Lessons Learned from a Book Launch, Part II

This is a guest post by my wife, Dorothy.  It follows on from my first post on this subject on Friday, and should be read in conjunction with that article.

Dorothy handles marketing for my books, and I’m very grateful to her for her outstanding professional skills in that area.  I might add that she’ll be setting up a freelance consultancy business in that area in a couple of months to help other indie authors.  If you find yourself in need of a marketing and promotions guru, I can’t recommend her highly enough.  (Of course, I may be slightly biased where she’s concerned… )


Hi, all.  Dorothy here.

First, the book launch from a promo perspective – what we did right, wrong, and can’t tell if it was right or wrong. This is the graph of the sales of Stand Against the Storm for the first three weeks after publication. The numbers are data points that I’ll refer to in the text.

Stand Against The Storm - US market - 3 weeks after launch - with data points

Point 1, Day 1 – Peter called me at lunch and said “It’s done, I’m just waiting on you to come home and look it over before we hit publish. I said “Oh, I trust you. Go ahead!” It went live around 6pm. Now, I had planned on a soft launch – on giving the book the first night to show that it’s loading correctly, the blurb is showing up, and have all night of counting down the hours until rankings and also-boughts appeared. (I’d also planned on mailing list announcement first, blog announcement second.  Best laid plans…)

8:59pm – Peter publishes to the blog that the book is live. The blogosphere reacts, and friends and fans take to twitter and facebook with the announcement. @mzmadmike (Michael Z. Williamson) even gives a plug, which makes me giggle like a schoolgirl.

Lesson 1: Make Sure Your Publishing  Partner Understands The Schedule and can sit on their hands until the agreed times on the timelines.

Point 2, day 2 – Kindle store rankings go live. As people log on and get the news, they go buy.  I admit to Peter that his late announcement, despite flying in the face of current marketing strategy, was good for getting the word out wide all at once.  I create a mailing campaign, and schedule it for 8am the next day.

Lesson 2: Sometimes our mistakes turn out pretty cool. Instead of getting set on how things should be, take the opportunity to test whether The Right Way is still the best.

Point 3, Day 3 – Mailing list announcement goes out. Why did I wait until Day 3? Because Amazon measures and ranks books by both their immediate sales velocity, and their sales trajectory. With all of the annoucements hitting the web on Day 2, this means the eager fans didn’t get the word slowly enough to spread their sales over Day 2 into 3. So, mailing list announcement made sure that we didn’t have a dramatic one-day sales spike followed by a dramatic drop. Also, Day 3, the book gets Also-boughts. However, a check on yasiv.com proves that it is not yet on any other books’ also-boughts.

Lesson 3 – stagger your release announcements just like you stagger sales promotions, for best rankings growth.

Point 4, Day 4 – Yasiv.com show the book is now showing up on other books’s also-boughts.  The downward slide is arrested, and the growth curve goes up from here. Interestingly, we were on the top-100 in genre lists since Day 2.

Lesson 4 – the top-100-in-subgenre and hot-new-releases lists are great for attracting the steady sales of browsers looking for new books, but the also-boughts are the engine driving a lot of the sales and ranking climb.

Point 5, Day 5 – No clue. From here, I’ve put everything in the batter, and shoved it into the oven of commerce, then stood back and stared in excited puzzlement as it rose and fell. People liked it! Over the following week, people who’d never bought a Maxwell series book before went and started on Book 1, and the books started climbing up the charts. This is also the  best feedback loop, and advertising: when people see your name all over the charts and also-boughts, they’re morre likely click through from curiousity.

Lesson 5 – visibility of multiple books in a series on the same chart greatly increases your chance of a browser picking up any one of them and starting on the series.

Point 6, Day 11 – That sales spike, right there? @mzmadmike “If you’re not reading Peter Grant, you should be.”  I am so going to get another sharp pointy thing at LibertyCon this year, and tell my husband it’s coming out of the marketing budget. Because sometimes people are just awesome.

By the way, his latest, A Long Time Until Now, is out on EARC from Baen. If you don’t mind paying a preium for the early release, it’s awesome. If that’s a little rich for you, know that it’s going to be out soon at all retailers and formats! If you haven’t read Mike before, Freehold is his first book. Or there’s mercenaries in spaaace… Um, the Ripple Creek series. In the latest one, Elsa got her hands on a nuke, and have you ever known an explosives guy (or gal) NOT to use a new toy?

