Maximizing Digital Book Sales, Part 2
By Carolyn McCray, Author | @craftycmc
This article is Part 2 of a 2 part series covering the intricacies of digital book sales platforms and how to leverage this knowledge into greater sales.
In Maximizing Digital Book Sales, Part 1, I covered the two basic ways you get sales on Amazon and others (by external and internal sales) and then broke down the various ways that internal sales can come about. I also covered the importance of categories and how they directly impact your ability to hop onto Bestselling lists in the most efficient manner. If you have not read my previous article in this series, I strongly suggest you do unless you are extremely fluent in these concepts. I also recommend that you read another article of mine “Best Practices for Amazon eBook Sales,” to be sure that your Amazon page is optimized for sales otherwise you might not see as large a benefit to your royalties.
This article covers what to expect as you increase your sales and how to leverage both external and internal sales into additional sales. From here on out I am going to show my inner math geek so please bear with me!
As a base line, let us say that you have a mystery novel. It had a traditional six week marketing campaign at the time of launch. It peaked at #1823 (you sold 48 books that day to earn that rank) on the overall rankings but did not hit any bestselling lists because it was categorized in the general mystery and thriller categories that were just too competitive for your ranking.
The average ranking however for your six week campaign was #4,902. On average, you sold 21 books per day over that 6 week period. For the next month your ranking sank into the #15,000s but at the 11 week mark you dropped sharply down into the #35,000s and over the past two months you slumped into the low #100,000 range. As we discussed in the first part of this article, Amazon puts books out into the recommendation queues that it thinks will sell. It appears to determine this based on how well you sell that day, that week and that month.
The example above is kind of the “natural history” of a title that did not gain “traction” at its launch. Once its high launch sales numbers got “stale,” Amazon stopped recommending it and the book’s ranking fell off at pretty consistent intervals. Unless something drastically changes in this book’s marketing plan, it will simply sit somewhere between #100,000 – #300,000 averaging about 5-10 books per month.
So how do you gain “traction” and keep your sales “fresh” so that Amazon continues to put you out into its recommendation queues? The best way I have found is to hit an appropriate Bestseller list(s).
In our mystery example, I would make sure my sales page was optimized and change the categories to less competitive ones such as “Women Sleuth” and “Hard-Boiled.” Had this mystery novel been differently categorized from the start, this book would have been “in the money” (meaning up on a Bestselling list where it gets more exposure and therefore more sales), its entire launch window. And not just on two Bestselling lists but in the case of “Hard-Boiled” this mystery would have ranked #23!
And this assuming that sales would have stayed the same, which simply isn’t the case. Overall there is a fairly consistent step-wise increase in sales based on the different berths. On average once you hit a Bestselling list, even at the #100 mark you will see an approximate 5% lift in sales.
Between #50-100 there does not appear to be any great sales advantage. However getting onto the Top 40 Bestselling page does give you an additional 5% increase. The Top 20 Bestselling page, another 7% pop. If you are lucky enough to climb into the Top 10 Bestselling, add another 14% increase in sales if you are “above the fold” (in a slot that can be viewed WITHOUT having to scroll down any further) which is usually about rank #5.
Each step then from #5, to #4 etc usually results in an addition 5% increase with #1 giving you the greatest pop of 10%.
Remember that moving up these lists many times only represents a few extra sales so you can definitely tell by nearly instantaneous increased sales when you climb onto a new page or much higher on the same page.
Let’s take our example from above.
At the book’s height it would have hit #23. But let’s back up. Once it hit the #100 slot it should have garnered a 5% lift in sales which translates to about 2 more books sold. Once it arrived on the Top 40 page it should have earned another 5% increase of another 2 books. Remember that those 4 additional sales can convince Amazon that this book has potential and could result in it going out into the recommendation queues to garner a few more sales as well.
Conservatively I would estimate at least one additional sale.
So instead of selling 48 books they sold 52 (without ANY increase in marketing budget or social media push). Those four books could raise the book in rank enough to bring it to the #20 berth. Once on that front page we know that we get another 7% bump (off our 52 books now rather than 48) which translates into another 3-4 sales. Which more than likely would raise the book up to #19 and probably get us another internal recommendation queue sale.
So our revised sales total for our peak day would have been 57 books sold rather than 48. That represents a nearly 23% increase on same day sales.
And the effect is lasting. Let’s take the book’s average of #4,902 for the entire six week launch. Conservatively let’s say that we saw a 12% increase in book sales due to the being on the Bestseller lists (remember we were also ranking in the Top 100 on Women Sleuths so 12% truly is a conservative number). That means instead of averaging 21 books per day, the title sold 23-24 books per day. That rise in sales is probably going to get us another book sale out of the increased exposure in the recommendation queue which brings out total sales per day up to 25.
This more than likely is going to lower our ranking into the mid #3,000s which is pretty competitive for staying in the Top 40 on the “Hard-Boiled” Bestselling lists. Because of this overall lift in sales and the constant exposure in the Bestselling lists, your sales decline is going to be softened because you now have “traction.” And the more “traction” you have, the more sales you are going to make, keeping your sales numbers “fresh,” and therefore not experiencing the steep drop-offs that you might normally experience the week or month after launch.
Now imagine putting paid advertising or social media promotions into the post-launch mix to take advantage or even augment your “traction?”
Normally if you can keep yourself in the Top 10 of a Bestselling list you can see sales that equal about 1/3 more sales than internal recommendation queues sales alone. Even if you do eventually slump in sales, I recommend “pulsing” your title. This pulse can either be a price drop to encourage more sales and get you back into the Bestselling lists or a combination of paid advertising and social media promotions.
In digital book sales, there is in infinite shelf-life and you can revisit your marketing strategy and recreate or even surpass your previous launch sales numbers by shrewdly choosing the best categories (which is a balance between how well that category “fits” your book and how competitive it is) for your novel, applying external sales to increase internal sales that eventually get you onto the Bestselling lists for not just added sales but “traction” as well.
Now before everyone starts to challenge the examples numbers let me say these are general estimate based on the fact that I monitor over two dozen title’s sales in real time and currently have access to books at nearly every level stated. The example I just gave was off a template of a recent launch.
Please remember that sales and ranking are relative to your previous sales record (the longer you sell well, the fewer sales you need to keep the same sales rank – an additional way to gain “traction”), the season, and even the time of day. During Christmas the sales numbers I gave may seem ridiculously low while during spring break they would appear ridiculously high. Hopefully this article will have impressed upon you how important your book’s categories can be and how landing within the Top 100 Bestselling Lists can significantly help your short term and long term sales.
If you have any questions, express your views or want to relate your own experience please leave a comment below. Also if you would like me to do a “snapshot” review of your categories please leave the following information in your comment; the link to your book, the two categories you choose when you first published your books along with the links to the Top 100 Bestsellers for those two categories and the link to at least one other bestselling book in an alternate category. I will get to them as quickly as I can, but even if I get swamped I promise to eventually get to each and every one of them!
I strongly urge everyone commenting to subscribe to the comments since many times far more information comes out in my responses than was able to fit into this article!
Carolyn McCray is a social media and sales consultant to writers and publishing houses alike. And using the principle laid out in this article, her recent non-fiction book, “Dollars & Sense: The Definitive Guide to Self-publishing Success” debuted at #1 on the Amazon Bestselling list for Study & Teaching and reached #2 on the Authorship Bestselling list beating out such rock stars as JA Konrath and Zoe Winters. Carolyn is also the founder of the Indie Book Collective, an organization dedicated to helping writers utilize social media to sell their books.