Relaunch Post 6: I’m a #1 Amazon Bestseller Again, But …

So, today it’s been one month since I pushed the red button on the relaunch of my writing career.  First, I’ll recap what’s happened and then I’ll tell you the results so far.

Steps

  • The revised editions of all four books in my Regency Matchmaker Series were re-published, both in print (via CreateSpace) and on Kindle, and I also released an ebook-only boxed set.
  • The box set and Books Three and Four remain at regular price.
  • Books Three and Four were enrolled in KDP Select, so they’re available to Readers on Kindle Unlimited.
  • The first ebook in the series was made permafree on all sales venues I can reach, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Overdrive, and Scribed.
  • The second book in the series was offered for free (and still is). All readers have to do is come to my site and tell me where to send the book. All of those readers subscribed to my email list.
  • Other than that, I’ve been doing what writers do: write, write, write like the wind. I’m working on the next book.

Results

  • My subscriber list has quadrupled, from 31 to 124.
  • THE BLUE DEVIL (Book One in the series) made it into the top 10 in my category (Romance>Historical Romance>Regency) in the free Kindle Ebooks lists in all English-speaking Amazon markets except for in the US, where it made it into the top 30.
  • THE BLUE DEVIL is currently ranging from #1 amongst free English-speaking historical romance in Germany and #580 in Japan.
  • THE BLUE DEVIL made it into the top 300 of all free Kindle books in all Amazon markets except for in the US, where it’s made it to the top 1200, so far.
  • Over 7000 free copies of THE BLUE DEVIL have been downloaded in all venues.
  • 87 free copies of Book Two, MISS GRANTHAM’S ONE TRUE SIN have been downloaded so far.

#1 in Germany sounds great, but it’s in a very narrow category in a very small market, where one or two sales makes a huge difference.  7000 free downloads also sounds impressive, but many of those will have gone to readers who collect free books without much intention of reading them immediately–or at all. Nevertheless, I expect that last figure to trickle upward (and subsequently shape itself into a bell curve; the statistics geek in me rejoices) as readers finish Book One. Until then, the vast majority won’t know about the free copy of Book Two.

Readers who download MISS GRANTHAM’S ONE TRUE SIN also subscribe to my newsletter, and only 1 out of 93 has unsubscribed immediately, which tells me that the vast majority of my new subscribers are interested in my books and/or sub-genre rather than simply being interested in free books regardless of what they’re about (something I’d been a little worried over, so that’s a relief).

Interestingly, in the past 12 days, there were 9 sales of MISS GRANTHAM’S ONE TRUE SIN on Amazon, even though it clearly states at the end of THE BLUE DEVIL and within the Amazon book description for MISS GRANTHAM’S ONE TRUE SIN that you can read MISS GRANTHAM in its entirety “RIGHT NOW” by going to my website (implying, but carefully not stating explicitly that it’s free, because offering anything for free within the book’s description or content is currently against Amazon’s Terms of Service, and I’m not interested in annoying Amazon) and in spite of the whole free book thing being prominently displayed on my website.  In spite of my best efforts to the contrary, I know it’s too much to hope that all of the readers who are paying for MISS GRANTHAM realize the book is available for free and are choosing to pay for it instead.  I wish I could do something about that for them, but I can’t do much more than I’m doing, alas. Still, it wouldn’t surprise me to get a 1-star review from some of these readers, something along the lines of, “Hey, I paid for this book but it was free elsewhere, and now I can’t get a refund” because they waited too long.  We’ll see.  For now, I’ll stop worrying about it, since I can’t do anything about it anyway.  In my mind, I can hear my mom telling me, “Atta girl, Betho! Don’t borrow trouble.”

All in all, I’m quite pleased with how the relaunch is progressing. The next big step in the process will be the release of the next book, ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS, the first of 3 Christmas novellas for this year.  That should go out within a week.  My next blog post will be written after that, unless something really spectacular happens before then.  Hey, a girl can dream, right? 🙂

Relaunch Post 5

Last time I wrote, I told you that Amazon had price-matched THE BLUE DEVIL, which made it free on several of its sites (UK, Canada, India, etc.) but they hadn’t yet price-matched it on Amazon’s USA site.  They’d told me it would take up to 2 days to be price matched there, and so I dutifully waited.  And waited.  Finally, on day 7, I wrote them again to ask once more–politely–to price match, and they wrote back to say that they were sorry for the delay and they’d get right on it–and they did.

