Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mysteries of marketing

Life is an accumulation of mysteries. Why does the universe exist? Why does gravity work? Does intelligent life exist outside terra firma? And why do my book sales chug along nicely for months and suddenly fall through the floor?

Okay, my marketing has not been a model of relentless consistency this year, but the monthly check from Amazon for my three self-published books has been nice to see. The payments have always been a couple hundred dollars or more, but halfway through this month my royalties are under fifty bucks. (I can hear you now: Oh, you poor baby. Whine, whine, whine.) Mainly, this post is meant to puzzle out the reason in public so more can benefit.

These are e-books only, selling on Amazon at $2.99 with a 70 percent commission. Using their KDP Select program, Amazon Prime members borrow copies and yield a nice return to me. My marketing effort has depended mostly on Twitter, where response is typically good. I have worked hard with TweetAdder to build up my number of followers, which now is over 7,000. Then--oops--Twitter told me I was using them too aggressively and suspended my account until I promised to behave. So I scaled way back on following and unfollowing. The result was immediate. My sales plummeted, because my tweets constantly need to appear before fresh, new eyeballs. Twitter says it's okay to follow people one by one, but that's a glacial pace. Meanwhile, giveaways help a little, but of course they mainly move product for free.

Obviously, depending on one vehicle, Twitter, is a real marketing weakness. But it really does seem far and away the best means of selling large numbers of low-priced ebooks. Blogs and Facebook are good, but tend to reach the same people. That means you can't constantly pitch to them without alienating them.

What has been other people's experience? I'm happy to share more details of my own.


Rick Bylina said...

The marketing of self-published books is still mostly a mystery to me, but I suspect part of the magic with Twitter is to get RETWEETs by heavy hitters. I said something funny (imagine that) one day and two Twitterheads, both with over 150,000 followers RETWEETed it. Book sales followed almost immediately.

Another aspect is getting away from the friends and family plan. While I want every friend and family member to buy my book, that's not going to cut the mustard. We have to continually go after people not like us. It's nice that I have 2,000 followers; however, 99.9% of them are fellow writers trying to get me to do what I'm trying to get them to do--buy my book. I need to get Donald Trump to tweet, "When I march on Washington, I'll be bringing along Rick Bylina's All Of Our Secrets and Bob Sanchez's When Pigs Fly to express how I fee." Then, we can watch the numbers turn over.

Bob Sanchez said...

Retweeting is key. I do a whole lot of it, more than original tweets. That prompts plenty of people to retweet for me. I don't ask friends and family to buy my book at all. A few do anyway, and that's great. But really, who wants to annoy the people who are close to you? The world has vastly more strangers, and we can annoy them with impunity (insert smiley face here). A lot of my followers are also writers, because they are reliably readers too. As for Donald Trump, I can picture him storming the barricades, his comb-over all aswirl, a copy of each of our books in hand.

Karlene Conroy said...

I've heard Twitter is the way to go these days, and it sounds like it's working for you. I've yet to sign up, but will soon. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subject.

Morgan Mandel said...

I'll have to try Rick's idea. I never thought about which are heavy hitters. I've been retweeting usually during commercials when I watch TV, so it's relatively painless, but I don't check to see how many followers these people have. Maybe I need to look for more popular Tweeters. Tell me how to get Trump to retweet me, please!

Facebook is pretty and fun, but can be snarky at times.

I've been trying to weed out my Twitter unfollowers on a regular basis, but that takes time. I never seem to get to my book, which needs finishing! I have no way to figure out which Facebook friends to get rid of. Some show up at the oddest times and make comments or Likes, so I don't want to throw any out, and don't know which ones anyway.

Morgan Mandel

P.M. Steffen said...

This is all very interesting. I published my genre novel (The Profiler's Daughter: A Sky Stone Thriller)on Amazon less than a month ago and am currently in the middle of a "hard" launch -- giving it away in the Free Kindle Store. I'm currently #1 in police procedurals, #2 in mystery & thrillers, and #16 overall. How that will ultimately translate to paying customers, I haven't the slightest idea. I've pushed it on my FB and Fan Pages with very modest results. I just checked how many "sales" I've had on Amazon and the count is 15,0000 with buys in England, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. What will happen once I get through the 5-day promo? That remains an empirical question. I don't know anything about twitter, that is on my marketing TO DO list. Clearly, tweeting is a valuable tool! Thanks, everybody!

Anonymous said...

Bob, you are so right in that you cannot continue to pitch the same people. This is the problem we face. Adding more friends and followers can help. But after a while we will burn out our immediate circle of influence. I faced the same problem at the end of the summer and scratched my wondering what I could do to reach new markets of fresh faces.

Solution: market to your friends and followers circles of influence. Yes, there will be some of the same as in your group. But consider if the literally tens of thousands of unique friends and followers your friends and followers have but you do not. What if you can reach them?

This is why I came up with the Writeres4Writers group. No, this is not a cheesy shameless self promotion. You just happen to have a timely post at the same time we're unveiling W4WS.

If you have a chance, check out my blog post from Thursday November 8th.

Mary Paddock said...

Hi Bob. I've been wondering if I was missing something in this retweeting thing. I do retweet religiously (superstitiously almost) and I've made a few sales, but nothing close to yours. Maybe I need to retweet more? Hmm . . .

Bob Sanchez said...

Rick's idea is a good one--hey, any idea that works is good. My concern is that relying on "heavy hitters" to do your heavy lifting may just yield frustration. You cannot count on anyone in particular to retweet for you, though I do wish the heck The Donald would come around. So if you can retweets from folks like that, wonderful, but don't waste a lot of time trying for that. If someone with 2,000 followers retweets for me, that's good exposure. Of course, if they're brand-new eyeballs it's much better, but you can't control that. Note that what you want is to always include a buy link in your tweets; otherwise getting a retweet doesn't help you much.