Capturing the Golden Goose: More Information for Indie Authors

WRITERS! Thinking about going Indie? There’s a huge-ass FREE online workshop THIS week!!! Register for IndieReCon here and then register for my webinar, “How to Sell a Bazillion Books,” here.

Looking for more information? Let these posts guide you on your self-publishing crusade:

Evolution of a Book Cover
Cover Suckage, Bad Branding, & Other Indie Marketing Oopsies I’ve Made on My Way to Selling 1.5 (now 5+) Million Books (A Post for Self-Published Authors)
The Roses are Dead (Too Much Manure in Publishing)
Author Tips: Book Bombs, Release Days, & Other Good Free Marketing Tips
Shattering the Myth: You CAN use facebook to promote your book! (marketing basics for writers and authors)
How I Did Facebook Wrong and Got 48,000 fans – A Writers Guide to Social Media Updated
Bounce Theory & The Magic Beans of Marketing
Tips for Young Writers
Tips for Young Writers Part II: Plot, Dialogue, Descriptions
The Taleist Self-Publishing Survey & Typical (and not so typical) Indie Novel Sales
Writer Beware: Stupidity is the Latest and Greatest Selling Tool of All

Happy Writing!

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How I Did Facebook Wrong and Got 48,000 fans – A Writers Guide to Social Media Updated

A question that I frequently hear is How did you get so many facebook fans? There are so many ideas on social media, what works and what doesn’t. For me personally, facebook is what got my books off the ground.

When I started with facebook, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t love it, I wasn’t passionate about facebook, either. Some theories say you have to be in love with facebook to make it work. I don’t think so. For me, facebook was just a tool and I figured out how to use it.

So, if you’re scratching your head and wondering how to get started or how to revive your stagnant page, go ahead and read this post.

The entry below is from approx 13 months ago (Dec 2011). I’ve updated any information pertinent to facebook that has changed, but left the original numbers the same. Current numbers are 48,000 fans on this page (I have others). This page has a total reach of 21.5 million. Fan interaction is low right now, about 9,000 this week, b/c this is the main YA page. I have several YA books and a lot of new adult romance titles. There is some cross over, like the New York Times bestseller–I told everyone about that.

*   *   *   *   *

Originally posted Dec.15, 2011

I was traveling recently and had time on my hands, so I started to sift through the sites of social media experts again.  I’m always looking for new trends in social media.  Facebook is my main social media of choice.  And as you know – they change things frequently.

Facebook has made several huge changes in the past 12 months, which made it even more difficult to learn how to do facebook, and do it well.  It’s like trying to grab a bar of wet soap.  Just when you think you’ve got it, the damn things slips through your fingers, and you have to pretty much start over.  Facebook keeps you on your toes.  That’s for sure.

To my surprise I found several sites & blogs that were by social media experts that said I’d done just about everything with my facebook page WRONG.  Yup, W-R-O-N-G.  It made my jaw drop.  Why, you ask?  Because I have over 880,000 interactions per month from over 43,000 fans.  That’s getting close to a million (which I’m really excited about).  And over 25,000 fans fanned me before my DEMON KISSED books were even for sale.  Honestly, it shocked the hell out of me.  I had no idea how high the fan numbers would climb when I started.  I just threw up the page and started.

FYI: There are biz pages (aka fan pages) and personal pages.  My main page (Demon Kissed) is a business/ fan page.  If needed, I’ll say which specific type of page I’m talking about when it matters.  Otherwise, we’ll go generic and use the term ‘page’ to refer to a facebook page for either business/ fans or personal.To give you a facebook fan benchmark: Most authors have about 200 facebook fans and/or friends. The numbers tend to stop there, because the person’s social network has hit its total “reach.”  In other words, all your connections are used.  It has to do with social circles, and on average, there are 200 people within one person’s circle, of which a small number make weekly contact, and an even smaller number make daily contact.  When all those connections are used you have about 200 people in your social network.

So, as you can see, anyone that passes the 1,000 fan mark is impressive… especially when they are Indie and going it alone, like me.  5,000 fans?  10,000 fans?  You are in jaw dropping territory, indie or traditional, especially if it’s before your debut book launches.

