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Posts Tagged ‘book sales’

The End of an Era: 2011 Results!

January 5, 2012 5 comments

I went on and on last year about how I was conducting all this research and trying different things as an indie writer: marketing tactics, cover art, blurbs, multi-genre, pricing, and even blogging. Well 2011 is over and my research and while my attempts to find new ways to reach my audience and interest them are far from over, I figure I could start off the new year with a summary of what worked for me and what didn’t.

First cover art. Cover art is something I consider extremely important. A snappy image that shows well even in the thumbnail size view on the Kindle draws attention, plain and simple. Bright colors are nice but there are more black and white Kindles out there than anything else so good contrast is equally important.

Title and Blurb are next up. After the cover art having a great title that draws people in and interests them is important. And very, very difficult. How do you predict the success of a couple of words? Follow it up with a short but intriguing blurb and you’re well on your way.

On reviews I remain mixed. I’ve got some books with several reviews and some with less. I’m unconvinced as to how useful reviews really are. The problem is there are some people who write reviews that have no idea what they’re writing – I’m amazed they even know how to read and write, in fact. Meanwhile other people write some well thought out reviews that go unnoticed or are nullified by the bad ones. After all, as a society we focus more on negative news than good news. Why else would Fox News be so successful?

Pricing is a constant struggle. Not just for me but for everybody. I’ve written about it in the past at great length, so this time I’ll keep it concise. I found that pricing my books to sell rather than what I think they’re worth is the key to getting sales. And in some cases I give books away for free (Voidhawk, Wanted, and Dark Earth are free on Amazon). These loss leaders are my gifts to the Kindleverse to let people sample my writing and – hopefully – want to come back for more. In November and December these loss leaders were very successful at pulling people in to read the sequels and check out my other books. I hope they continue to do so!

Facebook and Twitter. Social networking has been useful. It helps me get the word out and let’s people know what’s going on in the world of my books. It’s far from the alpha and the omega of book sales though. Twitter, in particular, has definitely helped me get the word out and let people know of the existence of my books, my blog, and my website. Having over 10,000 followers on Twitter certainly helps! I have automatic tweets set up that I change twice a month or so (or whenever something exciting happens), but more than that I use Twitter to talk to people. All of my followers as a group with random updates of whatever silly thing I’m doing or for specific conversations I talk to others about. That keeps Twitter genuine to me, and not just another automated and soulless channel. I can’t hope to name all the great people I’ve met on there and I don’t want anybody I might miss feel left out or bothered, so I won’t attempt a list of twitter people.

Amazon’s built in lists. These lists are one of the keys to getting decent sales on Amazon. Without being on a list people have a hard time finding your books without a direct link (unless they’re searching for it specifically). Being on the various lists, both best selling and the “people who bought this also bought…” kind of lists improve visibility. Being seen is the first step to being purchased. What comes next is the cover art / title / blurb angle to secure the sale.

Getting a sale is only the first step. Ultimately it’s going to come down to writing something good. If it’s good then people will come back for more and they’ll write you letters telling you how much they enjoyed your book. They might even tell their friends and drive sales up a little more. Writing is the ultimate tool in a writer’s tool box. Everything else just helps to move the process along.

Blogging and website. Having either is another great tool. Having both is a great tool x 2. It’s a venue that allows me to interface with my readers and give them information about new books and other communications so they can get to know me better. I don’t just want readers, I want friends. The more I can share with them the more invested they become to me and the more invested I become to them. And who likes to let a friend down? My friends expect me to entertain them and give them stories they enjoy and I would hate to disappoint them!

More on blogging and my website. I was amazed at watching the stats during the holidays. Traffic dropped to almost nothing during the break but this morning I noticed it had jumped back up. That told me two things: 1) People would rather browse the web, read blogs, and do other things than work and 2) I was apparently one of those people!

Now some numbers to prove it:

June Sales:              July Sales:                  Aug Sales                Sep Sales              Oct Sales                 Nov Sales               Dec Sales

20                               20                                 50                              109                       197                             456                         1399

 

Yeah, it ramped up quick once I started figuring things out. Granted, I also put out more books and continue to do so, but I learned a lot along the way about marketing. The problem is I’m a long ways away from doing well enough to bail on the day job. And in January things seem to be slumping a little. The holidays are over though and I’m back on the writing and promoting bandwagon, so hopefully I can bring things back around in short order! In the meantime, I hope my experiments helped my fellow budding and struggling writers as well. If you’re interested in learning more I recently created a Yahoo group called The Marketeers. Look it up and request to join if you think you’d like to be a part of the process – I’ve got a couple of great writers in there already (including yours truly).

