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Reaching 1,000 Ebook Sales a Month: What I’ve Learned

When I e-published my first ebook last December, I, like many, harbored secret hopes for overnight success. I think I sold about 25 copies that first month, and half of those were pity buys from friends and relatives. I know some of you can relate!

After realizing I wouldn’t be a NYT bestseller by the end of my first month, I gave myself a more modest goal: get to the point where I’m selling 1,000 ebooks a month by this time next year.

As it happens, that point came in May, my fifth full month as an indie author. I know there are lots of authors out there selling many thousands of ebooks a month, and this is peanuts to them, but I know also it’s a common goal for many folks starting out.

I thought I’d share some of the most useful tips I’ve learned, because, quite frankly, I’m not someone who writes in a hot genre and I’m not someone who can say “oh, I just posted on Facebook and the KindleBoards and bought an ad on Kindle Nation Daily and things really took off!” I’ve tried just about everything from buying advertising to forum posting to making YouTube videos to Twitter-ing day and night.

Here are some of the marketing steps I took that actually worked:

Starting a Blog

I know, everyone starts a blog, but I started one with the intent of regularly (three times a week at least) posting useful information on e-publishing, blogging, and book promotion. You don’t have to blog on that topic. In fact, you’re more likely to attract your target audience by writing about your niche (i.e. a mystery author might want to do book reviews and author interviews for mystery readers).

Whatever you do, don’t just talk about your life and your own books. You can do that once you’re a celebrity and fans are fascinated by what toothpaste you buy or what your cats are doing today. For now, consider putting out information folks will find interesting or useful.

Since I was still an e-publishing newbie myself when I started my blog, I often interviewed more successful indie authors. This provided valuable content for my readers, and I also got little promotional bumps since these authors would usually link to the interview when it went live. This helped bring some of their readers over to my world.

While I don’t sell tons of books straight from my blog, I do sell some. (I’m able to tell because I am an affiliate for Amazon, and I used those links in my blog, which let’s me track sales…and pays me a few cents extra for each ebook to boot.) In the beginning it was only a few a month, but one or more of my ebooks show up in my affiliate report just about every day now. Those are sales that originated from my blog, so it makes the effort worthwhile!

Giving Away a Free Ebook

I wrote about this here on SPR a few months ago. I didn’t have an entire novel I could afford to give away for free, but I did have a short story featuring some of the characters from my fantasy novel, The Emperor’s Edge. I used Smashwords to turn the story into an ebook, and I included a 3-4 page excerpt from the novel as well as links showing readers where they could buy it.

This led to my first sales on Smashwords, and, when the story appeared in Barnes & Noble, I started selling 10-15 ebooks a day there (this has since died down to about 5 a day–maybe I need to put out another free short story!–but that’s still better than the 0-book-a-day average I was sporting at B&N before that).

Advertising

I tried quite a few advertising options, and I suspect most of it was a waste of money. If you have an ebook that will appeal to a wide audience, buying an ad on Kindle Nation Daily or another popular general-readership site might pay off. If you’ve written something niche, such as fantasy or science fiction, you probably won’t break even on those types of sites.

I have had luck running a Goodreads campaign (the link will take you to a meaty 2,000-word post I wrote up about it, including lots of tips for keeping expenses down and getting the most out of your money). Goodreads Advertising is pay-per-click, so you only get charged if someone clicks on the ad, and you can decide how much you want to “bid” for those clicks.

Not everybody who clicks will buy, of course, but if some do, it can be enough to break even. An added benefit is that some people will add your book to their “reading” or “to-read” lists, which introduces their friends to your work as well.

Writing More Books

This one’s probably obvious, but it’s easy to get hung up on marketing The One, your life’s work, or at least the work you’ve just published and are most passionate about. But most of the people I’ve come across who are making a living as indie ebook authors have numerous books out (10 or more in many cases).

Every book out is another chance for a reader to find you. And every book after the first is another potential sale for a reader that already found you (and enjoyed your work) as well.

I just published my third novel, and I’ve also done a novella and a couple of short story collections. With each new release, my sales have increased.

