The results of my so-called book launch

You know how sometimes you read blogs and wonder if the blogger is telling the truth because everything they write makes it look as if everything goes perfectly for them all the time? Well, I hope to break through some of that perception with this post.

Here’s the story:

A little while ago, I released my novel The Bialy Pimps from the purgatory of my closet, where it had been languishing since I’d finished writing it twelve years earlier. I self-published it on Amazon’s Kindle platform, and celebrated its debut by doing a promotion that allowed anyone to get it for free. A bunch of you (you awesome people with excellent taste, you) snagged it. And a bunch of you wondered why, after spending all that time and effort on a novel, I’d simply give it away.

The full reasoning behind my debuting the book for free is here, but the short version is this:

1. Although nobody is totally sure how Amazon’s ranking algorithm works, one thing that seems clear is that a lot of activity will help your book rise in the overall rankings. I wanted to generate a lot of activity — more activity than I could generate by charging for the book — in the hopes that when the free period ended, The Bialy Pimps would be ranked well and would have impressed Amazon’s algorithm with my general awesomeness. Ideally, in addition to Amazon saying, “Dude, you’re awesome!” sales to people who didn’t already know me would start to happen on their own because Amazon would feel compelled to share the awesomeness by telling customers about me.

2. At the same time and maybe a little contradictorily, it was intended to be sort of a soft launch, going mainly to the fine people who read this blog, are on my list, or are one degree removed from either. I purposely didn’t do a BIG LAUNCH like a lot of authors do, which I’ll explain if you keep reading. In other words, the limited scope of this launch was intentional, and subsequent phases are still to come.

3. But even with that said, you hear stories where one free promo rockets someone to bestsellerdom, which ruin everyone’s day by setting unrealistic expectations of grandeur.

So here’s what actually happened, in real and sometimes embarrassing numbers, with no punches pulled.

My book release, by the numbers

The results of this initial release have been a mixed bag. In some ways, the first push was incredibly gratifying because people have had great things to say about the book, both in reviews and via Twitter and email. But in other ways it’s not been gratifying at all, because the numbers started off okay and then went downhill fast.

All probably totally normal, expected, and even planned-for… but not as much fun as unrealistic explosive growth would have been.

So without further ado, here’s what happened during those first few days and up to the present.

Tuesday, February 14th

Evening: I uploaded the final Kindle-formatted file to Amazon and then set the free promo to begin the next day.

Wednesday, February 15th

6:15am: I sent the first emails and put up the first blog post and sent the first tweets announcing the promo.

The book had been free for 4-5 hours by this time, but I’d had no downloads yet. This was a good indication that nothing was going to “catch” on its own and that the only people who found the book would be people I sent to it. From what I hear, this isn’t typical. Usually you can do a free promo, tell nobody, and people will start to download it. This happens because your book is already “in the system,” and Amazon has gotten it into their various algorithms. My book was so new, it wasn’t in the system or on anyone’s radar. This wouldn’t be a leveraged endeavor. This would be pushing a boulder on my own, with no help from physics.

6:15pm: After 12 hours, I had 444 downloads. Not bad but not ridiculous like some of the stories you hear from people whose books aren’t brand new and who catch a spark somehow or another. At this point, I was ranked #436 among all free downloads and #19 in humor.

11pm: 546 downloads, #420 in free, and #18 in humor.

Thursday, February 16th

6:30am: After my first 24 hours, I had 618 downloads and was ranked #500 in free and #19 in humor.

8:15am: 638 downloads, #422 free, #16 humor.

At this point, I began to realize how fragile the rankings are. My goal was to get into the top 100 free, and (spoiler alert!) the highest that I saw was #356, which happened on Thursday afternoon. But what I actually noticed about the rankings was that I’d have an hour with a smaller amount of downloads and the ranking would drop precipitously… followed by a good hour and a subsequent rise. You’ll drive yourself nuts watching it. I surely did.

2:30pm: 811 downloads, #378 free, #17 humor. This was the first time I noticed that I’d broken above #400 free.

7:30pm: 900 downloads, #382 free, #21 humor.

I’d crossed 1000 downloads by bedtime, but was also back below #400 in the free rankings. The promo only had a few hours left, due to end somewhere around midnight Pacific time.

