This whole indie publishing thing is a daily learning process. Just when you think you've got it worked out, your formula doesn't work. When I wrote "The Christmas Cottage", I did not set out to write a best seller. It just happened. Only I didn't realize that until about two months after its release.
What does that mean? Well, here I was thinking that I was doing something phenomenal with my cheap and free marketing. The truth was that I released a romantic holiday novella at Christmas time and people enjoy a holiday themed book. It was priced at .99 cents as an ebook and so basically, the planets lined up on that one and I had a best seller.
When I wrote the follow-up, "Ever After", there was no hook; there was no holiday that it was tied into and so I was just hoping to ride the coattails of the success of "The Christmas Cottage". I marketed the same way; utilized a lot of the same websites that offered free or low cost promotions. And I got two VERY different results. "The Christmas Cottage" went into the top 100 Best Seller List in the Kindle Store in eight days. "Ever After"? It has never gotten that high on the list.
Well, that's not totally true; let me clarify. The Kindle Store is the listing of ALL Kindle books. Then it gets broken down into genres. So while "Ever After" has (just recently) been on the best seller list, it was in sub-sub-SUB genre categories.
I did the free promo option on "Ever After" and STILL didn't break the top 100 in the Kindle Store. And I did not get the bounce-back sales that I've heard people talk about, either, after their free days.
I have blogged, tweeted, Tumblr'd, Facebooked...everything I could to spread the word about BOTH books and lightning did NOT strike twice. I've come to learn through multiple indie authors that what happened with "The Christmas Cottage" sales-wise, was not the norm. What I am experiencing with "Ever After" is. A month after it's release, some random romance web-site promoted it on their bargain e-book day and I sold almost 800 books on that day alone! That was more than I had sold in the month! That was pure luck.
I'm learning to not obsess about the numbers and to not rely on this income. I thought that I was going to be a bit more on easy-street when I was seeing the sales from "The Christmas Cottage" but have quickly learned that that was a seemingly one-time deal and I was lucky to experience it.
So what makes a best seller on Amazon? There seemingly is no direct answer. They took away the like button so there goes that. You need to get reviews. THAT is a biggie. The more reviews the better (and even more so when they are GOOD reviews). But I've seen well-known authors having to essentially beg for reviews so imagine how hard it is for little ol' unknown me to get them!
I'm going to keep writing. I'm going to keep marketing the way that I do and maybe someday I'll luck out and get noticed by a big review site or by someone who just likes my work and I'll be able to get on and stay on the best seller list again.