The End of an Era: 2011 Results!
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.