Friday, February 17

Once the free promo was over, I woke up to get my total. During the free promo, 1025 people had downloaded the book from I was also now ranked at #167,170 on the overall Kindle paid list. From what I understand, this ranking means pretty much nothing when a book is so new, but it was still amusing.

From what I’ve seen, heard, and read, any bump in paid sales that you’re going to get (if you get one) will start to show up a few days later. Nonetheless, I was prepared to accept worldwide bestsellerdom by noon. Hey, anything’s possible.

The way things actually went on Friday was a bit less impressive.

I got my first “borrow” at just after noon on Friday. Borrowing is a feature of KDP Select, the program into which I’d enrolled The Bialy Pimps in order to be able to do the free promo. Basically, people who are members of Amazon Prime can “borrow” your book for free within certain restrictions, and “return” it whenever they want. You do get paid for borrows, but it’s typically not as much as a sale. So in my case, with my book priced at $3.99, I get $2.79 for each sale. Borrows vary by month, but chances are I’ll get something closer to $1.70 for each.

I then got my first actual sale about a half hour later. Hooray!

By 3:15pm, my Amazon ranking had jumped up over 100,000 places, to #57,252 on the overall paid list. This sort of proved that rankings don’t mean much 1) when books are new and/or 2) when your rank sucks so badly. Could be either or both.

It’s probably also worth noting that at this point, those groupings of “people who bought this book also bought this” or “similar titles” that you normally see below Amazon listings were not yet showing up on my page — further suggestions that my book wasn’t really seasoned in the Amazon system and that it might have been smarter to wait on the free promo until it was. Given that I wasn’t totally in the system yet, it sort of felt like I’d generated a bunch of momentum that couldn’t go anywhere because the cables weren’t hooked up to the battery yet.

At 5pm, I had had no more sales or borrows and no customer reviews. Still, my rank was up to #36,313.

By the end of Friday, day one after the free period, I’d sold a whole four copies and had had one borrow, and my meaningless ranking was up to #22,086. This is the high life!

Saturday, February 18

Saturday was my “banner” day, with ironic quotes being very intentional.

I woke up to find that four copies had sold overnight and that my ranking was up to #17,910. I then had six more sales by 6pm and was up to #11,144. I also had gotten another borrow.

Alas, I didn’t crack the top 10,000. I ended the night at #18,284. By this point I’d also gathered six reviews, all of which were five stars. Aces.

Sunday, February 19

On Sunday, those lists of “customers also bought” that I mentioned had been missing finally began showing up on my page, indicating that I was at least making my way into the Amazon machine.

It was nice to see the fine folks whose work appeared in those lists on my page — people like Seth Godin and Julien Smith. So I went over to a few of those pages (not just the big names, but the smaller ones too) and tried to see if *I* was showing up on THEIR “also-bought” lists. This was, unsurprisingly, not the case. So nobody was really being sent my way from the algorithm yet.

Joanna Penn told me that she’s seen that it takes around three months for Amazon to really get you into their guts and start sending out emails to people who bought similar titles, suggesting they give yours a try. I guess I’ll see soon if that happens for me.

As of Sunday morning, I’d had a grand total of 15 sales and 2 borrows since the free period ended and was ranked #20,757. It all seemed quite random.

I wasn’t exactly raking in the sales, and this, if I’m honest, was a bummer. I told the world and told myself that all that mattered was to ship the book, but it was around Sunday that I realized I’d secretly been hoping for a lot of post-promo sales. Which was ridiculous, given that I’d intentionally not done a lot of the things that might bring about a surge…. but more on that later.

I sold nothing on Sunday. I just watched my rank drop all day, bottoming out around #35,000 by nighttime.

Monday, February 20 and beyond

I got another two purchases on Monday and had got a few more reviews, now up to eight 5-star reviews. My rank neared #50,000.

By Wednesday, I had a total of 18 books sold and two borrowed. It was pretty clear by this point that although the first week hardly determines the success of a book (especially without a big launch effort), the big surge wasn’t going to happen.

At the end of February, I’d sold 31 copies.

As of right now, I’ve sold three more copies in March and have had two borrows. My ranking hovers around #100,000, give or take. A few sales in quick succession will bump it up tens of thousands of places, proving further that ranks this low don’t mean a lot.


Is this a success or a failure?

It’s neither.

