How I sold almost 2,000 books in twenty hours

for the July 6 update,
scroll to the bottom

If you are a serious author—indie or traditional—then you’re in business and should have an internet platform. The simplest platform might just be a blog, or it could be more complex with a combination of a website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, and an Amazon author page, etc.

Once an author has an internet platform, there’s one more step to seriously consider—to advertise. Although I have been a guest on thirty-one, traditional radio talk shows, advertised in a regional magazine, held several author events in brick and mortar bookstores, earned awards from literary contests and been on several book blog tours, the only two marketing methods that resulted in immediate, measurable sales was through blogging on iLookChina and buying e-mail blasts from BookBub and/or Ereader News Today.

So far, in one year, I’ve paid for two BookBub e-mail blasts, and three with Ereader News Today, and they have all resulted in increased sales and paid for themselves with a profit.

For BookBub, I submitted my first historical fiction novel My Splendid Concubine back in early 2013, and it was accepted. That first BookBub e-mail blast went out on June 16, 2013, and resulted in 2,699 sales before the price went back up to $3.99 a week later.

After my second novel Running with the Enemy was rejected recently by BookBub, I submitted the book to Ereader News Today.  You should know that BookBub only accepts 10 to15 percent of the books submitted to them, and if your book is accepted, it isn’t a free e-mail blast. It’s costly—several hundred dollars at least with no guarantee the results will be a success.

HiDef Kindle Cover December11

Ereader News Today accepted Running with the Enemy for an e-mail blast that went out March 28, 2014, resulting in ninety-eight books sold over a period of seven days. Ninety-eight books doesn’t sound like much compared to two thousand six hundred ninety-nine, but the results were impressive nonetheless when we take into account that Running with the Enemy hasn’t found its audience yet, and was the focus of a flame war in 2013 by a vicious tribe of Goodreads internet bullies, who were responsible for at least one of the two 1-star reviews of this book on Amazon. The second, more recent 1-star review was left by another troll.

Both of these trolls were liars. The oldest 1-star review claimed to have read the book, but she never did, because only three copies had been sold when she posted her review on Amazon, and her review wasn’t a verified purchase. On Amazon, if you buy a book, the review will be listed automatically as a verified purchase.

The second, most recent 1-star review of “Running with the Enemy” said, “Why I stopped reading: I’ve never given up on a book before the 20% mark. I’ve never given up on a book that I agreed to review for an author—until today.”

That was also a lie, because in the last two years, this reviewer stopped reading twenty books she had agreed to review, and she stopped reading five of them before the twenty percent mark. In fact, for one book, she stopped reading thirteen percent of the way in.

Back to why selling ninety-eight copies of Running with the Enemy through an Ereader News Today e-mail blast was impressive, because this book was selling, starting in February 2013, an average of 4.7 copies a month. Going from that to 107—nine copies sold before the Ereader News blast went out—is more than twenty-four times the monthly average, and only 11 copies sold the next month after the price returned to $3.99.

Back to My Splendid Concubine’s second BookBub blast that went out at 11:30 AM on June 18, 2014—by June 19 at 6:45 AM—about twenty hours later—ASIN: B00578UNLG, had reached an Amazon Best Sellers Rank of #59 paid in the Kindle store. Before the BookBub blast, the best seller rank hovered around one hundred thousand out of more than three million books listed on Amazon. In addition, in the first twenty hours, Concubine sold 1,915 copies—almost as many copies as it sold a year earlier for the same number of hours.

The cost for an Ereader News Today e-mail blast will be 25% of the earnings received as a result of the posting. This will be based on the number of books that were sold through their links on the day the book was posted and the day after, which they will report to you in the invoice that you receive.

In addition, I paid twenty-five dollars to EBook Booster to submit the Concubine sale information to twenty-five other sites that announce free and/or reduced e-book sales. I also paid six dollars to The Fussy Librarian to post the sale announcement there too. If you want to know what I paid for the BookBub blast, the answer is on their site. I paid for a Historical Fiction ninety-nine cent sale.

