Thursday, 20 September 2012

How to sell more than 600 ebooks a day (for a short while)

Five Leaves debut crime author Michael J Malone discusses the marketing tactics that got his first novel Blood Tears into the top five on the Amazon Kindle chart... First printed on the blog of another good crime writer Damien Seaman who blogs at and is published by Blasted Heath (

 It’s a brave new world, this world of E. A world where, it is said, authors shall publish and sell. And sell. Where Kindle millionaires are verily as many as leaves on the largest of trees and if that Konrath fellow is to be believed, Amazon will rule the world. And lo, it came to pass that my publisher thought it might be wise to make Blood Tears available for the e-readers. Did it work? Depends. Everything is relative, so it depends on where you are coming from. Would Stephen King’s publishers be happy with my figures? I think not. But we at Five Leaves have more modest expectations and we were kinda chuffed. The wheeze was thusly – actually I’m getting tired of the olde worlde speak now so I’ll stop – anywho, we had a chat about what our strategy should be and we decided to give the paperback a few weeks’ run before releasing in digital format. The Olympics were coming up. Why don’t we – I suggested – make Blood Tears available for free on the first couple of days, as an alternative for the peeps who can’t be arsed with all that sport? Then put the price up to 99p for another week, and then increase gradually until we get to a price that we are comfortable with for the long haul. So, Amazon was contacted and the promo was agreed at £0 for the first 4 days of the ‘lympics and 0.99p for the next few days. Sadly, we had to agree to exclusivity to Amazon for three months. However, given that they appear to be the only game in town at the moment, that didn’t feel too much of a problem. On reflection, I feel that this is one of the methods by which Amazon is cementing their monopoly and THAT worries me.
 Early days and the numbers were goooooood. Me and my peeps tweeted and FB’d and blogged and did what we could to bring it to the attention of the great unwashed. And Blood Tears rose up the rankings. By the end of the weekend BT was number 1 in the free crime/ thriller chart and number 1 in the general book chart. The number of downloads? Over 18,000. Which is not too shabby. And in actual fact, I don’t think that even Mr King’s publishers would have been upset with that little lot. I mentioned to a non-writing friend how many downloads we’d had. His response: some people will take anything when it’s free. Git.
Then the price went on at 99p. And Blood Tears moved in with the big boys to the paid chart, and the book rose up those charts as well. We made it to no 5 in the general book chart – sandwiched in among all the porn books. In fact, I’m pretty sure that for a few hours BT was the only non-erotica book in the top 6. Which is nice. For a few days we were selling over 600 copies a day. Again, not too shabby. We peaked there and began the slow, inexorable slide down the rankings. And from a point where I was checking the chart position every 5 minutes, I stopped checking altogether. It was kinda sad to see my baby being ignored. Now, we are left with a whole load of questions... How the feck did we manage to get all those downloads? There was a knock-on effect with the paperback – I know because people let me know they had bought it – what we don’t know is how many people
went on to do so.
Why did the sales tail off like that? Had I reached my entire prospective audience? Did everyone see it that should have – given Amazon’s famous algorithms? Will the follow-up, A Simple Power (tbp May 2013) benefit from this “increased awareness”? Will people remember who the feck I am? Will Prince Harry ever get his hands on the real crown jewels? Whatever happens, it’s fair to say it was a lot of fun while it lasted. And who knows, it might receive another surge of popularity. I just need to find a royal party that’s up for some strip billiards. Lo. Verily.

Check out BLOOD TEARS by Michael J Malone in the UK: and here if you're in the US:


Livia Quinn said...

Do you have figures for how many purchased it at full price from either Amazon or places like Book Depository where I got mine?

I'm watching the followup on this with interest, Michael. And you'll let us know about Harry as well?

Ross Bradshaw said...

Hi Livia - at the moment I think we are heading for about 1,000 copies sold in print, which we (as publisher) are happy with. Who is Harry??