book promotion, book sales

How It Could Work


So you have book coming out and you want to make a splash. Here’s something that could work.

Step One: approach everyone you know and beg/cajole/threaten them until they agree to read an advance copy of the book and post a review at A hundred reviews would be good, but realistically? Aim for ten. This probably means settling for five. The main thing is getting some reviews up, because nobody likes a blank page.

Step Two: Time your release so that it coincides with your promotional blitz (or tsunami, or barrage, or whatever other noun implies an all-out onslaught) and set up an Amazon countdown deal, temporarily setting the price at $0.99 or (if you’re really serious) for free.

Step Three: Blitz time! Submit your book to a whole bunch of book subscription services: Fussy Librarian, BookZio, Genre Pulse, Bargain Booksy or Free Booksy depending, etc. There are a lot of them out there and the more the better. (Note: The king of them all is BookBub, but you’re probably not going to get accepted at BookBub until you’re at least James Patterson). Set it up so all of these services will be listing your book in their mailers and other promotional materials during blitz week.

Book Release

Step Four: Promote the hell out of your blitz on Facebook, Twitter, Googleplus, and anyplace else you can think of. Hand out flyers on street corners. Hire a skywriter.

Step Five: At the appropriate moment, release your book.

Goal? Well, one marketing guru suggests that in order to get’s attention, you want to sell at least a hundred books. And not cumulatively, but in a short period of time, say 48 hours. I’m not sure how he knows but this, he claims, will unlock the magic door, and Amazon’s own promotional machinery will click into action resulting in big time sales for you. Not millions (sorry), but thousands anyway. He claims to reliably get four or five thousand sales with every book release using this exact method.

Step Six? Write another book and do it again. You may never get on the bestseller list, but if you can write five or six books a year (ha!) and sell 5000 copies of each, well…it ain’t exactly easy street (especially after expenses) but it’s a living. And presumably, it gets a little easier each time. Easier to find reviewers, easier to get repeat sales, easier to get the attention of BookBub.

That’s how it could work. I think sometimes I come off as the maven of gloom around here, so I wanted to present a potentially winning scenario.

A Graph With Numbers To Give The Impression I Know What I’m Doing.

BUT (and this’ll surprise you) I’ve got some serious caveats. In the first place, getting even five reviews before release is a challenge (much less 100 reviews which is pure fantasy unless you are already well-established and have a dedicated team of readers.) And if this is your first book (with only a handful of reviews), enticing 100 strangers to buy your book is going to be tough. Plus, the method is not cheap. Most of those subscription services charge money for you to post your book, between 20 and 40 dollars usually (not counting BookBub, which charges a LOT more than that) so if you line up six of them, that could be 150 dollars easy. Yes, this is an investment, but if you’ve already paid a few hundred for a cover design and a few hundred for editorial services, well, it’s all adding up pretty fast.


A few weeks ago, I ran a smallish blitz on my novel Flight of the Wren. I had it listed five places, did a big twitter push, blogged about it. In the end, I sold 33 books over a four day period. So…underwhelming.

So underwhelming.

In addition, it did almost nothing for my visibility on Amazon. At my lowest (highest?) point, my sales rank went all the way to 15,000. It’s the best I’ve ever hit, certainly, but it quickly fizzled back to normal again within a day or two. So no lasting effect. Maybe the aforementioned guru is right, and you have to rack up at least 100 sales in 48 hours or Amazon’s promotional algorithms will simply ignore you. That’s a pretty damned discouraging number if it’s true. This is not my first time paying to get my book listed. It’s fun to see your book listed. It’s fun to see a sudden spike in your sales. But ultimately, the promotions haven’t resulted in further sales and I haven’t broken even, sales-wise, on any of these ventures. Probably better than GooglePlus or Amazon’s own pay-per-click promotions in terms of cost-effectiveness but still, not great.

Your mileage may vary, of course. Anyone? Any success stories you want to share? Anyone get a nice lasting bump in Amazon sales out of a similar promotion?

Anyone? Please?


19 thoughts on “How It Could Work

  1. mimispeike says:

    This is the sort of roadmap that I need, me being very unsavvy about all this, pretty stuck-in-the-Stone Age. I’m going to watch everyone to see how they do it. Atthys, you have a blog. Are you going to have a site dedicated to your books as well? Like Ms. Vargus? I read a bit of an ‘Inside The Book’ of hers, it’s not bad. But her efforts at promotion are, in my opinion, poorly conceived. They make me think she has no judgment. Seeing her garish, supermarket-flyer level of exhortation makes me wonder if she writes anything worth reading.

    Getting 100 people to buy. Does that work for free pieces? (Would 100 giveaways also catch the attention of Amazon? That might be easier to do.

