37:1/12/16 Price, sales and immediate feedback: the real skinny

In a much earlier post, I mentioned that my information about sales was running about 90 days behind. (A sale made in June would post up on 15 August) This was a problem for 2 reasons. 1, it made it difficult to know what impact my actions were having. Was all my social media effort making a difference? And 2, looking at my Amazon ranking, I might think I was making progress, but I had no real data to help me evaluate what my Amazon rank meant.

But since I’ve taken over direct control of my Amazon sales (with the change in the Amazon link and subsequent Google problems of showing the bad link), I now have real information. And I know just how poorly I was doing before I took over active control. April – October (that’s all the info I have as of yet from my old system) I made 57 sales. Since 14 December (less than a month), when I took over active control, I’ve made 147 sales.

A general observation. What the Amazon ranking seems to mean: If your ranking stays between 100,000 and 200,000, you are probably selling 4-5 books a week. Something like that. 200-260 books a year, more or less. If you can stay in that slot. Anything below that is just white noise; your book’s ranking being pushed around by the movement of other books. (Okay, you’re selling a book every now and again or you’d be dropping below 1,000,000.) The real action is between Amazon ranking 100,000 and 1. In that slot, you are making regular sales, and the online Kindle books sales estimators will probably give you a reasonable estimate of how you are doing.

Specifics: I dropped my price to $0.99 on Amazon and ran an ad on Ereader News Today on 5 January. I made 56 sales between 5-7 January. My Amazon rank topped out at 9,808 on 6 January. I ran an ad on BookSends on 10 January. I made 25 sales between 10-11 January. Today my Amazon rank is 35,823. Why were the BookSends sales so low compared to Ereader News Today? Was the second ad too closely spaced to the first ad? Was Sunday a bad day to run an ad? Does BookSends have less thriller readers? (Their category is “Mystery Thriller.” Ereader’s is “Thriller Suspense.”) I have no idea.

What I do know is that my current strategy of low price plus ads leads to readers. And I need readers. Now I need to find a way to take my strategy to the break-even point.

All my social media platforms continue to develop. (Thanks, friends!) One observation. If you want to reach people with a post on Facebook, do not mention a specific price in your post. Facebook will severely restrict that post’s reach in hopes of you paying to boost the post. Hey, it’s America.

Well, that’s all for now. Any thoughts? I’d love to hear from you.

34: 12/16/15 The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned This Year

You have to control your eBook distribution to Amazon yourself. In the current marketing environment, you need to able to change pricing and run contests at will, which is extremely difficult to do if you have an distributor controlling access. Plus, professionals need to be paid. Paying your distributor every time you want to change your pricing is going to add up. You, as an independent publisher, need to control costs and use your marketing money as effectively as possible.

When I started out last April, I didn’t feel comfortable loading the files for The Traveling Man into Kindle Direct myself. I wasn’t sure the eBook would look professional, and I’m no coder. So I went with BookBaby. I followed all their directions, and they created the Mobi and ePub files and did, I think, an excellent job. Plus they designed the cover from a really crappy drawing of mine. The Traveling Man went into wide distribution. Yippy!

But over time I’ve discovered that I only have sales at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iBook, and very few from the latter two, so really I don’t yet need wide distribution. Wide distribution is for someone who is well known. And to get well known, you have to get people to read, which means dropping the price until they will take a chance.

The day before yesterday, I had BookBaby stop my Amazon distribution. I uploaded my mobi file to Kindle Direct myself. Yesterday I was back up on Amazon with a new ASIN. I reinserted my professional reviews, I got my Amazon Author page working, and I got Amazon to move my customer reviews to my new page. (It was exactly the same book with the same title and author, so no problem.) I’ve been replacing the Amazon link to The Traveling Man at all the sites where I linked back to my Amazon page. I’ve got the most important ones done already, but it’s going to be a long slog before they’re all changed.

Still, this process went much more quickly and easily than I thought it would. So now I have to do a little more tweaking, then try running some sales, and on that basis decide whether to enter the KDP Select program and drop all my other distribution.

