The Loss-Leader Strategy.

Writer’s blog: stardate: 10.04.2013

WARNING: This blog contains some big numbers to crunch.

Part 1

It’s Wednesday. It’s eleven o’clock in the morning and it’s the holidays.

Normally, for reasons explained previously, I’ve come to be a Friday-morning-blogger. So why today? Well, as mentioned, I’m on holiday and so I’ve got some time to update my self-publishing diary aka my blog. And I have an interesting development for an entry.

I say it’s the holidays but I’m at work.  My current-future-ex-wife has started to complain about me loitering around the place. I’ve only been on holiday for two days. I told her I’m on holiday – I don’t have to go to work for the week. She said that the house smells different when I’m there during the day. She implied that this was not in a good way. She suggested that if I want to write, why don’t I go to work where it will be quiet? So, I’m at work in the holidays. I’m writing and I quite like it. It’s peaceful. I can pick up a good coffee on the way in. There is still free food in the staff canteen at lunch-time. I’m living the life of a real author for a week – the kind that don’t have to juggle jobs and writing (writing doesn’t seem like a job to me, but maybe that’s because I don’t need the money.) And I can smell how I like without people complaining.

I can’t complain about the way things are going for me as a self-publisher – especially when one factors in that I have done no self-promotion worthy of the label. Since my promotional weekend with Amazon’s KDP Select programme I have noticed a marked increase in sales of all three titles. I’m still not making enough money to re-roof the dog kennel but I’m encouraged.

In the first nine days of this month’s sales figures I sold ninety-two copies of Rope Enough (The First Romney and Marsh File). That’s more than I sold in the whole of last month with the promotion. Factors of knock-on sales from said promotion and some good fortune with an Amazon sales algorithm – I doubt whether even God knows the mathematical equations involved in those – are likely reasons for this figure. The second and third books in the series are doing better than normal also. As usual I will share those figures at the end of the sales period.

Last evening I had settled down to watch Real Madrid thrash Galatasaray (good job I’m not a betting man) with one eye on the laptop when something in the Kindle download figures of my books caught my eye. It hadn’t been there an hour earlier. Kindle had made twenty-two price-match sales of Rope Enough ie given away twenty-two books for free. I checked on the site: thirty-four books price-matched. Initially, I was a bit peeved. Sales had been going well and I was netting 26p a download. But as I took the development on board, I became rather pleased.

I have seen it blogged by many successful self-published authors that giving away books as loss-leaders was a real boost to the spreading of the word, raising their online profile and, if they have other books available – especially in a series – good for knock-on sales.

Mindful of this, when I originally uploaded Rope Enough I tried and tried to get Amazon to list it as a free ebook – I have had it for download through Smashwords and their outlets for free since it was first published in December of last year. I notified Amazon of the availability of the book for free through B&N and Kobo et al (can you say et al for companies or is that reserved for people?) but they still wouldn’t adjust the price, so I had to plough on with it at 77p – the minimum that I could list it for.

I can only guess that now someone else, or the plural of someone else, has/have let Amazon know about a cheaper price and they have knocked it down to zero in line with their policy. I’m happy with that. It’s like having a full-time promotion going. I was only making 26p a download anyway, which is essentially nothing.

Rope Enough has finally become the loss-leader that I wanted it to be and I hope that it is going to attract attention and sales for the other two in the series. In fact I had trouble sleeping last night when I thought about this. Here’s the first reason why: in the first four hours of the change there were over two hundred downloads of the book on and the same for

Here’s the second reason why: when the book went live for free I, naturally, checked out the competition in the free category – Amazon’s top 100 chart. The book at the number one slot was called The One You Love by Paul Pilkington. I looked at his Amazon page for this book. He claims to have had over one-and-a-half-million downloads of this book since publication in July 2011. That is a shitload of downloads by anyone’s standards. And looking at the reviews a lot of people think that it’s shit (fitting). He has a sequel for sale. It’s a thirty thousand word novella (probably falling over himself to try to get something else published to capitalise on his fifteen minutes of fame before the freeloaders forgot who he was). It’s listed at £1.92. If he is on the 70% royalty scheme then he is netting @ £1.30 per download for that second title. If just ten percent of the people who downloaded his free book pay for the download of the second – and let’s face it, why wouldn’t they if they were happy with book one? – he is making a shitload of money (double-fitting). Good luck to him.

