Some Thoughts on Sales, Promotion and Strategy

The blog feed on my author page is now working. Though I’m syndicating the posts from my main blog, because that’s where most of the action is. Talking of action, my Mary Sue post from yesterday got quite a bit of that.

And now for some indie publishing talk:

Dean Wesley Smith has a good post about the problem of tracking indie publishing sales across all sales channels.

I actually use Excel to track my sales, just as I use Excel to track my daily wordcount and plenty of other things. At five books and four sales channels so far that’s manageable, though I can see that it can easily become a problem once the number of books and sales channels grows.

So far my sales distribution is as follows:

74% Amazon US
13% Amazon UK
13% XinXii

As for other sales channels, I’ve already gone into my problems with Smashwords here. Basically, I am bothered by the fact that after spending a lot of time and work to properly format my e-books and make them look as good as possible, Smashwords requires me to reformat them yet again, because they don’t accept epub and mobi files yet. And the Smashwords output is a lot more basic than my own e-books.

Pegasus Pulp e-books will eventually be available via Smashwords, if only because that’s the only way to get into Barnes and Noble, at least until they pull their heads out of their backsides and accept that there is human life outside the US. However, I will first try to get into other e-book stores like Apple iBooks, Kobo, Diesel, etc… on my own. I know one of Apple’s marketing dudes and Kobo also seems to accept indie publishers directly. I will use Smashwords only for those channels I can’t reach on my own.

I’m also looking into other channels as well. For example, I’m currently looking into a Dutch e-book distributor which supplies all of the Dutch online stores. And the Netherlands may be small, but they are one of the bigger e-book markets in Europe. Plus, I can read Dutch fairly well (and my Dad speaks and reads Dutch very well), so I can understand their terms and conditions.

In the comments to Dean Wesley Smith’s post, I found a link to this post by indie writer Camille LaGuire who discusses her not so hot sales figures compared to other indie writers, the possible reasons and how she plans to proceed.

This post really struck a chord, because it seems that Camille LaGuire and I are in a similar situation. We both write work that’s difficult to classify and not necessarily in genres that do well in indie publishing (which seems to be mainly thrillers at the moment as well as some romance subgenres).

Indeed, the freedom to write whatever I want to is one of the things that drew me to indie publishing. You see, if I wanted to be a brand name author who writes only one genre and one series, I would have gone with traditional publishing. However, I’ve never been the sort of writer who could write the same story over and over again. And indeed, the fear of being pigeonholed in a genre I only wanted to try out once was why I never submitted Colfrith, my first finished novel, more aggressively.

That’s also why John Locke’s ultra-targeted marketing approach doesn’t work for me. I respect John Locke and his success a great deal, but it’s not an approach that works for me. Indeed, when I first read his Why I love Joe Paterno and my Mom blogpost that he uses as an example in his indie publishing book, my first reaction was: “Who the hell is Joe Paterno?” Obviously, I am not John Locke’s target audience.

That’s not to say that a bit of targeted marketing can’t help. My Silencer stories would obviously appeal to readers and collectors of vintage pulp fiction, so seeking out such people and posting or commenting on their blogs and messageboards would probably be a good strategy. However, you have to be genuinely interested in the topic, otherwise it’s just cynical marketing.

More on indie book sales, indie SF author J.A. Marlow discusses his or her (I’m not sure about the gender of the author) sales for July, which is normally a low sales month for both indie and traditional publishing. Found via Passive Guy.

In retrospect, launching Pegasus Pulp in July may not have been the best of ideas, but I didn’t have the time or energy for the initial set-up phase during the school year. Besides, e-books are forever, so even if I started in a low-sales month, the sales can only go up.

Somewhat related is this post from Laura Ann Gillman’s “Practical Meerkat” series at the Book View Café, in which she says that no two writers have the same career path and that you have to play a long game (no, not the Doctor Who episode) to have a lasting career. And that’s what I plan on doing.

Finally, Vera Nazarian and Jon Gibbs also weigh in on the promotion question.

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3 Responses to Some Thoughts on Sales, Promotion and Strategy

  1. Pingback: More Mary Sue and an e-book post | Cora Buhlert

  2. J.A. Marlow says:

    Thanks for the link to my July sales report (by the way, I’m J.A. Marlow, not J.A. Vance. 🙂 ). I find your percentage on XinXii interesting. You may be the first person I’ve heard of who has made any sales there. Congrats!

    • Cora says:

      The sales volume in general at XinXii must be very low, considering that I could get into the top 50 selling books with my handful of sales. I don’t know why XinXii works for me. I suspect it’s because it’s so far the only place where you can get my books in e-pub format. Besides, I have some readers outside the North America/Australia/UK/Ireland/Germany zone and XinXii allows them to escape the 2 dollar Amazon surcharge for international customers.

      Sorry about the name mix-up BTW. That should teach me not to post when I’m tired.

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