The crazy part is that I now have no Amazon best seller ranking. (Starting over, remember?) Somehow I have an Author ranking, which is not too bad, even though I have no sales. So now I‘ll be able to see how many days I go before I sell even one book. Ah, the mystery that is Amazon ranking.

As per usual, if you read The Traveling Man, I would appreciate your honest review at the place where you bought it (Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, etc.). Just scroll down to the customer review area. Doesn’t have to be an essay; eight to ten words would do the trick. (Of course, I wouldn’t turn an essay down if you had it in you.) Just looking for your honest opinion. Take a look at what others have written and you’ll get the idea.

That’s all for now. Any thoughts? I’d love to hear from you.

33: 12/08/15 Back To The Future: new Amazon link

For me to gain control of the Amazon marketing of The Traveling Man, Bookbaby has to stop distribution. I then upload The Traveling Man at Amazon myself, which means that Amazon treats it as a new book and gives it a new link. I lose my old link and Amazon ranking. In theory, I keep my reviews because the books are identical. Then I’ll have to go to all the social media places where I’ve placed my Amazon link and change it to the new one or potential readers won’t be able to find me. Yeah, I know, it’s like I’m starting over.

You can be sure that I won’t make this mistake again. Marketing control is absolutely essential to making sales. Changing the link at Facebook and Twitter won’t be difficult, but there are a lot of Pinterest pins that I’ll need to change. Plus, I’m at a Pinterest standstill until I complete this transition because I don’t want to create pins that I’ll just have to change. And this doesn’t even include changing links at all the promotion sites I’m listed at or asking reviewers to change the link in The Traveling Man review on their blog.

There couldn’t be a worse time of the year for solving this problem. But waiting won’t help. Not having marketing control is crushing my sales, so I’ve just got to go for it. (Right now, I can’t even see how my sales are going because I have to wait 90 days for Amazon to pay me to see what my sales were. Currently, I’m waiting to find out how I did in September. I’m guesstimating the size of my problem by comparing click through rates vs. actual sales vs. my Amazon bestseller ranking for a particular time period.) I still hope to be all switched over before January, when folks start spending their Amazon gift certificates and new Kindle owners start buying eBooks.

On the up side, traffic has increased on my social media sites, particularly on my Facebook writer page and at my website. Thanks to all my friends for their support!

As per usual, if you read The Traveling Man, I would appreciate your honest review at the place where you bought it (Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, etc.). Just scroll down to the customer review area. Doesn’t have to be an essay; eight to ten words would do the trick. (Of course, I wouldn’t turn an essay down if you had it in you.) Just looking for your honest opinion. Take a look at what others have written and you’ll get the idea.

That’s all for now. Any thoughts? I’d love to hear from you.

32: 12/1/15 Knowing What I Didn’t Know: Rethinking my strategy

Rethinking my strategy. Originally, back in March of this year, as I was finalizing my plans to bring out The Traveling Man, my thinking was this:

I had an excellent product (Kirkus review as evidence), so I went with a low set price ($2.99—less than a cup of coffee, no barrier to a reader) and broad distribution to as many booksellers as possible. (I went with BookBaby for distribution. They did everything they said they would.) I’d learn whatever social media I had to and by the end of the year all would be good (whatever I thought that meant).

Now I know that my thinking was entirely wrong. I still think I have a great novel. But now I know that people won’t take a chance for $2.99 because the market is flooded with books. If readers don’t already know your name and your writing, they expect free books or $.99 books. Similarly, I haven’t had all that many sales, but the vast bulk of my sales have come from Amazon. I’ve had a few sales from Barnes and Noble and iBooks, but I’ve had no sales at all from most of the booksellers The Traveling Man is distributed to. And my sales have been hurt by not being an Amazon Kindle Select author, where Amazon Prime members and Kindle unlimited members can read for free, but I get paid and it counts in my Amazon paid ranking. And so far a social media, now I know that the more well known you are, the more it helps you. For example, if I tweet “Michael King The Traveling Man new thriller January 10” and the person reading the tweet knows me, they may pay attention. But it they don’t already know me, my tweet means nothing to them. It just a stranger shouting.