For the purposes of finding a benchmark: Penguin used facebook to create a fanbase for Andrea Cremer prior to the the release of her debut novel NIGHTSHADE.  It was dubbed “a viral success” with 1,600 fans (friends) with 12,000 interactions.  This is for a book that was from one of the big publishers with an initial print run of 200,000.  That’s a major investment for the publisher and look at the numbers.  1,600 people liked the page.  That’s an excellent benchmark.  Passing 1,000 fans is major milestone for a new author, and very difficult to do because no one has heard of you or your book.

A little comparison   The Demon Kissed page was launched at roughly the same time as the Nightshade page.  At the time that article was published by Publisher’s Weekly, the Nightshade page had 1,600 fans, which was impressive.  The Demon Kissed page that was posted around the same time by me, also a debut author, had 14,000 fans.  The Nightshade page currently has 3,295 fans.  My Demon Kissed page has 43,067 (stats were from Dec. 15, 2011).  I didn’t have Penguin marketing experts to help me.  I had my brain and that was about it.

Why does this matter?  Nightshade became a huge bestseller anyway.  Yes, it did, but every writer is not so lucky.  Every writer does not have one of the biggest publishers purchasing prime display space in bookstores for their book.  That’s the exception.  You are more likely to get struck by lightening than to have your book end up like Twilight.  So, that is why you NEED to utilize social media.  It is something you can do on your own that will impact the ability to sell your book – and its free.  The only thing it costs you is time.

So, I did it wrong.  I built my fan base incorrectly.  Seriously?  43,000 fans and over half a million interactions per month.  Did I really do things that screwy?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  So who were these yahoos saying this stuff?  Maybe it was some schlep blogging from his mom’s kitchen, eating a sardine sandwich, in which case – ewe – and I’d just disregard the info.  So, I looked at the owner’s credentials on each site to see if they knew their stuff – and they did.  Or they should.  They are university professors and people who do social media for huge companies.  People who KNOW their stuff, without question.

But that left me with tons of questions.  Like this one: Is there a right way and a wrong way to do social media?  Saying that there is a “don’t list” seems short-sighted to me, and yet there are plenty of those.  Don’t do this, don’t do that - it will turn off your fans and alienate your fans and annihilate your page.

Can a single stupid act really decimate your page?  I’m sure you can piss people off and some may leave, but nothing short of the delete button will completely terminate your connections with your fans.  Fear of doing facebook wrong keeps people from trying to see what works and what doesn’t.  Don’t hit the delete button, and remember there are people reading what you are writing, and don’t worry about it.  Try it.  If that kind of post, picture, or video doesn’t work, try again.  I don’t think there is a wrong way to do facebook when you realize that you are talking to people.

Writers are expected to build their own platform and draw a fan base whether they are indie self-pubs, or are with a small vanity press, or are if they are with one of the big boy publishers.  It’s imperative in today’s market, and yet, no one seems to have a firm grasp on how to do it.

Here are some of the things I’ve done to grow my DEMON KISSED fanbase so large.  It’s taken about 15 months to reach this size fan base, and I admit that I slacked off to have a baby for a few months during that time (And am still slacking off. Teething sucks.)

1. Make a fan page (aka a business page).  This is one thing that I found over and over again – the experts urging you to use your personal page until you have enough people to form a fan page.  That is so counterproductive.  Yes, you can use your personal page, but there are benefits to not using a personal page.  Your personal page has a 5K friend cap, while business pages do not.  You may think you would never reach that many people, but what if you do?  Do you think they will just fan your page and everyone will move over?  No.  People hate change, and they won’t move.

Also, business fan pages have valuable statistical information that you can use to see where your fans are located, post stats, monthly interactions, etc.  Failing to realize that and neglecting that information is really stupid.  Ignoring your stats can lead to lack of sales, because of a demographic mismatch. You may have noticed that in many of my posts on facebook and my blog that I sound like a kid (especially the posts from 2011), even though I’m highly educated and left my teen years behind several decades ago.  It’s intentional.  And it’s not fake.  Pedagogy and childhood development are things that I studied and things that interest me.  I think it’s important that children be allowed to express themselves as they mature so they can figure out who they are and what they want out of life.  That is articulated throughout my posts.  I don’t sensor them, or correct them.  I let them be them when they are on my page.  You need to examine what makes your target demo tick to have a successful page.