This second BookBub blast also resulted in a new 5-star review posted June 19, by Amazon’s number three, highest ranked reviewer and avid reader Joanna Daneman, who has reviewed almost three thousand books on Amazon. Too bad I can’t write as fast as she reads. And the ninety-nine cent sale isn’t over until after June 24, 2014

Kindle_LR_e-book_cover_MSC_July_25_2013

Joanna Daneman’s Amazon review
Like “Shogun” but set in Imperial China. REALLY GOOD!

This was a huge surprise–Lloyd Lofthouse’s novel about Robert Hart and Imperial China right after the Opium Wars is fascinating, dramatic and it’s almost impossible to believe it was based on a real character because it reads like a blockbuster novel. Robert Hart, the main character was called the “Godfather of China’s modernism.” He arrived in China almost as a soldier of fortune, and ended up as a completely fluent, trusted advisor to the Chinese court and the British, having learned perfect Chinese but more importantly, the intricacies of the culture.

This book is a lot like “Shogun”–in fact, if you liked “Shogun”, you’ll probably enjoy this book. The themes are similar; an unbathed, barbaric Westerner becomes enchanted with the local women, falls in love, is repelled and confused by an alien culture, but immerses himself so deeply in the ways China that he becomes able to navigate the twisted channels and treacherous waters of Chinese diplomacy and court life. Instead of Japan. Bushido and the Tokugawa Shogunate, we have here the China’s Qing Dynasty and the two regent empresses and the young emperor, and the vast Mandarin bureaucracy buttressed by Confucianism and Tao.

There is a lot of sex in this book, but it isn’t simply for titillation; it shows Hart’s total enchantment with China and the people in the person of Ayaou, his concubine. Her story and the story of how Hart won her is the personal side of a very interesting historical novel.

I couldn’t put this book down. I hope Lloyd Lofthouse will write more.

Discover other posts about publishing and promotion:

Authors Finding Readers

Discover how Amazon changed book cover design and why authors need to pay attention

Learning Twitter for authors; then tweeting magic

Number 2 and then Number 4 on July 4 - 2014

UPDATE
Posted July 6, 2014

“My Splendid Concubine” officially went on sale June 18, 2014 when a BookBub blast went out at 11:30 AM.

By 6:44 AM the next day, June 19, the book had sold 1,941 copies. By 6:26 AM on July 20, another 550 had sold.

Jump to the end of the month on June 30, and Concubine sold a total of 3,015 copies. “Running with the Enemy” sold 18 and “Crazy is Normal” four. So far, for just July to today at 5:59 AM, another 59 copies sold at the full price. For a comparison, only 40 copies sold in May.

For a better comparison of the impact of the BookBub blast in addition to other June cross promotions on Twitter and through other sites:

In 2008, the first year, “My Splendid Concubine” sold a total of 221 copies or an average of 18 a month.

In 2009, 341 copies were sold for an average of 28 a month.

In 2010, after launching my first serious Blog, iLookChina.net, and publishing more than one thousand posts before the year ended, 2,375 copies of Concubine had been sold for an average of 180 a month.

In 2011, 4,641 copies were sold for an average of 387 a month.

In 2012, 4,158 sold for an average of 346 a month.

In 2013—the first year I paid for a June BookBub blast, 5,044 were sold for an average of 458 a month.

In addition, the following 5-star review was also a result of the BookBub blast promotion,
and look who wrote it.

Snapshot of Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

_________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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41 thoughts on “How I sold almost 2,000 books in twenty hours

  1. That is a good tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere. Simple but very precise information… Thanks for sharing this one. A must read article!

  2. Pingback: How to Sell Your Books | Editing Addict

  3. This is a great article. I tried to submit my novel to BookBub and got turned down, but ereadernews is picking it up. Now that I saved $140, I was looking for other places to put my 99 cent promotion and I’ll do some of the suggestions above – so thank you. I’ve spent a lot of time building my social media platform in hopes that will generate word of mouth, but I see advertising is important too – via goodreads, FB and the reader sites. Fingers crossed I finally get some lovely sales like you have. 🙂

  4. Fantastic post! Thank you so much. Check out Book Gorilla for very nice email blast results. I did a free Book Bub promotion for Pam of Babylon yesterday and it pulled most of my books back up in the top forty of their catagory. (for the day, anyway.) Thank you again, Lloyd

    • I’m confused about Book Gorilla. I once submitted a request for an e-mail blast to Book Gorilla but never heard back from them. When you submit an e-mail blast request, do you have to pay up front or wait for them to bill you? If the answer is pay up-front, I didn’t do that when I submitted my request.

