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Brian's Sales and Marketing Thread

Discussion in 'Marketing' started by BWFoster78, Aug 31, 2015.

  1. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

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    Amazon's getting antsy about reviews at the moment. They're clamping down on any reviews where the reviewer is deemed to have some connection to the author. If these ARC reviewers are known to you in some way, that may be the problem. In my experience, if a review doesn't stick, repeated attempts don't work either, but it's worth a try.

    ETA: Did they post to Amazon.com? Sometimes people only post to their local Amazon.
     
  2. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I really think it was a system glitch. These were posted around the time of my original loading of Rise, and if my memory serves, there were lots of reports of screwy stuff happening.

    One of them reposted already, and it showed up. The other said she'd try to repost today.

    BTW, I discovered both these reviewers by email addresses on their Amazon profiles when they left reviews for similar books. No personal connection to them at all.
     
  3. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I've been researching Amazon's policy this morning–a little. A flurry of articles and blog posts from this summer suggest a partially automated method for "weeding out" reviews from those personally connected to authors. No one knows for certain what algorithms Amazon uses, although many suspect that social media links and other data mining methods are used. Amazon says their methods are proprietary and keeps them secret. Some reviews could be flagged falsely, depending on whatever Amazon finds.

    It's also possible that those ARC reviewers failed to include some necessary info in their initial reviews. For instance, a disclosure about receiving the copy free for an honest review But who knows what happened.
     
  4. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I"m really interested to see if the tweaks I made to the novel will improve my ratings, so I used Book Deals Review service this morning. That combined with sending out some other requests and some bloggers who have me in their queue will hopefully provide me with 10-15 reviews of the revisions.

    Not sure how I'm going to proceed if the results aren't more positive ...

    In the meantime, I'm also curious to see what kind of sell through I'm getting from AoP to RotM. I plan on setting AoP to .99 (can't do a countdown deal b/c I've already done free days and I plan to do another round of free when I release Repulsive) from 11/16 to 11/20. I spend $22 on Betty Book Freak, Sweet Free Books, and Book Deals combined.

    At 30% commission, there's little (no!) chance of me making that money back unless there's strong sell through, and even then, it's unlikely. Still, considering the amount I've made so far, I feel okay throwing a few $ away as an experiment.

    I'm assuming that, in the weeks leading up to the promo, I'll get a pretty good idea of the baseline of sales when I'm doing no marketing. Any bump over that baseline, then, should be the direct result of the promo.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2015
  5. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    After another month of actual sales, I’m a lot closer to that island than I was :) !

    Before I get to this month’s numbers, a quick correction from last month. I reported $25.80 for my total sales and reads for AoP in September. While doing the October calcs, I found a typo in my formula in Excel where I converted currencies. The actual amount should have been $27.48.

    Sales for October (AoP sales/borrows are 10/1 through 10/31. Rise sales/borrows are 9/28 through 10/31. Also, note that the pages read and the quantity sold are hard numbers but the money is soft since there are conversion rates and other factors that I'm estimating.):

    Abuse of Power - 5 sales, 2398 pages read (best guess — 19 unique readers), 1090 free books downloaded = $21.00

    That’s only $6.48 under my first month — a fantastic result! More on this later.

    That brings my total "profit" on the novella to -$290.54.

    At this point, I think it’s highly unlikely that the novella will ever make it to the plus side, especially considering that I plan to eventually convert it to permafree. Overall, though, I’m pleased with it. It’s gotten me a very positive response, and it’s useful as a promotion tool. I’m going to run a $.99 promo this month to try to nail down some idea as to sell through percentage, so next month I should hopefully have some idea of how useful it is. I will say that the main problem with the book is the cover. Don’t get me wrong; I love it and think that my cover artist did exactly what I wanted. The problem is that what I told her to create was just stupid. The cover absolutely does not say either epic fantasy or fantasy romance. I’m not sure, though, if it’s worth it, either in terms of time or money, to change at this point.

