How not to sell 10,000 eBooks in one month

Posted: May 2, 2011 in #ebooks, #self publishing, Creating A Buzz, Uncategorized

How not to sell 10,000 eBooks in one month

I was taken aback, when my article, “J Carson Black sells 10,000 eBooks in April …How did she do it?”, created controversy on kindle boards, in the writers’ cafe forum. The moderator deleted a number of member’s posts. I just wonder if some of those with deleted comments should have read my previous article on, ‘The mysterious ways of Amazon and kindle forums’, as well as the kindle-board forum rules, before diving in feet first and baiting, or rising to the bait of others in full view of readers and buyers of eBooks. The original article has proved to be very successful from the support I have received with private messages from new authors considering self-publishing and the articles intended audience. J Carson Black’s honesty in revealing the reasons for her success to new authors starting out in self-publishing and featured in this week’s Creating a Buzz on my blog, is to be applauded

Some comments on the forum made me step back and think about what I said and for those who misinterpreted what I had to say, or should I say, took from the article what they chose to use as an axe to grind, I decided the turn the article on its head. Hence the title … “How not to sell 10,000 eBooks in one month.” But first let me tell you a story, because that is what I do best … It won’t win any literary prizes, as it only took me ten minutes to knock together, but maybe what it says puts the point across a little differently than the original article.

Read it here, and feel free to comment.


The Secret.

Declan took up a position as the manager of a television rental shop. He loved the notion of renting goods, which involved building a customer base, with plenty of repeat business to secure his long-term future. He set about doing what he was trained to do by Maggie, a tutor on a retail business course he attended and organised the shop accordingly. It came as a surprise, when the area manager contacted him and gave him the good news that his shop had rented more televisions in a particular month than any other shop and he asked Declan to reveal his secret. Of course he didn’t have a secret, he was just doing the job in the way he been taught and put it down to good luck. The area manager continued to press for the secret of his success, which he honestly didn’t know. The shop was full of customers that needed attention and to get him off the phone, he told him he liked to throw open the doors and play loud music to attract the customers inside to buy. It seemed to satisfy him and off he went. The rest of the day, Declan kept dwelling on the area manager’s question and he was desperate to find out the answer for his own good.

After a few days, Declan was inundated with angry calls from other managers. Apparently, a memo had been sent to all the other shops to open their doors and play loud music. With winter setting in and most of the shops located in high streets, well, you can imagine their displeasure, especially as their sales failed to increase.

The area manager moved on to new pastures and Declan was elated when he was promoted to take over the area manager duties. He set off on a tour of his new empire, full of hope.

The first shop he arrived at, he looked for the hot spot in the window as he approached in the manner of a customer passing by, to see if the display attracted his eye. There wasn’t a hot spot; it looked more like something representing his ten-year-old daughter’s redesigned bedroom after a sleepover. At the next shop, he listened into a sales person going through his routine sales pitch with a customer. His opening was to say the least, uninteresting and not thought out to grab and hold the customer’s attention. The customer gave his excuses and left. At the third shop, he was more encouraged. The window display was attractive and his eyes were drawn to the television in the hotspot. A sales person was holding the attention of a customer and was almost at the point of closing the sale, when Declan’s heart sank and he followed the customer’s eye line to the source of her apparent displeasure. She frowned, turned and left.

The reason for the customer’s displeasure was clear. The display she had glanced at, revealed a television with a picture that was rolling. Another television had a picture that was dull. Even worse, the hand written advertising caption over the television read “Bargin of the Day.” When Declan confronted the manager about the state of the goods on display and pointed to the television with the dull screen with the misspelt caption, all the manager could say was, “Well … it is a bargain price.”

With time to inspect one more shop, he crossed his fingers and headed for the location. Everything seemed to be perfect, from the hot spot to the display. There were not many customers, but the sales people seemed to be alert to their needs. As he approached the manager, all hell let loose as the manager started to argue with one of his staff in full view of the customers. The few customers that were there, made their excuses and left. Declan’s face flamed and he interrupted the argument and demanded he talk to the manager in his office. A customer, paying their account at the cashier’s desk grabbed Declan by the arm.