I’d heard that Amazon sends out somewhat snippy form letters informing authors who ask them to price match that they may not price match in all marketplaces and it’s up to their discretion, etc. But I never received such a letter. In fact, I initially received a very polite, friendly, and clearly personalized letter confirming that they would indeed be price matching as I asked.  It was … nice.  And this second letter I received actually apologized for the delay and promised to price match in the US immediately, which they did. I’d been led to expect a difficult and abrupt response from Amazon, but instead their responses were personalized, courteous, and pretty quick. I was pleasantly surprised.

Being able to offer THE BLUE DEVIL for free on Amazon is an important part of my career relaunch plan.  If something had prevented me from making the book “permafree,” my progress would have slowed and may even have stopped, until I could bring out a ton o’ new books (which I’m also working on, of course, because–whaddya know!–writers have to write).

So THE BLUE DEVIL has been free on Amazon’s US site now for about 30 hours.  It had been carrying a sales rank of ~#450,000 for several months.  It’s now at #982 in the free Kindle books list. Apples to oranges, that, but interesting–and happy making!–nonetheless. I’m thrilled that THE BLUE DEVIL has broken into the top 1000 free Kindle books.  I’m hoping for a top 100 spot, but I don’t think it will happen.

The book is also in the #22 spot on the Free>Kindle>Romance>Historical Romance>Regency list.  I’d like that to get to the top 20 for the best visibility, and I think that will happen sometime within the next few days.

In the UK, it’s at #7 in the Free>…>Regency list.  And it’s #271 in the entire Kindle store for free books.  Not too shabby, but it’s been free in the UK for about a week now, and the UK is a lot smaller market than the US.

In the past week, I:

  • Wrote to Amazon to ask them to make an update of THE BLUE DEVIL available for readers to download, since Kip and I revised it quite heavily just prior to this re-launch.
  • Put ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS in Vellum, my formatting software.
  • Wrote a 2000 word new chapter last night on ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS, when I realized it needed it.

This coming week, I’ll be working on ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS as I’m able, and I should be releasing it sometime this coming week, though family obligations may delay its publication by a week or two.

In other news, my newsletter, which I think had 60 subscribers a week ago, now has 91 subscribers–10 from today alone–a result I’m over the moon about.

In the entire month of September, 4,876 free copies of THE BLUE DEVIL were downloaded fro all venues. So far this month–fewer than 6 full days–it’s already been downloaded 1,290 times.

I began the relaunch process in April. There were so many components to my plan–revisions, web design, setting up an ebook delivery service and mailing list, ISBNs, covers, book descriptions–that, at times, it’s felt like I was juggling a ping pong ball, a live alligator, a crystal goblet, and a running chainsaw all at once. But now it’s easier–fewer moving parts!–and the relaunch is sailing along as I’d hoped it would.

Now I just have to write like mad for a while.

 

 

Relaunch Post 4

Tomorrow will be 4 weeks since I pushed the red button on my re-launch.  It’s been 11 days since I blogged about it.

During the past 11 days, I…

  • released the Regency Matchmaker I-IV Box Set
  • asked my Facebook friends to go  “report a lower price” on THE BLUE DEVIL
  • after a wait of 7 days with no price match, I wrote to Amazon’s KDP people to ask for a price match
  • worked on getting ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS, the first of three 2017 Christmas novellas ready for publication next week.
  • called the Author Central people at Amazon to take care of some housekeeping on my product pages (2 books that needed to be linked together, an erroneous cover, etc.)
  • updated the product information (Editorial Reviews, Back Cover, etc.) on THE BLUE DEVIL
  • began writing my first issue of THE FURTHER ADVENTURES, which will come out a day or two after I publish ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS
  • created a cover for ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS
  • tweaked this website a bit, to reflect best practices I’d learned from reading an article on conversion, making my main offer more prominent and optimizing a few images and such-like for SEO

Phew!

So, what have the results been this week?  How have sales/giveaways done?  Very well, I think.

  •  Sales for the month of September have more than tripled over August’s sales, from $20 to $63.
  • THE BLUE DEVIL has seen a total of 4,283 free downloads.
  • 31 people have added themselves to my mailing list
  • THE BLUE DEVIL is back on the Amazon Bestseller’s list for the first time in several years. Right now, in the UK, it’s sitting at #15 on the Kindle Store>Books>Romance>Historical Romance>Regency list. It’s number #432 amongst the free books in the entire Kindle store, and it’s #391 on the Kindle Store>Books>Literature & Fiction list. In Canada, it’s at #35 on the Kindle Store>Kindle Ebooks>Romance>Historical>Regency list. It’s #1,485 amongst the free books in the Kindle store.

Don’t be too impressed about that last bullet point. Keep in mind that Amazon UK and Amazon Canada are small markets, and just a few sales can make a huge difference.  THE BLUE DEVIL is nowhere near that level on Amazon US’s lists.

