Many authors have sought this title in the last few years with a targeted campaign to sell a ton of books in one week through the specific retailers that report to the publication. I once turned up my nose at the authors who banded together in box sets to offer their 10 book sets at 99 cents to cash in on this phenomena of making the USA Today Bestseller List with a deal most romance readers can't resist.
That was years ago and now I'm one of those authors. The sad reality is that you can buy your way to the Bestseller list with either enough money or a nice deal with a big publishing company who will promote your book. The lists aren't a true reflection of the best books, nor are they stacked with Indie authors spending advertising dollars to reach the list (money that the big publishers spend on their new releases).
It's a game just like all advertising. That's not to say that many of the books that reach the top 150 aren't worthy of the accolades. In our week, there were books by investigative reporters, super megastar celebrity writers, reality show star memoirs, children's books by beloved children's authors, cookbooks, SAT exam guides and of course, us. We have a Box Set of 10 Christmas Romances.
How did we make it? We started early knowing if we waited until November to release our Christmas books, we'd compete with all the other Christmas Romance box sets going for the list.
In past years, I've started late. I also did a box set of Christmas Suspense books with an ominous cover and that did not even get close to listing.
I contacted authors mid-August and got 9 commitments to write a new novella with a Mistletoe Lodge in the story somewhere. I needed a couple of really successful heavy hitters in contemporary romance at the head of the line to pull people in. Sabrina York, Tamara Ferguson, Jen Talty, Natalie Ann all have pedigree in the genre and box set followers.
The common theme of having a Mistletoe Lodge in each book would be our catch. That and donating to St. Jude's which was something we did last year as well, but did not make the list. The years before we donated to Breast Cancer Research.
We knew if we launched our book in late October to get ahead of the pack, we only had two months of presales to accumulate for dumping day on Oct 21st. We didn't have the 3 months allowed on Amazon for presales, or more, if you publish wide at Nook and iBooks. Longer presale periods are allowed over there, which is recommended if you're hoping to make the USA TODAY list. We had 60 days before launch.
We had a cover done quickly, wrote a blurb and published as a presale with launch day October 21st, a Tuesday. We chose that day of the week because we knew USA Today tabulated sales Sunday to Sunday and sales tended to trickle late in on Monday as well as presales dropping early sometimes on a Monday night instead of a Tuesday. We needed to include those presales. Tuesday is the day.
I compiled a FREE cookbook with Christmas recipes and crafts to advertise the set, calling it by the same name with the words Cookbook at the end. 50 recipes plus additional bonus craft ideas. I put the buy links on almost every page for our box set and we included recipes talked about in our books (that weren't finished yet.) I launched the cookbook everywhere and it shot to the top of the FREE lists everywhere.
While I set up the main ads, saving the best ones for launch week, we wrote our stories and promoted on Facebook, Twitter and BookBub. Getting a #1 BADGE on Amazon early helped. Our categories were obscure, giving us the best chance to reach #1 faster. We could see our numbers in presales and knew which ads helped the most.
Each author had contributed $500 so we had $5,000 to work with to support our book. A lot was spent on FB ads. Amazon ads weren't all that effective, nor were BookBub ads, we found. The ROI was not good. For USA Today, you need at least 500 sales combined from B&N and iBooks (we were told Kobo didn't count but it does, it turns out) so we spent a lot of money to try to get those sales at sites other than Amazon. Certain ads did better than others. Book Doggy had a great ROI, Robin Reads, Fussy Librarian, and some others. We found a Facebook Nook site and used that twice. Some ads that don't allow you to post more than every two months, were used twice. Once at the beginning of presales and again launch week.
We concentrated on e ads but did make up postcards to give out at several writers' conferences where we raffled off Xmas gift baskets. We offered Nook users bonuses on Facebook and we set up a presale bonus to try to drive sales to dump on launch day.
On launch day we loaded over 3,000 sales to our Kindle site and saw we had over 1,000 reported on Draft 2 Digital. Our biggest, most expensive ads were stacked all launch week, some days having 2 biggies. The ads went out Tuesday to Sunday, to get as many sales as possible. We ended the week (6 days) with 6500 sales on Kindle. Sunday, all day, we were gifting books on Amazon to anyone with an email address who wanted one. Several of us attended a big FB reader party and got our gift recipients there. We just wanted to do everything we possibly could do so that if/when we didn't make the List, we could say we tried everything.