      And—correct me if I’m wrong—there were several options to choose from at Book Gorilla. I think that confused me at the time, because I didn’t know what option would be the best choice.

  5. The cover of the Concubine is gorgeous! Running With The Enemy, not so much. That could be another factor why The Enemy is not selling as well.

    • Thank you. You aren’t the first to say that. That’s why there are now are two covers for Running with the Enemy. The original cover stayed with the paperback and then I came up with another cover for the e-book hoping that would fix the problem. If you are talking about the cover for the e-book, maybe I should go back to the drawing board.

    • You’re welcome.

      Sales are fickle. You can be doing great one day and then fall flat for days or weeks—even months. Maybe it will help to know the sales numbers of the average title. For traditionally published titles, the last I read, the average was 250 and for Indie that number was 80.

      The majority of published authors do not earn enough to support themselves or their families, so they often must work regular jobs. Many end up teaching while they chase their dream as an author and those few who are fortunate enough to pick up reputable literary awards often end up teaching in MFA programs because even their work doesn’t earn enough $. For instance, Ha Jin, who teaches at Boston University, has won many awards and honors for his work but his sales numbers, I’ve heard from a reputable source, are not impressive.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ha_Jin#Awards_and_honors

      • Have you heard of Amanda Hocking?

        If your work is well written and tells a compelling story, the challenge is finding the readers and somehow getting them to pay attention. Once readers enjoy a book, then it’s up to them to talk about it to other readers they know. Word of mouth is the key.

        Persistence. I’m sure you’ve heard about it “being the journey” and not the destination. No one can guarantee that they will reach the destination but they can keep taking one step at a time until they can’t walk anymore.

      • My own limited experience is that. Word of mouth is the best advertising, but as you say the challenge is to get readers to pay attention. Kindle Countdown works quite well in that respect for ‘non-paper’ writers.

      • I’m glad you mentioned Kindle Countdown. It sounds like you’ve used it. If so, how did it go? I’ve never used Kindle Select before but I’m trying it for my latest book, “Crazy is Normal, a classroom expose”. This morning I was reading how Kindle Countdown works and wondering if I should wait for more reviews before giving it a try.

        Have you tried a Library Thing giveaway? The first time I used it, my second book did gain a few positive reviews but only from a small number of the people who were selected to receive the free books. I’m trying it again with more books hoping that it will turn out better.

      • I’ve not tried Library Thing, but Countdown (on my novel, ‘Northman’) was reasonably successful in that it resulted in a few (20) sales, but just a single review. It was only last month and there may be more reviews to come (I live in hope). My sales are usually in single figures per month, so it was useful, but I have yet to see if there are any collateral effects in terms of sales of my other novel ‘And Soon The Song’ or my short stories.

        The consensus seems to be that 10-20 reviews is good for Countdown, but I’m going to be using it for ‘Song’ next month and that has only six reviews, so it should prove or disprove the consensus.

      • After your Countdown with “Song”, you may want to consider writing a post for your Blog about the comparison between “Northman” and “Song”. I only have three reviews for my third book, Crazy is Normal. Maybe its worth a try.

        Is there a limit to how many Countdowns we can do in a year?

        I just checked “Northman” and saw that you have 28 reviews with a good average above 4.0. Why not publish a paperback through Create Space. Create Space belongs to Amazon and it’s well organized for authors. There are templates that help with the cover creation and the interior formatting. Word does offer some (frustrating for me but I managed to finish each project anyway) challenges with the interior formatting even with the Create Space template for Word, but it is just another learning curve. I’ve formatted all my books on my own for the paperbacks.

