Sales, Marketing, and Whack-A-Mole

I’ve been trying to analyze the course of book sales since I began publishing almost 9 months ago. It’s very puzzling.
I’ve concluded that offering a book via Kindle Select is useful only in the first few months. After you have a few reviews, hopefully positive ones, your best bet as an author is to drop the KS option and publish through an aggregator such as D2D or Smashwords.
There was an initial burst of sales when I first listed a book. This probably came mostly from friends and family, augmented slightly by my Facebook community of friends. I saw an initial burst of sales after publishing each new book, and sales of the new book often stimulated collateral sales.
Meanwhile, I was attempting to learn all I could about this writing gig. Books were selling, the future looked promising. I got advice from lots of well meaning people who published experiences and comments on Goodreads as well as on their own blogs. Eventually I decided to try some of the advice, especially regarding marketing. If you’re a new author, you’ve probably considered doing the same thing.
Kindle Select offered a couple of marketing tools in exchange for publishing exclusively through Amazon. I tried the ‘free book’ approach and found it a dismal failure. I then tried their Countdown deal and that worked better, at least it did when I first tried it. But now that too isn’t working; new sales aren’t being generated, except for a few sales of the on-sale book at $0.99.
I’ve also tried marketing through Facebook; that was a failure. I made Mark Zuckerberg a tiny bit richer, myself poorer, and generated no sales. I don’t recommend that approach, the ‘Boost Your Post’ option they offer. Based on my experience, they make money, you don’t.
Meanwhile, I’ve kept writing and worked at learning to edit. I edit my own works, usually after a month to let everything fade in memory, plus I’m also editing for another writer, a fellow whose writing I admire. Editing’s a skill as demanding as writing; there’s a steep learning curve. But I applied my experiences, learned through writing at least half a million words, and improved the word choices of my first two books. I also bought a couple of professional covers. Note that the ‘improved’ versions are free to previous purchasers, but maybe the books will appeal to future readers.
My next effort is to market through ENT, one of the advertising email companies. They send out daily listings of selected books that are on sale. You send them information, they decide whether to include your book, and if they do they charge you $20 up front. I intended to schedule a Countdown Deal to coincide with their listing, but Amazon is balking. Because I recently revamped the book, including a $1 drop in price, they refuse to allow the Countdown Deal. My only option now is to go in the day before and drop the price to $0.99, which I will do.
But the bloom is now off that particular rose; Amazon is no better than any of the other providers, despite offering a couple of promotional deals if you publish exclusively with them.
Future strategy: continue to improve my writing, publish new books. Leave the new books on Amazon long enough to get a few reviews, then publish through an aggregator that distributes the book to various outlets (they take a percentage, but you get a much larger percentage than Amazon will pay if you publish exclusively with them; puzzling). Market exclusively from that point on by going through someone like ENT. I still don’t intend to offer the books free. I suspect the slump in sales is driven by that, so many freebies that there’s no incentive to pay for a book.
Not touched on here is the effect of Amazon’s KU program of ‘borrowing’ an unlimited number of books for one set price. That may at some point become the new sales behemoth, but as of now it isn’t much of a sales booster. The jury’s still out on this one.

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