    Rise of the Mages — 151 sales, 141,281 pages read = $1235.19

    My over/under last month was $150. I’m close to 10x that number. I’m am absolutely ecstatic with those results. Over the moon! Just wow!

    That brings my total "profit" on the novel to -$192.00.

    I didn’t expect to break even on the novel until the second or third book was out. Now, I have a chance of doing so next month (and that’s counting spending another $150 in October to fix some stuff). I honestly have no idea what prompted so much success. The free promo for AoP surely had to help, but my only theory is that the combination of my cover, pitch, and sample are solid.

    One negative was review star rating, which is only averaging a little above 3.6 — pretty low for Amazon. So do my high sales despite low review ratings mean that reviews aren’t all that important? Maybe it’s important to have reviews, regardless of what the reviews say? Or perhaps, it’s that the content of the reviews really only indicate one big negative while saying overall positive stuff about the rest of the reading experience? No idea.

    Some other big positives:

    - Reads and sales of AoP were much higher than I expected. Much, much, much higher. One explanation is that Amazon’s algorithm’s placed the novella higher on the “also bought” list because Rise did so well. I think a more probable explanation (or that’s what I’m hoping anyway :) ) is that readers liked Rise so much that they found AoP and read it.
    - 10 new mailing list signups (3 from ARC reviewers, and 7 organic). I consider this a fantastic result. My biggest goal is to get 2000 people like this on my mailing list, and this is a great start.

    I also had some more production costs (AoP promo - $40.50 for 1090 downloads, Repulsive cover, aforementioned changes to Rise).

    Total spent on becoming a self-published author: $2179.03

    Total money made thus far off writing: $1316.03

    Total Profit: -$-863.00

    Wow! One month can really turn things around.

    Lessons Learned:

    Feedback from readers is absolutely gold. If you want to write books that readers want to read, them telling you what you did right and wrong is the best possible source of critique.

    Promos work. I can only think that giving away AoP had to help boost me.

    Expected Sales for November:

    My spot on the Hot New Releases chart expired on 10/28, so I’ve had four days of sales and reads to see the “cliff.” I’m still averaging one sale and 2500 page reads a day. Not counting any bump for my promo, that gives me about $16/day or around $500 for the month as the ceiling. As a floor, I’d say a minimum of either one read or one sale a day would give me around $3/day or, say, $100 for the month. Therefore, I’ll set the over/under at $300 (though I’d consider that number a bit high).
     
    PaulineMRoss, danr62 and Caged Maiden like this.
  6. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    wow, this is great! I'd be over the moon too!

    I applaud your organization. I always think I'll remember things, but then I never do, so sometimes I don't write things down that I should. I think if I publish, I'll need to make sure I have a good system for tracking expenses and earnings, because I run a few businesses right now, and keeping books can be daunting.

    Thanks for sharing, this is wonderful news. I'm really happy for you. I hope the ball keeps rolling.
     
    BWFoster78 likes this.
  7. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    The first month, doing this wasn't that fun. This past month, however ... much much more entertaining :)

    I've never considered myself a pessimist, but I keep expecting the bottom to drop out because indie author's first books aren't supposed to do well. So far in Nov, though, I'm still getting 1-2 sales per day and my page reads are still in the 2000/day range.
     
  8. danr62

    danr62 Sage

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    Awesome, BW! Sounds like you're off to a great start.

    You've got me wondering about something. Right now you have two "points of entry" to your series. Readers can either pick up the main book or the prequel novella, and then read the other afterward. If you write more books to follow up the main book, you'll probably sell to a large number of your current readers, but it won't act as another "point of entry".

    Of course people browsing Amazon might see it and go looking for the earlier books. But what happens if you create a 2nd prequel novella, maybe focusing on a different character's backstory or something like that? Now you have 3 points of entry to your series. Would that help your sales and visibility more than writing a sequel?
     
  9. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Dan,

    From a pure logic standpoint, this suggestion sounds like it makes a lot of sense. From a "the advice experienced indie authors are giving" standpoint, however, that isn't how it works (that's not how any of this works :) ).

