Confessions of a Slow Writer

lizmonster

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Final numbers (sort of) from the December 18, 2023 US BookBub Promo​


As usual, I don't have for-real final numbers for this yet, because IngramSpark (Kobo, Apple, and library services) reports December numbers at the beginning of February. In addition to that, their numbers are (as far as I know) only through the 25th of the month. Having said that, I can do some comparisons, which I found kind of interesting.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Numbers​


Cost of promotion: $1069.00

Sales attributable to promotion:

KDP (December 18 - January 8): 1,507
Barnes & Noble (December 18 - January 4): 191
Apple (December 18 - December 25): 90
Kobo (December 18 - December 25): 62
Google Books (December 18 - December 25): 16
Other (December 18 - December 25): 25

Total sales: 1,891

Royalties (estimated):

KDP: $1,118.63
Barnes & Noble: $261.24
Apple: $103.21
Kobo: $57.24
Google Books: $22.00
Other: $9.78

Total royalties: $1,572.10

Total profit: $503.10


Not as dramatic as the non-US promo, but nonetheless very nice. :)

Conclusions?

I'm kind of shocked that Barnes and Noble did as well as it did, and Kobo did as poorly.

I've never sold well at Barnes & Noble, so this speaks, I think, to BookBub's reach to those who buy ebooks from B&N. It's also interesting to note those numbers were enough for me to break the top 25 of B&N's "indie" bestsellers. Bottom line: they don't move a lot of ebooks, but their reporting tools are terrific.

Kobo was a surprise, mostly because it dominates outside of the US. Even so - I hit #7 in SFF ebooks with those numbers.

Apple also surprised me, but in a good way. They also don't have much market share, but it seems they're doing better than Kobo. My sales there only got me into the top 200 in SFF.

All very different from my UK/CA/AUS numbers, which suggest a lot more competition in the ebook retail space outside the US.

As I said before - I'd do this again in a heartbeat, although they'll probably never approve me again. But if you're considering pursuing BookBub, it's worth noting that the non-US promo got me a much higher ROI. They may be less competitive to get into as well, although I don't really know. And there I think it's much more important to be wide if you want to make your money back.
 
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lizmonster

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One other thing: For this promotion, I discounted the book to $1.99. If I'd discounted it to $0.99, the promotion would have cost me less. I haven't done the math, but I'm guessing I'd have had to sell more or less the same number of copies to break even - but people do prefer a dollar to two dollars.

Just something to think about if you're considering this yourself.
 

lizmonster

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Want to see what I can make of a single data point?

So February has been slow, whether for me or everybody I don't know, and my ads have been underperforming. So I shut them all off, and did an experiment.

I built an Amazon ad, and my entire keyword set was the titles/authors of Publishers Weekly's current 10 bestselling science fiction books. Yes, I comped with Dune and Gideon the Ninth, as well as about seventeen Andy Weir books.

It did all right yesterday. Shifted a couple of copies for me. But it wasn't running a full day, so that data isn't really useful. (Honestly, anything less than 2 weeks of data off an Amazon ad isn't really useful, but I digress.)

Today is the first full day the ad has had to run. CTR is pretty good. But what's interesting is that despite my high bid and low budget, it's still being delivered, mid-afternoon EST. It has not yet burned through my relatively-low-because-it's-an-experiment daily budget.

Which means it's getting impressions, but slowly.

When I've built a larger set of target keywords - like books/authors from the subcategories in which I sell well - the ad tends to burn through its budget pretty quickly, sometimes before noon, even if the CTR is bad. In this case - the bid I've got should, at least in most cases, land me on the first page of carousel results. If nobody was clicking on the ad, I wouldn't think anything of this. But they are.

So I'm thinking people are less likely to buy national bestsellers from Amazon than they are older books or books that aren't as heavily marketed to bookstores.

I don't know. I don't know if it's significant. Extrapolating from a single data point, like I said. But it does make me wonder. Amazon (US) has a stranglehold on the ebook market, for sure. But maybe not on all of it.

(Look, I warned y'all I have OCD. This is what I do.)
 

HWigton

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I don't know. I don't know if it's significant. Extrapolating from a single data point, like I said. But it does make me wonder.
I think it's significant, and is right in line with what I think most SF readers on FB are like, and why they're hard to market to, especially because they're the older generation. (My own version of a mini-rant inbound, I think a lot about what kind of people read SF, and why they like what they like, and how to reach my kind of reader.)

I've noticed there's two kind of SF readers--the old guard and the up-for-anything. The old guard (which has nothing to do with age, and everything to do with outlook) has read every Heinlein/Baxter/Clark out there, and is hard to convince new SF will have as much depth. They tend not to buy the newer best-sellers, or if they do, it's after they've been out for a while. They're far more familiar with, and have a fonder association with, an older title/author.
The up-for-anything are eager for the fresh new SF, and are in it for the out-of-this-world component. They recognize the newer book titles/authors, and may have better associations with them.

