Saying goodbye to permafree. Or the 70% royalty. Or both.

Sometimes I feel like Sisyphus

Promoting and marketing

Only to see my sales tumble

The watched pot may never boil, but whenever I take my eyes off the sales charts for a few weeks, the algorithms bury my books in the bottomless pit of the millions of unknown titles. Even worse, when I run back to the kitchen and fan the flames with marketing, the download peaks last only a day or two. Just look at the Exhibit A:

free-downloads-in-october

Fyi, the companies responsible for the peaks you’re seeing are as follows:

5 October – I don’t know whom to thank for the 367 downloads as I’d applied for a number of free services and apparently got picked up by somebody without confirmation.

24 October – BookHippo featured author, 102 downloads for FREE.

25 October – BKNights with 226 downloads for $11.

29 October – My Book Cave with 117 downloads for FREE.

As you can see, the “normal” downloads between promotions are just 3-5 books per day. What makes this even more frustrating is that I’m trying to give the first book away FOR FREE. Not only that, the permafree strategy has been in place since May, and yet instead of the snowball effect, what I have is that proverbial boulder, freefalling back to zero the moment I stop pushing. Wait, it gets worse. I jumped into permafree hoping for 2% “buy-through” of the second book, but so far it’s been less than 1% with the second book priced at $2.99. And for whatever reason, my KENP pages for Indiot have completely disappeared. Here is the Exhibit B for the same time period:

paid-sales-in-october-2016

This sucks big time, which means that I need to do something about it. Considering that I don’t want to “write to the market” or go on yet another cover redesign go-round, I’ve decided to change my pricing strategy. Radically. Like, smash it into pieces. Here are the two strategies I’m considering:

  1. Make both books $0.99 and available only through Kindle Select. Promote both with paid ads.
  2. Keep Shizzle, Inc as permafree and make Indiot $0.99 and promote only Shizzle, Inc as a freebie.
  3. Make both books free. Well, not really, but what the hell, how do I get Isa to go viral? She is destined for the big screen. I’m even more convinced of that having just suffered through “No Stranger Than Love.”

I’m thinking of trying both strategies 1&2 in stages. For starters, I am about to run a Countdown Deal on Indiot, before I make it perma-$0.99. Then after a month or so, make Shizzle, Inc $0.99 as well. Wait another month. Finish the third book. Send it to a hundred literary agents. Give up on Isa and write something along the lines of “How To Sell A Ton Of Books Without Really Trying.” That has worked for some.

If anyone has any better ideas, I’m all ears. Thank you in advance.

54 Comments

Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

54 responses to “Saying goodbye to permafree. Or the 70% royalty. Or both.

  1. I’ve reblogged your post, I know it will resonate with many fellow authors, including myself. Best of luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. nick

    Hi Ana,

    My sense is that Free is not the right approach for independent authors. I understand the concept of pull-through etc., but I don’t think it works.

    My approach (with my book – Emergence) has been to
    (1) Kindle Select (as I think that Amazon is the only game in town for independents)
    (2) vary price between 99c and 2.99
    (3) use paid email spam advertising (Book Sends etc.)
    (4) use countdowns

    I have also dabbled with Amazon Marketing Services, but this has not yet managed to break even

    in terms of $$$, what I have seen is that Amazon Sales Rankings is pretty much the whole story… and if you are Free you get listed with the other Free and that’s no good.

    nick

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Nick. That’s pretty much going to be my new strategy – as mentioned, you still have to promote the free title, so might as well promote it at 0.99. Will have to read up on this page flip, still hard to believe my reads went from hundreds a day to nothing just like that.

      Like

  3. Good luck Ana. I’m back in the publishing game after a 15-year break and it’s just as brutal as I remember it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Without a doubt, the marketing is the most frustrating and time-consuming part of being an independent author. It can be soul-crushing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I tend to soldier on most of the time, but the lack of sales has a terrible negative effect on my writing – it’s demotivating to invest so much time and effort into a book that is so slow moving.

