20k Books Sold: My Game Plan

Even though my e-book sales took a dip in May and June, I’m still not swayed from my goal of selling 20,000 e-books by January 2012.

To date I’ve sold 6,310 self-published books so that just leaves 13,690 to shift in the next six months or so.

Um, yeah…

[Gulps]

How am I going to do it? Can I do it? And why, pray tell, don’t I just write my goals down privately instead of telling the whole world (or at least this tiny corner of the internet) about it, thus saving myself from the potentially horrendous embarrassment of failing miserably at achieving them?

Well, I tell you them to motivate myself and yes, I think it’s possible. Likely? No. But possible? Yes. Maybe. I think 15,000, frankly, is doable – although with a lot of hard work – and 20,000 is a bit of a stretch. But doable goals are kind of pointless so 20,000 it is.

The game plan has three elements:

  1. Release new titles, including a novel
  2. Take at least a module at the Konrath School of E-book Selling
  3. Launch the novel with an all-guns-blazing publicity campaign.

Release New Titles

My first book (perhaps you’ve heard of it?), Mousetrapped: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida, was released in March 2010. The paperback is $14.95 and the e-book is $2.99.

My second book, Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing, was released in May of this year. The paperback is $15.95 and the e-book is $2.99.

In June I released three “Self-Printed Shorts” in e-book only and priced at 99c. They are: Publish a POD Paperback with CreateSpace, Publish an E-book with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and Sell Your Book Using Social Media.

So that’s 5 titles, so far.

In September, I’ll release the sort of sequel to Mousetrapped, Backpacked: A Reluctant Trip Across Central America. (I say sort of because although it chronicles my backpacking adventures after I left Orlando, it stands alone too.) This will be identical to Mousetrapped in size and price: $14.95 for the paperback and $2.99 for the e-book.

As soon as Backpacked comes out, I’ll bundle it and Mousetrapped into a single e-book title, Mousetrapped… And Then Backpacked Too, priced at $4.99.

Title-wise, we’re now up to 7.

Then in October, the novel, Results Not Typical. I don’t know how much the paperback will cost yet, but the e-book will be $2.99.

That’ll be my eighth e-book title.

In November, I’ll send out the final More Mousetrapped story. (If you’re not familiar, new stories from my time in Orlando go out to everyone on the More Mousetrapped mailing list once a month, and have done since March.) Come November, I’ll take the nine existing stories and compile them into an e-book, More Mousetrapped: 10 More Tales from A Year and  A Bit in Orlando, Florida, the tenth being a new, previously unreleased story and some bonus articles, etc. and charge 99c for it. This isn’t really a stand alone title; it’s aimed at people who have already read Mousetrapped.

So by December when, if last year was anything to go by, the e-book high season begins, I’ll have 9 e-book titles for sale (with 4 of them also available in paperback).

And I may also be suffering from exhaustion.

The Konrath School of E-book Selling

Deluding yourself into thinking that you can emulate J.A. Konrath’s success is so common amongst self-publishers that there should be some kind of formal support group for it, and you can rest assured that I don’t think I can. However I do think that his recommendations for selling e-books make a lot of sense and should be applied, even if they don’t result in the same royalty cheques for you (or me) as they do him. After all, they can’t hurt.

Here’s some things he’s recommended doing on his blog that I am incorporating into my own game plan:

  • Dropping the price for a time. For the month of August I will be dropping the price of Mousetrapped‘s e-book to 99c. I’m doing this because I’m interested to see what will happen and because I hope what will happen is that I’ll sell a lot of books. I won’t make any money off them – when you charge 99c you only get a 35% royalty – but maybe some of the people who take a chance on it at that price will then be willing to pay $2.99 for Backpacked which, wouldn’t you know it, comes out the very next month. Before I drop the price I’ll be updating Mousetrapped‘s e-book with the opening chapter of Backpacked.
  • Taking up plenty of virtual shelf space. If you’ve ever accessed Amazon’s Kindle store from an actual Kindle, you might well have wondered how anyone finds anything on there that isn’t Stieg Larsson or The Help. (Although if all I could find was The Help, that’d be fine by me. I LOVE that book.) Most of the people who buy Mousetrapped e-book, based on e-mails they send me, finds it by happenstance. Either it comes up in a search they do for “Disney” (and is high enough up the results for them to find me), or Amazon recommends it to them because of other books they’ve bought. If you’re one book in a million, how often might that happen? Who knows. But I do know it’ll happen more if you’re five books in a million, or ten, or fifteen. The more books you have, the more space you take up, and the more space you take up, the most visible you are. So I’m releasing more books, and bundling some of those books together. It really is the opposite of dieting: you want to take up as much space as possible.
  • Link your e-books. One of the most exciting things about having more than one book available is that I can snare Mousetrapped readers into buying Backpacked and or vice versa. I can try and get people who enjoy my non-fiction to read my novel, and people who enjoy my novel to read my non-fiction. Konrath says that every e-book should have a few chapters of another of your e-books at the end of it, so I’m going to do just that. And with a link directing them to the full book at the Kindle store where they can continue reading it with one click, it should work well. I hope it will, anyway. As I said it can’t hurt.
  • Treating your e-book as a second store front. This was an issue raised on Konrath’s blog recently that I had never thought about. If you buy a lot of low-cost e-books, you probably download a lot of e-book samples. If many of them are self-published/by authors you don’t already know, you might end up with a Kindle chock full of books and no memory of why exactly you wanted to read them. To help these readers, start your e-book with the blurb or product description that appeared on your Amazon listing. (If it’s long, you can always put a “Skip to beginning of book” link above it.) In his book How I Sold 1 Million E-books in 5 Months, John Locke recommends that you not only put your blog URL at the end of your book, but at the beginning too. It takes a while to read a book and with your blog URL in their head, the reader might have a sneak peak at your blog or Twitter feed at work tomorrow morning, and find a good reason to finish reading your book when they get home.

