News and Book Marketing Blog

This is where we'll be posting articles on the subjects of independent publishing, book marketing and book promotion, as well as providing news updates relating to Readers in the Know.

Social Media Puzzles & Solutions for Writers

05 Jun 2015

By Laurence O'Bryan (with an Intro from Simon Denman)

0 comments

Social Media Puzzles & Solutions for Writers After a period of relative blogging silence following the launch of our Listen Inside Podcast in March, I'm very happy to once again be in a position to start sharing useful tips and insights in the field of book marketing.
Long overdue on this blog has been something on Social Media. This is partly because it's an area that I've yet to really master myself - at least as far as Twitter is concerned - although with over 17,000 fans for our Facebook page, I feel I might have finally got a pretty good handle on that.

So to fill this gap, I've turned to the founder of one of the latest additions to our Interactive List of Book Promotion Sites,
Laurence O'Bryan of BooksGoSocial.com and thebookpromoter.com, and who is also an author on this site:

___________________________

Social media can be viewed as a series of puzzles. When, as a writer, you first start on social media it seems that everyone knows what you don't. The mysteries of social media are revealed slowly as you browse and experiment and learn. This post will explore some important pieces of the social media puzzle, of relevance whether you're new to social media or an old hand.

Puzzle 1. What are the goals of social media participation?


The first puzzle I'd like to explore is what are reasonable goals for social media participation? The reason this comes first, for me, is because how you answer this will affect every other social media action that you take.

If your goal is simply to increase sales of your books, then there will be a series of steps you need to take to build relationships with people who might be interested in reading them.

This would, however, be a very restrictive and stunted use of social media. It would be like installing a telephone in your offices and only using it for sales calls.

Every aspect of your work can be impacted positively by social media, if you let it. Research, industry knowledge, motivation and planning can all be helped by social media tools, which allow you to connect with people, listen and communicate.

You can also use social media as a creative tool as well as for all the above. It allows you to express whatever you want; your love of Tolkien or photography or Proust or Joyce or whatever.

But you can use social media to build relationships too. Real relationships.

Puzzle 2. Is social media a dog chasing its own tail, a self reinforcing bubble, or is it something that will last?


Social Media Puzzles & Solutions for Writers
There has been a steady drum beat in the media over the past few years of Luddite criticism of social media. Some commentators claim that it is all a waste of time, that social media is banal and trivial and that it will all pass.

My personal view is that social media is here to stay and that it forces cooperation and openness. To be otherwise on social media would lead to being flamed or being shunned. Cooperation and openness lead to increased learning, as we take on board new ideas.

I don't think every Tweet or post is a symbol of progress, but there are enough positive ones, I believe, to make it obvious that social media is of benefit to humanity, overall, as a communication tool.

I do think there is a danger of over hyping social media, the way radio was over hyped in the 1920’s, with a large number of radio companies coming to Wall Street to sell shares.

But because many of those radio stations went bankrupt it doesn’t mean that radio was a medium set to die.

Radio was hugely important in the Second World War and since too. Rock & roll and the popular music revolutions of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s are just some of the things radio enabled. I believe social media will have a similarly important role in the decades to come for writers. We are now able to reach readers without the help of a publisher or a large inheritance.

Social Media Puzzles & Solutions for Writers

Puzzle 3. Could social media be an agent of change in our culture?


Social media could be as much an instrument of change as radio or TV was, influencing politics, popular culture and comedy to name but a few areas. Social media, like radio and TV, is a means of mass communication.

And social media is changing fast. Facebook’s shares go down again, then up again, then down again.

Google+ changes its look and feel, again. Twitter is used to assess the political mood and the likelihood of a stock market crash. Soon it will be used to predict riots and stock market rallies.

The impact on writers, forcing a more open and accessible personal style, is likely to have a long term effect on what writers create and how they create. And we are still at the beginning of this revolution.

Try searching for #socialmedia on Twitter and you will be assaulted by wave after wave of developments in social media. Every minute. No! Every second.

