Friday, June 24, 2011

Luck and unluck

Courtney Milan, along with five other indie authors, was featured in a mass e-mailing from Amazon. Rankings shot up-- Milan's book Unlocked, which was already ranked quite high, exploded up to #2 in the paid Kindle store. (It's now tumbled all the way to #3:-). The other authors have apparently done quite well, too, and so have quite a few authors who happened to be featured in the "customers who bought this book also bought" bar on these books. I happened to read Unlocked yesterday, and it is very good. Milan definitely deserves the success, and I don't doubt the other authors do, too. But there's also no doubt that luck plays a part in sales.

In a somewhat different display of how luck can help out an author, Mary McDonald had her No Good Deed made free by Amazon. This isn't entirely up to luck, admittedly, but luck does play a role, because you can't make a book free on Amazon. The best you can do is offer it for free somewhere else, and hope Amazon will price match (they don't always choose to do so, which is where the luck comes in). But it worked for Mary, and her book shot way up the free rankings. When it switched back to 99 cents, it continued to do well, remaining in the top hundred for two weeks (it's still ranked at #125). While No Good Deed has been a perennial seller, this seems to be the best it's ever sold.

Meanwhile, Victorine Lieske's sophomore effort, The Overtaking, continues to be ranked fairly high-- right now it's around #38,000. I'm sure it will eventually take off as Lieske's first book did, but this is a good example of how strange indie publishing can be. Lieske's first book sold literally tens of thousands of books a month, getting her onto the New York Times Bestseller list, and is still ranked at around #600. It's hard to imagine why all those readers aren't snapping up her second book instantly. But for whatever reason, it's taking a while to get rolling.

This all makes me nervous about my next book. Luck can play such a large part in sales, and there are so many variables that no one seems to understand!


  1. It is difficult to figure out what sells a book and why. Pricing can be tricky. Sometimes it may be luck.

  2. My link is incorrect on my above comment. This is the correct one to my blog

  3. You're totally right, Ellen, and a lot of the "luck" is being mentioned and recommended by Amazon. Which means your books just need to be seen by people, and if the cover is good and the description draws people in, you get sales. :) Obscurity is our worst enemy. I'm hoping Amazon will start telling my readers I have a new book out. I've heard a lot of people lately telling me, "I didn't know you had another book out!"

  4. Victorine, I am confident that your book will eventually catch fire, just like the last one. But I have to admit it worries me a bit-- if a book by a NYT bestselling author doesn't take off right away, then that doesn't seem to bode well for those of us who aren't as popular. But we just have to write, get our books out there, and hope for the best, I suppose.

    Good luck! I bet your book will take off soon!

  5. Yes,luck is a big factor. For instance, while the Sunshine Deals were hurting other Indie authors, I think I was actually helped because A Little Death in Dixie was #1 in the Kindle Store right around the same time mine was made free and then right afterward. We both are in the same genre, so my book showed up in that Customers Who Bought rotation. Since many of the other books in that rotation were much more expensive, mine kind of stood out at just 99 cents. My book never would have been in that rotation without it being offered free.

    I'm lucky that my second book, March Into Hell, has been able to do fairly well, since it's the sequel to the one that was made free. It probably won't ever make the top 100, but it's hanging in the 400s, I think.