It would have been great to see a big surge in sales after a free promo, but that was really just dreaming. Hell, it wasn’t even part of my plan, which I’ll go into in a minute. The first push was supposed to get the book into the hands of the people who were most predisposed to like it, review it favorably, and tell their friends about it. The first push was supposed to be about priming the pump so that when I do a later push, I’ll look impressive to the people who have no idea who I am.

So I guess it was kind of a success. I guess I’m happy that I, mostly by myself, could interest 1025 people, in under two days, in downloading a book that I wrote — especially given the fact that nobody knows me as a writer of fiction. I’m happy with my reviews, which now total fourteen — all of which are 5-stars. I’m really happy with the feedback I’m getting. People are saying it’s hilarious and poignant at the same time, which was what I was going for. People are saying it recalled their own fond memories, that it took them back to a cherished place. People are saying that it riveted them, kept them up late reading. This is all very good.

But I don’t know how much it helped my rankings. If I’d simply put the book on sale and not had a promo at all (free or a push for paid sales), would it be selling as it is now? Maybe.

But I still think the initial free promo is a good idea, and here’s why:

1. As I’ve already mentioned, it gets the book into the hands of people who are most likely to enjoy it. An anonymous push is a mixed bag. I can’t guarantee that any of my readers will like it, but they’re far more likely to enjoy it than a random person. This means good initial word of mouth, etc.

2. It’s a way to get good reviews. Reviews matter for two reasons. One, they seem to factor into the Amazon algorithm over the long haul, meaning that books with better reviews from verified purchasers are more likely to rise in the rankings and/or be promoted by Amazon. The second reason reviews matter is for social proof. New visitors will want to see that others enjoyed the book before they buy it.

(Side note: This might be a good place to say that if you got the book and enjoyed it, it’d be HOT if you’d click here and give me a review on Amazon.)

3. It’s a cool thing to do for your friends and fans. Look, I could have launched the book at $3.99 out the gate and I’m sure I could have gotten at least 500 or so buyers pretty fast. The good thing about that is that I have loyal readers I know would buy the book. The bad thing is that it’s my loyal readers who would have to buy the book. Then, when I offered it for free later, who gets it free? People I don’t know. What if those people are assholes? Do I really want my friends to have to pay and give it away free to assholes? That’s intolerable.

4. It’s a good karmic move. This goes hand-in-hand with #3 above. People like receiving gifts, and I just gave 1025 of my friends a gift. That’s going to generate some goodwill, I’d guess.

Now, does that mean I did it totally correctly? I doubt it. I don’t really like the impression I get that all of the free momentum was wasted because the book was so new to Amazon. I don’t know if this would make a difference, but a smarter move might have been to release the book on Amazon, say nothing about it, and just let it sit there on sale for a month or two or three… and THEN do the free promo. Maybe that would give it more teeth.

Here’s why I think there’s some truth to this, and to the theory that “seasoning” in Amazon probably really does matter at least for Kindle n00bs such as myself.

How I’m outselling myself

Check this out.

If you recognize that Kindle title, you get a gold star because it’s the same as this blog post. It’s up in the Kindle store because I took the advice of my friend Sean Platt and repurposed some of my blog material for Kindle so that i can reach a different audience.

Now, here’s what’s interesting:

The Kindle version of “The Universe Doesn’t Give a Flying Fuck About You” sells about one a day on average, and has been for the past two months. This despite the fact that I don’t have it advertised anywhere, that I’ve never told anyone about it other than anecdotally, and that it still doesn’t have a single review.

Just in case you’re not engaged here, let me spell it out:

My novel, which I poured my heart into, which represents some of my best work, which has nothing but stellar reviews, and which I promoted heavily and was downloaded by over a thousand people in two days is being outsold by a brief piece that is freely available on my blog, which doesn’t have a single review, and which I’ve never, ever promoted.

This is obnoxious. But it’s also encouraging in a way, because the fact that none of the sales are my doing means that the only reason anyone is finding it must be because Amazon is promoting it via “customers also bought” or “Amazon recommends” or whatever.

In other words, this kind of proves that Joanna was right. All that piece did was to sit there for sale. Nothing else. And then it started selling.

So, given the better reviews, better traffic, and better promotion behind The Bialy Pimps, will it also start to sell on autopilot in a few months? Probably, right? It seems to make sense.

