It's no secret that summer represents a sales challenge for authors. People travel, take vacations and spend more time outside. This translates to fewer hours in front of the computer shopping. Two years ago I was caught totally off guard by the summer sales doldrums. In March of 2012 both Boyfriend From Hell and Earth Angel landed in Amazon's top 10 Children's and YA ebooks. Both books were selling well. In May and June with no promotion I still sold 500 books, no sweat. Then July hit and--SCREECH! the bottom fell out. Man, was I depressed. Sales eventually returned in the fall, but summer was brutal. Last summer (2013) I made sure to have some promo activity (a sale or contest) throughout the summer to help keep sales from slipping too much.
Fast forward to 2014. I must admit to you this has not been a good year for me. The final book in The Falling Angels Saga, Falling, was delayed from debuting in November of 2013 to March of this year. It was totally my own fault. I missed the holiday season because I got side-tracked on a TV project. Despite lots of promotion the new book did not sell well. That was a first for me. Another first, sales across the entire Falling Angels franchise were in free fall, falling from 500 to 400 to less than 100 books a month by May.
By mid May, knowing that summer was coming, I knew we had to do something. My publisher (Chris Meeks of White Whisker) and I had been putting our heads together since March with new promo ideas. We'd see small blips during the promo periods and then sales would go flat again. So I approached Chris with the radical idea of making Boyfriend From Hell perma-free. In a long email, I made a compelling argument on how we needed to breath new life into the franchise by creating new fans. While Chris didn't respond to the idea of perma-free, he did think making Boyfriend From Hell free for the summer was worth a shot. Heck, we weren't selling any books anyway. The giveaway began on June 18th, ten days ago, and so far things are going very well.
As of this morning we're up to 6200 free downloads. More importantly, we're selling books across the franchise. The final two books in the franchise have been priced at $5.99, a bit more than I would have liked, but surprise, surprise, they're selling. At the start of the promotion no book was ranked below 100,000. Heaven Sent and Falling were hanging out around 350, 000. I don't have exact sales figures, but I know we've sold over 100 books in the 10 days. Not great, but far better than where we were. Here are my rankings as of this moment.
Boyfriend From Hell (free): #194 in the free store #1 Teen Horror
Earth Angel ($2.99): #40,562
Heaven Sent: ($5.99): #52,987
Falling: ($5.99): #65,903
Every book in the franchise is now selling. Every book has been ranked under #100,000 for the last 5 days. I feel as more new readers get around to reading the free books they've downloaded that trend will continue. If we give away 10,000 free books, and five percent of those readers convert to sales across the franchise (500 readers Xs 3 books), that's 1500 sales during the slow summer months. If two and a half percent convert, that's 750 sales. Not great, but a lot better than I'd been doing. It also represents 500 new hard core fans for my next book. I'll report on my progress in another two weeks.
Boyfriend From Hell is now Free
I know many authors don't have 4 books available and can't afford to give one book away for three months. The idea is not to do what I did, but to do something daring. Change up your promo patterns. Hold an oddly interesting contest, package several chapters and give those away. If you try something and it doesn't work, try something else. But don't stand pat. Summer sales doldrums can be brutal. Have fun while trying to think your way out of it. Oh... and if you haven't read Boyfriend From Hell--guess what? It's now free.
Keep reading-Keep Writing!