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).

Watch out for Murphy’s Law when promoting a book

Murphy’s Law says, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

True, it happened to an advertisement of “My Splendid Concubine” scheduled to run Wednesday, September 25, 2013.

I’ll explain what happened later.

In this post, I want to share some examples of what I have done to promote my work—with results. Also more examples of Murphy’s Law.

“My Splendid Concubine” came out December 2007. But I started researching the main character—Sir Robert Hart—in 1999. The research; revisions and editing continued for more than a decade. Along the way, I researched China’s history and culture and made several trips to China with my wife and daughter. It also helped that my wife was born in China and is Anchee Min, the author of “Red Azalea”, a “New York Times Notable Book of the Year” (early 1990s) that also won the “Carl Sandburg Award”. My wife would go on to write six historical-fiction novels with China as her subject, and her last book—“The Cooked Seed”, a memoir—was published this year.

Anchee is my go-to person when I have questions about China’s history, art and culture.

This week I ran my third internet advertising campaign through the Authors Marketing Club.  The ad was supposed to run on March 25 listing a .99ȼ sale price— reduced from $3.99. Instead—this is where Murphy’s Law comes in—the ad ran on the free page and there were hardly any sales. No surprise there. Imagine someone expecting a free book discovering it selling for ninety-nine cents. I sent an e-mail to the Authors Marketing Club alerting them about the glitch, and I’ll update this post if I hear back from them.

Although I have offered free, review copies through Goodreads (10 paperback copies); Library Thing (25 paperback copies), and complementary copies for internet book-blog tours, I have never run a free giveaway for the “My Splendid Concubine” e-book, and I don’t think I ever will.  Ninety-nine cents is as cheap as it’s going to get.

Why?

Mainly because in 2008, a copyright pirate—without permission—offered the 1st edition of “My Splendid Concubine” as a free pirated download, and it hit #1 on the piracy download list that year.

Being the number-one most pirated book in 2008 isn’t exactly something to fall in love with.

I discovered the piracy while I was shopping one day, and a clerk at Fry’s [the electronics warehouse] recognized my name because he read about the novel breaking records being downloaded from pirated sites—it seems that there were tens of thousands of downloads. I think this is another example of Murphy’s Law.

Expecting the ad through the Author Marketing Club to run on Wednesday, I announced the sale through Twitter early Wednesday morning, and I think the following tweets resulted in maybe three or four sales that day.  But the sale will continue through October 1.

 99ȼ -75% off@ http://goo.gl/gHVuVB City Weekend Magazine says “a stunning work”; Midwest Book Review said “highly recommended”

#OnSale 99ȼ@ #iTunes http://goo.gl/5iQpu #AwardWinning My Splendid Concubine-the #LoveStory Sir Robert Hart hid from the world until now

#OnSale 99ȼ @ #Kobo http://goo.gl/Au8gM9 #AwardWinning My Splendid Concubine-the #LoveStory Sir Robert Hart hid from the world until now

#OnSale 99ȼ @ #Nook http://goo.gl/OZytMX #AwardWinning My Splendid Concubine-the #LoveStory Sir Robert Hart hid from the world until now

“Probably the best book I have read since Lonesome Dove” is #OnSale @ #Amazon http://goo.gl/gHVuVB  MySplendidConcubine #LoveStory #awards

Kindle_LR_e-book_cover_MSC_July_25_2013e-book cover (the paperback has a different cover)

Promoting “My Splendid Concubine” has been an ongoing job that I started in 2008 with Internet book-blog tours in addition to author events at several local independent brick-and-mortar bookstores in the Bay area. I was also a guest on thirty traditional, broadcast-radio talk shows—a few of those interviews may still be around as podcasts. There is a link or two in the top bar on the book’s Website @ My Splendid Concubine.

Then in 2010, I took more than one workshop and learned how to Blog properly and launched several Blogs: iLook China.net; Crazy Normal; The Soulful Veteran, and Anything Goes @ Lloyd Lofthouse.org where this post appears.

For more than three years I relied on blogging to promote my work and the sales numbers indicate that the posts I was writing for my blogs worked. For example, iLookChina has had almost a half-million visits to the site.

And in 2008—without the blogs—“My Splendid Concubine” only sold 221 copies, and in 2009, 341 copies.

Judge for yourself if building a proper author-platform blog pays off—In 2010, Concubine sold  2,375 copies; in 2011, 4,641, and in 2012, 4,158.

In 2013, I decided to advertise on the internet, and my first ad ran on BookBub on June 17. I kept the price at .99ȼ for a week before changing it back to $3.99. That first ad campaign through BookBub resulted in the sale of almost 3,000 copies that month and the highest royalty check I’ve earned so far for one month’s sales.

The second ad campaign ran through eReader News Today (ENT) and that ad ran on September 1, and the sale stretched for one week @ 99ȼ.  Three-hundred-sixty-four copies sold while the price was discounted.

Total sales of Concubine have reached more than 16,000 since it was first published and continues to sell a few copies daily even when it isn’t on sale. For example, between the two September sales the book sold more than sixty copies at the full price of $3.99.

Over the years, the novel has placed in fifteen juried literature festivals where less than 5% of entries earn awards and it has been reviewed by the Midwest Book Review.

Although Midwest charges a reading fee to submit an e-book for a review, there is no fee to submit a paperback for a review, and I have only submitted paperbacks to this review site that was established in 1976 to serve academic library organizations in California, Wisconsin, and the upper Midwest. It selects about 450 books to review out of the 1,500 submitted each month.

The Midwest Book Review said “My Splendid Concubine” was a strong pick for historical fiction collections and was highly recommended.

Most authors who want to find readers and sell books must promote his or her work. In this post, I have briefly outlined what I have done to find readers for my work. This has been my experience and in no way guarantees a similar experience for other authors.

There is one more example of Murphy’s law interfering with a book launch. In March of this year a tribe of cyber-sociopaths attacked me and my second novel, “Running with the Enemy” as it was being launched, and this attack resulted in a number of 1-star ratings on Goodreads from anonymous bullies who never read the book, and the first review on Amazon—1-star from a troll called Miss M, who never bought or read the book. There is a comment thread for that 1-star review littered with attacks from cyber sociopaths all linked to the same Goodreads group—along with Miss M who is also a member of that tribe. The group calls itself Badly Behaving Authors and some of the members of that group are authors so the name fits.

But promote you must—if you want to find readers—and as I have discovered, the journey can sometimes be full of potholes as described by Murphy’s Law.

Discover Anchee’s Website

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran and English-journalism teacher.

His latest novel is the award winning Running with the Enemy that started life as a memoir and then became a fictional suspense thriller. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

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