Apologies for the clickbait headline. It’s true, though: my per-day income from Wanderlust has gone up more than 4 times since I commissioned a new cover for it about a month ago. Not huge sales, mind you, but steady ones. For now, as the unknown author of a single book, I’ll take it.
Here’s the background. Before I published the book, I commissioned a cover from a graphic designer and got this:
It was … okay. The designer was very nice to work with, but it wasn’t really all that inspired or professional looking. So I took the basic text and came up with this:
Oh, much better! I loved the photo, the heart in the coffee (coffee is a recurring theme in the book), the artsy sepia tone. Dozens of people told me how much they liked it. I was very pleased with myself, and this is the cover Wanderlust launched with. Even before it launched, it had something like 18 reviews on Goodreads with an average rating of 4+ stars. I took out ads (totalling about $50) in several venues popular with romance readers and figured I was good to go.
And then … crickets.
Well, not complete crickets. I sold 28 copies and had 6 borrows over the first week. But since it was on sale for $0.99 for the first four days, each of those sales was worth only about $0.35. I made a total of $22.68 the first week, at which point things dropped off almost completely.
But hey, a single book by an unknown author can’t be expected to hit the bestseller lists straight out of the gate. No problem—I got to work on my next book and just kept my fingers crossed.
Over the rest of February, I had exactly 2 sales and 2 borrows. Terrible. I couldn’t figure it out. The book had good reviews. People liked it. It should have been selling a bit more than that. So I tried another $0.99 promotion in mid-March (promoted with ads from Fussy Librarian and BKnights) and had a grand total of … 3 sales and 1 borrow. My per-day income from the book was $.65/day.
For a book that now had 20 reviews and 4+ stars on Amazon, this was a disaster.
I had one more promotion planned for the week of April 6: a Goodreads giveaway. I wasn’t expecting sales (it was a giveaway, after all) but I knew it was a good opportunity to get a lot of eyeballs on the book and I wanted to make it count. So I humbled myself to ask for feedback on KBoard Writer’s Cafe about why it wasn’t selling. (You can read the entire thread here if you like). Pretty much down the line, everyone agreed that my lovely cover was ALL WRONG for the genre.
Thanks to that KBoards thread, I found Christa Holland of Paper & Sage Designs and asked for a rush cover. Within a few days, I had this:
I timed the first day of the Goodreads giveaway to coincide with a free day on Amazon. The results were good enough that I kept it free for three days, at the end of which it had been downloaded 3795 times. It hit #10 and #11 in the free categories for women’s fiction>romance and contemporary fiction>romance, respectively, and briefly made it into the top 100 of all free books. Finally, I had my eyeballs.
In the 29 days since the giveaway started, I’ve sold 12 copies and had 50 borrows, and my per-day earnings have gone up to $3.10.* Okay, it’s not going to put my kids through college, but now I feel like I’m closer to where I should be as a new author with a single, decent book. I haven’t had any new reviews on Amazon, but I did get a couple new reviews and several new ratings on Goodreads, so I’m confident that at least a few people are actually reading the free copy they got.
Now, I’ll never know for sure to what extent it was the giveaway/free days and to what extent it was the cover change that got the ball rolling, but given how few sales I made at the $0.99 price point, even with good advertising and solid reviews, I suspect the book wouldn’t have gotten nearly as many free downloads with the old cover.
Lessons learned—get feedback, go pro.
And now—on to Book #2!
*Since my borrows outnumber my sales significantly and because the amount that Amazon pays authors per borrow changes from month to month, this is an estimate based on the last known borrow rate.