From March 2016:
I’m in the process of rebooting a series whose sales had fallen, so I thought I would share the results before it goes BOOM next week with a Bookbub ad.
This is my steampunk fantasy romance trilogy. It’s well-reviewed and has sold some in the past, but this mish-mash of genres, plus the small size of the steampunk market in general, has held this series back. I’ve been wanting to reboot for some time as a “sweet romance” (because it’s that as well as fantasy and steampunk) but I didn’t because TIME and also I didn’t feel like I really understood the sweet romance market.
STEP 1 – THE MARKET – I finally got around to chatting with some friends who sold sweet romance, getting some ideas about newsletter ads that would target those readers, plus I took a hard look at the bestseller charts and tried to figure out where my books would fit best. I discovered a new “clean and wholesome” category under romance, and also realized that my steampunk romance could plausibly fit under “historical victorian romance”. Based on rankings, there were a significant number of books selling in those categories, def more than steampunk. And in studying the top-selling books, I discovered a sub-genre of “royal romances” that would fit my east-Indian-royalty romance adventures quite nicely.
STEP 2 – COVERS/BLURBS – now that my penname is well-experienced in writing romance, I was able to rewrite the blurbs for the trilogy into “romance-style” blurbs (I also studied the blurbs of the top 100 in its new category). Then I had Steven Novak redo the covers to fit the new genre, adding a touch (a crown) and a new series name (The Royals of Dharia) that branded it as a “royal romance” as I was going after that readership.
STEP 3 – SURPRISE #1 – the books started to sell almost immediately with no promo. Granted, they weren’t selling much at all before (about $60/month for the trilogy), but sales more than tripled with no changes other than the cover, blurb, and category. This is the power of Amazon’s algos working behind the scenes for you all the time. (see graph below – you can tell right when I changed the covers and sales/borrows picked up)
STEP 4 – SURPRISE #2 – landing a bookbub ad. I’ve been trying to get a BB for this series for over 2 years, but no dice. Bookbub didn’t know how to categorize it any more than readers did, which was why it wasn’t selling (not because of the book content inside so much – reviews were very positive). But with a change in cover/blurb (same sales/reviews as before), suddenly I was able to land a BB ad.
STEP 5 …. PROFIT! #lol My bookbub runs on Sunday. I’ve stacked a bunch of ads all week. I’m running a 5-day free run on the first book in the series, with the intent of gaining visibility, securing some romance also-boughts, and attracting the notice of borrowers (it’s in KU) that will hopefully readthrough the rest of the series (and possibly my other books as well). (Note: even though the book will be “free” some people will still “borrow” it and those will count for PAID pagereads… as well as boost the post-free-run ranking). Further, the BB is in YA, so it’s possible those borrowers/readers will cross over to my other books as well (wish I had scored a BB in romance, but we’ll hope for that another day – BB may know what it’s doing with having sweet romances in YA anyway).
So, wish me luck! I’m sure the BB will net out some money and get this series I love in the hands of more readers.
MORAL OF THE STORY: reboots can happen any time. No series is dead forever. But you may have to get creative.
ANCILLARY NOTE: sometimes books just are really hard to categorize and aren’t going to hit the market in a major way. That’s okay, too. I’d given this series enough time to play out in the steampunk market, I was ready to try something new with it. But always chasing after the low-sellers in your portfolio (rather that writing something new that’s high-selling) is not generally a good ROI on your time. These changes above took a bit of time and money, but I’ll make the money back, and the time was worth it to me to get a story I love into more reader-hands. YMMV.