Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Monday, February 14, 2011

So Many Books...Unlocking the Secrets of Big Sales

Sometimes my mind can't take it in. All the books in the libraries, the bookstores, the used bookshops, online, and now on ebook sites. How will anyone find one tiny book by one invisible author amidst this plethora of possibility? How will enough people find a particular book to make it count?

Believe me, publishers don't know, or they would already be doing it. There are ways and means to push sales and publicity but it doesn't always work as expected. And then one day some obscure title comes out of the pack and soon everyone is talking about it, buying it, reading it. To have this kind of hit is the dream of every writer and every publisher. Did you know the initial print run of the first Harry Potter was only 100?

Right now it's all about ebooks. I would love to crack the code for high ebook sales. I wish I knew what kind of combination makes it happen. Any tips on that? If so, please share. I've heard of different elements-- cover, genre, number and/or series by same author, pricing, author networking online, coming out at the right time-- how about quality of the writing? I'm not sure.

This all puzzles me. I've read a few sample chapters of some hot ebook sellers, sometimes self-published, and as an editor I'm dismayed at what I see. As an author, I'm very jealous really curious. What? You sold 10,000 copies of your ebook last year? *salivate* *slobber* *green with envy* And wondering *how did you do it?* I can't tell you how many indie authors I've run across on Twitter and blogs who are talking these kinds of numbers. You can have a top agent, publish with a top firm and not see these kinds of numbers.

I'm not sure that ebook success can be predicted or programmed any more than print book success could be before the Kindle changed the publishing world. And as more and more ebooks come out, the opportunity for sales based on timing may diminish.

So what is the key? What is the secret? Has anyone figured out a formula on how to get really high ebook sales? (Besides JA Konrath. His theory is cover and price. I've read his blogs, but has everyone who has followed his advice had the kind of sales he's talking about?)

Here's where I have cracked the code-- making the best chocolate chip cookies in the world. My college son just emailed me saying he sold the 12 bags (a dozen each) of the seconds I gave him for spending money. He sold them all within an hour. Now that's how I'd love to sell my books LOL.

Ha! I bet when you saw my post title, you thought I might tell you the secrets of big sales. Instead I'm as clueless as ever. Snap!

Happy Valentine's Day everyone. I heart you all!

43 comments:

  1. Cover, price, and a little bit of book buzz luck! When in doubt, reach for the chocolate!

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  2. I think at the end of the day it all just comes down to word of mouth and hype. Never underestimate word of mouth! :o)

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  3. No clue, Karen, but I think Jessica's right. How can I get some of your cookies?
    Karen

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  4. I'm with Jessica on this one. I think word of mouth and a few good reviews on some book blogs go a long way.

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  5. So it's a free bag of cookies with each of your books?
    I think you may have something there ...

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  6. I'll take the cookies! No, I think Talli demonstrated the power of social networking and word of mouth--yes? I think like all the bestsellers it's that mixture of luck, great writing, and getting the word out~ Happy V'day! :o)

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  7. No idea! I think a lot has to do with word of mouth. I know a couple authors who hang out in the forums section on Amazon and report large sales of ebooks. Hope that's not the secret, because I'm already too overwhelmed.

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  8. I know, it seems crazy that the eBook numbers are that high (and awesome for the authors)! I often wonder how all these books at the bookstore earn out their initial printing, but I suppose that' s why it's so hard to break into traditional publishing and why houses are so discriminating when selecting titles.

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  9. Jess, I understand how it works for print books but ebooks are turning into another type of thing entirely. Which is why it puzzles me so much.

    Alex, I'm with you. I've not yet explored the Amazon forums and dreading having to go that route. If my books had a large demographic, I might do that. Maybe with the next one which is designed for a larger audience.

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  10. It's really on how you market it, I believe. At least, that is what I've read several different places.

    Hope you have a great week Karen!

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  11. That's why our little community is so important. I was thrilled to help Talli Roland with her word of mouth campaign and I hope others will be happy to help me when the time comes. We need to stick together and that's a start, beyond that...who knows.

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  12. I wish I knew the secret, but sadly...
    I think word of mouth is still the best promo for a book. A friend and fellow author is busy on the Amazon forums but I don't know yet if it's boosting sales or not. I daren't even venture there.

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  13. One would think name recognition plays a huge role; but I honestly have no idea. Please let me have a cookie for being brave enough to be honest.

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  14. Actually I agree that it's a combination of Cover and Price. That's why I have hopes that my publisher will let me have some say in the cover. When I go into a bookstore, I will often pay more just on the cover alone. I read a certain genre and they all have similar covers (I plan to do a post of this one day) and that's what I buy.

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  15. I wish the trick was something simple we all could do, but I have no clue either. Now I really, really want a chocolate chip cookie.

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  16. when it comes to my baked goods, i can sell it like nobody's business. but this publishing stuff? i'm stumped.

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  17. Great thoughts Karen.
    I agree slobber, drool.
    Cookies sound good right now.

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  18. I've no idea what the secret is either but I'm guessing it's a combination of many ideas working in tandem. Good word of mouth as well as a good book cover and a great title and also, great price.

    Jai

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  19. This was too funny. I love that you lead us on a bit. It's a good thing to know that we will never truly know everything in the industry, but we're going to try until we do.

    You have me craving some chocolate chip cookies now! I'd buy them!!

    I'm a sucker for a cover and a good looking cover that pops will lead me in!

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  20. The only thing I know is that I want some cookies! Milk also...
    Happy Valentine's Day Karen...