“He’s always arguing in front of customers, I’m thinking of taking my account elsewhere, you should sack him.”

After he reprimanded the manager for the altercation he had witnessed and made it clear that what he had heard would not be tolerated, it was down to business, Declan took out a spreadsheet of the sales figures and laid them out on the desk.

“Your shop is perfect, other than curtailing your arguing in front of customers, is there anything else you can tell me why think your sales are so poor and what you can do you increase them?”

“Competition. The other outlets in town have been going longer than my shop and have a much bigger customer base, so I can’t see how I can increase sales to their levels.”

“Have you looked at the competition and thought about what made them successful in the first place?” Declan Asked.”Maybe you could pick up some ideas. I’m not expecting overnight success, but we need to set out a plan to up the sales.”

“I’m not sure, I know some of the names, but I never get chance to leave the shop to find out what they are doing that makes them successful.”

“What are you doing with your local advertising budget?”

“I advertise in the local monthly upmarket magazines. It saves time having to prepare copy for the daily newspapers.”

“Really. Do you think people with disposable income to buy televisions are likely to be your target market for renting televisions? Then there’s the question of the frequency of the publications? I think we need to change that towards your target market in the daily newspapers.”


Declan sat in his car and made a list of his findings and the steps he would need to put in place to make things right. He knew it wouldn’t be easy and it would take time to rectify, but with determination, hard work and a will to succeed. He knew what had to be done.


Twelve months later and Declan sat at his general manager’s desk, reflecting on the attention to basic details that had gained him his success from the simple advice given by Maggie during his training. He opened his mail, surprised to see an application for a management position and a C.V. from his old area manager. He recalled the phone call when the area manager asked for his secret of his sales success and considered what would have happened if he could have given him the answers that he now knew… as simple as they were.

Declan sighed and reached out to put the application in his IN tray. He wrote out a note thanking his old area manager for writing to him, but declining his application and moved the file to his OUT tray. A moment’s hesitation and he retrieved the application, having decided he owed him the truth of the secret he had asked for and gave him details of Maggie’s training course.

“God bless you Maggie and thank you,” said Declan as he placed the application in his OUT tray and prepared for another hard day of work.


Please send editing suggestions on a post card C/O … CIA listening post, Alaska.

If you need to know what this story has to do with the price of potatoes, then we are reading from a different page. lol.

Copyright notice … This story is fictional and any inference taken that Maggie is portrayed as the author, J Conran Black, I can assure you is entirely intentional.

Creating a Buzz page, featuring J Carson Black, Simon Swift and Black Shadows and Joanne Ellis of Spoilt fame.

  1. Joe Gellene says:

    Well said. I just saw the thread on Kindleboards. Seems like a recipe for success in any field.

    I tell my kids all the time: Do what you need to do to reach your goals. If you don’t want to do the work, change your goals. It’s as simple as that. Of course it irritates them but they do the work anyway.


  2. alexadena says:

    Very nice, Declan!

    I’m only six weeks into my decision to self-publish but I’ve learned quickly that it really is all about the work you put into this. It is so much more than just writing something and seeing if it sticks. Yes, there are some fundamentals that are true for every novel — writing, editing, cover. But understanding your market and spending each and every day connecting with that market spells the difference between success and failure. There are no secrets — just elbow grease.


    • declanconner says:

      Basically that is all it is. Of course everyone would like to think there is a magic formula, but it is really about attention to detail in every aspect of publishing and hard work The rest is in the lap of God.


  3. Tawny Taylor says:

    EXCELLENT story! Loved it!


  4. louise says:

    That was great! And it’s all so true. Marketing is hard, but so rewarding when it all comes together.


  5. […] a BuzzDeclan Conner's Survival Instinct breaks kindle top 100 for crime thrillers in GermanyHow not to sell 10,000 eBooks in one month Authors: Setting the price of eBooks. The debate.Creating a buzz […]


  6. totallyskewed says:

    I saw your link on KB. Great story! And, yes, it gets straight to the heart of the matter.


  7. KJ Kron says:

    Good advice – still at a loss.