But where will all this lead us? I see four clear trends, each of which could have an impact on writers:

The visual web. Mobile video stream, Microsoft's HoloLens 3d headset and local YouTube feeds may allow us to travel almost anywhere and experience everything as ultimate-voyeurs. Expect artistic photojournalism, environments that change as we look at them, permanent people tracking, your visual life on a site, celebrity holograms at your local book store and rebranding sites that will let you see how you might appear with a few nicks and tucks when you win that big publishing deal.
Screens may surround us and allow us instant access to the thoughts and recommendations of other people, and even to see what they are seeing, to read what they are reading. We may eventually be able to piggy back onto other people’s lives through visceral monitoring, heart, sweat, body chemicals, leading to the manipulation of our own senses, but all that is far off. Whether we get there is another thing, completely.
The auto posting trend. Expect your phone to auto post your location to your life-blog and your audio feed to text tweets to Twitter. Going beyond that we may be tracked by location posting sites for curfew enforcement, remote working and spouse spying applications.Auto posts already make up a big percentage of the posts you see. That includes re-posts and posts simply made at a previous time. The question seems to be, not whether you should auto-post an update on what you are reading/researching, but why you think your followers will be interested in learning that? Perhaps we will have training courses and later, degree course in “deciding what to post” and “deciding what to listen to and who to follow”.
The digital chasm. The erosion of the middle class will lead to a divide between those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to pursue writing as a career and those who are not. Fortunately, writing well is not something you can easily outsource to the 3rd world. It requires a cultural dexterity, which can take decades to learn. Instant security services, auto-taser fencing and within-a-minute by drone-extraction from urban locations may all be our future. Security zones may extend to elite stores, clubs and hotels, all invisible to the rest of humanity by their anonymous exteriors.

Social Media Puzzles & Solutions for Writers

Puzzle 4. How did we survive before social media (BSM)?


If my memory serves me we did just fine BSM. Sure, we had to wait to hear gossip, and read newspapers or magazines to find out what was happening around us, but we didn’t know what we were missing. The internet was initially about newspapers and selling or buying things and searching and we used it less (it was slow), and BSM we read more and spent more time watching TV, but I don’t think we were any healthier or wiser as a whole.

BSM we just didn’t know stuff. I can’t tell you whether it’s that important in the big scheme of things that we have intimate knowledge of each other’s lives, but I believe this social media trend is unstoppable now. It’s a genii that’s out of its bottle. And I don’t know what spell will make it go back in again, but it will have to be a powerful one.

The only thing I expect, which could impact our use of social media is disruption to our electricity supply.

And that would lead to a lot of deaths in our electric driven world. We will, I believe, be doing social media differently in the future, but I don’t think we are going back to the days BSM.

And yes, much of the above may not happen before 2020. So if you want to write about the near future, consider incorporating some of the above elements. In any case it will be your ability to tell a good story that will make or break what you write.

Luck still plays an essential role in all successful writing, but you do know what they say about luck; it’s better to make your own.

For me these are four of the biggest puzzles about social media. You may have other ones you think are more important. I hope you will consider sharing those with us below.

Please share if you have a puzzle. For me this is one of the most intriguing aspects of social media. How it is developing.

THREE KEY TAKEAWAYS:


Some of the puzzling aspects of social media:

  1. Do you know what your goals are? Are you taking full advantage of the opportunities that social media is providing or are you just using it to help you sell books?

  2. Is social media chasing its own tail? Social media has real benefits. This is not just my opinion. Sure, human connections made on social media are not as strong as the connections we have with people in our local area, but you can build useful relationships with people all over the world with social media in a way that was impossible before.

  3. Is it an agent of change? Only time will tell whether the changes in our societies as a result of social media are long lasting or if we will eventually turn away from technology. I strongly suspect that technology will develop further and further. It may plateau at some stage and we may need to change how we do things, such as the annual obsolescence of many devices, but software and the internet are changing too fast and more and more people are finding innovative ways to use the web and getting employed in it, so I don’t think this wave of change is over yet.


Laurence O'Bryan is an author, with three novels published by Harper Collins, and the Founder of BooksGoSocial.com a service to help authors get discovered. To see their book promotion services click here.

The Listen Inside Podcast - Book Discovery via iTunes!

12 Mar 2015

by Simon Denman

4 comments

The Listen Inside Podcast - Book Discovery via iTunes As promised a week or so ago in my exploratory email to all authors, the "Listen Inside" podcast has now become a reality, extending our potential for book discovery to thousands more readers via iTunes.

Every day I'll be featuring a new book selected from those of our paid members (members who choose to keep their books listed following their 60-day free trial) who have expressed an interest and sent me an excerpt (just a few paragraphs) from one of their books.

For the foreseeable future, there is no additional charge for being featured in this podcast.

