This guest post from Martin Crosbie originally ran on my Blogger blog in 2012, and it’s well worth reading again.
Martin’s excellent self-published book, My Temporary Life, achieved a great deal of attention in the major media for hitting number 1 on Amazon. Here, Martin explains how he did it. This topic became the basis of a subsequent book from Martin, How I Sold 30,000 eBooks on Amazon’s Kindle: An Easy-To-Follow Self-Publishing Guidebook.
Martin also interviewed me about my first novel. That interview is on his blog—but read Martin’s tale of hitting number one first.
Pirates, karma, and my unlikely rise to #1
In early February 2012, two months after publishing it, I enrolled my first ebook in KDP Select. Did much happen because of it?
Yeppers, in three weeks I experienced more personal accomplishments than I ever could have imagined. First of all, My Temporary Life became available as a free download in an Amazon promotion. The idea is that folks download it for free and with the momentum that builds, when it becomes a paid download, it sells. Well—IT WORKED! It became the most downloaded ebook in North America for one day, in March 2012.
My Temporary Life built up momentum like a rocket taking off. There was nothing gradual about it at all. By the second day, it was second overall in free downloads. On the third day, well you know what happened, because you heard me. Yep, doesn’t matter where you were, you probably heard me. We hit #1 overall.
So, then, “paid” day happened. It changed over at midnight on Sunday and paid sales slowly started to trickle in. The next morning I expected to see 15 or 20 sales. We had over 200. Over 200 folks pulled out their credit cards and took a chance on my self-published book, which over 120 publishers and agents had turned down. (Oh, did I forget to mention that part?)
Sales continued all day, and the days after. We peaked in the overall rankings at #9, but it didn’t stop there. An independent website emailed to tell us that we were the #7 most downloaded independent ebook of the week; we did a bunch of online interviews, emails and reviews stacked up like crazy, the momentum was deafening.
We hit 60,000 downloads, 51,500 of which were free. There were so many requests for information that we issued a press release. Yep, we issued a press release talking about the book that I wrote in the spare bedroom of my house. A Dallas, Texas television station ran the story. They were interested in the fact that over 120 agents and publishers rejected “My Temporary Life,” yet all these folks were downloading it. We were on the Movers and Shakers list. We were one of the top 10 self-published ebooks on Amazon. We were #2 in Romance/Suspense. We were #2 in Mystery/Thriller. And more 5-star reviews came in every day.
At dinner one night, Jacquie and I sat and read the newest reviews. Two of them made us cry. It’s an amazing experience to read about how your work can touch another person. The sales figures really are amazing, but the almost overwhelming part is that you have an opportunity to touch so many people.
Helping things along
Now, while all this momentum was happening, it was also getting a little help: I was spreading the word. You see, although I do trust in Amazon, I was helping it along. I was posting interviews, sales figures, anything I could. I was on Amazon discussion boards, Kindleboards, KDP’s Community site, Facebook, Twitter, even Craigslist! All I wanted to do was tell people about my book. And, in doing all of this, not a lot of other things were happening, including writing. And, you see, there are a couple of things that I have to do in my life to function. One of them is sleeping, and the other is writing. I was sleeping a little bit-four or five hours a night, but not writing at all. That was the first problem. The second problem was the pirates.
My Temporary Life showed up on a piracy site. Someone had taken my work, changed some things, and was giving it away. So, we quickly sent a letter to them, and the owners of the site were kind enough to take it down right away. I remember years ago, sitting in front of my computer and playing with Napster, and I felt karma kicking me solidly on my rear end.
The next thing that happened was we started receiving a lot of emails from other authors asking me what I’d done, or more specifically what I did differently. There are two things that I can definitely recommend. One is Bob Mayer and Jen Talty’s The Shelfless Book. This is it: https://whodareswinspublishing.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=164
The book is actually the contents of their course that I took just before my epbublishing adventure began.
My other recommendation is to do everything you can think of to spread the word. I can tell you that it truly does make a difference when you have a Facebook event or tweet it, or come up with some other novel and original way to reach readers.
Currently, over 90,000 people have downloaded My Temporary Life. Our sales have tapered off a little bit lately, but we are still high in the rankings and we have over 80 five-star reviews now, too, and, oh yes, the sequel has been published. My Name Is Hardly is out. So, thank you everybody for Facebooking, and Tweeting, and emailing your friends. Every time you’ve told someone about my book it made a huge difference, and the book that over 120 agents and, oh never mind, that doesn’t matter now, the word is out there, and people are enjoying the book. Thank you all, it’s truly appreciated!
Martin’s interview of me is on his blog, here.
My Temporary Life is excellent. I recommend it. You can find it on Amazon, of course.