Launch week, we started spending our own (extra) money for FB ads. Before we launched we'd set up a link on BookFunnel with nine FREE books (including a chocolate cookbook) for anyone who ordered the book in presale or bought during launch week and advertised bonuses to buy early. We weren't beyond bribery, at all! Beautiful posters were created by our authors and we even had a terrific video!
By Sunday night, several of us had been online for pretty much 48 hours selling, promoting and giving away books.
We couldn't figure out how to give away Nook books if the recipient didn't have a B&N account set up and iTunes/iBooks is just about impossible to figure out even if you have the iBooks app. As well as needing a 2D cover, iBooks also will not take a placeholder book until the day you need to upload the actual book so remember to leave the book file empty at D2D! We lost a week of iBook sales just before we launched because they delisted it due to the placeholder book not being the correct book. I'd uploaded last year's box set to hold the place and show a set of 1200 pages.
We also had contracts drawn up, giving me, the publisher, permission to use the author's individual books until the agreed upon delisting date. Each author signed the contract and sent it back to me in case I got into any copyright problems. I sent these in to Customer Service and to Contact Us just to be safe weeks before launch. We'd heard of sales being halted for a week while Amazon straightened out copyright rights and didn't want it to happen to us.
Then, knowing there was nothing else we could do, we waited for the list to come out. Although the official list is released Thursday, the PDF comes out Wednesday afternoon. We discovered it around 2 pm, PST and although I only checked the last 50 of the 150, and saw we hadn't made it, I later looked at the whole list and realized that I'd been wrong. I never thought we'd do better than 100, so I only checked the bottom 50. I was disappointed to not see our title and started processing that it hadn't worked out for us. Imagine how happy I was to see us on there at #88.
Five minutes later, I saw our title was at #88! We made it. Not only made it but were in the top 100! With roughly 8,000 sales, 1200 of them not Kindle, we'd made the list.
Our group started texting, calling, emailing, posting our happiness. It was such a great feeling. I almost cried. I texted my agent and my husband first, then the other authors.
Days later, we were still in awe that we made it. Starting early had worked in our favor. Several others in our group had hit the list with box sets earlier in the year and never without less than 10,000 sales so we weren't sure how but we were so grateful that everything lined up and our box set landed somewhere in the middle of the pack.
Now, after a week of good sales, we have delisted on Draft 2 Digital in preparation of raising the price and entering the book into Kindle Unlimited Select to help recoup costs so we can eventually make money to send to St. Jude's. On KU, counting page reads in a 1200 page book, will help us as will the $2.99 price as Christmas gets closer. We're able to advertise that all authors are USA Today Bestselling, the book is a USA Today Bestseller and we've maintained #1 in many categories for several months, including dog breeds, medical romance, Christmas books and Christmas Kindle. Dog breeds is a category that doesn't have a lot of bestsellers and there are a lot of dogs in our books!
It was a marketing game with $5,000. to spend. I estimate 4 or 5 of us spent an extra $100 - $200 to support the book on launch week, but I don't have exact numbers. Some wanted to make the list more than others. I was at the top of the pack in desperation because it was a professional milestone I wanted. This is why I put the set together and dropped everything for 2 months to devote myself to this book. I pretty much ignored my own book's launch in late September, didn't speak to my family much for a month and was very hard to live with towards the end while we waited to hear if we'd made it.
Was it worth it? For me, it was. I hope the other authors think so too.
Writing is such a solitary profession and any time you can band together to work with others, it's a joy. We've had a lot of fun on our Facebook page posting anything and everything to communicate with each other. It's how we share information, ask questions, share ideas and feel a part of a club.
The USA Today Bestselling Author Club!
KIM HORNSBY is the bestselling Amazon Author of The Dream Jumper's Promise, Book 1 in a Supernatural Suspense series. She lives in the Seattle area and writes stories for women about overcoming tragedy, adversity and coming out the other end.
Find her on Amazon Books.