Marketing gimmick #3, or “what does it take to get on a bestseller list?”

It’s been exactly a month since Shizzle, Inc went live on Kindle, and what a month it’s been! Shizzle, Inc now has 10 all-positive reviews on Amazon and readers are already anticipating the sequel. Not only that, it went all the way up to #72 on the paid Humor Bestseller list and up to #23 on the free Humor Bestseller list during a 2-day free giveaway.

So, how did it happen, you ask? Am I ready to quit the corporate slavery and dedicate myself to full-time writing? Am I rich yet?

Yeah, about that…As promised, I will now reveal how many sales it took to get to #72 in the first week:

12

No, not 12 hundred. Just 12. Well, that did not include any copies downloaded as part of Kindle Unlimited, as Amazon no longer tells you that. All I know is that right about that time a thousand pages was read (equivalent to 4 copies read back-to-front). I do know that Amazon counts those copies towards the sales for ranking purposes.

“How can it be?” I hear you say.

Well, it was a shocker to me. I mean’ I’ve heard about the importance of placing your book in just the right category, without too much competition, but actually, you don’t get to. The categories you pick in “bookshelf” section of your author account are different from those that are assigned to your book in Kindle store. I didn’t put Shizzle, Inc into “Action and Adventure” subcategory. In fact, there are no subcategories at all.

The mystery cleared a bit when I’ve had similar levels of sales in later weeks, yet was stuck somewhere between 500-1,000 rank in Humor. It confirmed the rumor (or fact) that Amazon’s ranking algorithms give more weight to newly released books. This is very important, as it confirms the importance of your book launch – the best chance you have of making it onto the coveted list is in the first week. If you can keep there for longer than three hours (like Shizzle did), there’s a good chance you will be discovered by new readers.

According to this Kindle Sales Rank Calculator, it looks like getting back onto the Humor bestseller list (I was about 3,800 overall) will take 56 books a day. Sigh. I hope it’s wrong, or alternatively hope I’m selling that many soon.

“Okay, what about the free promo?” I hear you ask. “Didn’t thousands of people download it, and it will take just a few weeks before they tell thousands of their friends to read it?”

If you believe some of the posts on the Internet, all it takes to become a self-published sensation is to make your book free for a few days. I recall a number of 60,000 downloads over 5 free days. I’ve made Shizzle, Inc free for two days. So, how many people jumped at that opportunity?

139

No, not thousand. Just 139. And the giveaway followed by several days of no sales at all. Since then I’ve averaged about 1.5 books per day.

But, but…I have 25,000-plus followers? Isn’t social media supposed to launch your career and all that?

As it turns out, no. Since then I’ve realized two things that a lot of pros probably already know:

  1. Social media is not going to help you sell books. Don’t get me wrong – a strong fan base is very important, for support, for those initial (few) sales, and for those all-important first reviews. But the reason most people follow others is to get free stuff – be that advice, jokes, or any other entertainment. So while I still strongly advocate to develop and maintain a social media presence, I will no longer consider it to be my marketing campaign.
  2. You have to advertise if you really want to see results. Actually, you even have to pay to advertise giving your books away for free – I bet that’s the only way someone can get 60,000 downloads in five days. Lucky for you, I’m currently compiling the most comprehensive list of websites that offer advertising for free or for a fee. I will publish the list in just a few days.
  3. You better have more than one book. Oh, how I wish I had something else to offer to those people who have read the first one and apparently can’t wait to read the next adventure! This was an important realisation, as it finally pushed me to start writing the second installment. I’m up to five thousand words already and will blog about this too.

There you go. A little dose of reality, which will hopefully get sweeter soon, as I start throwing money at the problem. Can’t wait to see a steep up-trend in my sales and tell you all about how I did it. Meanwhile, have a little fun estimating how many books you’ll have to write before you can replace your current income with this Royalty Estimator.

94 Comments

Filed under Self-publishing and marketing, Shizzle, Inc.

