The shape and length of your sales will depend on your objectives. It’s important to know what you hope to accomplish before you form your game plan. The two main business axis are: a) get more money and b) reach new readers. They’re not mutually exclusive. In fact, new readers will eventually buy other books and net you more money, and sales built to increase profit must still bring new readers. It’s more about your priority.
What I call the “shape” is what price you choose, and which stories go on sale.
What I call the “length” is simply how many days the sales last (and to a lesser extent, when).
I’m going to use numbers to illustrate a few points, and these are all based on a standard $4.99 for a novel, assuming Amazon is your major distributor (which is true of pretty much all indies I know). This matters because Amazon will give you 35% royalties for stories priced between $0.99 and $2.98. Starting at $2.99, you get 70% royalties – double the amount.
This means, in short:
$4.99 sale = ~$3.50 royalties
$2.99 sale = ~$2.00 royalties
$0.99 sale = ~$0.35 royalties
In other words, if your objective is to make money, you may not want to go under $2.99. You will need other strategies to spread your sales. Plan a book tour, offer an extra short story to anyone who sends receipts, come up with a twitter campaign—anything and everything! In short, get ready to work double-time on your promo because the price itself, while good, might not suffice. But for every sale you nail, you get $2 instead of 35¢. For money sales, I recommend a short span of time. Make the opportunity a now or never to put a little more pressure on those impulse buys.
But what if you just want word to spread about your book? How do you do that?
Most people are quite happy to boost sales posts and tweets, even if they can’t afford to buy or have no interest in your book. This is especially true when the price is super low. $0.99 sales won’t net you a ton of money, but they will spread like wildfire. It’s important to remember that a) not everyone who buys will read right away (or ever), and b) not everyone who reads will review/talk about it later either. But 99¢ sales are a good opportunity to fish in new ponds : reach people who might not otherwise hear of your novel.
How? Contact book bloggers with similar readerships, look into book mailing lists like Bookbub (research them; they are not all investments), look into hashtags that might be related (do not continuously spam hashtags with your sales; try to bring something to the conversation beyond "buy my book"). Make sure you use your social network in fun ways, but keep your Awesome Price well in view.
Nailing lots of sales in a short span of time can get your book to climb into Amazon palmares. Hitting the top 20 gives you visibility which generates sales, too, especially when you’re an easy 99¢ grab. While I think making the sales last longer when you seek to reach more people is a good idea, I also recommend focusing a bunch of marketing efforts on the launch day. Give it a burst and let it gently fall and spread after, basically.
Now, keep in mind that I’m no marketing expert. Not all strategies above will work magic. Or they might work for one novel, but not for others. Some may take more time than you have. It’s up to your judgement to know how much energy you want to put into a sales, too. 99¢ can take off with just the occasional tweets if you want to keep it low maintenance, no problem.
So this is my overview! The lesson here is to know your goals before deciding on how you build your sales. Do you want your entire body of work to be noticed? One series? Do you want to profit, or to spread the word? How can you measure success? What is a reasonable expectation, considering your current social media reach? You can always just spontaneously put shit on sales, and it’ll work, but I find that approaching these things with an idea of my objectives helps me decide on how to do it (and when to limit myself).
I’ll be taking apart my own process and results for the May 22-31 sales once it’s over (Patrons only, though!). This way, you can see better how everything here can apply to a concrete event.
If you have more questions, or thoughts, or want to share experiences, don’t hesitate! That’s what the comments are for, and indies sharing knowledge is one of the best way to keep us all sharp and selling. :)