Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

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Friday, August 22, 2014

On The "Stickiness" of Books

I'm beginning to believe that books have a natural "stickiness" - meaning that they stick at a certain selling rate without further promo (assuming the book has been launched well, reviewed well, and given a scattering of introductory promotion in the world).
That stickiness may be high on the charts, or in the depths of the Amazon dungeons... and it can temporarily be boosted by a promo like Bookbub, but generally will fall back to its natural "resting" spot. That spot can can be shifted by changing price or cover or description, but in the end, the book appeals to a certain number of people (large or small) and will stick at a certain level.

Example 1 (the high end):
Years after its release, Open Minds "sticks" somewhere in the top 1000 free books on Amazon, without me doing any promo. Periodically I will goose it with a Bookbub ad, but even between ads, it stays there.

Example 2 (the low end):
In July, I had a Bookbub ad for my middle grade novel Faery Swap. I'd worked hard prior to that to get it lots of reviews (26) and kept the price at $3.99 since launch last December. It sold in single digits per month. I knew that with only one MG book to my name it was going to be tough, but single digits is PRETTY TOUGH! Anyway, the Bookbub at 99cents moved 400+ copies, far more than Faery Swap had sold prior to that. BUT in the process, I discovered the book had "stickiness" at the 99cent price point - i.e. it sticks on the top 100 chart for its category without further promo by me. I told myself I would keep it at 99cents until it dropped off the top 100... a month later, it still hasn't dropped off. 
Faery Swap is now selling double digits (on pace for nearly 50 books this month) and appears to have found its "sticky" point.
Those two books have different audiences and different appeal... and different sticky points. They're both written by the same author (ME!) and are both quality books (IMHO - they review well). Their "stickiness" levels are a reflection of the market.
One reason I encourage writers to try different genres is precisely to see how strong genre/market influences sales - it makes whether your books are selling or not a lot less personal. My goal (always) is to write books that (basically) sell themselves. Writing in different genres will show how that's easier to do for some books than others. Some books simply will sell more than others. Tis the nature of the beast.
Staying Sticky
My current plan is to leave Faery Swap at 99cents until it drops off the top 100 charts, then hike it up to $3.99, then do another Bookbub when 6 months is up (the time between Bookbubs)... and basically do no more promo beyond that. 
That way I can concentrate on the most important thing: writing the next book.


  1. Hmm...I've heard this argument before, particulalry in the tech industry, it's a frequent term for everything from wikis to apps. I'm a bit on the fence myself, but time will tell. BTW, I started reading Third Daughter:)

  2. Pricing is such a tricky thing. I am planning ot launch my literary debut novel and have been thinking incessantly about the price. I'm looking closely at how Amazon price the adult authors they work with. they tend to go for the $6.65 / £3.99 range. As the US dollar is so weak right now, I am planning to sell around $6.65 also, but £4.99 for my UK books as I'm based in the UK.

    I bought your guide to indie authors the other day and am almost 80% read. really great And informed read. Thanks!

  3. I'm always so impressed with your approach to marketing your books, you are both logical and creative and it obviously pays off for you.

    I saw a nephew over the summer who said, "I really liked Polar Opposites." I told him how glad I was to hear that. Then he said, "Oh and Faery Swap. I enjoyed that too." Before I could correct him he added, "Oh, that wasn't you." Though I was the one to recommend it. I told him I'd pass in on to you. ;)