The Novel: All Guns Blazing

I don’t really have anything planned publicity-wise for Backpacked, other than informing as many readers of Mousetrapped as I can that it exists (and a little video that for now is a secret but which I’m very excited about).

But the novel – Results Not Typical – is an entirely different kettle of fish and I’m going to put a lot of thought into its promotion and launch campaign. I’m treating it as if I’m starting from scratch and essentially, I am. I have no reason to believe that anything more than a handful of my non-fiction readers will automatically purchase my fiction. So I have two things to do: convince my other existing readers to try it too, and somehow tell everyone else, i.e. people who have never heard of me.

One of the things I’m already doing is offering samplers of Results to everyone who pre-orders a signed edition of Backpacked from me. (Click here for more information about doing that.) These will be mini-paperbacks of about 100 pages wearing the actual Results front cover, a preview of the novel’s first section. I’m hoping that having them out there in the world will lead to some sales and if they don’t, they’ll still make a pretty attractive novelty item.

Or something.

I haven’t really decided on the specifics yet but the other stuff I do will probably include:

  • Writing guests posts/doing interviews for other blogs
  • Supplying review copies to book review sites and bloggers
  • Releasing the first chapter as a PDF/putting it on the blog
  • Blogging about it
  • Tweeting about it
  • Talking about it on Facebook
  • Video blogs
  • QR codes (just as soon as I think of a reason why)
  • Giveaways (I’m going to be giving away something BIG – watch this space!)
  • Paying for advertising (still on the fence about this; we’ll see)
  • Chocolate-based bribery.

If there is anything you can do to help me promote Results, I’d love to hear from you. Message me through the Contact page.

I’ll be finished the main prep on all this by September and will take between then and Christmas to write the first draft of a new novel that I hope will one day be traditionally published. That’s where the “20,000 books sold” will come in – I hope it’ll help sway an agent towards “yes” in the decision to represent me.

And after that, I’m off to lie on a beach for a year.

Or for a couple of weeks, anyway.

(Actually, what am I going to next year, book-wise? Going to have to put figuring that one out on my To Do list, me thinks…)

P.S. I’m putting the finishing touches to Backpacked this week so apologies for the Twitter silence and Facebook neglect!

Click here to pre-order a signed copy of Backpacked.

8 thoughts on “20k Books Sold: My Game Plan

  1. diane says:

    Well, if enthusiasm and hard work count for anything, you should sell more than 20k books! It’s inspiring how much thought you’ve put into all this, and hopefully before too long an agent/editor or both will realise they’d be foolish not to take you on.

    • Sally Clements says:

      That’s the spirit, Catherine! Woo! I’m exhausted just reading your plan, never mind implementing it…. Sounds great though! December ebook high season? ulp! by then hopefully I’ll have 5 out. Three today, one tomorrow (launch day!) and another in the summer currently in the ‘works’ edging to amazon…
      (Thinks, must work harder…)

  2. Elisa Michelle says:

    Good luck! I think you can do it, and you seem to have a solid gameplan. That in itself changes everything.

  3. Karina Halle says:

    I applaud you once again, Catherine. I’m releasing four books this year and can’t imagine doing seven but you’re an old pro at this game (which is why I come to your blog so often for advice). I think all your titles and ideas are totally sharp.

    Anyway, you probably know this but you’re totally on the right track. More titles = more money. Giving Mousetrapped away for cheap? Also a great idea. I gave my first book away for 48 hours last week. Basically I told my fans that if they voted for me in the Top Break Out Author’s List on Good Reads and if I made it to Top 30, I would give my book away… for free. Gulp.

    Well it got to Spot #18. Which meant I gave away free copies (with a coupon on Smashwords). Obviously my sales went down for the week. But then the sales of the sequel went up the following week = so your theory is correct. People will snap up Mousetrapped (I know I will, I’m so easily swayed by low prices for limited times only). And then they will move onto Backpacked!

    Also send your book to reviewers. They are friggin’ angels in disguise. I guess you have to find a niche for yours but it shouldn’t be too hard. The amount of book blogs out there is staggering.

    I know you can sell 20K. You’ve got a great blog, excellent following and a pretty damn good goal! 🙂

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