From what I understand about FB demographics, those trend towards older, the GenX/Boomer type. You're likely going to find the 'old guard'-type readers among those, and more that will interact with an ad that has a familiar book/author associated with it.

Grain (or bushel of) salt, though. Most of people I know are GenX/Boomers who are SF aficionados, so my experience tends to trend towards that demographic.

Also--thank you for sharing all this, you are an absolute delight. I look forward to reading your posts every time I see there's a new one!
 

lizmonster

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From what I understand about FB demographics, those trend towards older, the GenX/Boomer type. You're likely going to find the 'old guard'-type readers among those, and more that will interact with an ad that has a familiar book/author associated with it.

It does skew older, but I always found my ads worked OK on Facebook. I didn't sell tons, but I sold a couple a day through those ads - and mostly to people over 65.

I suspect that has more to do with Facebook's demographics than my book, but some of them did buy it.

SF is a strange genre. You're right: there are the old-fashioned books, generally some type of Starship Troopers derivative, and there are books that stretch old tropes. SF is weirdly moribund in a way, it seems to me - I see a lot more taking of chances in fantasy than I do in SF. But I prefer SF, and it's hard to find a huge amount of thematic variety (although infairness I've read some very well-written milSF). Maybe that's why I write my own - so I'll have something to read. :)

Grain (or bushel of) salt, though. Most of people I know are GenX/Boomers who are SF aficionados, so my experience tends to trend towards that demographic.

Mine too. :) I was born in the last official year of the Baby Boom, which means culturally I'm closer to Gen X. And I've read SFF since I was small.


Also--thank you for sharing all this, you are an absolute delight. I look forward to reading your posts every time I see there's a new one!

Oh, thank you! I'm glad you enjoy.
 
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JoeySL

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(Look, I warned y'all I have OCD. This is what I do.)

I'm glad you do, and in fact I realized, I should too. Of course my situation is entirely different, as I haven't published anything new in ten years (ouch). I haven't been doing any marketing, either, after all my previous attempts ended with me doing all the work (and paying the money) and the other part not doing their job. (But that's a whole different story.)

As it happens, I went over my payment history with the big A yesterday, covering the past 14 years. I compared this with the rankings of my books, and realized they had done much better than I had remembered. In fact, I had it completely wrong.

The last book I'd self-published died two months in, after a single, one-star review. I'd seen a previous book (which ranked in the Top 1,000 of all E-Books in my country for a couple of days) die down after a single damning review, before. So this new fiasco just burned me out and I withdrew from the publishing game altogether. However, the big A has since changed their policy, and stars without review have been included in the ranking. Imagine my surprise, when I found that in those two months not only had I garnered 48 star-only-reactions for that last book instead of one lone 1-star review, but now that I read the numbers, this last book also earned more money in those two months than any of my previous books. That seriously had me stumped yesterday. :oops:

TL;DR

Statistics matter. Had I not given up on marketing and publishing, I might have saved me some heartache over the years. I don't regret switching to English instead of my first language, though, and I will likely not go back. So something good came from even this disaster. :)
 

lizmonster

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Musings on marketing

Caught another article this morning suggesting Goodreads, while an excellent place for an author to self-immolate, doesn't actually sell books.

My first thought was "Of course it doesn't. Social media doesn't sell books."

Except it does, sometimes, doesn't it? We've all heard about the books out there that've become huge thanks to TikTok. Social media does sell books. Sometimes.

Except when it does, it doesn't generally start with the author self-promoting. It starts with word-of-mouth that somehow gets the book to the right person, who gives it the right amount of attention and decides to publicise it.

(Yes, I'm aware some TikTok influencers are paid to feature books. A quick Google suggests these features can go for $7K and up. I'm not sure that negates my premise here.)

So my second thought was: "The types of social media that sell books are not new."

Because how is a BookTokker featuring The Big [Insert Popular Genre Here] Book of the Month any different than, say, Ronald Reagan reading The Hunt For Red October? Or George R.R. Martin recommending Leviathan Wakes? Or someone's editor having the right contacts at the NYT and getting a write-up in the Sunday magazine?

Technology has changed everything, sure. And demographics are different, number of books being published are different, Youth Is Taking Over (which is what they're supposed to do), etc.

But one thing, it seems to me, hasn't changed: the most powerful sales tool is word of mouth. And an author has very little control over this, whether it's being fêted on social media or having their book mentioned by the head of a government.

Is anyone but me old enough to remember the old TV shampoo ad about telling two friends who'd each tell two friends, and the popularity would multiply? I think a lot of authors approach social media hoping it'll work that way.