And when it does — when it finally seems to “catch” in the Kindle store — then that’s probably a good time to move on to phase 2 of my maybe-this-will-work-but-really-I-have-no-fucking-clue promotional strategy.

Phase 2

I mentioned that I didn’t go whole-hog with my initial launch. I don’t know if this is smart or will turn out to be dumb, but I can tell you why I did it.

I did it because I don’t want the first people who come to the page, buy the book, and leave a review to be random. I don’t want random, unbiased reviews and chatter to be the book’s first reviews and chatter. I want qualified, biased initial reviewers so that when the random people do show up, I’ll look really good.

My first fourteen reviews are all five stars. Think that’s sustainable, representative, or accurate? Not a chance. Those are the opinions of people who already knew me and who went into this expecting to like the book. This is what I wanted.

Once I’ve got good mojo going and have some momentum with the reviews (mission mostly accomplished) and once the book starts selling a bit better on its own (I give it a month or two more), then I’ll do a “real” promo.

But again, I’m going to do it via free, for all the reasons I explained in my last post.

I’ve got three days of free left out of the five KDP Select gave me. So what I’d like to do for phase 2 is to do another free promo, but this time do the stuff I purposely didn’t do this time. I’d like to try for a few high-profile guest posts, submit it for review, and ping sites like Pixel of Ink, which tell their readers about new free titles.

My hope is that next time, I’ll get the surge I didn’t get this time, and that I’ll get a little bit of a viral effect. Maybe this will tail off into higher ongoing sales. I’ve heard from a lot of people — and not all big-selling authors — that this does indeed tend to happen.

Phase 3

Phase 3 isn’t really a launch phase. It’s my ongoing plan to keep promoting myself — but this time prominently including “author of The Bialy Pimps” on my resume.

Phase 3 includes a lot of stuff — most of it boring to read about — but one thing it does include that may interest you is that I’m going to be starting a podcast. Stay tuned to this blog to hear more about that in coming weeks.

Phase 3 also includes writing more books. And more books. And more books.

I firmly believe that the bold new frontier of self-publishing means that you kind of can’t fail if you’re at least decent and you’re persistent. If your sales suck and a given title only makes you $2000 per year, that’s not much… but once you have ten such shitty-selling books, that $20,000 is a nice sideline. If you write 30 books, you can start to live pretty well as your backlist earns for you year after year after year.

It’s not “get rich quick”, but I think it’s “make a living with art certain.” I think that nowadays, math favors the persistent artist.

There’s probably a lot more to this, but this has been a long and rambling post and I’m going to let it be a long and rambling post. I’m not going to try and end it in a tidy manner. It’s just going to kind of fizzle out here.

So, you know, if you have questions or comments, ask or comment away. If you’re any kind of a creative person, we’re all in this together.

P.S: If you read The Bialy Pimps and liked it, would you be willing to leave me a review? That’d be seriously badass of you.

Now that you've read this post, go here:


  1. Jerret says:

    Thanks for the recap, Johnny. I know there are those of us out here who have been unpatiently waiting for this. You came up with the same analysis as Konrath…write more books.

    • Johnny says:

      That seems almost universal. I’m not going to wait until I have more to hit this one reasonably hard, but I also don’t have my entire wagon (or really any of it) hooked to this, so I can afford to take the time and make some mistakes. I still believe that it’s only logical that any one title will grow with attention if it’s good, but I also think that a wide catalog gives you a much bigger target to hit.

  2. Stephen Baker says:

    I love posts like this where I can see numbers and what happened. behind the scenes stuff has always interested me.

    As for your book, It’s amazing. When Phase 2 hits I’m sure you will have more of the results you wanted. I am looking forward to any and all of the books you release in the future!

    Just wanted to say thanks for the book and congrats on finally completing it. Regardless of whether it is deemed a “success” or “failure” by others, it will always be amazing to those of us who read it and enjoyed it and understand it.


    • Johnny says:

      Thanks man, I really appreciate it! I like posts like this too, which is why I wrote it. I won’t lie, I was hoping to have a step-by-step that looked more like this:

      … but a lot of that is like hitting the lottery. Hard work yet again seems to be the key. Who’d’ve thought.

      • Stephen Baker says:

        Wow, His story is pretty incredible. Reading stuff like that is certainly inspiring.