2. There is no such thing as too early.  Some people say that the page should go up 3 months prior to release.  Others say even later than that.  And I had one stalker/ hater who thought it was ridiculousness to put up my page before I was even done with the book!  Imagine!  What nerve I had.  Yeah, I have big balls.  Why is that a problem?  Especially in this market.  But that author ripped into me, and there was no convincing her that more time = more exposure = more people excited and ready to buy my book.  The more people who have heard of your book, the more people who will buy it when it’s released.  There is no such thing as too early.

*UPDATE* I’ve launched my other books the same way. My vampire book has 15K facebook fans breathing down my neck, waiting for the next book in the series. At the time this post was originally written, I only had the DEMON KISSED series. Now, I have several others and they are all doing very well. Exposure is key. Facebook has the ability to provide exposure, and the earlier, the better.

3. Invest in art.  I was a professional photographer for the affluent and am able to create my own covers and art work.  The painting to the left was the first image that went with DEMON KISSED.

When you launch your page, you need something to put on it.  Hire an artist to make your cover, or shoot some shots of your characters.  You can commission a college kid.  That is a very good way to get art and help an up-and-coming artist.

The painting that I posted was seen by over 1 million people when I 1st launched my page.  I didn’t even have the book cover, yet.  The portrait of the heroine was enough.  Think outside the box.  Use images that will engage your target demographic.

4. Post.  Be yourself.  Be real.  Interactions (talking to people) are what drives facebook.  It’s what gets you fans and increases your social circles.  Realize that people are fanning because they like you.  The book is secondary.  Gasp!  I know, but its true – people buy stuff from people they like.  This was my first blog post - 8 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t (ever) Grow Up, and it was what got people talking on the Demon Kissed page when I first posted the page.  It resonated with my target demo, its fun, silly and… it’s awesome!  lol.  Really, click the link.  It’s fun.

5.  Keep talking.  Less than 1% of your fans will interact with you at any given time.  So when you first post your page there will be very few people talking.  That’s normal and totally okay.  A good page is like a mini forum, where there are new posts and comments and pictures for people to see.  You want people posting, and it takes time.  That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep posting.  It’s okay if your posts fill up most of the wall at first.  Keep talking.

6. 70/30 Rule: Keep things 70% personal and 30% business.  What the heck does that mean?  It means that 70% of the time your posts should sound like you are a human and not a marketing robot promoting your book.  30% should be about release dates, prices, locations  book signings, etc.

7. Be Confident: This is YOUR book and it’s awesome!  The facebook page is to allow people to hear about you and your awesome book.  Being shy about it is a new author mistake and it’s the kiss of death.  You can’t be all like, “It’s pretty good, I think.”  I’d be more likely to read it if you said it was the most awesome thing you’d ever written – and dude – it is!  So act like it!

8. Use the connections you already have.  I had three social circles when I posted my page – bridal shop owners, photographers, and family/ friends.  None of these people were in my target demographic, but they knew people who were.  I announced that I wrote a book at the same time I posted the fan page.  I said I was a facebook loser with no friends for my brand new book – please like me!  And they did.  That was what started things.

The DEMON KISSED series has sold over 15,000 copies and it was entirely from the facebook page.  I didn’t do ARC’s or approach bloggers.  I didn’t do anything else.  My only intentional marketing was my facebook page.

People seriously underestimate the power of social media.  It carries the weight of word of mouth, but it has the ability to spread at a exponential rate that isn’t bound by region or circle of friends.  Word of mouth is golden – you can’t get anything better than that, and facebook is the perfect way to start your word of mouth awesomeness.

Feel free to comment on this post to ask questions about facebook.  I didn’t talk much about page set up because there are lots of tutorials on that, so I kept it about utilizing the social media element when marketing your book.

Originally posted here, on my old blog on Dec 15, 2011.
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The Taleist Self-Publishing Survey & Typical (and not so typical) Indie Novel Sales

So I was flapping around on Twitter like a maimed bird, and saw references to a survey of Indie authors called the Taleist Survey.  I was intrigued.  Can you say spontaneous purchase?

From the description, I felt like I stumbled on the marketing mecca of Indie author awesomeness!  Or at least Vegas – lots of sparkles and flash.  I like sparkles and flash!

This is one of the first studies I’ve read about the current state of the Indie author market that was done on this scale.  Me hopes for more in the future. Okay, so I admit that I’m a  bit of a marketing whore and totally wanted this book for that marketing section.  So I slapped down my $4.99 and read that bad boy.