(The shampoo ad wasn't effective because people actually did that, of course. It was catchy because it stuck in your head and provided name recognition that might steer you in the product's direction if you were indecisive at the store. I have only once in my life discussed what I use to wash my hair with someone. It's not a thing I've found people chat about much.)

We see books take off on TikTok or even Wattpad, and we want to know how to make that happen for us. We post about our work. We try to be memorable, as if being memorable naturally means we've written a good book. We hope that we reach two people who'll each tell two people and so on and so on and one of those people will be some TikTokker who'll catapult us to stardom.

Does it happen like this? Does every book picked up by a big BookTokker get there because the author posted a cute picture of their cat on a Saturday morning?

Color me skeptical. (Although my cats are, indeed, super cute.)

According to this article, which is about Goodreads and only mentions BookTok in passing, BookTok does actually boost sales. But I'm guessing BookTok elevates books that are already being noticed by readers, even if they're not yet viral. I'm guessing if Goodreads is a trailing indicator, BookTok is a turbo-charge for something that was already catching on.

Of course, there's not much hard data out there about BookTok, or how those influencers choose the books they champion. For the sake of argument, I'm willing to believe they're mostly organic sales to people who really loved the books and decided to yak about them to millions of followers.

Which is kinda the same as George R.R. Martin championing Leviathan Wakes, isn't it? On Livejournal, which was already Not The Big Blogging Platform by the time that book came out, but it was George R.R. Martin so people listened.

(I liked Leviathan Wakes. I could take issue with some things here and there, but it was very entertaining, and pretty moving in the end. But the TV show was better. :))

So what's the bottom line here? What's my thesis statement?

I suppose my thesis is a) none of this is new; and b) very little of this can be influenced by the author.

I see so many people on social media--mostly self-published, but not all--posting enthusiastically about their work, showing pictures and mood boards, putting things on sale, posting snippets of good reviews. Fine, sure, if that's a fun thing for you to do. I see some people engaging with readers, which also: okay, fine.

I sometimes see people talking about using reviews as critique, and promising they'll change/improve their writing based on what a reviewer said. (This gets a big Yikes from me, but chacun à son goût.)

All of this seems to be in aid of...I dunno. Projecting a persona of being Everybody's Author Best Friend, in hopes that'll make people buy your stuff?

Does this work? Because I don't think this works.

I've sold a little on social media. I suck at self-promotion, so maybe this whole post is bullshit. :) But now and then someone will reply to a post I make about a sale, and say they've bought the book. One lovely time someone tagged me recommending my latest book to a friend. And I've indeed connected with readers, although rarely - but one reader is now my book formatter, and connected me with my cover illustrator. Social media can Do Stuff, indeed. (Plus I'll yak pretty much anywhere, which y'all know by now.) The closest I had to a Big Name endorsing a book was Felicia Day, who left a 5-star Goodreads rating for my first book. I will love her forever for this. It didn't help sales, but it still pleases me.

In the end, though, I think it's viral word-of-mouth that makes a book take off, and it has to be just the right chain of viral word-of-mouth. All these services that try to sell social media savvy, or their book promotion skills - they can't predict what'll happen, and I wouldn't hand a dime to any of them unless they told me they could make [Insert Big Social Media Star Here] read my book and promote it aggressively.

So maybe my last thought is "Direct sales using social media are pretty unusual and probably not the best use of an author's time and money, unless it's a lark."

It's not as pithy as "Social media doesn't sell books," though, is it?
 

ElaineB

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Caught another article this morning suggesting Goodreads, while an excellent place for an author to self-immolate, doesn't actually sell books.
Definitely makes that case. Yeesh. I've been on Goodreads longer than I've been an author, and have started to worry that I should just delete all My Books on there, or change ratings to "read," if that's even possible. Reviews were always just for me and the list was only to keep track of what I'd read. Now it seems more of a potential liability than useful tool. But that's topic to another thread...

Thanks for this musing.
 

lizmonster

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Definitely makes that case. Yeesh. I've been on Goodreads longer than I've been an author, and have started to worry that I should just delete all My Books on there, or change ratings to "read," if that's even possible. Reviews were always just for me and the list was only to keep track of what I'd read. Now it seems more of a potential liability than useful tool. But that's topic to another thread...

Thanks for this musing.

I have an account there. I've done a few giveaways, but that's about it. I'm thinking about deleting the account, but I'm considering a pre-release Goodreads giveaway in lieu of paying for Netgalley again. The purpose wouldn't be sales, though - it'd be a relatively efficient way of notifying readers who might be interested that I've got another book coming out.

I don't know. The whole place makes me kind of wary, you know?
 

lizmonster

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Since I found Netgalley reviews ended up on Goodreads, that might make sense.
Some of mine did, some of mine didn't. What I did get was good preorders for paper copies, which was nice. But I don't think preorders are really that important in self-pub, at least not as important as they are in trade.