        I’m sure your self publishing career will take off. Just going to take time, and, you said it, hard work. Of course you’ve already been doing the hard work part, so I guess it’s just a wait and see game.

        Thanks for the replies (on here and twitter) =]

  3. AWESOME! I was just about to ask you for some details of your post since I have been just as neurotically checking you book rankings as you were. Being a fellow writer, I was rooting for you!

    One little trick you can use once you are out of free promotional days from the KDP select program is to list your book for free on sites like

    Kindle has an automatic “price match” system so once its robots scans the net and sees that you have it listed for free, the will also change it to free for as long as you like.

    When you sign up you give them exclusive rights. So only use this AFTER the 90 days is over and make sure you un-check the option because it will auto renew.

    Also, why haven’t you uploaded to Amazon’s hard copy print on demand service called Createspace???

    You already have the book written. Takes no additional work. If you make a few additional sales out of it its just gravy.

    Hope you have continued great success!

    • Johnny says:

      I did hear the Smashwords trick, but my impression was that it was best for stuff that you wanted to KEEP free, right? I want my book to be paid most of the time. I might do it for the “Universe” title though, to spread the word.

      With Createspace, I heard it could be a PITA, that there was more work required. No? It’s as simple as Kindle?

      • You can take down your smashwords item at any point you choose from what I understand ..

        And ABSOLUTELY NOT! Createspace is by no means as simple as kindle. But for another hours work or so it is totally worth it if the books sells even another quarter of what the kindle version sells. By the end of the year it will be another good chunk of revenue and exposure.

        It has different formatting issues and it wont go live until you order and receive your own “review” copy to make sure everything looks good. But that is the gist of it

        • Joanna Penn says:

          My experience with Createspace is that it is much more than an hours work if you want a quality print book. In fact, if you want a book that looks like a pro-publisher, get a pro-designer 🙂

  4. Jim Kukral says:

    One thing to point out is that you are playing in a really competitive category. Humor. Next time try a 2-day promotion, then see if you get a bump after it goes out of free. You did it right this time, to get reviews and “inject” it into the Amazon system.

    • Johnny says:

      See, now I found myself wondering if I was in a competitive enough category, so that’s interesting. The big writers about self-publishing seem to all be thriller writers, and you almost get the impression that you won’t sell well if you don’t write a thriller.

      Double-edged sword, I suppose…

      • Joanna Penn says:

        I’ll jump in on category as I think it’s more than humor is not a big selling category. Romance, erotica and thrillers account for more than 60% of ebook sales, according to Kobo (presentation at London Book Fair). Humor is one of the many tiny sub-categories. You probably want to make sure your 2nd category is something that can get you ranked as well.

        On your non-fiction, I think that has a lot to do with your platform. You are well known as an inspirational writer, so it is more natural for that to resonate. It is also more mainstream than your fiction. IMHO

        • Johnny says:

          Well, I can’t cross-categorize it as erotica, romance, or a thriller. Though that would be awesome. 🙂

          We’ll see if this plays out, but I feel that what I’m doing across the board is building readers and fans, not truly blogging in a niche. So I think that given the right positioning (something which I’m still messing with), I’m going to have people who like ME rather than MY BLOG TOPICS. I suspect I might have more latitude than most bloggers in that area because I don’t really write about any one thing. I’m all over the place. If I blogged about cabinetry or truly about business, then I think it wouldn’t work, but as it is, I think it’s my writing voice that my readers like rather than solely the topics.

          Reading that back over, that actually looks a bit deluded, but I still think it’s true. I can never define what my blog is about when people ask me, but maybe this is finally the point where that becomes an advantage. We shall see.

  5. Baker Lawley says:

    Congratulations, Johnny–I’d call the launch a success, especially as a first book.

    But I was also glad to hear your take on writing fiction being a long-term game. The more I learn about this, I see that the money is all in the numbers for writing books. Writing more books feeds more sales (and then we get into the possibility of using other sites like Smashwords and Barnes and Noble to further that reach once you’re not in KDP any longer).

    Since it looks like there are lots of writers interested in your journey here in the comments, there are a couple of links I thought folks would like.