So.  There were two a-dher things with the marketing that I skipped.  Other than that, I was surprised to find many of the stats and figures were a reflection of my experience.  I’d be lumped into the people who live off their writing.  I’m in that younger crowd of go-getter chicks with a higher level of education, who tends to write more than your average Joe, had an agent, and chose to self-publish.  I brought my own fanbase with me, but I snagged them before my 1st book was released.  I jumped in without a net and hoped I wouldn’t land on my head.  My head’s okay.  So far, so good.

Things that surprised me – chicks dominating the Indie sales.  Wahoo!  Go girls!  Women make up most of that pool of super-sellers, and of that group the biggest chunk of the pie is going to romance writers.  Which makes sense since other stats say romance titles make up 40% of all book sales.  I write mostly YA and just started writing adult romance (SCANDALOUS under the pen name Ella Steele).  This book had no spring board.  It’s doing well, better than some of my other titles, chugging along at a steady rate.  I didn’t know what to expect shifting genres like that.  I wish there were more details in the survey about writers who wrote dual genres.  Alas, it wasn’t there.  The top catagories were romance, thrillers and sci-fy.  Not YA.  I’m an anomaly.  But you can see that those three genres dominate the market by scanning the top seller list at any time.  So the facts mesh.  They are lining up like nice little ducks.

I would have liked to see more information on sales platforms and the affect on profits.  The survey mentioned that most people had all their eggs in the Amazon basket, but didn’t address the other platforms very much.  Maybe that was because the survey is only for sale on Amazon.  Screw B&N!  Ha ahahahaa!  Okay, maybe not.  My B&N sales are roughly the same as my Kindle sales.  Just saying.  Might be worth looking at in the future, book survey boys.

You might be wondering what the average income for a self-published writer was in 2011.  According to the survey, it was $10,000.  Don’t get all excited, because the average is an average isn’t actually what most people make–it’s not the typical self-published author’s total sales for last year.  Out of about 1,000 people that responded to the survey, ~1/2 answered questions regarding income.  So you’re down to around 500 responses.  The pool is kinda small.  The average author – the median – only netted $500 last year.  The average was bumped up by the superstars rocking it out to the tune of $100,000 last year.  Those rock stars had 8 or more books that they were selling.  They took more time to write, edit, and professionally awesomeify their books.

At one point in NOT A GOLD RUSH the author hypothesized that the self-published rock stars just had better books.  All fingers point that way if they sell more, had an agent, and walked away from traditional publishing with a drooling puppy fan base in tow.

I’m not sure what I think about that.  Maybe I have self-esteem problems and can’t admit my books are good.  I’d say that the book can’t suck, but that’s a far cry from saying that its better than the rest.  A solid C book can rock the sales charts.  We’ve all seen it and wondered how it happened.

I think rising to rock star status is primarily based on three things:

  1. Avoiding sucking.
  2. Writing something that has obvious marketability.
  3. Luck.

Avoiding sucking.  That’s self-explanatory.  As for the marketability, I have to remind myself that at times.  I had an awesome idea and then think about it as wonder who would want to read that?  If the only person you can think of is your mom and that weird guy on the bus–you know, the one that thinks you’re hot–well, you probably can’t rock that title.  But then I read the comments of the WOOL guy (Hugh Howey), and think, What do I know?  Can you really predict these things?  According to him, the answer to that is a big fat, hell no.  He’s adorable, btw.  The way he’s handling his instant rock star status makes me what to pinch his cheeks.  His book follows step #1.  It’s great.  And it’s marketable with mass appeal… even if you hate wool.  Dude sold movie rights last week.  It fits into the top three best selling genres, too.

Luck plays a part too.  Right place right time.  I think that goes that way for everyone.  I’m not the lucky one in my family, so I’m hoping to be standing next to my brother at some point and having a money tree fall from the sky with a legacy contract stuck in the branches.  I’d kill the tree with my blackthumb (in case you wondering why I wouldn’t fight him for the tree).  We both know what a sucky gardening girl I am.  :D

All in all, I think The Taleist Survey had interesting information.  I’d hoped they would have released more of the actual stats, instead of presenting mostly their interpretation of the facts and figures.  Sometimes my crazy brain connects other dots and sees other parallels.  Not giving out more data made me unable to do that.  An appendix with all that stuff would be nice.  Ah-hem.

This is the book, in case you wanna peek: Not a Gold Rush: The Taleist Survey  Prime members can check it out for free.