But things are just getting started.

Here’s the graph on the free downloads:

Graph showing Free Downloads of THE BLUE by Date

As you can see, downloads have slowed by half from their initial peak. However, it’s worth noting that Amazon still hasn’t price-matched THE BLUE DEVIL in the US. When that happens, I expect to see many times the number of downloads I’ve already seen from the other venues in which the THE BLUE DEVIL is currently offered free.

It’s certain that only a small percentage of the people who have downloaded THE BLUE DEVIL for free have yet seen my offer of a free download of the second book in the series, MISS GRANTHAM’S ONE TRUE SIN.  I placed the offer in THE BLUE DEVIL twice, in the fore-matter and then immediately at the end of the book.  But since Amazon’s Kindle reader doesn’t automatically show the fore-matter, a large majority of readers won’t see my offer unless they finish reading the book.  Many readers grab free books when they see them and let them sit for weeks, months, or even years before reading them, if they ever do read them at all.  So I expect sign-ups to trickle in as readers finish the book.

Signups increased immediately when I moved my offer to a more prominent position on THE BLUE DEVIL’s product page.  It’s now visible on the main page without the reader clicking on “See more” under the product description, and I expect a flurry of sign-ups as soon as THE BLUE DEVIL goes free in the US.

As I noted before, in 14 years of having a website, I managed to entice a whopping 30 people to sign up to my mailing list. I knew it was important, but I just didn’t know how to do it.  Now I do, and in one week, I’ve gathered 34 names. I now have 64 people on my mailing list.  I’m over-the-moon happy with that result, especially considering my books’ current low sales rank at Amazon. As soon as that increases, sign-ups will too, and I’m ~already~ thrilled with the results.

On a side note, Kat informed me that the face on the cover I created for ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS “looks janky.”  Guess I’ll have to do some graphical plastic surgery sometime this week!

Relaunch Post 3

SINCE MY LAST POST, I…

  • Prepared a box set of the first 4 books in my Regency Matchmaker Series, for release later tonight. This will be my first new release in four years.
  • Used “report a lower price” on Amazon in the hope that the Great River would lower the price of The Blue Devil without me having to phone them.*

RESULTS

Six days ago, I used Draft2Digital to distribute The Blue Devil, Book One of my Regency Matchmaker Series, to Barnes & Noble, Apple’s iBooks store, Kobo, and several others.  Here are the results so far:

The Blue Devil currently has a sales rank of #19,392 on Barnes and Noble.
On Kobo, it’s ranked at #1133,931 in Romance. None of the other venues offer sales data. On Amazon, it’s ranked at #6,327 amongst all historical romances on Amazon, at#5015 in the Regency Category of the Kindle store, and at #349,094 in the entire Kindle store.

In the past five days, there have been 907 free copies of The Blue Devil downloaded from all sales venues, excluding Amazon*.

Day One: 15  (This was only a partial day)
Day Two: 40
Day Three: 156
Day Four: 236
Day Five: 460

Here’s the graph:

Graph of free downloads of The Blue Devil to date

I’m fairly happy with this result. My ultimate goal is for these free copies to entice readers to sign-up to my mailing list.  So far, there’s only been one sign-up, but I’m not worried–yet.

THE GOAL

When readers open The Blue Devil, they’re taken right to Chapter One. The front matter (where the first offer is) is skipped. Unless readers hit their back buttons, they miss my “Note from the Author,” where I tell them they can get a free copy of the second book in the series, Miss Grantham’s One True Sin.  Of course, most readers don’t care about a book’s front matter, its copyright information, title page, dedication, Note From the Author, and so on. They plunge right into the story and miss my offer entirely. Knowing this, I offer the free copy of Book Two again, right at the end of Book One. Hopefully, as this batch of new readers begin finishing The Blue Devil, my sign-ups will increase.

In the past 14 years, I’d only attracted 30 subscribers to my mailing list. Yes, you read that right: 14 years. I knew having a mailing list was important, but I just didn’t have the time or the spoons to make it happen. But now I do, and I’ve been doing my research. I know why my mailing list never grew: my offer simply wasn’t strong enough: a newsletter.

Even though I promised an occasional short story to be included with my newsletter, it wasn’t enough. Now, I’m offering an entire free book–the second book in my Regency Matchmaker Series, and the first book in the series is free, too*.  I’ve only had one new subscription so far this week, but I have to tell you I cheered when I saw it.