    Everything I've read says that sales take off when you a) promote your first book in a series at a discount b) build your email list and c) release the third book in a series.

    I don't feel qualified to answer fully (beyond pure speculation) as to why that approach works better than what you're suggesting, but the advice to focus on getting the series completed seems pretty much universal.

    That being said, I'm not exactly following that advice fully. My next release is actually the first book in a new series in a completely different subgenre. According to all the advice I read, starting that new series in a new subgenre instead of continuing my series is a pretty idiotic move.
     
  10. danr62

    danr62 Sage

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    Your current series seems to be doing pretty well. Better than you expected. Wouldn't it make more sense to continue that series? Yeah, you might be able to write another series that has more mass appeal, but there's no guarantee of that, even if you do follow all the advice for popular fiction.

    Yes, there is a good chance that your new series would do well, possibly even much better. I'm not saying don't do it. But I am suggesting that you don't leave your current series hanging for too long to make it happen.

    As to my previous post, isn't the advice that the put the heavy promotion on discount book sites to the first book or prequel book in a series? I'm just musing that another prequel might give you something else to promote as heavily.
     
  11. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

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    Brian, I'm so pleased that it's gone so well for you. It means that you will have a reservoir of fans ready and waiting for whatever you put out next. Don't worry too much about the mailing list, either - Amazon's new 'Follow' option means that a lot of readers stay in touch that way. Amazon will put out an email to tell them about your new release a couple of weeks after it goes live, and - bingo! A nice little bump in sales. :) I got about 80 sales that way for my last book.
     
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  12. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Dan,

    It absolutely would. I agree with the advice that says that starting a new series in a new subgenre is a pretty idiotic move.

    Before I explain why I'm doing something so stupid, a quick clarification: I'm not stopping the current series (which is what it sounded like in my previous email); I'm alternating books - Primary series book 1, secondary series book 1, primary series book 2, secondary series book 2, etc.

    The reason is twofold: One, as I finished my massive 120k first novel, I found the thought of writing the sequel quite daunting. I thought, "Hmmm. What if I write a shorter book in another series as sort of a palate cleanser?" I'm nearing completion of that shorter book, and at this point, I'm pretty excited about finishing it and starting on the sequel to my primary series.

    I'm also treating this whole writing thing as a learning experience at the moment. What I'm finding thus far is that getting reader feedback is helping me become better as a writer. It seems to me that I'll learn more from feedback on two separate series than I will from one, and the quicker I learn, the better.

    It does, but I'm not sure that prequels, especially novellas, are as easy to sell (or even give away) as first books. Don't get me wrong; I'm glad that I have AoP to promote as it gives me the opportunity to learn a lot more about promotion before I begin in earnest with RotM. On the other hand, I'm not sure exactly how effective these promos are, and I'm not sure that AoP will ever earn back what I've invested in it.
     
    danr62 likes this.
  13. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Me, too! Thanks!

    I'm really hoping that this is the case.

    You saw huge jumps from your first book to your second to your third. Since I started out at an elevated level, I'm not sure I should have the same expectations or not.

    80! That's fantastic! Good show old chap. (Hoping you found my use of a traditional British phrase funny instead of potentially offensive :) )

    Is there any way to tell how many people have followed you?

    While this feature is handy, I still think that an email list is worth pursuing. For one thing, I'm not sure I'll stay in select permanently, and I don't want to be completely reliant on Amazon for selling. Additionally, building my list aggressively through ads has the potential of bringing me brand new customers.

    Thank you again for all your advice and support. I am positive that RotM would not be doing nearly as well if you hadn't pointed me toward kboards.

    Brian

    EDIT: In fact, I'm so thankful of your help that I'd love to do something for you. Let me know when you're running a promo, and I'll announce it in my monthly email newsletter. My newsletter is pretty small, but maybe it'll help some?
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2015
  14. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

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    I think the second and third books make a huge difference. Whatever level you start at, each successive book is likely to bump things up a notch. Whenever you're on Kboards, keep an eye on Angela Holder's thread. She's just released her second in series, after the first went ballistic all by itself. That will give you some indication of what the second book can do.

