Holiday Shopping Sales Trends: What Do They Mean?

Part of the business side of being an indie author is trying to understand marketing and sales trends, so I can capitalize on them. After observing this past Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping season, I can confidently say I have no idea what my sales mean.

I deliberately set the release of my new book, Red Dragon Five, for the Tuesday before Thanksgiving both to get some sales push from the kickoff to holiday shopping season and to celebrate the one-year anniversary of my becoming an indie author. To maximize my brand awareness, I enrolled my first novel, State of Grace, in Amazon’s KDP Select and set up Monday and Tuesday of last week and Monday of this week as free days. Then I set up a Facebook ad campaign on the free event targeted at fans of James Bond and fantasy literature. I also tweeted the daylights out of the free event and the release of the new book, and announced both in all my usual news venues.

The initial results were strong. SoG was moving out the door at better than 10 copies an hour. I even sold a copy of my short story, “Sleeping Beauty”, that first day. SoG rocketed up Amazon’s free chart from somewhere in the 8000’s to #1322 in just a few hours’ time.

And then things began to slow down. Suddenly, State of Grace was only doing a few books an hour. I hit some sort of a wall, and what had been a gusher slowed down to a trickle.

The next day, SoG’s slowdown continued. I was still giving books away, but it became apparent I was going to be lucky to give away 200, when the early pace suggested 500 would be easy. However, Red Dragon Five went live, and there were several purchases. I even got another sale of “Sleeping Beauty”.

On Wednesday, a few more RD5 sales encouraged me. My sales numbers remain very modest, but  RD5’s launch was much more successful than SoG’s a year ago. I was encouraged that I might finally be starting to build a little of that elusive momentum.

Then everyone stopped buying. I had no sales Thanksgiving Day (not terribly surprising), none on Black Friday or Small Business Saturday or Sunday, and none on Cyber Monday. The second SoG giveaway on Monday resulted in only 27 copies. Yikes.

I became depressed, thinking I actually sucked and no one really wanted to read my work. But then on Tuesday morning — after the big sales days, someone borrowed a copy of Red Dragon Five in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library program. Go figure.

I’ve no idea what all this means. Maybe this weekend is a bad time to release a book, because everyone is buying TV’s and electronics from the big box retailers. Maybe my ads suck. Maybe I’m  just not writing books people want to read. It’s hard to know.

But I went from feeling fairly euphoric on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to feeling like a failure by Monday. Such is the life of a little-known author trying hard to become known.

Still, I’m not discouraged. As I mentioned above, RD5 had a much better opening than SoG. That alone is testament to the fact that I am building a platform. I wish it were a bigger one right now, but there’s a lot more room to stand on it than there was a year ago.

Moreover, despite being teased with the possibility of a sales trend that never materialized, November 2012 is already my strongest sales month yet. In total books distributed, it is number two to September of this year when I had a more successful giveaway for “Sleeping Beauty”, but, in terms of actual buys and borrows, I’ve moved more books and earned more money than any previous month. So it’s entirely possible any expectations I had were unrealistic, and, regardless, I need to be happy with what I’ve done.

But is it that elusive beast, momentum? It’s impossible to say just yet. I’ll know in the weeks and months to come.

Did you run events for Black Friday/Cyber Monday? Leave a comment below. I’d love to know what you tried and how well it worked!

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