Summer of the Lab Rat

Lab Rat

The Real World is not a laboratory.
If it were, we could control for single variables.
Trying various things in marketing ebooks is a case to point.

My best sales period (tripled my monthly average) was immediately after:
(1) Last year’s Labor Day Sale, organized within this group, which had very few books on it, so potential readers weren’t overwhelmed by the sheer number of books, plus it was widely shared.
(2) I released four titles in quick sequence, all in September. Then one in October, and one in November.
(3) Amazon started the KULL.

Hard to duplicate that last. 😉

So, how about this year?
(1) No big promos. Minimally hyped—facebook, my LJ page, and a mailing list.
(2) New titles published in February and March.
(3) A “Summer Reading Blitz” of four books released from the middle of June to early this month. Roughly three weeks separation between books, squeezed tighter when sales spiked and died.

It picked up my badly sagging sales and got them back to what I consider my average. And then they kept selling.

But since you can’t duplicate an economy, have the same distractions (Politics! Outrage! All! Day! Long!), get Amazon to do something that might have people taking a chance on an unknown author . . . nor repeat the biggest variable: Different books . . . it’s a tough comparison.

So my conclusions are . . . dubious. Yes. Dubious is a good term.
(1) Forget summer, for multiple or big releases, if you want a large spike to get you some visibility.
(2) But the sales will trickle in, as dedicated fans get back from vacation.
(3) Multiple releases work best at weekly spacing.
(4) I should work at expanding my very small mailing list.
(5) I should go back and read the marketing advice here, and follow it.


Now one take away from this marketing experiment is that releasing several new things in a short time works. But however I peer at it, my main conclusion is that I have still not broken out of my usual circle of readers.

To do that I’m going to have to force myself out of my comfort zone, both socially and professionally.

Attend school board meetings. Pay attention to local and state politics and contact them when I have something to contribute. Get back to writing letters to the editor. Attend some of those museum things I keep getting invites to. And look around for other venues where I can be helpful and spread name recognition.

Write in other genres. Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance and MilSF are selling well, and each would be a small first step out side my usual habitats.

When, all things considered, I’d rather crawl back into my introvert’s retreat of a house and write as the Muse dictates.

But, if I’m going to write as a business, I’ve gotta do it anyway.

That will be my next experiment.


And speaking of marketing . . . this totally awesome cover was designed by Cedar Sanderson for the the tail end of the Summer Reading Blitz. And the start of a spin off series, for those who haven’t read my exhaustively long main series:

28 Directorate Cover 4


  1. Your observation matches mine. My summer sales numbers are not as low as last year, but still well below the Sept-April average. There was a bump in late June, but only the new releases seem to move much. I appreciate any and all sales, but I’d like to see more of them.

  2. As it happens, I have a Source. One of your fans works at the same company I do, and we discuss books (full disclosure, he is also a fan of my books). He was trying to tell me about this Pam Uphoff person and how I might like her writing 😉

    But, he had some interesting comments. The numbering system of Wine of the Gods confused him. Also, it appears that your Amazon author page only shows 25 books of all kinds. He *wanted* to get all of the books, but wasn’t sure which ones were missing there. Just thought you should know. Always make it easy for people to give you money!

    (And yes, I encouraged him to leave reviews….)

    1. Thank you! Yes, I wound up with two number 6s, I think, because I didn’t have the time to redo every cover after that. The collection was done by Amazon, and hasn’t been updated. So there’s 28 numbered books, Mall Santa and Saturday Night, two short stories that are so far in the future I didn’t give them any numbers.

      Directorate School is a spin off series, mainly in an attempt to keep the whole from looking too intimidating. Honest! The majority are stand alones!

      1. While the majority may be intended as standalones, there’s enough cross reference that reading them in order is more enjoyable. Perhaps you could include a complete list on your webpage, in order (since there you can control the formatting), with links back to amazon?

        Or, now that Kindle unlimited pays by the page, any chance of an omnibus edition that just includes *all* the books at once? I mean … it would save me time …

  3. My 30 day free trial of Kindle Unlimited expired without me reading a thing and I’m now automagically paying for reading nothing, I just got it that way to see how it works. (Is it bad to use the same pronoun twice with different antecedents?). I’ll probably end up buying it; I like to re-read things and I don’t like the idea of losing access if I leave the program or you change your sales strategy.

    Lately, since I’ve been reading y’all, my buying habits are all over the place. I tend to buy in bursts. When I see something new and happen to feel like reading, I’ll buy everything between the my last purchase and the new work that reminded me to go to Amazon. Pam is definitely in that category because she always seems to have a couple/three new things every time I go look. Amanda is close (I think I’m caught up). The Displaced Detective (Sabrina?) doesn’t really count because I got the omnibus and there’s only one other (hint, hint).

    In other words, promotions have very limited effect – until they randomly spur a binge. FWIW.

  4. For what it’s worth, this summer has been decidedly mixed for me. Bad May and June (by May it’d been over four months since my last release, and sales clearly showed it). At the end of June I finally published the sequel of my MilSF series, but the month was still lousy (both books in the series were discounted to $0.99 for the rest of the month, so even though I moved a lot of copies it didn’t generate a lot of income).

    July was good, but sales never quite reached the levels of what I made in January with my previous release, which could be the result of sequels rarely selling as well as the first book, or summer distracting readers. I’ll find out when book three comes out in the fall. And this month sales have dropped to a little over one third what I sold in July, which is steep (my usual drop in sales after a release month is 40-50% the following month).

    I heartily recommend MilSF if you’re trying new sub-genres. It’s definitely underserved by traditional publishing, and even when they do publish something, it’s usually not what regular readers want in their books, i.e., the current audience seems to want more Starship Troopers and less Forever War in their reading material.

      1. Must have been a glitch, when I clicked on your link the “following bar” was there.

  5. You got one new reader. Bonus: I’ll be able to give feedback on whether it actually works as a stand-alone.

    It seems to have strong YA potential, BTW: have you made this series available to Overdrive, so libraries can get it?

    BTW Anyone know why Baen won’t sell to the library e-market? (I’ve just about given up on nagging Castalia House to get on board.)

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