If Rope Enough can get one tenth of the downloads he got for his first book and then one tenth of those people go on to part with the meagre sum of £1.53 and £2.05 for the other two books in the series – both of which are better than the first (I would say that wouldn’t I?) then I might be able to give up my evening job at the petrol station – at least. Maybe even re-roof the dog kennel.

See why I’m in a fairly good mood today? That’s right – I’m a dreamer.

Part 2

This week, I’m really getting stuck into my two Sansom books. I’m editing like a battlefield surgeon in the Crimean War. I feel that there are a couple of half-decent stories in these books somewhere if I can tease them out. I’ve emailed the guy who did my book covers for the R&M trio and I’m waiting for his thoughts.

When these are done and out there I’m going to write the third in that series. It’s going to be focussed on Iran and their nuclear weapons programme. I have never been to Iran (I’m not likely to either) and I don’t know anything about plutonium enrichment, so, this is going to have to be a book that I need to do some research on before writing. That will be a novelty. I might even try planning the book beforehand for a change, just to see what that’s like. Another novelty.

2 thoughts on “The Loss-Leader Strategy.

  1. Awesome! ( You selling more books, I mean. Not shit authors selling millions. I know it doesn’t really affect me, but I still get annoyed.)

    And on behalf of editors everywhere, I approve of cuts. The more brutal the better. Slash and burn! In fact, just find the word that sums up your novel and cut out everything else.

    Seriously, though, I don’t think you can ever edit thrillers enough. They really do need to be tight. 100,000 words isn’t necessarily too long, but it’s a hell of a job keeping up thriller momentum for that long, especially if Sansom is the kind of guy who needs to go to nuclear facilities. (I assume he’s not going to be there in his capacity as safety inspector!) Look at Jo Nesbo. Terrible translations aside, the guy has consistently great ideas that he smothers to death by dragging them out to 500 pages. They’ll make great films, but as books they’re just quagmires.

    An Iranian thriller does sound exciting. I wonder where the self-pub community stands on incurring fatwas as a substitute for self-promotion? I’m sure there’s an eBook somewhere that will tell us! If not, I smell a gap in the market…

  2. Haha too funny! Sansom IS going as past of a UN safety inspection team (undercover!! crikey!) – he’s on a crash course at the moment (really). I’m laughing a lot at that.

    I think that with the Sansom’s I’m going to have to establish a whole new genre. The pace and plot don’t quite constitute a white-knuckle ride of emotion that involves going to the toilet often and I don’t want reader complaints about misrepresentation and mis-selling – somewhere between thriller and mystery procedural. I’m still not sure what to call this genre: aimless, perhaps, or the rather catchy, mystery-thrillerish-procedural. Am I selling it to you, yet?

    So pleased to hear some negativity for the Nesbo output. I read The Snowman and the words turgid and verbose and stilted and amateurish sprang to mind. Didn’t enjoy any aspect of it at all. And I felt alone for that.

    It’s also a little amusing that you should raise the point of cultural offence. Part of the first Sansom book takes place in Istanbul, my new home. I slagged it a bit. And now I’m censoring my writing, taking out all the stuff that could get me thrown out of the country and don’t think that they wouldn’t. I cannot die, be imprisoned or be deported for my art.

    As for fatwas, I think that any self-respecting Iranian native with a future grudge against me could probably see that through my self-publishing delusions I’m suffering enough.

    If you read the whole post, you will realise that that smell is not a gap in the market. It’s why I’m at work on my holiday.

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