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KDP Select Free Promo Days/ Bounce Theory & The Magic Beans of Marketing

kindle select, kdp select, kdp bounce theory, promo days kdp, free days kdp dataThose of you who have known me for a while probablly noticed that one of my cardinal marketing concepts is free does not work.  Giving things away for free diminishes their value, because people get stuck on the fact that it was free, and won’t cross over to actually paying for your product.  The concept “once free, always free” holds true in all things that aren’t of an addicting nature.  This goes with my studio, artwork, or books.

General rule of thumb: Free is bad.

Enter KDP Select and their 5 days free promo.  I remember getting the email while I was sitting, eating lunch at Disney World last December.  I thought it was an interesting concept, but free doesn’t work.  As a marketing person, I know this.  But I’m still staring at it wondering if it can be used as a tool.

As for the lending library, I thought that sounded like a wonderful idea, as a Kindle owner and as an author.  There were two major downsides for me:

  1. I’d get paid less for the title that was enrolled.
  2. I’d lose revenue from Barnes&Noble on that title.

So, I didn’t rush to sign up all my titles.  In fact, I waited a month to hear what the first wave of Guinea Pigs had to say.  This is what they said about the lending: The 99centers were doing the happy dance.  They got paid about $1.70 per lend and their books were given visability by appearing in the people who bought this also bought scrolling marquee on Amazon’s listing pages.  That alone is major, but my books already had those.  My rankings have gotten into the coveted overall bestsellers list, appearing in the top 300 paid books on kindle, and held many #1 slots in different categories.

As I tried to find more info about KDP Select, all the chatter was about the free days, and a theory emerged from all these reports.  It’s being called “bounce.”  To understand bounce you need to understand how the bestseller lists on Amazon work.  Here’s a drive-by version.

First of all the paid bestseller list and the free bestseller list on Amazon are two different lists.  And then there are more category lists, and then there is the popularity list.  The pop list has nothing to do with sales.  The popularity list is driven primarily by the free promos and the lends.  So it’s directly anchored to titles enrolled in KDP Select.  The popularity list is big and eye catchy, and most people don’t even realize they are on it. Research has shown that this list is important.

magic beans of marketing, kdp select, self publishing marketing promosThis is where the bounce theory comes in.  What is it?  In short, it’s the afterglow that your book has had after its scandlous free exposure via the promo days is over.  Due to the fact that your book was free, the theory states that the book’s rank rises on the free list – and the popularity list – and that when the promo is over, your book is still sitting pretty on the popularity list before it falls back to its regular ranking.  This is the bounce–the afterglow period before your book comes back down.  It’s supposed to get more paid sales during this time.

The first time I tried the promo day and offered the VALEFAR title for free, it was for 24 hours only.  I plugged it the way I normally do on my facebook page, twitter, and blog.  As a result, it climbed to around 2,000 (which was slightly worse than the ranking achieved when the title was first released) and following the promo period, the ranking/ sales quickly sunk like a stone.  There was no bounce.  The rank and sales were smashed, dropping about 20,000 lower than it was prior to the promo.  It took about 60 days to recover to it’s previous sales rank.

Which brings me back to where I am now.  I’m testing the bounce theory and giving it a better chance.  The theory says the higher you rise on the free bestseller list, the better the bounce after the promo is over.  Maybe I didn’t bounce my book hard enough last time.  So, let’s try again.  I still think that free is bad, and my expectation is that KDP Select isn’t for me.  I’m skeptical.  I’m not a believer, but I’m giving it a try and will report my findings here.

To ensure that I get the best results, I am going to drive the free purchases as high as possible, ideally into the top 100.  If you want to help me test my KDP Select theory,  spread the word.  If we get a hard bounce, and the book hits the top 100 and then sinks like a stone, you guys will know it was a waste of time and money.

Here are the OPERATION BOUNCE breakdowns so far:

Prior to promo free days: I promoted the free days for about 5 days prior on facebook, twitter, and submitted the info to Pixel of Ink and other kindle bargain sites.  The sales rank prior to the promo was ~30K.  When I announced the free days, the rank dropped to 75K as people stopped buying in expectation of getting it for free.  Starting at 10am on the day of the promo, I facebooked, tweeted, and spread the word that today’s the day of the free promo, drawing attention to it.  I also submitted to Indie Book List, Bargain ebook Hunter, and The Frugal Reader.  I didn’t do this last time, not to this extent.

