New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author

Is There a “Silver Bullet” to Achieving Bestselling E-book Sales?

By on May 22, 2011 in Zoo with 1 Comment

As bestselling author Vincent Zandri indicates below from his May 19, 2011 blog post, we will be publishing an ongoing conversation between him and J. Carson Black. As the digital publishing industry continues to evolve at breakneck speed, authors and their independent publishers like Breakaway Media will focus on best practices as these practices evolve with industry changes.

J. Carson Black asked Vincent Zandri: “You have broken many sales records. Is there any silver bullet for bestselling E-book sales?

From the Vincent Zandri Vox Blog:
Is There a “Silver Bullet” to Achieving Bestselling E-book Sales?

(What follows is part one of an ongoing informal Q&A I’ve got going with bestselling author J.Carson Black. The Q&A will be published in parts here and on Black’s blog and eventually in its entirety)

The Silver Bullet for bestselling book sales: Does it actually exist?
My humble opinion: There is no silver bullet per se, when it comes to selling a lot of E-Books, Nooks and Kindles, so much as there are “bullets.”

What’s for certain is that every E-Book which is successful (and paper book for that matter) will have at least four things in common:

1. A great cover.
2. An intriguing and well written product description.
3. A price that says “Buy me” to impulse buyers ($.99 is a good place to start).
4. Great writing and a great story.

The other stuff or, in this case, more bullets: Social Networking on Facebook and Twitter helps keep you in the know, and so do virtual tours. Every published author has to maintain an up-to-date blog these days, and it pays to put out as many books as you can write well in a reasonable amount of time since you never know which title or titles is simply going to take off. Bestsellers like Aaron Patterson and JA Konrath have reminded us of the important of title proliferation time and time again in their own blogs.

The one silver bullet no one can control however is this: Luck.

Some books either have it or they don’t. There are books out there that get terrible reviews and win no prizes that somehow hit the Amazon Top Ten Bestselling Kindle E-Book List and there are books that win major awards like the Edgar and receive wonderful reviews that tank in the marketplace. You simply never can tell.

I’m convinced my new books have sold well in part because I’ve published two novels with the big legacy publishers in New York City. Titles that received a lot of praise from such notable publications as Publishers Weekly, The Boston Herald and the New York Post. Those reviews are mine to keep forever and ever, and my new publisher at StoneHouse/StoneGate Ink does not hesitate to display them prominently now that the same books, THE INNOCENT and GODCHILD are republished and enjoying Top 100 Amazon Kindle Bestseller status (“Innocent” was in the Top Ten for a month).

However, despite all the above, if you were to twist my arm and hold me down on the ground and demand one solid answer to the question, “What’s the silver bullet?” the closest sure bet would be price. Simply said, when a title is $.99 it tends to sell. On the other hand, there are many more books priced at $.99 that DO NOT SELL than there are books that move! Remember what I just said about luck?

There’s something else to consider about price: Do these “one buck” discounted e-books make the kind of money that a novel priced at $2.99 or even $3.99 will make? Not by a long shot. But if you are lucky, you might move a thousand or more per day and that will give you a great Amazon ranking.

“Innocent” was priced at $.99 for a short time. But at the start of this month it went back to its normal, $3.99 price tag. At the same time we witnessed a steady drop in ranking from No. 3 to around 90-120 over the past three weeks (after moving around 80,000 – 100,000 units in eight weeks). Trust me when I say we are pleasantly surprised. A price increase of 400% raised the possibility of the novel immediately plummeting in ranking to somewhere back in the 4 figures. But “Innocent” has proven its worth with a great cover, great product description, great reviews, and what I hope is very good story. What it won’t do at that price however, is entice many of the impulse buyers who buy now/read later. Still, the novel is making far more money at the new, higher price. And we feel that $3.99 is still a bargain. Have you bought a Big Mac lately?

So, to repeat, there is no silver bullet when it comes to selling books, but there are bullets. And each and every one of them is painted with a layer of luck in order for them to hit their target.

WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM

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  1. I really do think people make their own luck. There are many things that go into a bestselling book. Quality is number one, but there are other factors, and some of these are… amorphous at best. Selling well starts off with a good product, great packaging, a willingness to make choices as they come up, learning from your mistakes, and dropping to 99 cents when the evidence is overwhelming that you should do so. But I also think it helps to watch and learn from those who are ahead of you, and try not just to emulate them, but to consciously try to get where they are. It’s like a long-distance runner who sees the runner ahead of him and sets out to reach him. I certainly kept my eye on Vince and tried to chase him down. (I didn’t exactly think of myself as a missile acquiring a target, but that’s the idea.)

    There have been studies that overweight people are friends with other overweight people. I’m sure that’s true in a number of categories—like seeking like for friendship, comfort, and inspiration; people unconsciously seeing themselves in others. I knew I had a good book, so I thought, why not see myself in really good company? I don’t view that as wishful thinking. I view it as a goal. There are many goals that can lead you to where you want to be, and trying to chase Vince down was one of mine.

    —J. Carson Black, aka Maggy

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