    • declanconner says:

      There is no magic bullet. Yes you can pay attention to detail and I know you have done that. The important factor is getting noticed by the Amazon algorithms for them to promote your book as “also Boughts” The only way to win at this is to sell a large number of books in a short space of time which can be down to luck or having many friends an family download at release. Other than that it is word of mouth following the fruits of your combined marketing effort.


    • K. A. Jordan says:

      I’ve been marketing ‘Let’s Do Lunch’ for a year now. I’ve had some success and a couple of months of zero sales.

      When I released a free short story on ‘Smashwords’ – with a blurb in the back for “Lunch” I also put a banner ad on Nookboards ($10 per month, 12k impressions per month.)

      B&N has always been my strongest market. I also cut the price for the summer to $.99.

      I’ve gone from selling 2 copies a month to 6, in the slowest season of the year.

      Into this mix I added 2 more short stories by my Mom – e-pulp fiction, for $.99. This cranked it up to 10 sales for June. Then I joined the Smashwords promo, put everything up for free, this brought total ‘sales’ to 291 (not counting the actual paid sales, of which there are 9.)

      EVERY one of those files has the blurb or the link for “Lunch” AND the blurb for the new novel ‘Swallow the Moon’ in the back.

      I’ve also sent out ARC copies to Candy’s Raves and Red Adept Reviews to promote the new novel.

      I expect to see a steady increase in sales to the end of the year. This is very, very slow compared to the numbers of some people. I know that. However, the point isn’t ‘Let’s Do Lunch’ and it’s sales. The point is sales for ‘Swallow the Moon’ which has taken me a year to get ready to launch. I’ve got nearly 500 copies of various works out, all with the blurb for ‘Swallow the Moon’ in the back.

      The best advertisment for your book is the next book. Just keep updating the outgoing copies with links to your author pages and blurbs for the next work.


      • declanconner says:

        Sorry I’d missed your post. I agree that the best advertisement is your next book and you do right to include it. To wait until a few days before release is no time to start thinking about marketing. Those 500 potential readers are lost if they only think you have one book in you.


  8. […] thriller eBooks in Aprilkindle formattingThe mysterious ways of Amazon and kindle forums revealed.How not to sell 10,000 eBooks in one month Creating a buzzPOD formattingShort story thriller: German and English versions in one eBook. FREE […]


  9. Yes! This is something all writers really need to understand, but indie authors have more control (over success and failure) and need it even more. I was fortunate to have a local business program that did a 12 week (free!) course on how to start and build a business. Excellent advice, even though it wasn’t geared to writers, is was geared to the business of identifying, targeting, and reaching the customers. Not to mention the pragmatics of bookkeeping, forecasts, planning, and marketing.


    • declanconner says:

      Hi Kelly, thanks for taking th time to respond. You are right, self-publishing is a business. Whilst I don’t use writers terminology, the metaphor in the fable is there for attention to detail that all self publishers need to pay attention to, but it also holds good for any business. The hot spot in the window is your book cover. The sales persons sales pitch is the books blurb and the reference to a dull television picture and spelling mistake is in reference to the quality of writing and editing.

      One thing I see from time to time is a small but not insignificant number of writers who show a bad attitude on writers forums. I am sure many writers with this personality trait don’t realize that readers frequent these site too and most posts are freely available on a search of the author’s name, which is why I included arguing in front of customers.

      The rest is as you say is standard business sense and holds true for any business, so I am sure your course will pay dividends.

      Of course I am not suggesting that everyone can sell 10,000 eBooks in a month. That was simply a marketing headline to attract traffic to my site. There are many degrees and stages of success. Just publishing a book is a massive achievement in itself.


  10. Piper says:

    Thanks for that, Declan. I think I’ve just learned more from your story than I have in the entire time I’ve been looking for tips and advice on any other forum. I’m only just approaching that stage of considering how to self-publish, and all the information that flies about can be intimidating and confusing. if it boils down to just believe in your work and DO the work – well, I can do that. What happens from there is out of my hands. Thanks!


  11. menck96 says:

    There is a wealth of information in this story. I learned the secret and it made me stop and think about how it applies to what I want to do with my work. Thank you Declan.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s