Lesson 6 – This is where I talk about the value of networking and friends. But mainly, I just think Mike rocks.

Point 7, Day 13 – The 99-cent promotion (Kindle Countdown, 5 days long) on Take The Star Road starts. This was a slightly scary leap of faith, as the first book had been selling pretty well. Was I throwing away money by putting a decently-selling book to 99 cents?  The reason to put the promo two weeks in, instead of on launch week, is because I was fairly certain the launch would go just fine without a .99 cent promo boosting it. Instead, I wanted to place the promo where readers would still be working their way through the series and buying the books after SAtS falls off the 30-day cliff and no longer get the visibility of being hot and new.

Lesson 7 – I started setting up the promos on Feb 5th, for the 2-6th of the next month, right after I got rejected by bookbub. The more planning time you give yourself, the easier your life will be.

Point 8, Day 17 – The promotion ends. Note there’s no really obvious effect on Book 4 in a series when promoting book 1. Instead, the readers spread across 4 books will trickle in from the “bought the whole series on promotion day” to readers who average 2 weeks / book, so we’ll see the last measurable  effects around April 25th. However, the increased visibility of Books 1-3 is driving increased sales by browsers, as all 4 books are now on a sub-sub genre top-100 list.

Lesson 8 – The effects of a promotion may take a month and a half to manifest. Plan accordingly, and don’t get frustrated if you don’t see an immediate payback.

On the promotion itself, here are the numbers – may they help you compare and contrast against any you run. The numbers in parentheses are the cost for each ad, so you can directly compare my cost to sales.

Monday – Midnight GMT, set to 99 pence in amazon.co.uk. Midnight PDT, set to 99 cents in .com
Genre Pulse ($10)
Fussy Librarian ($16)
Sales – 90

Tuesday – the big day
Free Kindle Books & Tips ($25)
Ereader News Today ($15)
SF/Fantasy BookFreak.com (tiny, but targeted, and free)
Sales – 149

Wednesday – stacking two small sites
ChoosyBookworm ($8)
EBookSoda ($10)
Sales – 68

Thursday – Bargainbooksy is traditionally a heavy hitter, but here? Not so much.
BargainBooksy ($35)
Sales  – 37

Friday – no promos, just a wrap-up. Should have tried harder to get a promo slot here.
Sales – 65

Why did sales go up on Friday? I suspect it’s a combination of it climbing the ranks quickly to the top-100-in-genre chart, where it could be seen by casual browsers, and the impulse of “sale’s almost over!”  Sales levelled off at a lower level after it went back to  full price, but are still fairly high, feeding readers into the series. Yay!

Now, on sell-through: As mentioned above, we have 3 distinct waves of readers. The same-day buyer, the three-days-later buyer, and the two-weeks-later buyer. Your readers may be very different! I’d be interested to know how they buy and what genre you’re in!  Because of this, I won’t know the true rate of promotional sell-though for book 1 for at least another week, but I can state that current sell-through rates from Book 2 to Book 3 appear to be around 81%. What sell-through rate are you getting for your series? Is there a book after #2 where it drops off? How far into ther series is that?


  1. Really good stuff, thanks for sharing all the gory details! I know this last promotion of mine was given a nice boost by Peter’s plug on his blog, many thanks for that. I will talk about it more on Saturday, and about what I’m doing or not doing for the launch of Dragon Noir. I just haven’t got the time or coordination right now for proper marketing with school distracting me.

  2. Reblogged this on bhalsop and commented:
    I’ve been following this blog for several months, and there is frequently great information. It’s also a blog of contentious folks whose POV is sometimes not mine, but always thought provoking!

  3. Reblogged this. It’s good to see real numbers and real information about what works for someone else. Most people won’t share this info, so I am beholden to you!