94 responses to “Marketing gimmick #3, or “what does it take to get on a bestseller list?”

  1. Wow! You are ambitious. I cannot even phatom having as many followers as you do. LOL! I’m also quiet lazy and I suck at marketing myself. I don’t expect the number of followers on my bloglovin’ site to go above 5! You are a true inspiration. This post is great–thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Catherine! It’s true – I am ambitious, but I’m also obsessively hard-working as hell. I’m a big believer in that anything can be achieved if you know what you want and work hard at it, so I hope my posts help others make plans for themselves.

      Having said that, happiness is not in the amount of followers or books sold. Right now, I couldn’t be happier because you and others are reading and commenting on my posts – book sales are just a bonus 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post and I’m sure your book will hit that mark. I hope my Kindle Calculator is wrong too 😉 The KDP Calculator doesn’t take into account factors like promo run offs, past history of sales, or even KU/Select so there is room for error…. If it were perfect, it would actually measure the rank over a course of (my guestimate) 3 days because the ranking value ends up looking like a giant wave crashing to the right.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks again, Dave – it’s a great benchmarking tool, even if not perfect. The reason I wrote this post is because there is no reliable info anywhere about how many copies authors actually sell. Maybe it’s smarter to keep it hush-hush, but I feel like I have found a secret, and just can’t keep it to myself 🙂

      Like

  3. This is really informative! Good luck with your book. I hope you end up getting the sales you want.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks . . . I guess. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dave Chesson

    Great post and I hope my KDP Calculator is wrong as well 😉 There is some room for error because it doesn’t take into account KU/Select sales, Free book run offs, and doesn’t account for sales over time (which is a factor). So, you got that going for you…which is nice (in the great words of Bill Murry in Cadyshack).

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for posting this! I’ve considered something along the same lines as this, but you have put it much more eloquently that I would have. Have fun writing your next adventure. Good luck and keep your chin up!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love these posts. Sorry you’re not an instant success. I would give you a pony covered in glitter if I had one. But I don’t. Plus that would be messy. And mean to the pony…because ponies don’t really LIKE to be glittered.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, thank you so much, Juli – the thought counts! I think all “instant successes” have labored for many years before getting labeled as “overnight”. I love challenges, so hopefully in a few months you’ll be reading another one of these, full of zeroes and exclamation marks 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Meghan

    So what I’m getting is the best way to get there quick is by getting a publisher

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Meghan. I don’t know, but I personally wasted a year trying to get a publisher – instead of writing 70 pitches, I could have written a second book. Anyway, publishers these days expect you to promote yourself – their ad budget will be spent on the big names.

      Like

      • How many rejections did you get before deciding to self publish? I’ve given myself a goal of 300 rejections and then I’ll self publish. Thanks for giving us all a transparent look into self publishing

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve given myself a 100 rejections goal, but after 70 I was broken and decided to do it myself. I am absolutely loving the self-publishing route, although I’ve invested quite a bit of money and effort into it – basically I’ve done what a publishing company would do. I admire your resolve, but how many hours would it take to prepare 300 targeted submissions? Would that time be better spent writing another book? The answer, of course, is different for everyone. Best of luck – you’re obviously a hardworking and determined person – you will get there one way or another.

        Like

  9. xxalkos

    Hi Ana, perhaps like you implied, building a loyal and expectant audience is likely very important to someone self-publishing and self-marketing.

    Best of luck to your current success and future successes.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great info. Thanks for the post.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. It’s interesting, and refreshing, to find someone being honest about their sales. 12 sales in one week! I’ve had 25 in three years, so you’re doing well. But a lot of self-published authors talk the talk about what they do to promote themselves, but never actually say how many books they sell.

    A few days ago I read a very interesting statistic. Less than 20% of books bought online are discovered online. Think about that for a minute. 80% of book buyers don’t find out about books through blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and what have you; they hear about them out there in the real world and then go online to buy them.