    Here’s the launch strategy used by Phoenix Sullivan, who seems to have a real intuitive grasp of Amazon’s algorithms:

    And here’s my post about not publishing your writing before you’re ready–one of the dangers of self-pubbing your book. (I hate to be “that guy,” but I think my fellow JBT readers will dig the fake covers I made, like “Bear Eats Narrator,” et. al.)

    Anyway, cheers again, Johnny! Best wishes for writing your next book!

    • Johnny says:

      I hear you on all that, and give you big thumbs-up all around.

      The only thing about not publishing before you’re ready is that it can cut both ways. Hell, my book sat in my closet for 12 years because I didn’t feel it was ready. And of course it wasn’t and needed the rewrite I gave it just recently, but I could definitely have done it earlier and maybe should’ve. It’s a fine line.

      • Baker Lawley says:

        Thank you, Johnny.

        You know, it’s interesting, now that you say that. When we first start out as writers or whatever, I think most of us assume we’re awesome and brilliant (I’m a college prof of creative writing–I see it every year. Job Hazard.). But the longer we work at it beyond the beginning stages, the more we realize we’re NOT there.

        So then, like you say, we get gun shy and think we’ll never be ready, even after we are. Which is that fine line you speak of.

        The other problem is that, with publishing, even people who are ready and professional get turned down all the time. It reinforces that mindset.

        Well, anyway, we won’t solve this conundrum in blog comments this evening…but you certainly crossed over the gap in those 12 years!

  6. Jim Kukral says:

    My latest was free for 24 hours last week. It did over 3k downloads, and has now steadied out in the 10,000 rank range with steady daily sales. Buy I’m in a smaller category of marketing/motivation, etc…

    Fiction is a whole ‘nuther world. I can’t write fiction… yet. 🙂

    Here’s the book I was talking about.

  7. Alexis Neely says:

    Thanks for sharing these numbers. Im planning to do some Kindle self-publishing later this year and I will look back to this post several times, I am sure. Plus, I am going to get your book. Also, wondering if you considered Kindle Singles and if that is any different than publishing as a full book.


    • Johnny says:

      I wouldn’t have wanted to split the book up… it seems unnecessarily annoying to the reader. But it’s a different story for my friend Sean Platt’s “Yesterday’s Gone” series, which is deliberately written as a serial. He has a hell of a smart plan which we discussed in a great interview here:

    • Joanna Penn says:

      Kindle Singles is a closed program – it’s not for self-publishers – but Johnny has done ‘single’-like mini-ebooks with his short non-fiction. So it can be a short ebook, but not an official Kindle Single.

  8. Very interesting. I’m curious if you ever considered going the traditional publishing route (agent, publisher, advances etc). With your audience I would have assumed you could land a book deal..and still do some free giveaways (chapters maybe, certainly not 1K copies).

    I’ve been shopping a soft biz book for a while w an agent, had a deal w a big house for a minute and a half that didn’t pan out. Keep toying with the idea of self-publishing. You have to do the marketing yourself either way, but why’d you choose self publishing?

    • Johnny says:

      Oh, many, many reasons. I wanted to get a traditional deal for a long, long time, and it seemed like the only legit way to do it, but that was just brainwashing. Your point is exactly my point: You have to do the marketing yourself either way, so why let THEM keep all the money? I’d rather keep 70% if I’m doing all the work.

      Lots more detail in this:

  9. Melissa says:

    Thanks for the reminder to leave a review, just popped over and left one on Amazon.

    Keep at it Johnny, can’t wait to see what comes next from my favourite blogger and author!


  10. Thanks for explaining all this. I recently put something up on Amazon (and Smashwords) and there’s going to be more, so there’s a lot to learn. I’m thinking of going your route with KDP, and also putting up something shorter, like one of my most popular posts as you did. Thanks for the idea.

    More important, though–the book is freakin great. I’ve only finished up to–I think Part/Book two (after Capt Dipshit’s scene at the new bagel place) and realize there’s a ways to go. I have a Nook so it’s not as easy to get to on my laptop with the free Kindle, and I don’t want to set my bed on fire with it or something (har read that happened somewhere) but it’s what I’ll be reading every eve until I’m done.

    Have to say, I rarely laugh out loud over stuff I read (even though I use lol quite a bit online)–I mean, something might be funny but it’s more of an internal little quiet chuckle. But I’ve literally–really–roared out loud with some of this stuff–geez! Dogs keep staring at me. I think the stuff just clicks in my head and I get it or something. Hilarious.