    Interestingly, although I had big jumps from the first book to the second, and then to the third, the fourth hasn't seen the same big jump. It's a more modest incremental increase, which will probably tail off quite quickly.

    Not offensive at all. :) And no, there seems to be no way to tell. But it seems to be an effective marketing method. For people reading on the Kindle, when you reach the end of a book, you get the option to 'Follow' the author there and then. I'm sure that's where it comes from, because I can't imagine many people finding the 'Follow' button on the author page. I was really surprised how effective it was.

    Here's another factoid for you: I've got book 5 on pre-order at the moment, and Amazon has already sent out a couple of emails about it to followers. Each time, I see a blip in pre-orders. So it's VERY effective. I have 75+ pre-orders already, and it's only been available for a couple of weeks.

    I'm not suggesting you ignore the mailing list building - it's the single most powerful promotional tool available to an author. If you have enough engaged readers on your mailing list, you don't need ANY other promotion to boost a new release into the bestseller lists. And you control that, bot Amazon, so it's well worth the effort.

    I have to say, though, that my author friends who've increased their mailing lists through giveaways have found that those people are not the most responsive. They tend not to buy later releases, because they were only there for the freebie.

    Here's yet another factoid for you: pre-orders and mailing list signups seem to be (to some extent) mutually exclusive. They're alternative ways for a reader to say: let me know when the next book is out. A friend who stopped doing pre-orders for her series saw a big jump in mailing list signups. So if building the mailing list is a major priority, you might not want to do pre-orders.

    You're very kind. I've had a huge amount of help from other self-pubbers, so I'm very happy to pay it forward. I know many Mythic Scribers are not thinking about publication yet, or are committed to pursuing a traditional deal, but even so, I hope all this is of interest to more than just you and me. :)

    My next promotion is on 14-15 November, when The Mages of Bennamore will be free for the first time. Every bit of extra publicity is helpful, if you want to mention it, I'd appreciate it.
     
    Russ likes this.
  15. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Unfortunately, I've already sent out an email for November (and at the moment, I'm only doing one per month). Let me know of all future ones, though, and I'll definitely note them!
     
  16. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

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    Thanks for the thought, anyway. The next promo probably won't be until January, so I'll try and remember to let you know!
     
  17. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Today begins a $0.99 promo period for Abuse of Power.

    I've already run a free promo this KDP period, so I can't do a Kindle Countdown (If you're in KDP, Zon allows you to either make the book free for five days or set the book's price below $2.99 for 7 days while still get 70% royalties. You can only take one of these actions each 3-month KDP period.). So for each sale between now and when I raise the price back up on 11/23, I get, counting the $.06 delivery fee, about $.28 cents per copy. At regular price, I get about $2.03 per copy sold. Doing the math, I'd need to sell 7.1x more copies at the lower price to get the same royalties.

    So why then am I doing this promo?

    Good question!

    The 7.1x number doesn't count people who read AoP and go on to buy RotM. If I sell just one extra copy of AoP and that leads to one more sell of RotM, things are good, right? But the calcs aren't that simple. To truly find out if I'm making more money by setting AoP to either .99 or permafree eventually, I need to have some idea of the sell through. That's what this experiment is about.

    The idea is to sell a bunch of copies of AoP over the next week and a half, and then watch sales/reads of Rise to see what happens. I'm investing $33.50 to hopefully get the reduced price of AoP in front of readers.

