Posted by The Ghost Story Writer on Nov 5th, 2015 in Essays

It’s a question I get asked all the time.

“How many have you sold?” or some variation, both positive and negative.

The answer invariably stays the same: I don’t know.

What I do know is that in the first month, ‘The Men in the Snow’ sold 126 copies. Or was it 123?

It doesn’t matter right now, it sold what it sold, and I’m overjoyed the figure is higher than 0.

I’m proud of each one of those copies.

I still haven’t checked sales for ‘The Cracks in the Statue’, but I do know that it has 6 reviews and debuted somewhere around the number 13 mark in the Ghost Story charts – I wish I’d taken a screenshot – seeing it sitting next to some big names made me feel quite good.

The Ebook Price:

Once upon a time you could charge as little as 79p (or less) for an Ebook.

Unfortunately, as of January 1st 2015, each title must now be at least 99p; this is a result of VAT in Europe, which you can read more about, here.

This is unfortunate because 79p is a nicer price from a behavioural economics point of view: as your cost decreases, your units sold increases.

I will charge 99p – as little as possible – for each of the four Ebooks I intend to publish on the Kindle platform, with a short period of time in which the newest has a higher price.

I will also offer free copies of the earlier Ebooks each time a new one is released.

The idea behind this is simple: I intend to use the Ebooks to generate interest and build traffic to my website whilst I work on my novel and album (more on that another time) until 2017.

This is all just an exciting marketing exercise, in which 2015 is the year of feet-finding, and 2016 will be heavy duty marketing.

Kindle Unlimited:

Kindle Unlimited is a subscription based service akin to a Netflix-for-books and I am absolutely in love with it. I’ve not purchased a book in ages, because they’ve all been available in the Unlimited program, and that includes my own.

I can strongly recommend at least enjoying the 30 day trial.

If free stories are of interest to you, you can read my free ghost story online and I am currently considering writing another one after positive feedback on the first.

To see what I am currently reading, take a look here.

What the numbers mean to me:

Nothing, at all; I’m a words guy, numbers really aren’t my thing.

I’d rather please 5 people enough that they leave a good review than sell 50 copies and not get any feedback.

There’s a theory from way back in 2008 that 1000 true fans is what we should strive for, and I totally agree.

Whilst I’m nowhere near that yet, I plan to get there by 2017, and I will using a detailed and complicated marketing strategy that I will begin in the New Year.

Right now, it would be easy to obsess over the numbers: copies sold, Sales Rank, website visitors, reviewers, Twitter Followers, word count, price, published Ebooks and more.

But you need to give it time. The longer you leave the data to accrue, the more chance you have of identifying trends and studying the organic results – that is to say the natural success of your website or Ebook, not including any marketing that you do.

Amazon Sales Rank:

This is the algorithm that Amazon uses – and updates every 2 hours – to calculate how your Ebook or product is faring, comparative to the other top million selling products.

There seems to be some misunderstanding around this figure, and it is the topic of much discussion on Quora.

No, it is not possible to tell how many copies of a book has been sold by looking at its Amazon Sales Rank, because even 1 copy sold could count as a sales spike and send it 200,000 places higher in the rankings that everything else.

Also, as the ranking is current, it is not an indicator of long term success. Books that have sold hundreds of thousands might have a far lower rank than even my own offerings.

It would be very easy to obsess over rank, as many authors seem to do, but it is a very loose metric, and there are far better ones to calculate.

However, it is interesting to see the jumps in sales rank each time a book is shared on social media…

The best ways to improve sales rank in the short term would be to work together with major publishers on Facebook to promote links to your Ebooks – perhaps when they are free or have recently dropped price -, to feature on a popular email list such as Bookbub, to blast your own email list (sign up to mine on this page) or to start calling friends.

However, the best use of your time would be to work on slowly but surely curating and listening to feedback from your true fans, and creating the best possible writing for your readers to enjoy, that way as they spread the word about it, you will see a steady flow of copies over longer periods of time, and worry less about quick boosts to your sales rank.

After all, isn’t it better to sell one copy a day for a year, than 100 in a month twice a year?

Also, it’s great to get an understanding of how your products fare on their own before you start marketing, so that you can measure the success of what you’re doing; this is why I am not starting heavy-duty marketing until next year, when I’ll have around 6 months data.

The best comparative indicator of success is to look at the rankings within categories.

Amazon Kindle Categories:

Amazon Sales Kindle Ebook Rank Categories

It’s all relative.

Now you know the secret.

The above screenshot shows how relatively unknown writers who move a few copies a day can still call themselves “Amazon Bestsellers”; it’s all about the category you’re in.

Which is why carefully choosing the category you sit in is vital to your success – the above screenshot is one I just took of ‘The Men in the Snow’, to say it is still in the top 100 of two categories is amazing for me.

This is something I will be continuing to experiment with, with the next two of my offerings. It is hard, because there are SO MANY AMAZON CATEGORIES.

My Ghost Story hero Mr Benedict Ashforth’s debut offering ‘Abbots Keep’ is at number five in the below category at the time of writing.

#5 in Kindle Store > Books > Literature & Fiction > Classics > Horror

Not surprising with nearly 200 reviews!

Be sure to carefully choose categories with keywords related to your writing in the title if you’re looking to publish on Amazon.

Time matters:

I’ve discussed already why patience is a virtue, but I really must stress that worrying about becoming an overnight success is trivial. Any writer worth his salt should be used to months if not years of little success.

I started out writing product descriptions for toilet seats in 2011, and am still nowhere near where I want to be, even if I do make a living from writing professionally.

From a writing perspective though, it’s only with the power of hindsight that we know whether we’ve been successful or not, and even if you’ve experienced large sales volumes and great reviews, everything diminishes with time.

That’s why it is so important to keep writing.

In 2016, I expect to at least double my writing output, if not triple it, and intend to achieve this by waking up at 5am instead of 6 30am 4 times a week to write.

The impact this will have should be apparent within a month or two, and I will be forthcoming and transparent with the results.

Marketing my ghost stories:

This year has been very light on the marketing front, even though it is vital to the success of a new writer like me.

This website has been live less than a year, which means Google is hesitant to send it any substantial traffic. Despite this, it accounts for over 60% of the 100+ visitors I get a month.

This is because, as a result of my marketing background, I have a good understanding of how to get website traffic without using paid advertising, relying instead on search engines and social media. Whilst I have no official Facebook page for my writing, and a completed neglected twitter account, around 30% of my overall website traffic comes from social media.

This is because review groups and other writers sometimes share my work on these platforms, which I am hugely grateful for, in most cases, I have not reached out to them.

Next year, I want to triple, if not quadruple the visits to my website, and the sales of my Ebooks.

I plan to do this by creating resources that provide much value and sharing them with you for free. For instance, my formula and template for writing ghost stories, my guide to getting in touch with influencers who can share your stories with their following, and ultimately providing a holistic view of what a writing schedule should look like.

Meanwhile, instead of worrying about sales or the rankings of my previous two Ebooks, I’m heavily invested in the writing of the third, entitled ‘The Dark Arm’, a standalone and much longer ghost story that I am hoping to have ready by mid-December.

I’m pleased to say that the brilliant Hannah Lewis – who’s book Brave Little Bones will be out soon – is again working on the cover for me, and I will be sharing a preview of it soon.

Around Christmas time, I will be sharing both of my previous two Ebooks with all of my readers for free, because who doesn’t love a good ghost story at Christmas?