KDP SELECT

For the first time, I’m enrolling two of my books into the KDP Select program, which will which means they will be available to readers through Kindle Unlimited.  I’ll be enrolling Books 3 and 4 of the Regency Matchmaker Series into the program tonight, right after I upload the box set I’m working on. Books 1 and 2 are not eligible for KDP Select because the program demands exclusivity for a period of 90 days. The exclusivity thing is what’s kept me from trying KDP Select until now.  It sticks in my craw. But other authors have had good results with KDP Select, so I’ve decided to give it a (limited) try.

Books 1 and 2 and the box set (which contains books 1 and 2) are not eligible for KDP Select, because they’re available elsewhere: I put The Blue Devil on Amazon myself, and I used Draft2Digital to release the ebook to Barnes & Noble, Apple’s iBooks store, Kobo, and several others.  And Book 2 is available through my own website, for free.

Because Books 3 and 4 will be enrolled in KDP Select, I won’t be able to release the box set on any sales venues except Amazon. I’m a little scared of that, knowing that Amazon has had some trouble with rogue authors hijacking their bestseller lists lately, but I’m forging on ahead nonetheless, on the theory that books doing something are better than books doing nothing.  My novels have been languishing for far too long.

WHAT’S NEXT

As I mentioned above, I’ve been working on releasing an ebook “box set” of the first four books of my Regency Matchmaker Series, and that will go out later today–though it’ll take a 1 – 5 days for it to hit the virtual shelves.

As soon as the box set is out of my hands, I’ll begin working on the release of my first Christmas story for 2017, Once Upon a Christmas.  I’m planning to release three Christmas novellas each year, one in October, one in November, and one in December.  In addition, each year will see the publication of a box set of the previous years’ Christmas stories as an annual anthology.

I’d planned to release Up to Scratch last month, but I’ve pushed that back to January, 2018.

 

*The Blue Devil is currently free in every venue it’s offered, except for Amazon, which still lists the book for $.99.  I’m going to wait a few days before calling to ask the ‘Zon to price match the book.  I’m a little worried about this, as other authors have reported difficulty in getting Amazon to do this.  If you’d like to help out, you can go to Amazon, search for “Melynda Andrews The Blue Devil,” and click on “tell us about a lower price,” just above my picture.

Relaunch Post 2

Yesterday was Day One of my Re-launch.  But yesterday wasn’t the first day I was working on the launch.  Nope, nope, nope!  I’ve been working my arse off for months.  Here’s what I’ve done:

  • Created this entire website using WordPress. I’m a graphic artist and web designer with extensive WordPress experience, so this was easy(ish) for me, but it took time.
  • Extensively revised and expanded the first four books of my Regency Matchmaker Series.
  • Overhauled the cover of the Book One (which I liked), and created a cohesive set of three new covers for the other books in the series based upon it.
  • Purchased Vellum and used it to format .pfd (for print), .epub, and .mobi files of those books.
  • Created paperback versions of those books using CreateSpace.
  • Took all of my books off-sale at Nook, which was the only store other than Amazon wher I’d released my ebooks.
  • Opened a BookFunnel account and uploaded Book Two in the series to it.
  • Created a MailChimp account.
  • Created a mailing list at MailChimp.
  • Connected my list to my BookFunnel account.
  • Created and embedded a signup form for my list on my website.
  • Updated all of my books’ Descriptions, Pricing, Interiors, etc. on Amazon, CreateSpace, my website, and BookFunnel.
  • Lowered the price of Book One on Amazon to $.99, the lowest Amazon allows.
  • Signed up for a Draft2Digital account and uploaded Book One to it, setting it to Free on all sales channels but Overdrive (which can only go as low as $.99).
  • Took care of what seemed like a thousand other nit-picky-yet-essential pre or co-requisites to completing the above tasks

Note that I’m not saying the above sequence is what other authors should do; it’s just how I’ve done things.  I’ve most certainly made mistakes here and there (and I’d love to hear what those things are, if you’ve an opinion on the matter).

My sales on Book One had been steadily sliding for years and were, until I lowered the price to $.99, hovering near #500,000.  Within the next four hours or so, there were four sales (at least, that’s all my Kindle Direct Publishing Sales Dashboard shows for now), and Book One rose from about #500,000 to near #100,000–its highest rank in nearly three years.  Sales rank is a fragile, ephemeral thing, but I’ll call that a win for now.

In the next post, I’ll discuss the steps I accomplish today, and today’s sales results.

Leap, And The Net Shall Appear (or, “Relaunch, Post 1”)

Late 18th Century Trapese Artists

My first novel was published in 2001 by Kensington Books as part of its Zebra Regency Romance line.  Four years and six more novels later, when Kensington stopped publishing Zebra Regencies, I was invited to continue writing for Kensington, but since my home life was busily falling apart, I elected to stop writing altogether.  It’s difficult to write about love when the person you love stops wearing his wedding ring.