        Create Space offers services for a cost but authors may also do all the work themselves and then the process doesn’t cost a cent unless you want to pay.

      • As far as I’m aware you can only do one a month, but I might be wrong. I’ll have to check. I wonder if it’s possible to do each book once a month?

    • Thank you. I’ll add an update at the end of the month.

      On another note: I visited your website and noticed that it doesn’t show an Alexa search engine ranking, and that your site is fairly new.

      I suggest you register your Blog with the ten top search engines and do not pay anyone to do it for you. It isn’t that difficult to register a site so it appears to search engine spiders.

      Here are a couple of sites that provide info on the process:

      http://www.hobo-web.co.uk/how-to-submit-a-site-to-search-engines-seo-how-to-tuesday-2/

      http://www.hobo-web.co.uk/how-to-submit-a-site-to-search-engines-seo-how-to-tuesday-2/

      And here Alexa where you can register for free search engine site ranking updates. I don’t see any need to pay them for more. I added Alexa to my tool bar so anytime I visit a site, I can see it’s search engine ranking, and that helps tell me how much visibility the sites has to search engine surfers.

      http://www.alexa.com/

      • Thanks so much, Lloyd, for your help. This is how little I’ve been paying attention to my blog, so far, that I just discovered the notifications today. Have followed your suggestions and registered. This was supposed to be done by SPBRA. Everything was supposed to be done by them. But ended up entering the information for my entire website on my own. Once they set it up, they did nothing further. Big waste as I already had another website I set up myself. As I said, I really appreciate your help. You have some great informative posts about publishing on your blog. Thanks so much for letting me share 🙂 Have a great weekend!!

  6. I’ve read dozens of novels and works to close-to-historical fiction set in China, plus history, including your wife’s work, and “My Splendid Concubine” is one of my favorite. There is something immediate and unpolished about it, like you’re reading a diary, that makes it especially engaging. That said, your candor regarding the bookselling process is not surprising. It has the same tone as your other work. Please keep up the great writing work you’re doing — sharing great stories like Robert Hart’s, as well as your own.

    • Thank you.

      If you are interested in my own story, “Crazy is Normal” just came out. Back in 1994-95, I kept a daily journal of what was going on in my classroom, because I was working with high school kids every day with literacy skills ranging from second grade to college level—from violent gang bangers, who had killed rivals, to highly literate and motivated young adults on their way to college to become professionals.

      I taught for twenty-seven of thirty years I was a teacher in schools with high rates of at-risk kids who lived in poverty in a community dominated by violent street gangs. The poverty rate, as measured by free/reduced breakfast/lunch was more than 70% (today that number up to 80%). There is no other developed nation on the planet with poverty rates that high in its schools. To compare the U.S. with schools that have similar poverty rates, we have to look at Mexico and Turkey. Instead, the media often compares the performance of U.S. schools with Finland, a country with a poverty rate of less than five percent but never mentions that twenty-three percent of children in America live in poverty. The media also never mentions what the FBI reports annually: that there are more than 30,000 street gangs in the U.S. with more than 1.4 million members responsible for almost half the violent crimes in the United States. Many of these gang bangers go to public schools with high poverty rates.

      http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Normal-classroom-Lloyd-Lofthouse-ebook/dp/B00L00EM8A

      One of “Crazy is Normal’s” beta readers was Bruce Reeves, who was a teacher for fifty-four years (1958-2012) in the public schools before he retired. When he finished the second round of revisions and suggestions, he left this note, which will appear on the back cover of the paperback when it comes out. The e-book was released first. Ebooks are easier to format and faster to publish.

      “Readers who envision eager students lapping up learning led by a Tiger Teacher will be disappointed. Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult. Throughout this memoir, though, Lofthouse seems able to keep the hope alive that there’s a future for each student that doesn’t include jail—thanks in large part to his sixth period journalism class and its incredible editor, Amanda.” – Bruce Reeves

      Amanda (not her real name—I changed all the names) would go to UC Berkeley and become a lawyer. I know that one of my former journalism students is a grade school teacher and another is a nurse, and they all attended the same schools sharing classrooms with gang members.

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