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

 

 

Selling My Soul – Progress Report

October 21, 2011 4 comments

I’ve been teasing and hinting that I’m doing all this research and I’m going to post the conclusions of that research. Well, I’m a long ways from that, but I can offer up some tidbits on what a few months of progress are showing. And most importantly (to you, the readers), this is free! I’m not offering all this up in a conveniently bundled package for $x.99 like certain individuals out there. Maybe I should and maybe this simple bit of humanitarianism is a marketing fail on my part. I’d rather think you’d be grateful for this and more inclined to believe that I really do want to help people succeed – both myself and you, dear reader. Heck, maybe you’ll be so appreciative you’ll even go out and buy one or more of my books. No pressure though… ;-)

First on cover art: By improving my cover art images it’s definitely getting good feedback from people anecdotally (kind words over Twitter and email and such). Is it driving sales? No, is it helping? Yes. Can I quantify it? Alas – no. I did take Wanted from a good to a better (in my opinion) cover and got several very positive comments on it though, including at least one sale because it “looked very interesting.” Small sample of data, but I only made the transition last night.

Book Blurb: I’ve revised and fine tuned my book blurbs, improving them steadily all along. I may occasionally make a tweak here or there but by and large that’s all there is to it. The results? Well there’s no empirical data saying it helped n%, but there has been a steady increase over time.

Book Reviews: Yes, these are helping…I think. Nobody has contacted me to say they were on the fence about buying my book until they saw “RazorbabyX99″ thought it was a great read, but knowing how I and a few others look at making a purchase in an online venue, reviews are worth their weight in gold. And like above, the positive trend reflects that these are a factor, I just wish I had more of them. I honestly believe more reviews would make a very strong difference. As it is I’m lucky to have two reviews on any given book on Amazon. I encourage – no, I implore people to please help out the writers they like (especially if it’s me) and leave a few words or sentences about a book they liked. It’s so immensely helpful.

Twitter: The powerhouse that is Twitter is both fun and useful. I’ve had a lot of success with Twitter helping me to increase sales. Both my tweets that go out aimed at promoting and other tweets that draw people in. Sure, maybe it’s a a 1:500 ratio but that’s still a sale. But even more importantly, I’ve met some really cool people and been touched by some of them as well (and not in a creepy way). For example, my wife has spent the week in the hospital for some severe abdominal pain that the docs had a hard time identifying. It looks like she’ll be headed home very soon, hopefully today, and the problem was one that was complicated by a matter of timing and coincidence. A few mentions on Twitter about this brough in a flood of well wishes and support. It was very touching and very much appreciated. Sure, maybe there’s no real investment when all your doing is typing in a few encouraging words but trying being on the other end, when you’re not quite sure what’s going on and you’ve got the creative machine that is a writer’s mind working against you instead of for you. It’s amazing how the power of anonymity and empathy combine to make me think that maybe humanity isn’t destined to spiral into chaos.

Website: I’ve got one (http://www.booksbyjason.com) and I update it frequently. Either new samples, news postings, or design changes (major or minor). Come to think of it I need to revise some font sizes on my book pages for the links still. Well anyhow, having a website has been quite helpful. People like the free samples. My visitation is down recently because I haven’t been pumping it out there very much. So, um, go visit it! ;-)

The data: The following numbers are US numbers from Amazon only. I’ve got a great following in the UK that is increasing at a similar base and even if I can’t speak for their loyalty to me, I’ve found myself becoming fiercely loyal to them for the support I’ve received. I’ve got a passport, I just need the time and more sales to finance a trip to go and visit!

Month             Quantity                 Notes

June                       20                     No advertising worth mentioning, original covers / blurbs / website

July                         14                     Just beginning to attempt to advertise but “attempt” is the key word.

August                   50                    Started fumbling with Twitter effectively and blogging. Website enhancement

September          108                    More of the same plus I blurbs and prof. cover art. Website changes too.

October             93 / 135              At 93 presently, trending towards 135. More and more of the same.

So the improvements aren’t linear by any means, it’s a result of working hard and the more I can put into it in terms of time and effort, the more I get out of it. Adding new books to the mix helps as well, of course! The numbers aren’t outstanding by any stretch, but it’s a positive trend and I’m here for the long haul. I stand zero chance of hitting 1 million ebooks in five months like John Locke did, but that’s okay – I’m not the marketing guru he is either. Ironically I read his book and saw that he and I independently came to many of the same conclusions. In a few instances he’s been able to implement them better though.

