - over 500 people signed up for the giveaway, none of whom had heard of the book before the giveaway. That is exposure to new potential readers and that's always a good thing. I've gotten one person on the Good Reads web site to rate the book already and 60+ people added the title to their "To Read" list. I'm also writing a blog on the site to invite readers to discuss the book and answer any book or self-publishing questions they might have. This is a potentially huge platform to reach readers and interact with them, build a following for the book and, more importantly, get my name out there.

Hand Sales: OK, this may be a fluke in the numbers. I attended a 50th wedding anniversary for my in-laws and sold all six books to family - two people only and they bought extra copies to distribute to local libraries they support as well. Fluke or not, book sales are book sales. The family members who did buy them from me chided me for not letting the larger gathering a day before know I had books on hand to sell and only handed out cards for where they could order it. Don't discount the value of a family - they can be great advocates for your book, telling their friends about it and generally disseminating your book out there with their friends and you could get a snowball effect. It's especially good if the book is good, which I've had primarily positive reviews about.

Social Networks: While I've had some success driving people on Facebook and possibly Twitter to this blog, I'm not of the opinion that it has generated any sales. However, getting people to this blog and possibly growing a blog readership are good things. There is always the potential that people will read this blog, find value in it, and be genuinely curious about the book too. A future reader is still a reader and I welcome them all! I have been a little concerned that my "pushing" of the book via social networks is viewed as annoying by many people. I'm really not sure how effective it is - it could potentially be turning people off, but then would they have been readers anyway? Hard to say. I'm trying not to use the platforms as sales pitch only. I know I wouldn't like to see nothing but sales pitches on them!

Other Marketing: Is this al the marketing there is? No, I'm about to embark on pursuing book reviews (and possible book giveaways) with several blogging sites through Bloggerdise; this is a blogging source site for bloggers looking for things to review, people to interview and things to giveaway. It's both rewarding for their followers and for me, getting my name and book out there in front of more readers.

I think the conventions will be a nice platform to show of my wares as well, but I don't ever want to be in the position where I need to make money off the convention to make it worth my while. I will only attend conventions I'm truly interesting in participating in from an attendee standpoint. Will there be future conventions that invite me? I hope so and I'll be glad to attend them as long as I have some kind of forum to expose my book to - perhaps do a reading and/or book signing, be on a convention panel, and maybe even be a guest of the convention. Big dreams, I know. I don't expect anything like that too soon. That really will be a future course.

Book signings at book stores is a possible future path as well. I'm aware of this, but haven't really researched how to do it. This is still a part-time endeavor for me, so I'm under no illusions that I'll hit every marketing opportunity.

Press releases are another avenue I haven't pursued. I'm really just not sure how to do this and is it worth my time to pursue it? I may just not find time to attack this.

The Future is Bright: I have put a lot of time into the writing for the first book and I'm under a tighter deadline to produce the second book. I've only just started writing it. I am committed to this being a future career path if it will produce just enough for me to live on. I'm not at the point where I'm willing to swap jobs yet. I still need my normal job to pay the bills and, as they say, support my writing habit.

The Numbers: Enough jabbering - what have I spent so far and how much have I made? The costs are greatly outweighing the returns, but the future returns could easily turn that around. Here are the numbers so far (with the total 17 sales in the plus column):

Business cards: $54.11
Publishing costs (ISBN purchase - $50, proof purchase for The Book Patch - $9.51 including S/H): $59.51
Shipping costs for book giveaway: $32.40
Purchase of books for hand sales: $71.20
Convention attendance and parking: about $50

Total costs: $267.22

Hand sales: $80
Amazon eBook sales: $3.49
Amazon paperback sales: $24.30
The Book Patch paperback sales: $9.61
Smashwords eBook sales: $18.50

Total Sales: $135.90

Analysis: There are a lot of costs that won't repeat here (like ISBN purchases) and there are also things that will reoccur depending on what I'm doing (convention attendance), but most of this is startup marketing costs. I don't know if next months sales will be outstanding, but I will probably need to get more paperbacks on hand for the convention - especially since I'm pretty sure none of the booksellers there will have any in their inventory. I didn't expect to break even the first month, so I'm not concerned about these figures. Heck, they're more optimistic than I thought they'd be. If there are sustained sales by additional cost-free marketing and word of mouth, I will be showing a profit for my efforts within a few months. However, it will have to hit viral hit proportions for me to consider it a new career. We're not there yet...but we could be within a few years!


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