The Sudden Stop for an Indie Author

Duck Hunt from Nintendo Meme

Duck Hunt from Nintendo Meme

I might have discussed this before to some extent, but I think I’ll mention it again.  I have been in several conversations about finding the ‘tricks’ to self-publishing.  What’s the sweet spot price?  How do you stay on the lists?  How do you keep sales consistent and going?

Well, I played the analyze results and look for pattern games.  In the end, I have no clue what the trick is.

Here is what has happened recently with both Legends of Windemere books:

  1. Prodigy of Rainbow Tower debuted on July 30th.  Both books hit the Top 100 lists.
  2. Prodigy left Hot New Release list on August 30th and rank began to sink.  Sales started to slow.  Now, here is where you think the list is the key.
  3. Both books fall off list.  Guess sales will slow.  Continue with basic promotional plans until save up enough money for bigger things.
  4. October hits and I wake up to Prodigy of Rainbow Tower being in the 50’s of the Top 100 Fantasy Ebook lists.  Seems a lot of books plummeted and I had enough sales that I could get back on.  Beginning of a Hero soon followed.  NOTE: None of this was caused by my own hand.
  5. Selling along a good click.  Stay the course.
  6. Columbus Day weekend hits and both books abruptly fall to a trickle.  Do the promotional work that seemed to be working, but nothing is happening.  Prodigy of Rainbow Tower has dropped from 10-11 sales a day to 2.  Beginning of a Hero has done the same.

Let’s focus on #6 here.  I have no idea what happened, so there was no way to prevent this.  Was it the 2-star and 3-star reviews I got on Beginning of a Hero?  Doubtful since Prodigy of Rainbow Tower got nailed worse.  Was it the marketing push becoming stale?  Again, it was an overnight freeze, so I can’t tell.

My point of all this is that there are so many factors that you should focus more on what works for you in your genre.  There’s no magic price or promotional plan beyond do what you feel is right and push on.  I’m not happy that my sales just stopped with no source to be found.  Yes, I am happy that I had a good run, but it does hold a level of frustration when the ride stops so suddenly.  Yet, what can I do?  I can sit here wondering why Beginning of a Hero had a longer run of high sales, but I’ll never figure it out.

So, any time I say what works and what doesn’t, remember that I’m talking about what worked for me.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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28 Responses to The Sudden Stop for an Indie Author

  1. Papi Z says:

    If only to figure out the algorithms of the sales engine… and if you did, would you tell anyone? Or make your millions then retire? Interesting thoughts.


    • I’d share, but they change the algorithms every few months. Also, some of the numbers are dependent on factors that one cannot fully control. Time that the book has been out is a factor, which cannot be changed. Yet, traditionally published books have a better shot of overcoming this than indie authors. As indie authors, we cool off rather quickly, which is why many release books at a swift rate. For example, I can release 3-4 books a year compared to George Martin’s . . . when was his last release? Anyway, he still beats me in rankings and royalties because he’s traditionally published and has an HBO show. So, I’m more likely to cool off than him even if he didn’t have the show.


  2. There are so many factors. Sometimes, a low-star review comes in and sales actually increase. However, I’ve seen a critical or neutral review come in multiple times and lead to a slow-down for a week or two, and then suddenly sales return. There is also a month-to-month change.

    Some things may relate to Amazon’s internal marketing. For example, if your book gets on or falls off page 1 of the Customers Also Bought lists for another title, this may have a big influence on sales. Amazon emails customers with recommendations, etc. Perhaps your book’s sales and reviews influence such things. Perhaps Amazon varies which books to feature from one month to the next.

    Then, as you said, it’s hard to know what other books are doing. August is a tough month for most books because textbooks are selling like hot cakes. So when a book used to sell X number of copies and have a nice sales rank, in August even if it sold the same number of copies, the sales rank would be much worse (e.g. a book that didn’t sell too often and would normally jump to 100,000 was jumping to around 200,000, which shows how many different textbooks sell in August). But customers don’t realize the textbook factor. They see the higher sales rank and interpret it as a book that’s not selling well, which impacts sales and makes the sales rank worse. There are many other similar effects besides textbooks that complicate the picture.


    • They sent an email with Prodigy of Rainbow Tower over the weekend. Ironically, it happened around the time the sales dropped to a dribble.

      You’re right that it gets harder every month to stay on the lists. As much as they help, they can’t be seen as the only thing. Especially since the middle of the month tends to have a slump in sales. People start remembering they have bills or are reading what they bought at the beginning of the month.

      I does suck seeing the books slide down the rankings, but it’s probably a natural progression.


  3. kingmidget says:

    Welcome to my world!!! 😉


  4. It still sounds like in the end you are ultimately at the mercy of the Amazonian gods and their magical statistical machine. It boggles the mind. 🙂


  5. raodum says:

    Wow what an interesting post! It really does make me wonder if I can do this for a living and make enough to live. I’ll probably have to end up getting a part time job or a full time job at some point. Right now that’s next to impossible. I tried for two years to find a job and finally decided to do the author thing for a while. I release my first book in January so we’ll see what happens! Thanks for the post!


    • I’m in the same boat. I ended 2012 pushing for my book to be released after bouncing from one temp job to another. There was no stability or full-time job in the future, so I went with writing.

      All of this post being said, marketing is the key to getting a big shove at the beginning. That will help you hold some momentum. I do Tweets throughout the day and an FB promo post every morning, afternoon, and evening. You really can’t leave the book to sink or swim on its own. That’s where the work comes in and blogging can help too.


  6. MishaBurnett says:

    Well, Catskinner’s Book and Cannibal Hearts are in the 196,000s and the 443,000s, respectively, in sales rank. So unless Amazon starts publishing a Hot Million list, I’ve got plan on doing my own promotion.


  7. Jade Reyner says:

    Thank you as ever for sharing your progress Charles. I actually read a blog by Chris McMullen today who was talking about paid for advertising and he made some brilliant points about the fact that there just is no guarantee to any of this. Who knows what will and what won’t work and why. I am looking forward to really getting to grips with my marketing soon and I shall be sharing my progress as well. 🙂


  8. justmoo33 says:

    I tried all sorts of tricks, then had a massive five-day giveaway. No reviews from that, so I’m getting back to what I love best i.e. writing another book. Remember, you achieved top 100 with a paid book; I achieved ranking of 500 only with the giveaway. That makes you successful! 🙂


    • Thanks. It is a fun memory and I’m looking forward to doing it again with my third book. I’ve had terrible luck with giveaways.

      Do you mean 500 in the overall Amazon rankings? If so that’s better than me because the best I ever did was the low 2,000’s. It’s the genre lists that I slip into the Top 100 at times.


      • justmoo33 says:

        Oh, if we’re talking about genre, it was #1 sci-fi time-travel. As soon as it wasn’t free it slipped off to nowhere! Sweet while it lasted. Still, top 100 paid in a genre is great 🙂


      • The free lists are an odd area. I got up to #2 when I put my first book up for a free weekend. The #1 spot was a book that had found a way to stay free, so it couldn’t be toppled over the weekend. It’s hard to maintain that momentum now that the free and paid lists are separate.


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