I could go on and on with this article, but I’m sure you have other things to read today. If you’re interested in more, please visit my e-publishing blog, as I’m always writing about what’s working, both for me and for the authors I interview.

Thanks for reading!

  • http://www.selfpublishingreview.com/members/jmbauhaus/ Jean Marie Bauhaus

    Thanks for some great info. I just published my first book and I’m running out of promotion ideas, so this will come in handy. And thanks also for the tip about selling your books through your Amazon affiliate link. I had considered this but I haven’t yet because I was afraid it might be against their TOS to earn a commission on your own books that they’re already paying a royalty for (but I’ve been too busy to check).

  • http://www.selfpublishingreview.com/members/goblinwriter/ Lindsay

    Thanks for the comment, Jean Marie!

    As far as I know, the only time you don’t get an Amazon affiliate commission is on the products you actually buy yourself (through your own links). I don’t make much from their 7% commission, but I love that it lets me track how many book sales originate from my blog. We authors are pretty in the dark (as to where sales come from) otherwise!

  • http://sciencefictionfantasybooks.net Moses Siregar III

    Great article, thanks. Congrats on hitting the 1,000-in-a-month club!

  • http://www.whillofagora.com Michael Ploof

    Thanks for the info. I recently self published my first fantasy novel Whill of Agora in june 2012. I found the single most helpful marketing tool was in the KDP free days promotion. As you may know amazon requires you to have five free days over 3 months during KDP enrollment. I published in late may. In June I sold a total of 36 kindle ebooks. I gave Whill of Agora away free for two days in the middle of June. During my first 2 day free promo I gave away 258, I was pretty pumped. But it did not increase sales at all. In June I was happy with one a day.
    Then for the first 4 days of July I didn’t sell any. I freaked out a little. I put all my hope into my next give away which I had scheduled a month after the last. I contacted 3 or 4 free promo sites and crossed my fingers. When the book went free on the 18th of July I had sold a total of 21 for July. I gave away 578 ebooks on amazon over my two day promo. I also reached a few top 100 free fantasy ebooks the first day. This is what I believe led to the increase in sales I have seen.
    When my promo ended and Whill of Agora went back to 2.99 I sold 10 books the first day, then 15, 20, 30, 40 a day. By the end of the month I had sold 278!
    It is now the 16th of August and I have so far sold 780 copies ofWhill of Agora. I have also broken into and stayed on 3 separate top 100 lists.
    I reached an all time high of #1,619 paid ranking on amazon…out of 1.5 million books
    My goal for August is thousands and my goal for Sept is the top 1000 list and after that, well, the top 100 of course.
    My last free day on Amazon for this KDP run is Aug 21. I have contacted over 20 free sites and hope to give away over 2000. That, I believe will help me break into the top 1000 paid. So in my opinion and experience I would say two things are vital for Indie success.
    1. Free free free free free days!
    2. Write a masterpiece.

    So if you are an indie author wondering if it is possible, yes it is, anything is.
    I should also mention my secrets. And these may sound silly but they are completely serious.
    1. Get a smartphone. Why?….Cause you can write books on the toilet, contact anyone, blog from wherever you are, query free site from the dentist chair…get it?
    2. Listen to Bob, Ziggy, and Stephen Marley constantly! Seriously I have been for 2 months. Music becomes mind mantras, you want music that tells your mind that all is possible. Jah!
    3. Focus your intent and visualize your goals and tell the universe what IS going to happen.
    Believe it or not the universe listens. If you are always thinking and saying the negative, that is what you will get.

    Well thanks for listening.

  • Atonus L. Perry

    I cant wait to employ these methods!

  • Atonus L. Perry

    Oh, and Michael Ploof you are an inspiration to me!

  • September Lynn Gray

    I agree that writing more books is the key, but I also wish some indie authors would be more careful about what they publish. I’ve seen writers put out a novel a month, but the writing itself is awful. I have one novella out on Amazon which I released last January and I’m putting the finishing touches on my next release. That’s slow compared to other indies, but I really try to take the time to develop my characters and produce a story worth reading. Nothing turns me off more than a writer who thinks it’s okay to sell me a rough draft just because it’s only 99 cents.