My hourly book stats for Valefar:

  • March 24th (9:00am) Rank 27,874 (Tweeted to #kindle #free, posted on FB, blog, and email)
  • March 24th (10:00am) Rank 1,200
  • March 24th (12:30pm) Rank 1,300
  • March 24th (3:15pm): Rank 1,188 (148 free books have been claimed so far)
  • March 24th (4:28pm) Rank 877 (haven’t done anything else or noticed any new sources picking it up)
  • March 24th (7:31pm) Rank 832 (was retweeted a one time)
  • March 24th (9:26pm) Rank 804
  • March 24th (10:31pm) Rank 780 (last check for tonight. noticed uk store rank is at 1,009.  Been retweeted 3x.  Nothing majorly major.  Expecting the rank to rise overnight, since that’s what it usually does with paid sales).
  • March 25th (9:10am) Rank 783
  • March 25th (2:39pm) Rank 917 (Tweets, RTs, and posting again now)
  • March 25th (6:18pm) Rank 1,094
  • March 25th (9:23pm) Rank 1,215 (RTs, Tweets, & FB)
  • March 26 (9:20am) Rank 987 (Haven’t done anything since yesterday)
  • March 26 (3:01pm) Rank 1,144 (several RTs)
  • March 26 (6:52pm) Rank 1,248
  • March 26 (10:38pm) Rank 1,128
  • March27 (8:46am) Rank 1,073
  • March 27 (noon-3pm) Rank unknown: Sales page down (Site error said that item could not be purchased in the US)
  • March 27 (5:21pm) Rank: 1,121
  • More TBA

My expected findings are this:

  • Any bounce achieved is minimal and does not warrant the cost of the promotion (lost sales).  Results: NO BOUNCE RECORDED
  • Would-be buyers got the book for free, instead of buying it, and the writer’s fan base of potential purchasers decreases.
  • As a result of the ebook being obtained for free, the book is not valued and read in a timely manner, if at all.
  • The ‘Customers Who Bought this Item Also Bought’ window gets jacked-up.  They no longer show my other titles.  They now show unrelated free books that were near them in ranking. Results: CONFIRMED.

Additional possibilities:

  • Those getting the free promo books are not author loyal and are happier placing their loyalty in all things glorious and free.
  • Last possibility, I’m totally wrong and have to eat my hat.  The bounce from the free day makes the book visible to new buyers outside of my fan base of 45K+ fans.  This new flow of fans buys the book while its flying high on its bounce, and steers them into reading my other titles. Results: NEGATIVE, this did not happen.

The last option would be like magic beans of marketing.  In short, my desired goal with KDP Select is to utilize it as a marketing tool that will help sell books and increase revenue from those sales.  Simply, I would like to know if it’s a viable business tool.  This is a live post.  I’ll post more hourly updates to this blog posting as the free promo days continue.  The book is free right now.  If you want to help out and grab one that would be great.  More data to come!

Note: Book sales tend to slump at the end of the month, especially on Sunday.

Additional findings:

Thought I’d follow someone else who hit #1 in the free store.  The book sat in the top 15 for 24 hours straight, hitting #1 for over 12 hours.  The book is the same genere as mine (YA Paranormal Romance).  I’m watching/ logging that book’s bounce.  Here are the details.

Last known ranking on March 24th at 11pm: #4 in Free store.

Bounce rankings/ stats in PAID kindle bestseller’s list:

  • March 25
  • 9:30am- 7,314
  • 2:38pm- 7,763
  • 3:39pm- 5,150
  • 6:08pm- 5,270
  • 9:24pm-5,146
  • March 26
  • 9:19am-2,883
  • 3:00pm-2.475
  • 6:52pm-2,218
  • 10:38pm-2,313
  • March 27
  • 8:47am-1,711
  • kdp down – same issue: not available in US
  • 5:22pm-1,662

Anticipated findings:

The bounce given by the free days is on level with my regular sales stats.  For someone who’s titles lurk in the lower rankings of 100,000+, the free days may act as a way to bounce their title up the list when they had no idea what else to do.  For someone who already has a firm fan base and steady rankings, it looks like it isn’t worth it.  The bounce I’ve read about sounded too good to be true: book hits #1 in the free store and then stuck on the top ten list in their category.  Maybe it happened to someone at some time, but it’s not the norm.  I don’t see that happening for my title or anyone else’s as a predictable, repetitive pattern that can be duplicated.  Don’t get me wrong, I would love to eat my hat, but it doesn’t appear to be happening.