So at least for now I need to retrench and find a way to narrow my distribution to Amazon, so I can take full advantage of their market strength as I get ready to bring out The Computer Heist. I have to be ready to run special discounts and use social media to get the word out. And I have to find ways to improve my social media presence and get more book reviews. Success breeds success.

I want to take a moment for a special shout out to my Rave Reviews Book Club friends. I learned a lot last week as a Spotlight Author. And I got a lot of tweets and retweets. (Which turns into a lot of looks and click-throughs, but no sales because my $2.99 price is too high. Did I tell you already that I’m a slow learner?)

As per usual, if you read The Traveling Man, I would appreciate your honest review at the place where you bought it (Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, etc.). Just scroll down to the customer review area. Doesn’t have to be an essay; eight to ten words would do the trick. (Of course, I wouldn’t turn an essay down if you had it in you.) Just looking for your honest opinion. Take a look at what others have written and you’ll get the idea.

That’s all for now. Any thoughts? I’d love to hear from you.

28: 11/3/15 Three book review types

There are three basic book review types, which serve, I think, different but overlapping purposes: the professional review, the website review, and the customer review.

The professional review, written for a review journal—Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Midwest Review, NY Times Book Review, etc—offers the validation of your work from a disinterested party. How good is your book? Such a review will tell you in terms of comparison to the other books being reviewed or having been reviewed in the past by that journal. If you can get such a review, you can use it for a cover blurb, first page blurb, etc. So you want this type of review when you first release your book or right before you release your book. And this proof of the quality of your work might be just what you need to persevere during the long, drawn-out marketing campaign that you’re about to get into. Having trouble gaining readers? Well, a good professional review tells you that your problem is marketing, not your book.

The website review, depending on the number of followers that the site has, may offer similar validation. But besides validation of the quality of your work, the website review connects you to everyone who follows that site—people who have a definite interest in that reviewer’s opinion or subject matter, which, I think, shares your book with a group of people who may be more specifically interested in your topic than readers at the professional review outlet. The more of these potential readers you reach, the better.

Customer reviews, except in the case of mega reviewers who have followers similar to website reviewers, are retail reviews. They show your quality by shear mass. After all, anyone, by dint of effort, can accumulate ten or twelve reviews, some of which may not be accurate (If they were traded for or written by family, etc. Just saying, we’ve all seen these reviews). But fifty reviews? There must be a variety of opinion, even if the reviews are all good, which helps a potential reader to evaluate (along with reading the opening pages) whether your book is for them. And if a large number of these reviews are written by website reviewers? Well, just imagine the multiplier effect in terms of the number of potential readers who will see the review. So, ideally, you’d want all three types of reviews to get complete review coverage.

I just want to shout out to all my social media friends—whether you’re on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or catch me at my website, https://michaelpking.org , thanks for your support!

As per usual, if you read The Traveling Man, I would appreciate your honest review at the place where you bought it (Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, etc.). Just scroll down to the customer review area. Doesn’t have to be an essay; eight to ten words would do the trick. (Of course, I wouldn’t turn an essay down if you had it in you.) Just looking for your honest opinion. Take a look at what others have written and you’ll get the idea.

If you have any advice on how to attract readers, I’d love to hear from you.

My Publishing Journey

I’ve gotten my first ebook out. I’ve read a lot of information about what I should do to market myself–write a blog, get going on Facebook, Twitter, etc, learn how to manipulate metadata–but what what will really work for me? Or for anyone like me, a person who’s not “expert guy” or “tech guy” or “marketing guru”? This is the place where I’m going write about all the different ways I try to get my ebook The Traveling Man noticed, and then try to evaluate which ways seem to work the best.  Maybe I’ll be successful, and maybe what works for me will work for you as well. Let the journey begin.