Needing a creative outlet, I began to paint.  I created and sold over 350 large-scale abstract expressionist paintings.  I was discovered by a prestigious art gallery with showrooms in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Dubai, San Francisco, Orlando, and London. The gallery had a deal with a large and well-known cruise line to sell art onboard, and the gallery said it wanted all of the paintings I could produce.

It was a $700,000 a year deal.  To say I was over the moon was an understatement.  I was somewhere outside of this galaxy.  Maybe even outside of this universe.

And then, the Great Recession hit.

Suddenly, no one was buying consumer-level art anymore.  My sales tanked. Everyone’s sales tanked. The gallery lost its deal with the cruise line. Then, the gallery closed, taking nine of my paintings with it.

I founded my own online art gallery (at www.DeepUrban.com, for those playing along at home) where I still sell my art. Attempting to make a go of that during the financial crisis, plus a move, a divorce, a courtship, a second marriage, several family health crises, and the raising of two young daughters occupied the balance of the next four years.

And then, in 2012, when the indie publishing revolution was just getting underway, I published my first four books on Kindle and Nook on the advice of a writer friend.  She was making a lot more money as an indie than she did when she was traditionally published by a big New York publishing house. Why didn’t I give it a go? she asked.

What did I have to lose?  My books were all long out-of-print and just sitting there, doing nothing.

So, I asked my old publisher for my publishing rights back, and I got to work creating new covers.  Now, I’m an artist, so creating new covers wasn’t difficult. But I’ll admit that I regarded it as more a labor of love than a necessity, since I suspected that the old saw about people judging books by their covers was mostly hyperbole.

Yowza, was I wrong!

Those covers were good, and they sold a ton of books.  To my delight, my indie-published ebooks really took off, ultimately reaching #1 on Amazon’s Top 100 Regency Bestsellers list and #4 on the Historical list.  In a year, they’d earned me eleven times as much as they ever earned during the whole time they’d been print-published by my old publisher.  I’d started on new novel–it felt so good to be writing again!–and things were going great.

Until Amazon changed my covers.

A few months into my Great Indie Publishing Adventure, the ‘Zon, inexplicably, switched out the covers I’d made, replacing them with the old ones.  And because I was busy paying attention to other things, I didn’t notice the switch for two months.  It was almost four more months before I could convince Amazon to put the new covers back on.  But by that time it was too late.  Sales had halved each month for six months.  And by the time Amazon finally did put my new covers back on my books, my sales momentum had evaporated.  I went from being able to buy a new car with one month’s earnings to barely being able to afford groceries.

I’d been writing a new novel, the first of a new series, and I thought that I could probably re-launch my indie career with it and its sequels, but I couldn’t be sure, and with two young daughters to care for, I needed to be Absolutely Certain we could pay the bills. So I found a teaching job for the coming year.

Annnd…guess what?  Teachers don’t have time to write or to promote their just-launched novels.  At least, this one didn’t.  I taught art and drama that year, a job which required 11 hour days, if I wanted to do it right–and I did. Book sales sank even farther into the loo and stayed there.

Fast forward to 2015.  For many reasons, a fresh start was in order.  So, with my children and husband, I fulfilled a dream I’d had for years, moving from Florida to the Pacific Northwest, where we now live on the edge of the Wild, in the foothills of the beautiful Cascade mountains.  Life has finally settled down enough for me to turn my attention back to writing.

But how does one go about re-launching a traditional-turned-indie-turned-stale writing career?  I wondered.  And I googled.  And I found good stuff for indie-newbies from the likes of Joe Konrath, Nick Stephenson, David Gaughran, Chris Fox, and Derek Murphy, amongst others. They don’t have a lot of information to offer writers in my situation. Indie publishing is new enough that there aren’t a lot of writers whose sales took off, tanked, and were subsequently revived.. But, following their advice, I’ve cobbled together what I believe is a sound plan of action for myself, including a couple of new ideas of my own that I’ll be testing.  Annnd…I’m launching my writing career.  For the third time.

Which means I’m writing again.  A lot.

This month, I’m releasing a box set of the first four books of my Regency Matchmaker Series.  Over the next five months, I’ll be re-releasing three backlist titles and launching two brand-new titles.  And then the plan is to release a new title about every 1 to 3 months thereafter, depending upon length.

So, I’m not quite starting from scratch, but I am re-launching my writing career. Leap, and the net shall appear!  I’ll be blogging about the process, and I invite you to watch what happens. It may be a train wreck, and it may be fireworks, but either way, it should be interesting. 🙂

Wish me luck!