      Like

  5. I’ve been following your publishing adventures for a while now, and I really appreciate everything you share with us (I haven’t read Indiot yet, but I enjoyed Shizzle, Inc.). Have you considered you might be underpricing yourself? Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t trust free books. And after being saddled with too many unreadable $.99 “deals” on my Kindle, I’m pretty cautious of those, too. So of your options, I’d go with #1 and heavy promotion, and maybe consider pricing it even higher, even if that feels counter-intuitive. Good luck!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Jo – and thank you for reading! It’s difficult to set the right price – I’ve tried pricing Shizzle at $3.99 and it hardly sold at all. It’s a double whammy, that one – the market is over saturated with freebies, so even though people don’t trust them, they have too many easy free options. I will try more combinations and see what happens.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Good luck! I recently took my books off being exlcusive to Kindle (as I wasn’t getting any ‘reads’ anymore), then tripled my price to $2.99 and all of a sudden I’m selling again after a few months slump. It’s strange how it works some times. For what it’s worth, I did read that $2.99 – $3.99 are the magic prices to get an ebook to sell, though i doubt that works for everyone.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Matt. My second one is $2.99 and I tweet quotes with links to it every day. People love the quotes, retweet them, comment – but don’t buy. It’s incredibly frustrating.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yeah, I get that too. I think that twitter is good fit some promotion, but it does have limitations in terms of what can be achieved. Low sale times are so frustrating though. I read somewhere that the key in the early days of writing is to release as many books as possible. I’m ask for productivity, but I don’t want to sacrifice quality, so I tend to delay on release more than is ideal I think.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I can’t do the 3-4 books a year, it’s not even a question of time. I only want to write comedy, and it feels like it needs to “cook” for a while either in my mind or in draft form before it is funny. Until then it feels forced.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks, Ana,I really appreciate all you have shared about marketing.Your honesty has helped me. I think there is no magic bullet in regards to marketing despite what some may lead us to believe. I haven’t found anything yet that works. I’d much rather be writing than promoting my writing so I keep writing and do some marketing but nowhere near what I probably should be doing. Right now I’m trying a Kindle Scout campaign for my latest novel (https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/1FZQDDJ5SNPO9). If nothing else I see it as another way to get my writing out there. Check it out. You might want to try it for your next book. Keep writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ana,
    Have you heard about Nick Stephenson’s “Your first 10,000 readers” program? I took the free training (which actually teaches valuable stuff), liked what I learned, and bought the complete training. Completely changed my marketing approach. You should check it out. Also, Mark Dawson has Facebook Ads training that is also excellent. (He also has free training out there). Both these guys teach specific, useful techniques, not the general, obvious stuff. Paying for training might seem like a bridge too far, but being nickeled and dimed to death to make sales just didn’t work for me. Good luck!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Michael, I’ve done Nick Stephenson’s and Mark Dawson’s free training. They were good, but entailed too much of a time commitment for me. That’s why I didn’t do complete training. I didn’t want to spend money on something I knew I didn’t have enough time to really implement. (I’ve already done this on a couple of trainings.) Glad you had good results. I’ve experimented with a couple of facebook ads and plan to do more of them, as I have time to do this. Glad to know you found their trainings worthwhile. I’m just not good a marketing. I try to do what makes sense for me.

      Ana, I think you are much better at it than I am.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Michael – I will definitely try their free courses and see if I take that next step. Nickeling and diming to death is an apt description, btw.

      Like

    • Btw, what impact on the sales did the change in marketing have? Can you share the “before and after” average numbers?

      Like

      • The Nick Stephenson strategy is a longterm strategy that really requires (in my opinion) 3 novels in a series (or 2 novels and a novella) in order to be effective. I took the course when I had 2 novels out. I launched my 3rd book at the end of August. (In the meantime I got involved in a separate promotion that hasn’t finished yet.I waiting to assess that effort before I push on with Nick’s.) So thus far, in the the limited way I’ve used it, it hasn’t been about sales. It’s been about learning specific skills: mail chimp, email opt in strategies, etc., and testing the method. I have gone from 0 email list subscribers in May to 66 today (my last promotion should bring me another 30 list members, but we’ll see.) That may seem like small beer to some, but it shows me that the method is sound. I’m confident that if I upscale properly, I can get the kind of email list that will turn every launch into a money maker. Anyway, take the free training and decide if it’s for you.

        BTW, some folks think that book sales are down, just like American football viewership, because the elections are sucking all the air our of the room.

        Liked by 1 person

      • A silly question – I have almost 5 thousand of email subscribers to this blog, is it not an email list? Of course, it looks like only about 200-300 read my blog posts on the day they are published. I tried to get my followers to sign up to a separate list, very little uptake.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Replying to your reply below. Blog subscribers are interested in your blog content. (You write a very interesting blog on marketing, etc.) New releases subscribers are interested in your books (because they’re read them and want more from you) and book or other content specials you might provide, etc. So they are a more specific group. You don’t interact with them as often and you only interact with them about your books. Take the free course work. I’m sure it will give you some good ideas.