Actual Findings:

During this experiment, I became acutely aware that Amazon has issues.  At multiple times over a two-day period the sales page for my book was unavailable.  Other titles were also effected.  These titles belonged to me as well as other writers.  When I pointed this out to the other authors, they seemed to be aware that kdp was ‘gltichy’ and acted like it happened occasionally.  I’ve been trying to track the bounce on my book, but it appears that there isn’t any.  Like at all.  There has been no sales rank at all on March 28th on the sales page.  I should have had a soft bounce.  Instead, I appear to have no sales at all.  It appears that the book can be purchased now, but according to kdp, the titles affected by the glitch yesterday show no sales today.  Sales ranking on these titles have plummeted.

KDP has some serious issues:

After days of tracking stats kdp had issues on several of my titles.  About half way through March 27th, kdp had a note on all but 2 of my titles saying they were not available in the US (which they are).  There seemed to be a site glitch that lasted several hours.  The glitch appears to have continued into the 28th.  My sales ranks has gone wonky and my dashboard shows minimal movement across the board–all of which began on the 27th when the site underwent tech issues on select titles.  The tech issues didn’t only affect my book, but it affected the other title I was tracking.

This is a serious issue for writers who’s books finally get good rankings.  Site glitches could send them slamming back down into the gutter.  My other titles lost rankings of about 20,000 from being down for all that time.  If I hadn’t been logging this, I wouldn’t have seen it and would have wondered what caused the blip.  Now, I’m wondering how often glitches like this one are appearing.  I will be watching my titles more closely and certainly do not think it is prudent to put all your eggs in one basket.

What I’ve learned:

It is beyond insanity to put all your eggs into the Amazon basket.  Site-wide glitches that stagger sales are not desirable.  If I’m promoting a book, which I certainly was during this period, I want my readers to be able to get it.  Not being able to provide that with 100% certainty is enough to make me so that I don’t want give them sole access them a title again.  90 days of lost revenue from B&N/ Pubit was not worth the free day promo period.  In short, bounce is not reliable.  And right now, my B&N sales are kicking Amazon in the butt.  The promo period and the bounce was the only benefit and I’m really disappointed that I didn’t get to monitor the bounce in this posting.  Instead, it turned into monitoring how Amazon site issues kill your promos and crash your rank.

In conclusion, I would seriously hesitate to include a title in kdp select.  I won’t be re-enrolling this title.  I’ll be keeping a closer eye on my rankings.  It would be nice to know that sales slumps were from site issues on Amazon’s side and not something I did.  There are so many facets that cause a book to climb the sales charts, and even more that cause that same title to be slaughtered.  Pin pointing exactly how much of this has to do with website functionality could be staggering.  What do I mean?  Well, this site issues over the past two days did not affect all my titles.  They only affected some.  That means some titles falsely sank (because the readers were not able to purchase and in turn, sales ranking dropped and so did my spot on the bestseller lists), and other titles falsely rose.  The books that remained available cut their way to the top simply because the site glitch didn’t affect them, and the other books were no longer in the way.  This doesn’t sit right with me.  I don’t think it’s mallicious, but I do think it negates a lot of hard work.  Marketing is all about finding prediciable patterns and repeating.  Amazon kind of sucked the predictablity out of it if I can’t count on their site working over a prolonged period of time.  Two days is too long.  If my book had been sitting pretty at 297 where it was a few months ago, I’d be tearing my hair out right now.  It took months to achieve that rank, and to have it stolen by something like this, well, it’s hideous.  The bestseller lists matter.  That’s what bounce theory is all about.

Well, those are my findings.  I discovered things that I hadn’t expected.  Good luck to you as you try to navigate the changing publishing industry.

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Shattering the Myth: You CAN use facebook to promote your book! (marketing basics for writers and authors)

I was in YAlitchat on twitter the other night and won a book for SHATTERING THIS MYTH:


I honestly didn’t realize that was a myth.  Then we started talking about it and I realized there’s a simple reason why I didn’t buy into the myth.

I have over 43,000 facebook fans and have sold over 15,000 YA DEMON KISSED books in less than a year.  

And I focused entirely on facebook.

As the Tweeting rolled along, I noticed that there are a TON of writers out there who don’t know marketing basics.  And why would you?  You’re a writer, not a marketing maniac.