    Word of mouth sells books. If you can figure out how to get people talking at the bus stop, at work, in the street, wherever, that’s where sales develop.

    Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you 🙂 My hope is that the book is fun enough that people will tell their friends to read it – I think comedy is easier in this than other genres, who wouldn’t want to gift their friends a few hours of laughs? That’s part of my strategy, btw – a hugely advertised sale over Thanksgiving, followed by suggestions to buy a paper version for Christmas gifts. Better go work on that paper version…

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Thanks for this Ana. I hope the paid advertising does some damage for you. Following with interest!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. islandmoonrise

    Hi Ana – sorry I’ve not been able to stop by for a while. I don’t think success always happens quickly, give it time, you’ll get there. Shizzle Inc. is a really good, fast-paced read, I’m surprised no agents have snapped you up so far. Some agents and publishers do deal with already self-published authors. Stay positive!! You’ll get your break, talent always wins.
    Loved the bit with the semi-naked car chase, by the way!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much for your support! I completely agree that it will take time, but I’m sort of excited, like I have figured out a secret 🙂 I’m still just as positive as ever, only looking to change my strategy. Let’s see if in a few months I can report a huge increase in sales numbers 🙂

      Like

  14. This is weird! Everything on this page – the post and the comments – is dated October 4. I’m reading it at 23:08 on Oct. 3. I’m on GMT+1hr. I guess you all must be a few hours east of me!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Ana, how do you find your category rank? All I can see via Author Central is the overall ranking of my book.

    Like

  16. Thank you for this post. I wrote over a thousand words on book #2 today. I am writing several books at the same time. ha, ha. I hope they all (or one of them at least) sells well. I feel I have someone (you) to hold my hand as I venture into the world of self-publishing. Please keep telling us how it is so we can all keep our chins up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! I’m all misty-eyed over here 🙂 I promise I will continue to tell-all, and I hope you finish your books. If they are part of a series, you’re already doing well – publishing a series with a strong protagonist is one of the major keys to success.

      Like

  17. You seem so hardworking. I’ve loved all the posts so far. Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Ana, I have really enjoyed your last three takes on launching your book. Congrats for having a good book, but you well know that the challenges ahead are probably more difficult than writing the book itself. I have just finished my novel, Lanes End, and am firmly in the beginning of the pre-publishing stage. You’re further along than I am, but I can give you my opinion about self-publishing, which is over-rated at best. If one wants to be where all the lemmings are, then the edge of the cliff can be comforting in the security of sheer numbers. I’m looking for alternatives.

    One is to raise money for printing, marketing, etc. via crowdfunding. KickStarter is the most well-known site for this, although I’m not sure its really appropriate for books. So I began my own crowdfunding effort, which I call a “self-starter” platform. So in risking shameless self-promotion, I suggest you take a look at my site: https://lightinthedarkparanormal.wordpress.com/the-lanes-end-project/

    Your opinion and comment is welcome.

    I’m trying to raise funds for an initial print run of 100 hard copies, and am about 2 weeks into it, so far with modest results. But the same technique can be used for marketing and promotion, which requires even more money and effort, and is what even the big pub houses don’t like to invest in. I suggest a better way of using those funds if successfully raised.

    If you think this is a decent idea, let me know and I’ll keep you apprised of my efforts. Paul Hill

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Paul! Thank you – I would be very interested to know, because I’ve actually put Kickstarter on my list of things to try. I was planning to offer signed copies of the second book for $25 dontaions, but have not given it much thought. I’d be very interested in an honest feedback of how many non-family and friends have contributed. Too bad I’m in Australia – your launch party sounds cool 🙂

      Like

  19. Hi Ana,
    How long do you have left with KDP? I thought all of my sales would be with Amazon- but 80% of my sales (and that number increases every day) comes from Apple ibooks- they are huge supporters of indie writers. They search for new indie books to feature on their homepage- and with visibilty comes sales (obviously). I highly reccommend apple – I know many people are huge Amazon supporters – but I am kind of in awe of Apple right now (in a good way). Your book looks great (I have a few to read before I get yours)- but I plan on buying it. Best of luck & thanks for always providing candid info!!

