Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sales that go bump in the night

In indie writer circles, a "bump" is anything that causes a temporary spike in sales.

On the major retailer sites, bumps are important. A book that is coasting along with a sale or two per day will eventually get pushed down by more popular books, and sales will dwindle. Bumps ensure that the infamous algos, the algorithms used to calculate ranking and popularity, will be kind and keep your book popping up as options in searches and as "also bots," that row of book covers that appears on every product page that connects purchases and inspires impulse buys.

Only now, a little over a year into my life as an ebook indie, have I started to really master the bumps. After watching sales of two of my works fizzle almost completely out, I knew doing this was essential. Bumps were what kept you in the game, waiting and hoping for that big break that pushes you into the ranks of indie writers like these, a list that now has grown so extensive that it takes 3000 book sales per month just to make the top 100.

My first bump came by random luck. Pixel of Ink contacted me asking if I were willing to put Baby Dust on sale so that they could promote it for a day. This bump was pretty incredible, causing a sales run of 350 books in 48 hours, and launching my book to #557 in the Amazon store. But this isn't a replicable event. Even I couldn't do it again. But it made for a very nice payout in June.

July's bump was an opportunity born of my involvement in forums with other writers. An organized and marketing-savvy writer put a call out for others who would be interested in making their books free on the same day. I got in with them, and through her promotional efforts, I gave away 14,000 copies of that title. With a free book counting about 1/10th of a sale for the popularity rankings, my book leaped into the algos and when the book returned to paid status, it started selling at a significant rate before coasting down a month later. Suddenly I had a nice payout for July.

For August, I launched a new title, hoping to replicate my success in Select. While I did give away 14,000 free copies again, Amazon was fickle, the algos shifted, and after only a week, the sales began to drop. So I bumped it up again with a single free day a few days ago, and with those efforts, August is shaping up to be a nice check again.

For September I found a promotion through Ereader News Today where if you are willing to drop your price for 99 cents for a couple days, they will promote you and only charge you a small percentage of what you sell. So instead of risking a big chunk of up-front money, you give them a commission. I'm looking forward to the bump. While the decreased money that day will likely mean my single-day payout won't be large, hopefully the algorithm blessings will continue the sales after the book returns to its normal price.

I'm still solidifying my plans for October. But I'm having a good time with the indie marketing now that I've stopped trying to do it through means that didn't really work. None of these tactics take much time, and now I have time to focus on writing the next work, because the way to certainly increase your earnings is always to write another book.


Deanna Roy is the author of Baby Dust and Stella & Dane, interrelated books on the difficulties in finding love and starting a family.