Saturday, July 30, 2016

If You Are A Writer, Looking to Sell Your Books, READ THIS!

Note, please: I’m not selling anything here. Just trying to point out things I’ve learned that might also help you.

I’ve been writing, well, forever. But my early work was all academic and either practitioner-related or theoretical finance. All textbook stuff, and my early readers were my students in the MBA program where I taught NYU’s Stern Graduate Business School), a few decades in the past. It was not for money. As university faculty, it was “publish or perish.”

These days, I’m playing a different game on a different planet, so to speak. I’m a bestselling espionage technothriller novelist writing DS Kane’s Spies Lie series, currently with six titles out (Bloodridge, DeathByte, Swiftshadow, GrayNet, Baksheesh (Bribes), and ProxyWar). The initial marketing help I received was a report on market positioning for thriller fiction, from Alex Newton’s K-Lytics reports (http:// These were helpful in deciding how to tilt my books and which keywords would serve me best.

As I work on completing the seventh in the series, CypherGhost, I felt a need to review my marketing assumptions. I needed more data, to make decisions on specific marketing tactics.

·         How is the market for my books changing?
·         Can I continue to rely on the marketing methods my marketer, Rebecca Berus of 2 Market Books, developed specifically for me and my books? Or should we adjust my marketing budget and plans to accommodate recent changes in the market?
·         Can I employ the same specific marketing tactics repeatedly without the results diminishing?
·         How high is the ceiling in monthly revenues on my e-books, print books, and audiobooks, and is that ceiling changing?

It has been nearly two months since the current report from Author Earnings ( was released. I am still busy with writing and revising my next Spies Lie book, and my deadline for a copy-editable draft is getting near, but I decided to spend an hour or two to see if my marketing methods need revision. Here are my preliminary findings:

Independent publishers have nearly a 67% increase in unit sales and total revenues during the most current 27 months. Big House Traditional publishers show nearly a 33% decline over the same period. Indies now own 67% the market share of Trads, when measured in total dollars.
So far, so good. I continued reading. The next series of charts showed the 27 month trend of author share by publisher type. Indie authors nearly doubled their  market share. Trads were down by half. Here, we’re seeing the total market in dollars broken into pieces by publisher on a month-by-month basis. Again, it looks like my own results, and I find that a pleasing thing.
So, I needed to read on, to see if there were statistical aberrations I needed to heed. And, I found this:
·         “More than 50% of all traditionally published book sales of any format in the US now happen on
·         That’s just the traditionally published books, though.
·         In addition, roughly 85% of all non-traditionally published book sales of any format in the US also happen on
·         In other words, a comprehensive cross-sectional snapshot of’s sales, like the one we are describing here in our May report, is a definitive look at more than half of all daily US author earnings, period.”

I finally found the charts that depicted the annual income ceilings by author for the Trads versus the Indies who debuted in the last three years:
·         At $10,000 per year, there were about 1,800 Indie authors and just over 500 Trad authors. But, I make more than this.
·         At $25,000 per year, there were just under 1,000 Indie authors and just over 200 Trad authors. But, I make less than this right now, although by year end, my annualized results should approach this.
·         At $50,000, there were about 800 Indie authors and just under 200 Trad authors. This is my short-term income target (2 years).
·         At $100,000, there were just under 300 Indie authors and just under 75 Trad authors. This is my long-term income target (3 years).
·         There were charts for other, higher income totals ($250,000, $500,000 and $1,000,000), but by the time those interest me, I’m sure the results will change quite a bit.

Okay, so far, I think I can see exactly why I done so well: Rebecca Berus placed me, my books and my advertisements, all in the best spots to take advantage of current book demographics as they were changing. But, what about the future? How is this market changing and what will it look like in six more months? Will I be able to achieve my short-term income goals?

I reviewed previous Author Earnings Reports. They complete an update about once every four months. So, Trad author’s curves are flattening, not quite asymptotically. Authors incomes in the Trad world are failing to increase with the market. Their sales are slowly decelerating somewhat. Over the same period, Indie author’s curves are increasing at a slightly accelerating rate.

How long can I use the same techniques before their effectiveness is blunted? What new techniques work well, and which ones are doomed to fail?
·         The same advertisement for the same book in promotions three or more months apart begins to fail in its second occurrence (down by about 33% each time… 7,500 units to 5,000 units to 2,800 units, etc.)
·         “Free” books distributed per promotion fall even faster, down 50% per occurrence.
·         Selling promos at $0.99 is more effective for a higher retail price. $3.99 nets more sales at $0.99 than does retail at $2.99 on sale for $0.99.
·         For a long series, during a promo for any other book in the series, the first book in the series being nearly free ($0.99) will boost total promo sales (including all non-promoted books in the series) by about 25%. As a result of this, we changed the price of Bloodridge, the first book of the series to $0.99

It would seem that for the near term, I’m doing as I should.

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