    If you succeed in getting Amazon’s attention, what comes of it? Is that when they throw you up in the ‘People who bought this also bought’ display?

    I have my website, that will eventually present my novella, for free. I hope to attract a following pre-publish that will be primed to buy my Book One (of three) when I have it ready. It’s written, but I have some problems to deal with, and new material that I may try to work in.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. atthysgage says:

    Mimi. I don’t entirely understand what Amazon does. I have 5 pages of “customers who bought this also bought…” books (21 books in all) on Flight of the Wren’s landing page, but I can only find one of those books that lists Wren on ITS page. (Not counting my own other books). I assume that they only allow a certain number of pages of recommendations (20 it looks like) and they only list the reciprocal books that have sold most recently. So if you’re a slow seller, you drop off the list pretty quickly, but THEIR book remains on YOUR page, doing you no good at all.

    As far as other advertising Amazon does, they have ads for books in a lot of places. They have their own mailing lists, too. Presumably, if you sell enough, you might get put in some of these slots.

    As far as giveaways go, no they don’t count the same as sold books, but there are separate lists for best-moving free books, and that can trigger some advertising as well. I haven’t experienced it myself, but people say it can inspire a lot of book sales.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. GD Deckard says:

    We gotta stop listening to market gurus. To whit:
    “…one marketing guru suggests … you want to sell at least a hundred books … in … say 48 hours. …and Amazon’s own promotional machinery will click into action resulting in big time sales for you. …. He claims to reliably get four or five thousand sales with every book release using this exact method.”

    Well, the math works. I buy 100 of my own books at $4.99 each to get Amazon’s attention. That’s $499, of which I keep $2.90 in royalties each for a total cost of $209. Amazon gets excited and sells 4,000 books. My royalties are $11,600 for 4,000 books. Total profit = 11,600 – 209 = $11,391. Nice! Now, why wouldn’t anyone do this?

    (sigh) back to the day job….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. atthysgage says:

    Yeah, I’ve thought about that. But I’m pretty sure Amazon tracks sales closely enough that they would notice if it was just me buying 100 books. (Or, say, my wife buying 100 books at a time.) They always tell me when I’ve already purchased a book. (Maybe, if you have enough friends with individual accounts, say buying 10 copies each? Hmm.)

    I have no idea whether the guru was right about the 100 books in 48 hours benchmark. That could all be smoke. I’ve heard the 100 book figure elsewhere as well, but who knows where these rumors get started. Amazon, I’m sure, ain’t talking.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. GD Deckard says:

    For 10 grand profit, I can figure out how to spoof Amazon. I just find an amazing resemblance between marketing gurus and snake oil salesmen. But we will find a way to reliably sell good books even if no one has yet.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. atthysgage says:

    Agreed. The biggest falsehood represented above is the assumption that the marketing might of Amazon (mighty though it may be) somehow makes selling 5000 books a veritable and repeatable certainty. Anyone who takes that at face value is ripe for the fleecing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. GD Deckard says:

    I once read a collection of 2 or 3 page pieces called “The Encyclopaedia of Ignorance.” The pieces were written by leading scientists in the fields of space, mathematics, physics and biology who were asked, “What don’t you know in your field that interests you most?” Fascinating.
    Of research, one scientist said, “If you want to discover something new, start with the other man’s ignorance, not with his knowledge.”
    We are doing research.

    Curtis was right to start this site as one of open blogs. So no, Atthys 🙂 you are not a maven of gloom. You’ve given us too many good suggestions. Like Mimi said, here we have an amazing cross fertilization of ideas. As more people join the discussion, we’ll each see bits we want to try and some will work for us. I don’t think there is a single magic bullet. More likely, the right mix of the right ideas will, for each of us, be a little different.

    In the meantime, let us boldly go where no man knows 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Thanks for that piece, Atthys. It’s a process I’m about to start soon, so it clarifies the path ahead. One suggestion I’ve read is to have the print book available a couple of weeks before the ebook so whatever reviews you get will be visible when the ebook appears.
    One thing I hadn’t thought of is the book subscription services you mention. Are any of them worth it, do you think?


  9. atthysgage says:

    I’ve had mixed results, Curtis. I did best, probably with a service called Free Kindle Books and Tips (the book doesn’t have to be free, but it does have to be a reduced price. Nearly all services say that.) but I think the reason that one did better than others was that my book happened to be the first one listed on the mailer (which was just by chance, as far as I know.)

    Total books sold? Somewhere in the low twenties, so at 99 cents apiece, I did not break even on the promotion. I certainly didn’t on the venture described in the post. So worth it? Probably not. IF a lot of reviews are generated, then I’d say probably yes, but so far i’ve had very few spontaneous reviews. Maybe I’ll do better this round.

