Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Mystery of the 22nd


Amazon can work in mysterious ways, it seems. On the 22nd of the last two months, Amazon was working in mysterious ways for me.

When a new book is introduced you usually see a spike of downloads. (Actual sales are a different story unless you already have a built-in audience. Unknown authors and their books often remain unknown without a great deal of promotion and luck.) Anyway, after the initial spike the downloads slowly taper off. For example, by April 2017, some 7-8 months after my last release, I would see downloads in the 1 - 7 books per day range. To put that in perspective, if I were selling these books, sales of 1 copy per day would put that book into the upper 5-6% of books sales on Amazon. A lot of books on Amazon don't sell. A few books sell a lot. So, when I noticed that on May 22nd, I had 96 downloads, I knew that something unusual had to account for that jump, since I'd done nothing to spark such a spike. But what?

I've noticed unexplained spikes like several times this before. At the time I thought perhaps they might have been due to a new review or some sort of mention outside of Amazon. However, I could never find with Google searches any outside reason for the spike. The alternative is that Amazon did something to promote my books, though why and what is a mystery. Perhaps it was featured on the Kindle app or Fire tablets under suggested reading, or something. Strange. On the 23rd of May downloads had dropped of slightly -- to 69, but even so both The Bright Black Sea and Castaways of the Lost Star where in the top 3,000 to 4,000 best "sellers" in the free category out of 100,000. After that downloads dropped off to the 5 - 10 downloads a day rate. Until the 22 of June.

On the 22 of June 211 books of mine downloaded -- 54 A Summer in Amber, 50(!!!) Some Day Days, 54 The Bright Black Sea, and 53 Castaways of the Lost Star. The relatively even spread of download numbers is curious, especially for Some Day Days, which never "sells" well. Again, no obvious explanation for this jump, but what it is interesting that it once again occurred on the 22nd of the month. Unlike the May spike, it dropped off the following day, though I did have an echo of it on the 28th of June with a 60 book download day.

I hadn't been paying attention to my daily downloads last month, so I only discovered the spike when I went to enter my "sales" into my own charts. Again, I can think of no explanation for the spike -- I don't see it reflected in my blog views, and Google searches turn up no evidence of the books being reviewed, or shared, though my Smashwords downloads also showed a minor spike on May 22, though not on June 22nd. My wife says that she's seen what may be ads for Castaways of the Lost Star on her Facebook feed. Which is rather mysterious, but then, I know nothing about how Facebook works, so what they were, is actually an open question, perhaps it simply had to do with the shared "Litka" name. In any event, their appearance seems to bear no relationship to the spikes. All I know is that the spike in downloads happened on Amazon.com, not in any of its other non-US sites. (Though I noticed that Amazon UK now lists the star rating from the US site with the book. In the past, only ratings from the UK store were used, but this change did not account for the spike.)

Amazon offers authors many ways of promoting one's books -- if you pay them. Now I'm not paying them, so if Amazon is promoting my books, it is out of the goodness of its heart. Which seems a bit strange. Perhaps they use open slots on their Kindle apps and Fire tablets to promote as "bargains" free books. I could inquire about this, though i am far from sure I'd get more than a vague explanation, if any, and well, I live my life according to old folk-wisdom, so I let sleeping dogs lie. If they are promoting my books, without mentioning it to me, I  think it's best not rock the boat by inquiring. Besides, I am curious to see what the 22 of July brings.

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