    Liked by 2 people

  20. cb

    So … where’s Book 2 already? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  21. You are amazing! Thank you for sharing well of knowledge with us all!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Brittney, did you go through Createspace to get on iBooks?

    Like

  23. I love your delightfully forthright insightful sallies into the cruel world of promo. How I wish I still had, and could maintain, your humourous optimism! I am bogged down with trying to get an answer out of Amazon from a real person who actually reads my questions and answers them. Instead, I get deluged in a load of links I’ve already discovered have no answers. They are happy to sell my eBooks (well, a few, anyway) but not to send me any payment, claiming that they don’t do business with South African banks. However, if I order from Amazon, my card account pays up quick smart. One way traffic.

    Thanks for all your tips!

    Liked by 1 person

    • What? That sounds like a disaster! They should be able to send you a check, right? I’m about to have a similar issue with CreateSpace – they don’t deal with Australian banks.

      Thank you for reading my sallies, oh – and thank you for gifting me a new word, I had no idea what a sally was and had to look it up 🙂

      I’d be very interested to know if Amazon does manage to send you a check – otherwise it’s criminal, in my opinion​.

      Like

  24. Reblogged this on Anita & Jaye Dawes and commented:
    At last, the bare bones of self publishing. And more to come!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Great post. Now I don’t feel so bad about my book sales. “Shizzle” is a great read! I am enjoying reading it as I type. I have many social media connections also and have lead only to a trickle of sales for my book. I think you are correct about advertising but it only makes sense if you have a number of titles to choose from. If you have a series advertising one book in the series can lead to sales in the whole series. Keep on writing and you will be successful. Now back to writing my second book in my series!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Finally! Someone who reveals real numbers. You got yourself a new follower 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Really honest and insightful. Thanks for posting.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Great post. I do know some authors that get loads of downloads for their free books but they pay a hefty fee and the free book is the first in the series. Also I noticed that a self-published author has fewer categories to list their books in. My first book was self-published but my last two I went with a small publisher called Creativia. They have my books listed in 5 categories. They also pay for promotion and I’ve hit Amazon Bestseller with one of them in my Arthurian category. But I do plenty of my own marketing to try and keep my sales and ranking up, which isnt easy. Stick with it and keep pushing forward. If you have good books youll get there. Best of luck.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you very much, Sahara! I will certainly keep going, even now, when I’m spent after a long day at work…I’m not sure what the wisdom is behind limiting categories for self-published authors, but you are correct.

      Like

  29. Your post was very revealing. It is so hard to get concrete information about this topic, so appreciate your absolute honesty. From your answers to some of the other comments, it’s clear you are hard-working and in it for the long haul, so I’d guess your chances of eventually getting some really big numbers are much higher than most.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Pingback: Marketing gimmick #3, or “what does it take to get on a bestseller list?” | Michael P King

  31. You used KDP to publish, right? Have you done Createspace as well?

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Excellent post, with some really valid points….thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  33. I can shed some light on the KDP category mystery. What they do is take those two categories you chose, and then look at your keywords to figure out the subcategories. Each category has a long list of very specific keywords that drive you into various things. Specifics are in this article on the KDP site: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A200PDGPEIQX41
    I blogged about my adventures with these categories here, if you are interested… https://alfageeek.wordpress.com/2015/10/07/erotica/

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Reblogged this on eponym and commented:
    Great article! Provides more information on how to make Amazon work for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Super post – thanks for sharing! Makes it all so much easier when I try to do my next one on Kindle again- perhaps in a different category?. And thanks for new follow too! Much appreciated!

    Liked by 1 person

  36. JennaMNeal

    Check out the writing workshop in Texas this year a week workshop on self publishing. I went last year I the plot session. It was best week ever. I’ll be there so if you are interested or plan to that’d be so cool.

    Liked by 1 person

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