    I suppose I could say that putting the book in people’s hands is worth the money. Even if they don’t review it, they might still become fans down the road. So I’d say it’s worth SOMEthing. Just not sure how much.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Atthys, I believe Spark is a young adult book whose target audience is primarily young women. So I’m wondering how many young adults read your blog? How many follow you on Twitter? How many do you suppose search Amazon for books they’ve never heard of from their friends?

    Have you thought of ways you could reach out specifically to young adult women — I mean, without their parents calling the vice squad?

    All the marketing steps you’ve suggested pre-suppose you’re reaching your target audience. Are you? Maybe rather than utilizing only digital means of marketing, whether it’s writing a blog, tweeting a link, or transferring funds to boost your posts or likes or standings, there are methods by which you might actually be paid to meet your public.

    You possess some excellent skills you might be able to trade for opportunities to meet members of your potential audience. Your philosophy about bending writing’s “rules” ( was what motivated me to follow your blog. I think that you could design an hour long presentation on creative writing that you could offer schools (middle school through junior college) or libraries in your area, either for free or a minimal speaker’s fee. (The San Diego Public Library system has funding specifically to provide such programs.) Any of those will probably be happy to support a local author.

    Of course the first benefit to you is on-the-ground exposure for yourself and your body of work. You’d have the opportunity to sign and sell books. And if your presentation incorporates the excitement of flying carpets (think edibles, giveaways, costumes, displays), you start a buzz.

    My point is that we can’t just sit back and expect our digital messages to reap results. We live in a world of living, breathing beings, and we should be looking for ways to connect with them personally.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. atthysgage says:

    That’s an excellent idea, Sue. I like it. I suppose some of the local schools might go for it, especially if I don’t ask for money in return, though I’m not quite seeing it yet. School assembly? Seems like a lot to ask. Might have to start with an after school type of thing, though I doubt I’d get much response beyond maybe middle school age.
    It bears thinking about.
    As far as reaching my audience, no, I don’t believe I’m reaching very many of them. Nor am I entirely certain that teenage girls really ARE my primary audience. It’s one of my own particular difficulties: my books don’t really sit all that comfortably in any genre or age group. But the teenage girl audience certainly seems to the best place to start.
    Anyway, it’s an interesting idea. I’m going to think about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I encourage you to give more thought to the high school and community college crowds — you’re more likely to find people interested in learning more about creative writing, and about the road to publication. The after school plan is great, but also, instead of thinking entire assemblies, think individual English classes — in high school, particularly AP classes. Meeting a local published author should have a big draw there.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. One more note. As a former teenage girl who has read Spark and has begun Flight of the Wren, I recognize these would have fallen firmly into the set of reading choices my friends and I made, if for no other reason than the antagonist is a teenage female. Beyond that, if there’s romance, it’s sweet and more innocent than torrid, and the problems they encounter are easily relatable. You may find it more difficult to define your genre — paranormal, fantasy, scifi, adventure? But I think your target audience is definitely teen girls. Of course there are those of us grownups who enjoy reading YA, but it’s always with nostalgia, which is part of the appeal.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. mimispeike says:

    I’ve given only two reviews in my online life, one on Amazon, one on Goodreads. This is no reflection on books I’ve not reviewed, it is an explanation of what made me sit up and say, I have to comment on this book.

    One was Tobacco Road. Which I love, for the style, for the sly humor, the odd characters, the style, the style, the style. The thumbs-down reviews on Goodreads got my goat. They are missing the forest for the trees.

    The other was A Fool And His Money, a PhD dissertation written thirty years ago that was published for general readership, a study of a fourteenth century town in remote southern France. It is beautifully composed, full of graceful phrases that I wish I had written myself. There is a ton of neat obscure info that could easily apply to my neighboring remote kingdom of Haute-Navarre.

    I am in love with this book. I reread it every two years or so. I wrote the author an enthusiastic review, and I tracked her down through Google. She now works (I think, I contacted her two-three years ago) for the BBC. One particularly lovely description of a rocky landscape, I asked her permission to ‘borrow’ it, with some repackaging. She kindly agreed.

    I enjoy, and admire, many books. It takes a piece that grabs me by the throat to get me to respond in a concrete fashion. I will try to do better. I have many complex projects, I have real trouble moving forward robustly on anything. I noodle around, and that noodling is either the making or the breaking of my own work.

    I am going to set a goal, try to relive my Nancy Drew days, get into the YA mindset, and finish Spark this weekend and, yes, post a review. After that, I will work on GD’s book. Don Q will have to wait. And, a new thing I brought home from work tonight: ‘Elf Queens and Holy Friars’. It’s a history of the church’s beliefs in fairy magic in medieval times. I have a feeling it’s right up my alley. Do you see why I have a problem moving forward? It’s rich pickings at my job. I’m a kid in a candy shop.

    Liked by 1 person

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