Convergence and the Path to Publication Part V: On Promotion

[Previous installments on the Path to Publication: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV] Last month, when outlining my five-year plan, I wrote in part three that I wouldn't begin playing around with price promotions until the three or four-year mark. This idea was mostly because I wanted to wait and build up a significant back-list of titles that could be co-promoted or discoverable by those bargain buyers and new readers. The theory being that, with only one title available it's less of a draw to bring in readers and keep them hooked.

On the other hand, one of the benefits of being an independent author-publisher is that I can afford to be flexible and no plan or price need be set in stone.

Since releasing Convergence in late February, sales became a bit flat. I had a solid opening month with the bulk of my sales happening in March and April. In May, my book got picked as a Kobo Next Read which came with a nice boost thanks to a mention in their newsletter. But, by June it had stalled out on that platform, as well, and hasn't pushed a single unit since. June saw only a few sales overall, but July hit an enormous speed bump that drew any forward momentum to an absolute halt.

By mid-month, I decided I needed to something to incentivize sales, and with my next title not due until the fall, it came down to this decision: do I grin and bear it, and let my book just sit there for months on end, potentially not finding any kind of readership, or do I try a promotion just for the hell of it?

Naturally, I went with the latter. I held a week-long 99 cent promotion for Convergence and spent $5 on a bknights promotion through Fiverr. By the end of the week, I was pretty well convinced I'd made the right choice and had the best sales since March. I went from six units sold through the entirety of June to 6 units sold in a handful of hours at the start of the promotion.

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My numbers may not be too impressive to some (we all have to start somewhere!), but for an unknown indie with only one title and virtually zero brand recognition, I can't help but be a bit floored.

The first day of promoted sales netted me seven customers (I'd sold three copies in the day prior to the unadvertised promotion), and experienced a slight incremental fall-off in sales over the next few days. What started as seven sales went down to six, then down to five, and then right down to two. I had a small uptick over the DetCon1 weekend, which got me three more sales as I tied the promo price into the sci-fi convention with the DetCon1 hashtag, and the convention's official twitter account was kind enough to retweet the sale info. A few author acquaintances were also very kind enough to retweet some of my promo tweets.

Although the promo was aimed primarily toward Amazon customers, since that is bknights primary focus, the deal extended to my other platforms as well, and I saw a nice handful of sales on Nook. I was also able to reach out to Indie Author Land, who ran news of the promo and featured the title a few times, and sent out numerous tweets on my behalf. Solid folks there, so be sure to check out their site, too!

Unfortunately, the cheap price tag still wasn't enough to draw Kobo readers back to my fold, and the Smashwords Summer Sale has done absolutely nothing for me. In fact, it was mostly out of frustration with the Smashwords sale that ultimately led me to running this promo on my own, and the benefit of that decision is pretty plain to me. Although my title is still enrolled in the Smashwords sale and can be bought for only $1 with the code SSW75, it really makes me question the benefit of that platform at all.

All in all, I sold more than 30 copies of Convergence, the bulk of them at the Amazon US store. I did get a few sales at their UK and Canadian outlets though, and Nook, as previously mentioned.

My big hope now is for some more reviews to come in from these new readers!

Lessons learned from this promotional effort? First off, it's perfectly OK to experiment, and in fact, should be encouraged. It's also got me thinking a bit on what steps I should take in launching my next title. My previous promotional effort was through eBookSoda, and while that wasn't successful, I tend to think it was more of a disconnect on my end than theirs, and I treated it more as a release announcement than any sort of promotional venture, so there was no reduced price, and thus less incentive to buy. When I release Consumption, I intend to keep it at a permanent price of 99 cents, which will make future advertising easier by cutting out the necessity of manual price adjustments, but also help make it more eye-catching and hopefully attract some impulse purchasers. I intend on giving eBookSoda another shot, and I will definitely be employing the services of bknights one again, as well. It's also given me a bit of food-for-thought on how I should launch Emergence next year, and what the role of Convergence will be in terms of advertising and exposure.

As I said, or at least alluded to in my Five Year Plan posts, flexibility is key and there's always room for reexamination of one's goals and adapting to those changes in the market and personal plans. My own plan, as is it stands, is more of a rough outline than a specific road-map, and, of course, your mileage may vary considerably.

Author-publishers - what kind of promotions have you found successful? Any tips or comments? Let's hear them!


CONVERGENCE is available for purchase as an eBook on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and other retailers, or as a print copy here.

Michael Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.


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