This blog is devoted to remembrances and essays on general topics, including literature and writing. It has evolved over time, and some older posts on this site might reflect a different perspective and purpose.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Selling Your Book Is Like Fishing, Part II

            In last week’s post I developed the theme that publishing (and trying to sell) your own book is kind of like fishing. If you don’t want to scroll down and read the whole thing, the gist of it was as follows:
            Amazon, the big player in self-publishing, can roughly be compared to a large lake teeming with fish, i.e., the customers for your book. Selling your book is kind of like taking a boat out into some point in the lake and casting out your line. If your bait (that is to say, your book) is any good, you’ll probably catch a few fish (make a few sales), but most of the fish in the lake will never know you’re there.
            Publishing a second book, I reasoned, should significantly improve your chances. It’s like having two lines and two rods working, plus with two books, you have two different pieces of bait to dangle from each line. All other things being equal, you should do better with two books out than with one.

An Experiment in Real Time

            On April 30, I published my second Quill Gordon mystery, Wash Her Guilt Away, as an e-book on Amazon. A month has now elapsed, and the early returns seem to be vindicating the theory.
            My hope was that the second book would do better at the start than the first one, and that turned out to be the case. Wash Her Guilt Away recorded paid sales in May that were 20 percent higher than the best month the first book, The McHenry Inheritance, has yet had. It also did well on two free-promotion days, cracking Amazon’s top 40 free books in crime fiction on both occasions. I don’t make any money from the books given away, but it’s a great way to get people who never heard of me (which would be 99.99999 percent of Amazon customers) to give me a try. If they like the book they got free, the theory goes, they’ll pay for the next one and the one after that.
            So far, so good. But probably the biggest surprise from that first month was the positive impact the release of the second book had on the sales of the first. I figured there would be a little bump, but it was much more than I expected.

Like a Candidate With Coattails

            Amazon doesn’t tell me who buys my books and why, so I have to make deductions. The first free promotion for Wash Her Guilt Away was on Saturday May 3, and several days later, I started seeing a distinct uptick in sales of The McHenry Inheritance. By the end of May, the first mystery had registered its fifth best month (out of 23) in paid sales and was selling almost even with the new one in the second half of the month. It sold ten times more copies in May than it did in April.
            Maybe I’m being a crazy optimist here, but the only explanation I can come up with is that some of the people who got the second book free read it, liked it, and came back to buy the first one. Or at least were intrigued enough to order it anyway.
            If true, that’s good news, and it certainly provides a powerful motivation for writing and publishing the third novel in the Quill Gordon mystery series, given that for sales, the more the merrier seems to be the rule. So here I go. I have the story and characters in place; all I need is a title and a year of work.