  4. This is wonderful! Thanks, Dorothy (and Other Half) for sharing what you’ve done and what came of it.

    I’m thinking about doing a K Countdown on the first series book when #6 comes out this week. After looking at the calendar, I’m leaning toward not putting #6 in K-Select. I would like to, but I’ll be without internet on the 90th day and won’t be able to keep it from auto-renewing. I’m also going to start #6 at the lower price rather than waiting to drop it when the next book launches (in May, I hope). Genre? Gads, um, sci-fi (colony world) bumping into alt-history and post-apocalyptic.

    1. Where do my series sales drop off? #5. I was getting about a 90% sell through with the first four, and have only moved a total of 10 copies of #5. I have a few ideas why that I mentioned in the comments yesterday.

      1. Well, I just bought #4, which I had missed. #5 I’d also missed, and looking at it, the cover is very different – you had a nice theme going with the first 4 – and the price is odd.

        1. Yes, I fluffed up the pricing. Since #s 5-7 take place at a different time with different characters, they have a different cover pattern. I still have not decided what to do with #8, which is about the Great Fires.

    2. Hey, you know the auto-renewal is a checkbox, right? So you simply go in at any point in the 90 days to your KDP Bookshelf page, go to the line for that book, and directly underneath “Promote and Advertise”, there’s the word “Info.”

      Click on “info”, and unselect “autorenew.” Congrats, it won’t renew when the term is up.

    1. Thanks for asking, Laura. I forget when to define my terms. *embarassed grin*

      Sell-through is the measure of how many readers continue through a series – they not only buy book 1, but go on and buy books 2, 3, 4… Usually expressed as a percentage, sometimes a ratio.

      For example, let’s say your sales over any given non-release / non-promotion month look like this:
      Book 1 – 100 sales
      Book 2 – 75 sales
      Book 3 – 50 sales
      Book 4 – 48 sales.

      You know that your sell-through from book 1 to 2 is 75%. This is pretty fine and fair, for organic sales (ones that happen without promotion, not ones that use no pesticides.) Book 2 to 3 is 66%, and 3 to 4 is 96%.

      Book 1 to 2 is all about the effectiveness of promotion – about whether you’re promoting to the right people, in the right markets. A lot of people picked up Robert Galbraith because they heard it was a pen name of JK Rowling. Most of these people were promptly disappointed to find a quiet mystery in a dreary english town, with no witches or wizards or butterbeer in sight. Excellent promotion, lousy sell-through, because wrong target market.

      Book 2 to Book 3 is all about effectiveness of the series. If you’re losing 1/3 of your readers at the end of book 2, there are several possibilities. It may be book 2 – in trilogies and long series, there are inevitable complaints of “filler books.” It may be the branding and cover art was inconsistent from 2 to 3, so they didn’t realize it was part of the series, or the blurb manages to miss what readers love about the series and promise something they don’t want. It could be the author didn’t obviously link the series – putting “The stonekin saga II” on one book, and “the stonekin legacy III” on the next.

      Book 3 to 4 shows your long-term fan power. If 96% of the people who get that far go through, you know you have fans who will follow you to the end.

      Sheesh. I should write this as a blog post, shouldn’t I?

  5. Thank you Mrs. Grant

    I researched several of the promo-sites from your last post on promotions, and along with this one, I might have to change my strategy a little bit.

    Late last summer, it looked like a good idea to drop five novels at once. It looks like things have a changed a bit, and maybe now it might be a better idea to hang them up, once a week. It might give things a chance to work better than just a dump.

    I still have four weeks to think things over, I now have four of the novels edited. Its time to get covers, blurbs, synopsis’ etc done.

    It just might be an idea to stretch the release over five weeks.

  6. Yes, Dorothy, that DOES deserve another blog post.
    This is fascinating stuff, even to a Reader.
    Speaking of which, I just reviewed gnardopolo’s (Michael Hooten) latest book, “A Bard Without A Star.” Strong recommendation, it is DEFINITELY worth your time.

  7. So I reblogged this as I said above. But someone has clicked on the book at Amazon from my blog. So I hope you made the sale!

  8. Since I can’t take her strawberry brownies made with coconut oil, I reviewed Sarah’s “The Big Ship and the Wise Old Owl” on my blog and Amazon.
    Maybe my vigil, until she is home and beamish, will be to read and review her books, thus demonstrating my devotion without having to resist eating all her brownies before she sees them.

Comments are closed.