2013 was a year of big Bookbub promotions, and the best of the Nook First sales. I have no idea why Barnes and Noble and Nook ever stopped providing Nook Press authors and publishers with advertising opportunities like that one, but they lost a ton of sales when they did, if Crossroad Press is any indication. Series like Ed Gorman’s Robert Payne Psychic Detective, Bill Crider’s western detectives, and Deborah Morgan’s Antique Lover’s Myseteries did well at B&N. Well enough to crack our top ten for the year – a year where we jumped from about 121k sales to nearly 147k.
My own collarborative novel with author Steven Savile – the weird western HALLOWED GROUND – also did very well that year. We started to bring John Skipp & Craig Spector’s books out in eBook and in audio, and continued to publish works by Clive Barker in both formats.
Above are covers and links to the bestselling titles of 2013. These are all worth your attention. Some bestsellers – all with a decent number of reviews.
It was a year of new series works, and surprises. We published a book titled ON THE STRENGTH OF WINGS – by Christine Matthews that year. It took off on Barnes and Noble and to this day we have no explanation. John Skipp was chosen that year to do a B&N blog post about horror novels, and he drove a bunch of sales. There was still a lot of competition, but in those days a quick burst of visibility could turn a book into a success over night.
One thing about books by authors who are still popular, but have a backlist, is you often find yourself in a situation where you have “part” of a series. We got the first (I think) ten novels in Bill Crider’s Dan Rhodes Series, but were unablt to get the newer ones. They were also in audio, and we had to wait on that. Sometimes we’d get all the books in a series except the first one, or start at #5 and have to try and match up as well as possible. There was – in most cases – no postive for the author, and very little loss if the original publishers had returned rights to books they have no intention of publishing, but that’s an entirely different story.
About this time we started regretting some decisions in audio, and realizing we’d rushed in (albeit pushed by one of the earlier folks in charge of ACX to have as many titles as we could by a certain date). For one, we saddled a new narrator with no credits or real experience with Irving Wallace’s THE MAN which is SOOO long. We found a few voices we trusted and piled on hard – while allowing some to take on more than they could reasonably handle and missing deadlines right and left. There are always growing pains.
We met the heir to author David Pedneau that year and picked up his series of detective novels. It seemed like the flow of titles would prove endless (it still feels that way at times). We were dealing with more agents, and it was always interesting. For a bigger agent, the small sums we’d bring in didn’t seem like much of a draw. Others tried to convince us to pay advances, or to guarantee sales, but we held our ground. Most of the titles we published in the early years were still available on the secondhand market for a buck or two in used paperback. The model, and the goal, has been a sort of a hybrid partnership. We don’t pay up front – we just pay a higher percentage, monthly, and consistently.
Marketing has always been the conundrum. Traditional book marketing, NYC style, meant forking over hundreds of dollars to have a quarter page in a magazine, or even more for one of the trades, but this sort of marketing didn’t really work for eBooks. The simple truth was, and is, that if you present a buying option that requires more than one click of a mouse, you are going to lose most sales. You have to have an instant buy. In the days before smart phones, you could not include QR code, just a printed URL, and if it was for a publisher, that meant searching the publisher’s site for the book you were interested in. Simply no longer worth the money.
For Crossroad Press the problem was larger. We weren’t selling one or two books, we were already selling hundreds. If we advertised a single book or series, our share of sales on that ad would have to more than equal the payout, or it was another zero-sum proposition. We tried. One thing I have tried several times to push but can’t seem to get traction on is collaboration. We (currently) have close to 500 authors we have worked with, are working with, etc. Many have fandoms, websites, newsletters, etc. Drawing on that collective reach, if all or most of those authors would contribute, reciprocate, spread the word – we could have an organic reach of thousands. Sadly, it is rare when this sort of thing occurs. If I could just win the lottery…
We’ve built a number of versions of our website. We’ve tried selling eBooks and audiobooks direct, but most people buy where they are comfortable – like Amazon – and with the sheer volume of titles we had available, updating the website to include everything became impossible. It fell behind often, and while I explained that no one bought from our site, and it was not a personal jab, authors whose new book or author page weren’t up to date would e-mail almost daily. When we say we are small – three people (two mostly) doing the majority of EVERYTHING – we mean that. We have lives, careers, families, and sometimes it can become too much to keep up with. Most of the years of our existence our website’s biggest contribution was it cost a lot of money and we could deduct it at tax time. (End short rant).
This was a mostly steady time, building on 2012, where things were working on a reasonably even keel. For us it was a big year of growth.