    Note that a positive ROI is not my goal for this promotion. The goal is data on sell through. If I sell a bunch of copies, and no one buys Rise, I'll lose money on this deal, but that's okay. $33.50 isn't exactly going to break me if I lose it completely. The important thing will be that I'll know that promoting AoP doesn't do a lot for me. On the other hand, my biggest fear is that I don't sell enough copies of AoP to get any good data on the sell through, and that fear is not by any means baseless because:

    a) This is not a huge promotion. I'm only using a few of the smaller sites because I want to do a big free promo for AoP in January and you quickly reach a saturation point if you run the same book on the same sites over and over again.

    b) .99 is a hard sell. People just don't respond to it as well as they do free, especially for a novella. OTOH, I think a lot of readers are more likely to read a book they paid for than a free book which may languish on their hard drive.

    All that being said, details of the promo follow:

    Current AoP Ranks and Sales Data -

    #245,875 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
    #1663 in Books > Romance > Fantasy
    #2296 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Sword & Sorcery
    #2855 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Sword & Sorcery

    Sales so far in November - 1 (Not one a day. One. Total. Yep.)
    Pages Read in November - 150

    So while I get a random sell/read every now and again, I think we can safely attribute all sells/reads during the upcoming period to the promo.

    Current RotM Ranks and Sales Data -

    #36,557 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
    #119 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Teen & Young Adult > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Sword & Sorcery
    #134 in Books > Teens > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Coming of Age
    #165 in Books > Teens > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Sword & Sorcery

    Sales so far in November - 20
    Pages Read in November - 24570

    As an average, that's 1.67 sales per day, but sales are actually trending slightly upward over the month (started at mostly 1 a day, moved to mostly 2 a day, last couple of days have been 3 to 4). That trending may be an aberration, so since any sell through should lag AoP sales, I'll keep my eye on it. I'm leaning toward attributing an average over the 1.5 to 2 range to sell through.

    The average pages read is around 2050 per day, but that quantity is trending the opposite direction of sales - a slow average decline. Over the first week of the month, it bounced back and forth over the 2500 pages per day line. Now, it's hovering more around the 1500 range. My inclination is to attribute any average above the 1500 to 1750 range to sell through, but I'll keep watching it for a few days.

    Promo Details -

    New price with no advertising $0 11/13 thru 11/15
    Bknights $5.50 11/16/15
    Betty book freak $8.00 11/17/15
    Sweet free books $5.00 11/18/15
    Reading Deals $15.00 11/17 - 11/19
    Read Cheaply $0.00 11/17 - 11/20
    New price with no advertising $0 11/21 thru 11/22

    My plan is to do a results post on 11/30, hopefully giving me enough time to see any sell through results.
     
  18. danr62

    danr62 Sage

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    I guess with KU it's harder to track sell through rate than it used to be.

    Good luck on the promo!

    I recently read AoP and am slowly making my way through Rise. I'm working a bunch of overtime right now so not much time for reading. Anyway, I like it so far.

    I'm curious about your strategy with AoP because it's not a true prequel, just the first few chapters of the book. Do you get any negative feedback about that? Is it a strategy that's recommended a lot over on KB?
     
  19. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

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    One small point, Brian - if you're in the 35% royalty range (by manually setting the price to 99c rather than using a Countdown), you don't pay the delivery charge. So you're making 34c per sale. :)
     
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  20. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Dan,

    Thanks! I really appreciate you doing that!

    You kinda lost me here.

    A prequel, by the definition I'm using, is a story set in the same world as the series that features some of the same characters and takes place prior to the events of start of the main series. Both Wheel of Time and Sword of Truth had prequels published that followed that basic concept.

    Therefore, Abuse of Power is a prequel.

    I think that you're confused. The chapters at the back of the book are simply the first several chapters of Rise of the Mages. I called that a Sneak Preview.

    I think having that was a lot more effective for me prior to RotM being published. I'm going to update it prior to my next promo and put a Sneak Preview for Repulsive.

    I have not gotten any negative feedback. Some people think that sneak previews help, and others don't bother. Truthfully, I have no idea how effective it is. From the KENP, I do know that a small percentage of readers (10-20%?) read all the way through the Sneak Preview. My guess is that readers who make it all the way through are more likely to buy RotM as well, so at worst, I don't think including it hurts anything.
     
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