        Like

    • I also took Nick’s free training and purchased his books on the subject. Can’t afford the full course. I have been following that but sales are still pretty slim. Rick Mulready also has a Facebook Ads training. I bought that but haven’t had the time to do the courses yet. It’s probably similar to Mark Dawson. I think Mark learned from Rick’s course.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Ana,
    I sympathise and appreciate all the stuff you’ve shared on your blog. I bought Nick Stephenson’s course too and it’s useful but costly and I think you are trying quite a few things covered on the course already. You are obviously pretty smart on IT stuff – at least it seems to so me! (Old guy, all thumbs!) Mark Dawsons’ three free Facebook ads videos are excellent but the full course also costs £500 last time I looked which will knock a hole in your royalties (and mine) but still looks tempting. I am also about to begin FB ads and have found a site called AdExpresso which offers a 14 -day free trial – watch this space!

    IMO your book covers are superb – I wouldn’t change them. If you are not getting kindle Select page reads any more you are not alone – since Amazon added Page-flip to the kindle in June everyone is complaining about how their page reads have fallen.

    Keep plugging on.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’ve also heard of Kindle page reads disappearing for authors whose books were doing consistently well; without getting all conspiracy theorist, there’s something going on that Amazon aren’t telling people about.

    I’d also echo what some commenters are saying about Nick Stephenson’s courses. I haven’t paid for any of them (!), but I’m on his mailing list for the free emails and his emphasis seems to be on building up a mailing list and dealing direct with your own subscribers instead of relying on Amazon and other marketing channels: put your time and energy into building your own list of people. Don’t know if it works for everyone, but that’s the direction I’m heading in.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, I will listen to the chorus – I have not paid much attention at all to building a mailing list. Probably part due to the fact that I don’t want to spam the inboxes. I only release one book a year, though, so maybe that’s not all that spammy…

      Liked by 2 people

      • Six newsletters per year, include content about other books, authors, publishing, plus some news about your own projects and offers. It’s about building a rapport with your readers and with good content won’t be spammy.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks again – and yes, I just need to start doing that. I have been hoping that the blog does that function.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree with The Opening Sentence, you’ll need to do more newsletters than once a year. You want them to remember who you are when they get it, but you don’t want to send so many that they feel spammed. I’m not sure exactly how many that is. 🙂 I always include links to other author’s books, free or on sale. My newsletters are way too long. That’s something I need to work on. I do 1 either a month or every other month. It’s according to what I have going on. I try to send one out if I have a sale, but if I have nothing going on it’s every other month.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks again, Kim. Have you been able to judge how many sales are a direct result of these newsletters?

        Like

      • You’re welcome, Ana! I love this subject. I also hate marketing, but I have been studying the market for a while. I seem to take two steps forward and three steps back. I have 2 stand alone romantic suspense (one will be a trilogy or series with different heroine’s stories in each) full-length books, 4 short stories, and a 4-novella paranormal mystery series with more coming. I have offered the first novella in the 4-novella series for free since February 2016. Before that I offered a short story free. I waited until I had all four books in the series available before changing to the premafree novella. There has been 3,004 downloads of the free novella as of yesterday. I ran a few ads over time but the most downloads were the first two months of going permafree.

        The other novellas in the series are $2.99 each, the full-length novels are $3.99 and the short stories are 99 cents. However, if they download the permafree novella, they also get a link to download the second novella free if they join my newsletter. I’ve added 92 subscribers to my newsletter and lost 38 due to 23 unsubscribes and 15 hard bounces. Most of the unsubscribes joined a long time ago when it was only a contest newsletter to which I drew a name every month and gave out a prize. I have a total of 402 subscribers now. The best thing I’ve gotten out of the newsletter are the beta readers. There may be a few who actually purchase my books.

        As for sales of the other novellas in the series: Novella 2 – 19 sales (keep in mind that they can get it free and there has been 83 free downloads), Novella 3 – 22 sales (just ran two sale prices of $1.99 for 2 weeks and $0.99 one weekend which amounts to over half of those sales and spent some money on ads), and book 4 – 14 sales. I sold 12 novellas of book 4 in December of last year but that was before the permafree book went into affect. I plan to run a similar sale this month on book 4 (Christmas Cruise) but will only try free ads, or may purchase one.

        I tried KDP Select for both romantic suspense books but I didn’t get that many reads and pulled them. Don’t like the idea of exclusive or putting eggs in one basket deals. I have been making more sales on Barnes & Noble lately, especially with the book box sets which aren’t selling that well on Amazon. I’ve sold 31 box sets. I have 3-2 book box sets, 2-3 book box sets and 1-4 book box set.

        If anyone knows of anything that helps, I would love to hear it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I have given away close to 10 thousand of the free book since May, but I’m not happy with the buy-through. I’m about to go exclusive, though, because of those 10,000 only 226 were downloaded via Smashwords. Crazy.

