For today's post, we have a guest, Doug Dandridge, who is here to tell us how he sold 100,000 books on Amazon.
How I Sold 100,000 Books on Amazon
First off, I want to thank David for giving me this platform to play on for the day. I appreciate the opportunity, as I have appreciated all of the opportunities that have expanded my positive presence on the net. I met David at the Superstars Writing Seminar earlier this year, and he is a great guy and a terrific writer. Buy lots of his books.
Saturday, September 13th, 2014 I woke up and checked the spreadsheet that I used to tally up my transactions, added the new numbers, and found that I had passed the one hundred thousand sales mark. I knew this was coming, and, in fact, had been writing a book about how I did it, which is now available on Amazon under the title, How I Sold 100,000 Books On Amazon. I could see the day coming almost a year in advance. At Dragon Con of 2013 I had already sold 49,000 books, enough to catch the attention of some big name writers and a couple of editors. As the sales kept rolling in from month to month it became apparent that I was going to reach that magic number. Sixty-seven thousand by Superstars, ninety-one thousand by LibertyCon, over ninety-eight thousand by this year’s DragonCon. Still, it seemed unbelievable when it finally happened. Like when you can see the Superbowl coming as your team rolls over all the competition, but it still surprises you when they actually win it.
I published my first two ebooks, The Deep Dark Well and The Hunger, on December 31st, 2011, on both Amazon and Smashwords. I had quite the backlog of what I considered good books, since I had been submitting for over a decade, and had received some very good rejection letters. Problem was, they were still rejection letters, and I was getting nothing for them, no readers and no money. It was very disappointing. And then someone told me about self-publishing, how people were selling millions of books at 99 cents and making a fortune. I sat on that for about eight months, getting some more rejection letters, from agents now, telling me how I was obviously a talented writer, but my books were not right for their lists. I started to get discouraged, and remember those things I had read about self-publishing. So I took the plunge and put out the two books, then some more, until I had six out on Amazon and Smashwords, and even got a few reviews on both. And in my first eight months I sold about sixty books on all the platforms they were on, Amazon, Createspace, Smashwords and everyone they distributed to.
My whole aim in self-publishing was to get some extra money to dig myself out of the financial hole I was in, and possibly to get the attention of some editors and publishers. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that getting a check for about twenty or thirty dollars each month was not going to do much to fill that financial hole. And sixty sales were not going to wow people in traditional publishing. In September of 2013 I actually sold over two hundred books. I doubled that number in October, and tripled October’s sales in November. And then I put out the Exodus: Empires at War series, which has made my success. Not that I don’t have other books that sell well, and some very good books that also sell poorly.
In March of 2013 I quit my job at the State of Florida, after selling almost nineteen thousand books over three months. I made one hundred and twenty thousand dollars off my writing that year, and am on schedule to make about one hundred and forty thousand this year. The future is bright, and people are taking notice. I have loyal fans, among them college professors, retired and active military, and even an honest to God astronaut. Every book in the Exodus series after number two has hit number 1 or 2 in the Space Opera and Military Science Fiction genres on Amazon UK, and in the top ten in the US. I have actually exceeded the dreams I had when first starting out.
In my book I outline all of my strategies for getting attention. Because the one who gets attention gets the readers. As long as it is positive attention. I will touch on four things I did that helped to get that attention. There are many more, outlined in the book, but I think these are the most important. I read lots of books by other people to see what I could do to spur my sales. I looked at blog after blog, and took the suggestions I thought might work for me. Not all of them did, and some worked better than others. So here they are, my best four suggestions.
First, you want to write books. Good books. They don’t have to be masterpieces, but if they are really bad, none of the other suggestions are going to work. And not just one book. You need to have a bunch of them out there, for two reasons. First, you don’t know which book is going to take off. I have books that I think are my best efforts, with reviews averaging in the 4.8 star level. But they don’t sell all that well, two or three hundred copies. If those were the only books I had online, I wouldn’t have been able to quit my day job. So you need a catalogue, while practicing your craft and getting better. Books 3-7 of the Exodus series are much better books than the first two, the introductory volumes. I wish books 1 and 2 were better, though they still sell really well and have a lot of fans. But you want people to look on your book page and see, on the also looked at column, a bunch of your books. It tells people that you are serious. If you only have one book out, get to writing another. I might take some time to build a catalogue, but it needs to be done.
Get a Twitter account (or Instagram if you prefer). Then get yourself some followers. Easier said than done, but very doable. Follow everyone you’re interested in. I started off following big time authors and publishers. Don’t just tweet about your book, but things of interest to people who might like your book. Then join a group that has a lot of authors tweeting, and retweet everything you can. You’re building up karma, tweeting them so they will tweet you back. After you’ve done this for several weeks, start tweeting your own, and see who retweets you back. You might only have a hundred followers by this time, but don’t be surprised if people with eighty thousand followers retweet you. Some of these people want to be helpful. Also learn hashtags, so you further your reach beyond your or others followers.
Start a blog. Now, I only had ten followers my first couple of months, but, like most other things, it will build slowly. Blog your books, or principles of science or mythology or, whatever, that are in your books. Blog about other people’s books, about movies, about cool things you’ve seen on the net. Whenever someone gives you an offer to blog on theirs, jump on it like a marine diving onto a hand grenade to save his buddies. You want reach, and grab it whenever it appears. When you publish your blog, tweet it, with hashtags if you have them. Post the blog to your Facebook page (something else you want) and to pages on Facebook that mirror your genre, as well as book promotion pages. Post to Google+ and Tumblr. Find blog catalogues and sign up for them. I only have about two hundred people who follow my blog, but my reach is much greater due to my posting.
And finally, do giveaways on Amazon. Now the proper way to do it is to go exclusively on KDP select, but you can get off after ninety days. Do a giveaway from three to five days, tweet and blog ahead of time, and go to sites like Authors Marketing Club, which have pages of sites that will post and tweet your giveaway. You just can’t put it out and expect people to find it, so blast it out to the world to hear about. A giveaway of The Deep Dark Well started my sales rolling. Some people say the giveaway is dead, but at the end of April 2014 I did a giveaway of Exodus 1, then sold over five hundred books each of all the Exodus books, including number 1, which I had just given away.
And that’s how I did it, more or less. There is more, but you’re going to have to get the book to get them.
Check out Doug Dandridge author page on Amazon for his books.
This week all of my writing workshops on MyStoryDoctor.com are 25% off. All money made will be used toward Ben's medical bills, which, unfortunately, I'll be working to pay off for some time. If you aren't familiar with what happened to my son Ben, everything can be explained at this website.