About a month ago, I launched my latest book — a self-publishing manifesto called Write Short Kindle Books — into the world (i.e. onto the Kindle marketplace). I spent a lot of time battleplanning this book launch, my fifth one to date, in hopes that trying something new would reach a broader market of readers and push this book higher than any of my previous books had reached both visibility and sales-wise. Except about three days into the launch I hit a wrong switch and borked the timing of the free to paid transition. Or so I thought. I never imagined things would turn around in such a big way in the weeks to come.
Here’s a by-the-numbers breakdown of the first month of sales along with a few observations and notes on what happened along the way.
By the Numbers
The setup: I soft-launched Write Short Kindle Books for FREE on about Jan 9th, promoting it heavily to my mailing list, a selection of “free book” Facebook groups, social media, and a couple of promo sites. A few days later, I switched to $0.99.
I paid zero dollars for advertising. I also paid zero dollars on production too, as I did all of the layout, formatting, cover design, marketing, and other misc tasks myself. I don’t normally recommend that, but I feel pretty comfortable with my abilities on that front. It’s definitely worth going super DIY to save money, if you’ve got experience doing the nitty-gritty.
This time around, I elected to crowd-source the editing through a small team of my awesome regular beta readers, then double down and polish it further. [Thanks again, BTW, to my awesome beta readers who helped out. You are indeed awesome!]
So the only real expense for the entire project was my time to write, rewrite, re-rewrite, and heavily edit the hell out of the book, then promote it. True, that took a lot of legwork on my part, but when you consider that I’m earning a profit from the very first sale and don’t have to earn back hundreds or thousands of dollars in production expenses, I consider that a win. With that in mind, here’s the breakdown after 1 month.
- FREE downloads over a 3-day time: 647
- Regular paid sales over approx 30 days: 1,128
- Kindle Unlimited (paid) downloads: 217
- Total paid downloads in that time: 1,345
- Total WSKB sales income from launch month: $1,000+
Here’s what that looks like in purdy chart format (current as of 10AM EST…and continuing to grow).
A few notes on pricing:
After switching from free to paid a couple of days after launch, I kept the book at $0.99 for about two and a half weeks (which only earned me about $0.30 ish per sale but definitely helped boost my sales numbers initially). I switched to $2.99 after that point, earning a higher 70 percent royalty, and that made a huge positive impact on actual income earned from the book. I probably made the bulk of my income from sales in the last week or so.
I’ve had a decent number of Kindle Unlimited downloads throughout launch too, and while those earn me less of a royalty than sales at the $2.99 price, they earn more than I’d get at the $0.99 price point, so I feel ok about that.
I’ll save the detailed rundown of launch strategies and things I did to market the book for another post.
Pros! — Aka what went well.
- WSKB hit #1 in the top 100 Kindle Bestsellers in the Authorship category in the first week, then hit #1 in both Writing Skills and Business Writing categories, as well as a few special categories. It’s been at #1 in those categories every day for the past few weeks. Seems like it’s still holding. We’ll see how things spin out in the coming weeks. I expect it’ll dip eventually, but you never know!
- The book was featured in a few different special tabs, including several “short reads” chart listings, the “Best Seller” tab and the “Hot New Release” tab on Amazon’s Kindle marketplace.
- Once the book gained momentum, sales have been VERY steady. I like that. Steady is good.
- Reviews have been largely positive, and I’ve received a really strong number of launch month reviews (though I could always use more!), especially compared to my other books.
Cons! — Aka things that could have gone better.
- A [now fixed] formatting issue, caused the book to crash on a very small number of devices. This led to a couple of 1* reviews and a few refunds. Not a ton, but enough to be a bummer. I’ve since fixed the issue, after spending a late night going through all 1450+ lines of Kindle book code LINE BY LINE to find the culprit.
- A few lingering typos and blips. After the soft launch, I discovered a handful of minor typos that made it into the book. Nothing HUGE, and not a big shocker, but still not something I’d consider awesome.. Even with pro editing, you’ll still find books with issues. My beta team caught a lot of the things I missed, and I spent a ton of time doing polish passes both before and after launch. I feel good about the finished quality of the book (though let me know if you run into any stragglers). However, some of the people who downloaded the soft-launch version of the book likely saw some of those early typos, especially if they didn’t refresh the book on their devices since I’ve updated. I’ve received at least one 1* review nasty-gram from it. Sucky, but that’s what I get, right! Par for the course, I’d say.
- I timed the free to paid switch poorly. Got my wires crossed here, and I think it sort of killed my momentum on week 1. The transition happened much quicker than I had anticipated too, and there was also a short period of time where a few folks bought the book at a slightly higher than I had intended price. In hindsight, I’ll probably focus on a paid $0.99 launch next time, as I built up good momentum after a week at $0.99 and then things really kicked into gear.
So that’s how my month went in a nutshell! I’m really happy with the way things turned out, and it’s easily my most successful launch to date. Sales seem strong, and people appear to be digging the book [for the most part]. To put things in perspective, I’ve sold roughly 1,500 copies of my very first book, Up Up Down Down Left WRITE, but that was over the course of a year and a half. In contrast? Write Short Kindle Books moved 1,345 paid units in a single month. That’s crazy awesome.
I’ve learned a lot from this launch, and the experiments I tinkered with behind-the-scenes, so I’ll be reporting more as I go! You won’t have to wait very long for the next book in the series either! I’ve got Book 2 nearly finished, and I hope to launch that in the next month or so. Interviews for Book 3, which is a slightly meatier special project, are underway and going well! It’s an exciting year so far and I have a crazy few months ahead.
If you haven’t yet, I’d love it if you’d check out Write Short Kindle Books: A Self-Publishing Manifesto for Non-Fiction Authors, and don’t forget to leave a quick review and rating if you enjoyed the book [thanks]! Also, you can sign-up to my new Indie Author Success Book Mailing List to receive future books for FREE at launch and hear about other related projects in the works.