Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How Did John Locke Sell All Those Kindle eBooks?

Finally! A research-based approach to marketing ebook fiction. Exactly what I've been looking for. I LOVE John Locke's How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months!

I've been a social science researcher for more than 30 years. In my day job--the one where I actually make money--I am a program evaluator. I work with managers of social programs to develop and implement outcome measures that give them information about how well their programs are doing what they were set up to do.

So in 2006, when I published my first novel, Too Near the Edge, I planned to keep careful track of the results of my marketing efforts. I knew what the outcome measure of success was. How many books am I selling? Answer: not many. Ditto for my daughter Laurel's first novel, Following My Toes, which my business PMI Books published.

Like Locke, we initially did all the stuff the experts say we should do -- signings, press releases, reviews, awards, blogs, website, social networking, etc. etc. The problem was we never sold enough books to validate any of our marketing efforts. Lots of input, not much income.

I searched for more expert advice. But the problem with most of what I found was lack of supporting data to help me sort out what had worked for other authors. And the advice that did have supporting data was virtually all for nonfiction, which is much easier to sell. Now and then I'd read a self-published fiction writer success story, but usually with no clear breakdown of which marketing efforts paid off and which didn't.

Of course back then we were selling print books only, with all the costs of printing, shipping, bookstore returns etc. When ebooks came along, I hoped for more. In 2008, I put both novels up on Kindle. Unfortunately, sales still did not take off.

In February 2011 I published Laurel's second novel, Starring in the Movie of My Life, and in March, my second novel, Too Far Under. Both came out in paperback and on Kindle and I also got all our books up on Smashwords and in their premium catalog. We got good reviews, but still sales were slow.

Then the Amanda Hocking phenomena hit. We could see the impact of pricing. We started experimenting with free and $.99 books. We got some results. So far in June & July, we've sold 1800+ copies of our two $.99 titles. Far more than we usually sell in a year! And approximately 72,000 copies of our 2 free titles have been downloaded.

The numbers are exciting. But seeing this happen made us believe we could do even better. So, how to do it? Beyond the price reductions, we saw no clear path until I saw mention of John Locke's new book where he tells how he did it.

Bingo! Downloaded that book onto my Kindle and read it in one afternoon. Best $4.99 I've spent in a long time. Why? Because he carefully dissects what worked for him and what didn't, and then he tests the successful system on a new harder-to-sell book series to see if it worked there. It did.

Will Locke's system work for me? Maybe, maybe not. But it charts a clear specific path to follow, and this path is one that at least worked for someone. So I'm going to give it a try. And I'm going to keep track of what I do and what results I see. I'll let you know how it turns out.