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  21. Clarissa Draper just had a blog piece on how to get your ebook sales rocketing!!! It's got to do with price mostly and what the cover looks like!!

    But I'd plump for your cookies any day!!

    Take care
    x

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  22. The formula is C&V5#+(4S). Or something of that sort.

    But seriously, I really don't know--but if I had to guess it would be some kind of combination of cover and price.

    Happy Valentine's Day!

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  23. Golden Eagle, This formula makes as much sense as anything else LOL. Don't we wish it were as simple as a mathematical equation? Here we are all writers, most of us probably horrible at math, but how cool if it boiled down to algebra?

    Old Kitty, I wish I could send you and Charlie some for Valentine's!

    In fact, I wish I could send all my lovely bloggie friends yummy cookies today! I really must post a picture to make you all slobber and drool.

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  24. I'm attracted to a cover. Also to price, which is why I'm buying ebooks lately, both self-published and traditional. I also believe in word of mouth and hype--which probably means hanging out at the forums, which I'll have to look into, probably. Sigh. Yes, books, books, books. So many to read, not enough time in a day.

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  25. Ann, I plan on looking into forums as well. It's next on my list of things to do.

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  26. Great hidden secrets, oh wait, there were none. Ah, it's gonna be fine. I guess we'll just stick to the old way of hoping, guessing and being surprised by luck here and there. It would be boring to know what will happen anyway.
    Nahno ∗ McLein

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  27. I think for ebooks it's in this order: networking/marketing, cover & price, title.
    Just a theory. I think the more active an author is to push the sales, and the more likeable they come across in the beginning, the books have a greater chance of getting to a point when they take off on their own because "everyone is talking about it and I wanted to know what the fuss was about". Unfortunately I don't think quality of writing is a big factor because that's only what us other writers pick up on.

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  28. I'll be completely honest -- I hear crazy sales numbers for a book I've never heard of and I automatically think someone's (more than) slightly exaggerating. Do we ever get to actually see the data? Or are we just supposed to take their word for it? Is that horribly cynical of me?

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  29. Huh, those are some interesting numbers. And, I agree that a lot of it has to be word of mouth.

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  30. I can smell those cookies:) mmmmmm
    Happy Valentine's Day. Notice how I don't have a clue about ebooks etc?

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  31. If I get the secret i will tell until then i am just as clueless as you on this issue.

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  32. Now I really want to try those chocolate chip cookies.

    I'm as curious/envious as you. Why do some debut authors make it to the NYT Bestseller list and some just sell a respectable amount of copies? Some of it is blogging/twitter connections, but if it's not a good enough product, it won't make it. And what about all the good books who don't have the same connections? It's so confusing.

    Happy Valentine's Day to you!

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  33. Wish I knew, Karen. I'd bottle it for ya if I had an answer. =)

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  34. I think that good marketing is the key to selling anything. I would love some of those chocolate chip cookies! Happy V. Day!

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  35. As the editor of a new romance imprint that launched yesterday, I gotta say I leapt with great gusto on your blog post title and rode it all the way to .... "cover and price"???

    Is that the secret?

    I love Talli, she's a romance buddy: "The Hating Game" sales figures and continuing presence in the Top 100 Kindle Titles list are AWESOME!

    How can I help my seven lovely authors launching at Embrace Books this week to reach the same giddy heights of ebook stardom? It feels like such a lottery at times, I agree. And yet our books are cracking stories with jaw-dropping covers and low prices.

    I'm going to blog about your blog post at the Embrace blog, if you don't mind. (That's a lot of blogs for one sentence.) See if we can't get some brainstorming and blue-sky-thinking going on over there too. Jx

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  36. And for most authors it is an up and down thing -you may be selling like crazy one "day" and the next someone else is. What a business!

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  37. I would be curious to learn how many of the books sold as eBooks get READ. I think word of mouth and social marketing both help a lot (are the primary thing, in fact) but I also think with the lower price, the risk is a ton lower, so some people, for under $5 may buy a book to be supportive, but not necessarily read it.

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  38. OOh I agree word of mouth is like gold dust. Mmmmmm Any chocolate chip cookies going? :O)

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  39. Madeline, Sure! Stop by and you can have as many as you want!

    Hart, You have a point there. I know people who have a whole pile of free and 99c ebooks on their Kindle that may never get read.

    Kathryn, What a business indeed! Some parts of marketing are fun to be sure, just like some parts of writing are fun-- but then there's the rest of it LOL.

    Jane, All the best to Embrace Books and your new authors! Will be stopping by your blog to see if you or your commenters have any more answers insight on this topic.

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  40. I think it's word of mouth, mainly, too. But who knows? Something going viral - a link on YouTube, getting picked up by local media...

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  41. It's a tough one, Karen, for sure. I know some books in the top 100 now by authors who did NO publicity. And I mean NONE!

    Cover is key - along with price and concept. Apart from that... who can say?

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  42. I'm visiting from Manzanita's blog and know I will enjoy yours. I love to read and I usually find out about books from reviews, word of mouth, and a good friend with excellent taste who sends me books. I know little about blog books, but would like to find out more.

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  43. e = mc^2
    (oh no, wait, that's something else, hey...)

    I definitely think the cover has something to do with it - I mean, that's the first thing you see, so if you find it appealing then you're immediately interested in the book.

    And then I agree with the word of mouth (or word of blog/twitter/fb) thing. But hey, it's still not a perfect code/formula!

    PS. Hart has a good point about many people downloading it but not actually reading it...

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