But speaking of marketing, I’ve got something new I’m trying in the very near future too. It’s staying under wraps until it happens though, it’s a surprise – but I promise it’ll be a great one!

I started this marketing bit with the intent of using it as a tool. It was a means to an end. The end is a long ways away but that’s okay because it’s changed It went from being thought of as a necessary chore to something that has changed and improved me. The Twitter experience, where I interact with friends, has been inspirational, touching, exhilarating, and fun. There’s occasional somber moments as well, such as when I learn of a friend who is on the verge of losing a cherished family pet. They’re not just fans and readers, they’re part of an extended family and I couldn’t have the hopes, dreams, and ambitions that I do without them. If you’re a writer I’d advise you take that to heart and remember we’re only successful because of the people who make us that way.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

So What Really Sells a Book?

September 8, 2011 5 comments

I’ve reached some preliminary decisions regarding cover art. It’s a huge boon to have good cover art – I can’t find anyone who disagrees. But I still see books rated much higher than mine in the ranks on Amazon that have downright horrible covers. So what gives? Is it the blurbs? In most cases the blurb is inconclusive, at best. In some cases the blurbs are outright horrible and filled with errors, yet the sales are vastly superior. Back to WTF.

Reviews come to mind next. First my definitions:
Editorial Review - this is a review done by a reader or a blogger (or somebody at a reviewing firm). It is not necessarily attached to a book at a point of sale with a rating associated with it. Typically these are longer reviews with more thought and, potentially, spoilers attached to them.

Reader Review - these reviews are done at the various points of sale on the web and have a rating assigned to them. For exapmle, Wanted on the Kindle has two 4.0 rating reviews. There is often a brief bit of text associated with these as well.

When I launch Ice Princess, the sequel to Wanted, next month I’ve got a couple of editorial reviews ready to launch with it. This is a first for me – coordinating a book launch like that. We’ll see how it goes. Anyhow, the point is that I’ll have some data to assimilate at that point about launching a book with an editorial review. A few of my other books (Voidhawk, Human Nature, and Wanted) have editorial reviews as well and they get the most sales for me. So yeah, editorial reviews help a lot. New Beginnings, book 1 of my Vitalis series, has no reviews associated with it yet (some pending), and similarly I have no sales on the Kindle yet (Smashwords and Barnes and Noble, on the other hand, have seen some action).

Reader reviews give the book a rating on a scale (typically) of 1 to 5. The higher the number the better. Of course individual tastes may vary, but it stands to reason that the higher the rating and the more people that rate it, the better the book will be exposed and received. I believe this can sway a potential reader into buying the book. It’s reassuring to know that a few other people thought it looked good enough to buy – and if it’s not well then at least they weren’t the only one suckered into buying it!

So…
Cover art?
Blurb?
Editorial Reviews?
Reader Reviews? Uh oh…

So how do we get reviews? Editorial is done by finding bloggers and people willing to do just that, then going out there and submitting your book to them for consideration. Typically there’s a wait involved. That’s okay, good things come to those who wait (or so my bottle of ketchup tells me).

As for reader reviews…that’s a bit trickier. Short of begging and pleading there’s not much we, as writers, can do to get our readers to take time out of their lives to click a button and jot down a few words. But for the readers out there reading this – support your favorite authors (or those who haven’t made your personal favorites list). Take that time to rate their stories you’ve read and let them know what you thought about it. Heck, “Good book, thanks!” is a great review if you don’t want to take time explaining why Shirley should have stabbed Brian after he slept with Tammy instead of asking to join them next time. Or just click the number of points / stars / whatever you think it’s worth. This helps the writer in many ways: it helps them by letting them know whether they did something right or not and it helps to potentially draw in more sales. A writer without feedback (and sales ARE a form of feedback) will lose interest sooner or later.

If you’ve got all of those (and they’re positive), but still not making sales then there’s not much left outside of shouting to the world that your book is out there and the said world should check it out.

In spite of the links and the preference for mentioning my own material, I’m not trying to drive anyone to buy my stuff (at least not any more than usual). I’m using it as examples of the data points I have, and how my barely modest success can be of use to others struggling to write and make a name for themselves. Oh – there is also no relation or involvement in any of my books to a Shirley, Brian, or Tammy, or at least none that I can recall.

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