But in today’s market you have to be both.  This is the reason I didn’t go the traditional publication route.  The publishers and agent asked me - how do we convert the facebook fans to buyers?  I couldn’t believe they asked me that.  I couldn’t believe they didn’t know.  That’s their job.  How did I know, and they didn’t?  I pulled my manuscript and walked away.  And I haven’t looked back.

The marketing world is shifting, and it’s not only affecting publishers.  I’m self-employed and have been for years.  Learning these things is so important.  Even if you are traditionally published.  No one – NO ONE – can promote your books better than you.  Period.

So, how do you learn these things?  Most of us didn’t go to school for marketing.  And learning by trial and error is expensive.  And stupid.  Well, guess what? There are easy ways to avoid costly mistakes.

BOOKS.  You’re gonna slap yourself in the head when you realize how much you can learn on your own.  When a person first looks at marketing there is a total information overload.  If you look for marketing books on Amazon or in BAM – there are TONS OF THEM.  There are words you’ve never heard before.  And what kind of marketing information do you need?  Traditional?  Networking? Gorilla?  If you’re like me your first thought was, WTF is Gorilla Marketing?

Marketing as a whole appears daunting, but it isn’t once you are aware of the basics.  And that’s what I’m going to talk about.

There will be a series of blog posts about some of the basics of marketing, including stuff about social media, expensive/stupid things that don’t work, and marketing techniques that are so simple – you can do them right away.  And you can use this info if you are traditionally published or Indie.

So what’s MARKETING anyway?  Marketing is what you do to promote your book.  It’s the means of getting your ads in front of people.  Think of an ad as a static means of communicating that you have a book for sale.  Marketing is active.  It’s how you go about promoting your book.  See the ‘ing’?  That infers you’ll be doing something.  Don’t expect money to fall from the sky just because you have a pretty ad.  Life doesn’t work that way.

Since this topic scares the hell out of people, I’ll start small.  Think of it as an introduction to help you understand this crazy world of promotion.  If the word marketing makes you feel queesy, think of it as ‘making your book visible to the public.’  Because that’s what you will be doing.

While we are talking about marketing, you will read the term ‘channel.’  Each ‘channel’ is a different means of advertising your work.  Examples of different channels are: a movie theater ad, a newspaper ad, and a cardboard display at Barnes & Noble.  Typically, marketing is done most effectively using three different channels simultaneously.

Each is channel different.  Each channel targets differently.  There is statistical information for each, including typical response rates.  Based on what I was hearing on Twitter, I wanted to talk about some of the most common marketing channels used by authors.  It should help you consider what is effective and reconsider what’s not.


Think twice about doing anything in print.  This includes but isn’t limited to postcards, mailings, billboards, newspaper ads, etc.  You can tell it’s a print ad if the marketing campaign requires you to physically print something.

Print is very costly with a low return rate – and that is assuming you created your ad with a call to action, correct prompts, and a deadline.  How low?  Say you do a mailing.  You make a pretty little postcard and mail those babies.  The cost is $100′s of dollars, and that is assuming you create your cards and mail them yourself to a small number of people (1,000 or less).

What is the statistical response rate on snail mail?  1%-3%.  That’s it.  Using snail mail to entice people to buy your book is expensive.  Example: A mailing of 1,000 pieces can easily cost you $1 a piece.  That’s $1,000 that you would need to recover before turning a profit.  Mathematically, a 3% response rate on your book is 30 people.  The average author is making $1.14 profit on a book, which means – if you did well – that you made $34.20 from that mailing.  And honestly, 3% is high and is usually from a targeted mailing – not a wide spread, un-targeted mailing.  (We’ll get into target demographics in another post).  Do the math.  How many books would you have to sell to make that postcard print run and mailing financially worth it?  The math doesn’t add up.  And any time the math doesn’t add up – DON’T DO IT!  This promotion cost you -$965.80.  That sucks.  And it doesn’t have to be that way.

Some people will cry and ask - Well, what else is there?  Marketing is expensive and return rates suck on everything!  Yeah, that’s just not true.  Some very effective marketing is very cheap.  Most people think of mail when they go to promote their book, because they get so much crap themselves.  But there are better ways to spend your money.

Come back later for the next marketing post: Marketing for Writers & Authors Part I: Making the Most of Your Online Presence.  It’s simple, easy, and cheap and/or free.  And you can do it right away!

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