        Like

  11. Liz

    Yikes! Those zero page reads on Indiot are crazy and I suspect that has to do with the current spate of no reads for Sept or October that many KU authors have experienced. I only have one book left in KU but my other books have done better going wide, but only when I started doing FB ads. I agree with the other commenters that Nick Stephenson’s course is valuable, even if you just watch the free videos and also get his free book “Reader Magnets,” which is a great compliment to his free videos. I actually get the highest number of free downloads when I tap into my email list compared to other sites like BKnights although they still account for a lot, as well as sales, and I will be posting the results of my recent book promo last week.

    As to your options:

    1. I wouldn’t make both books 99 cents. Depending on the word count, I’d price them at $2.99 if it’s 40K – 50K words and up and then do ads, especially if you’re targeting KU subscribers.

    2. If Shizzle isn’t driving sales to Indiot, you could try Nick Stephenson’s strategy of still offering Shizzle for free (permafree) but this time with the goal of building your email list. Have a strong call to action in the front and back of Shizzle where they receive Indiot for free when they sign up for your mailing list (while having it for sale for $2.99). Those subscribers can then pay full price for the third book when it comes out, as well as your future books. Nick’s book, Reader Magnets, talks about this better than I can.

    3. I wouldn’t offer both books for free. I’d probably go more for #2 above 🙂

    Good luck, Anna!!

    Like

  12. Liz

    Oh, and I forgot to add that if you plan on offering Shizzle for free, you can put it on Instafreebie as a way to build that email list ala #2 suggestion. You’ll need to sign up for an upgrade so you can require them to opt in to your mailing list but Instafreebie has a one month free trial where you can do just that and it’s $20 a month after that. If Instafreebie picks Shizzle up to feature on your blog, you’ll easily have thousands of subscribers to your mailing list (which makes it imperative not to click on Integration to mailchimp LOL unless you want to see them start charging you up to $50 a month).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have instafreebie which is linked from my free newsletter, mailchimp, for them to download the second book free. I only have the instafreebie free service. I have my first permafree book on there too as public or shared but the others are private and not shared. Instafree has a site that they put the shared books on I think. I have my other books on there for my beta readers to download from or if I run a giveaway. Sometimes I gift the giveaways though so it will show “verified purchase” on Amazon when/if they leave a review.

      Like

  13. Recently, I joined a free Goodreads review group. They have about 4 different categories you can choose from. The deal is you sign up and agree to purchase, read, and review a book from a category. After that you can list one of your books to be purchased, read, and reviewed. You can’t purchase, read, and review a book from an author that reviewed yours. I joined during the first days and one of my books was added to pool to be purchased, read, and reviewed. They chose the first 12 in each category for the first round without having to have purchased, read, and reviewed a book previously.

    I also joined Rave Reviews book club in April 2015, I made a lot of sales and received a lot of book reviews for my permafree book (before going permafree) from the club. Being a member, you get to list 2 or 3 of your books for free in their catalog, more than that is $5 each. You can also add a book trailer(s). As a member, you agree to read so many books from their catalogs (4 I think) per year (of those books 2 have to be from “Books of the Month” books). The book I was talking about was chosen book of the month August 2015 and that’s where a lot of purchases and book reviews came from. They have other incentives also. There is about 400 members so it can be hard to get chosen. Usually if you promote (tweet) the other authors, your chances of getting chosen are better.

    There is a yearly membership fee, but it’s minimal – $25 annually for members who are authors. $10 a month for readers. I don’t think I would join as a reader unless I was an aspiring author or blogger.

    They also have extra events. In September, they had a blog party, in November they’re having a book trailer party, and in December they’re having an online Writer’s Conference and Book Expo. These do cost extra – the conference being the most expensive thus far. It was $50 plus so much for each workshop you sign up for. The others are $5 per spot you choose. For instance, I chose 3 dates for the book trailer spots, so that cost me $15 ($5 for each day). There are 1 to 3 spots per date for each day of the month.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hello Ana

    I feel for you for sale. I loved your first book Shizzle inc. I am sadly a buyer that hates buying books through Amazon. Would you be sell the second book in the series on kobo any time in the furture?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for telling me, Samantha. At the moment I don’t have any plans, as I had very little success with even free Shizzle on Kobo. I do, however, try to change strategies all the time, so may decide to “go wide” in the future. Thanks again for your nice words 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I feel your pain, Ana! I’ve had mine on promo for a month at 99c/99p. I’ll be watching your strategy!

    Liked by 1 person

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