    Anyway, def. will do a review but not until I’m done, because I have a feeling I’m going to see it all tied together in some way, themes emerging etc. It really is good, and I’m very sure you’ll be doing well with it as time goes on.

  11. Johnny I really appreciate your honesty and candor. It’s quite a change from what we most often see online. It was extremely kind of you to walk us through the entire process. Man, I felt like I was really there!

    But yeah, sometimes this stuff really does make you think WTF! Something you put your heart into goes nowhere, while another thing you slap together (comparatively speaking) is more successful. Go figure!

  12. Hey Johnny. As an enthusiastic follower of your site and topics I have to suggest that you clean up and moderate the comments. Those last 2 are obviously spam .

    I subscribe to most all of your post because of the type of people your site attracts. They are usually exciting, entertaining and down right crazy … and I love it!

    But when the crap gets through it kind of devalues the thread. I actually look forward to reading the comments and this is the “fool me twice” time I came to read a new post and it made me want to unsubcribe =-(

    Anyway, do you have an update on your books? How is the “copy and paste” campaign going?

  13. That’s actually really encouraging to me, in a backwards kind of way. I have a few hundred people on my list and a small Google+ following, and when I did a free promo for my rather odd SF novella Gu and pushed it through those channels, I got roughly similar numbers to what you’re describing (though, because Amazon put it in some quite narrow categories, it actually got into the top 10 for a couple of them – including Techno-Thriller, which it isn’t). It’s now back to selling very, very slowly.

    Meanwhile, a short personal development ebook which I give away free to get people on my mailing list is selling on Amazon much better than the novella, at the same 99c price, despite the fact that I haven’t said word one about it anywhere.

    It all seems pretty random. But I think you’re right: math favours the persistent artist. The more stuff I put up, the greater the chance of something breaking out (and dragging the rest along with it, by what I hear from other writers).

  14. Good shit Johnny! Glad to see some realistic results, no some over the top, omg I made a million dollars in 16 hours, crap! Good stuff! keep up the good work!


  15. Ted Kolovos says:


    your launch experience reminded me of the days I used to check how my websites were ranking in Google every day.

    I’ll have to check it out – thx for sharing !

    I love Amazon’s review system – it actually indicates if the review is from somebody that purchased the product. That was a huge improvement for them.

  16. Jalex Hansen says:

    I had crazy success with my first free book..the second not so much.
    My first free promo was the first book in a young adult sci fi series. I made it free to jump start sales. The numbers were staggering. Within the first few days I had
    20,000 downloads. I think I topped out at fifty thousand several months later. But… those readers have been returning steadily for almost nine months to read the rest of the series. And the first book, now no longer free, is still selling.
    My second book is currently free and at the end of the first day I’ve “sold” seven hundred copies. Not nearly as impressive. This book is a completely different genre and that may have some thing to do with it. I think any of the more popular genres are the best bet for a free promo…YA, fantasy, even erotica which is really popular.
    It may also be that the days of the enormous free downloads are over.
    I’m of the mind that any promotion is good promotion if it gets you out there.
    Good Luck!
    Jalex Hansen

    • Johnny says:

      I suspect it might be about sound principles holding out and staying the same, while tools and gimmicks come and go. The free strategy was just one thing to try, but I think the truth is that book promotion is still a long-term thing, and is pretty evergreen for most fiction. Meaning: I don’t need a whiz-bang strategy that will kill it THIS WEEK… I need a sensible strategy over time that will slowly ramp up.

  17. Shirley says:

    I loved this post and want to save it for the time when it might be applicable in my case. (I’m under contract for a memoir to be published next year).

    Found you through The Creative Penn tweet.

    This post should do something for your sales.

    Please let us know. I LOVE when authors and publishers are transparent about sales. Many of them are not. Wishing you all the best. And like your mama said, “Hard work pays in the end.”

    • Johnny says:

      Thank you! I’ve barely marketed any of this, so it really is just a contained launch within a closed circle right now. Round 2 coming up.

  18. Awesome blog! Do you have any helpful hints for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything.

    Would you recommend starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option?
    There are so many options out there that I’m totally confused ..
    Any suggestions? Appreciate it!


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