The podcast page can be reached at www.readersintheknow.com/podcast and can also be found under "Home" on the main menu.

Please share widely among all your contacts and of course subscribe through iTunes, if you have it installed.

It would also help enormously if you could leave a great review on iTunes for the podcast, since that will help to increase subscriptions and in turn, our book discovery.

If you use some other podcast app that accepts this valid RSS feed, then that should work too.

I am also looking at releasing a couple of smart phone apps in the near future, which should further extend the reach of this podcast and thus further increase book discovery for all of us.

As always, don't forget that as a logged in member, you can earn referral points by sharing any public page of this website with your friends.

How to Get Book Reviews - Insights from an Indie Reviewer

18 Feb 2015

By A. Fae (with an introduction by Simon Denman)

1 comments

Getting Book Reviews - Truth about Books logo We all know that accumulating great book reviews can help to sell more books, but how exactly should an author go about getting them? For many indies, it seems like a chicken and egg scenario - to get reviews you need to sell more books, and yet to sell more books, you need reviews.
In Riding the Review Roller-coaster we examined some of the dynamics, psychology and ethics behind reviews and shared some tips for getting more of them.

This time, however, I thought it would be interesting to hear from someone on the other side of the fence - a reviewer - and so invited prolific indie reviewer, A. Fae of Truth About Books to come over and share her insights:

Why do I write Reviews?
by A. Fae


As an avid reader I was always looking for ways to get a variety of books without spending my entire month's income on them. A friend of mine then introduced me to a couple of different email subscriptions where I could get daily notifications of reduced-price or most often free books. At last count I'd amassed a library of about 1,900 books. So my days turned into reading anything and everything I could get my hands on.

I found, more often than not, that the books I was reading were predominantly by independent authors, and although some of them were phenomenal, many had hardly any reviews - positive or negative. And this bothered me greatly, since having just read a tremendous book, I felt the world should know about it.

It was at this point I began posting reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads, and then on a Facebook page dedicated to indie writers. Through those outlets I kept getting asked why I didn't start a blog of my own and so eventually, based on the simple premise that many indie authors weren't being given due credit for the amazing works they were creating, Truth About Books was born with a view to putting that right.

How to approach Indie Reviewers


If you're interested in getting your book read and reviewed by an indie reviewer, the first thing I must say to you is to be patient! You may wait quite some time to have your piece reviewed - sometimes up to 18 months or longer. And please be wary of those out there who take advantage of upcoming authors by charging exorbitant fees for reviews, promotions, editing, and other services 'guaranteed' to get your book sold. I know there are some good reviewers who charge monies, but there are tons who will do it for free, like we do, for the sheer enjoyment of reading your work.

Finding someone to review your book should just be a matter of typing in keywords like "indie book reviewers", "book review blogs", "indie reviews" and the like. When you find a blog you are interested in having review your book, the most important thing to do, AFTER making sure they have a quality blog, is to look over their review policies. These will tell you their expectations and help you establish your own expectations of them. They will typically include how to contact them, what genres they accept, what type of file they'll need, and how long before you can expect to hear back from them.

One extremely helpful resource many of my authors use is The Indie View. The site includes a sortable list of reviewers who have been vetted for their independence, clear submission guidelines, and for not charging any fee.

The last thing I can say is that you shouldn't be discouraged by an occasional bad review. Each reviewer has their own criteria for how they rate books and what in particular they look for. One or two poor reviews may just mean that the reviewer was not typical of your target audience. However, a handful of such reviews, in which the same negative feedback keeps appearing, might be an indication that it's time to revisit your manuscript, or at least keep these points in mind for future works.

Beyond Blogging - Creating your own Author Podcast

06 Feb 2015

By Simon Denman with an Invitation to a Free Webinar

0 comments

Author podcast image represented by woman on ladder with loud-hailer Creating and publishing compelling content (known in the business as content marketing) is currently one of the best ways to increase organic search traffic (web visits arising from Google search queries), and to gain followers with a genuine interest in your chosen subject matter.

For authors whose books are informed by specialist knowledge or expertise, this presents a unique opportunity to gain new readers and is a key reason why so many maintain blogs. The idea is simple; blog about topics that are likely to interest (and be searched for by) the target readers of your book, and when they come to read your posts, they will hopefully subscribe to your mailing list, learn about your book(s) and perhaps be tempted to grab a copy or two.

Even when no particular specialist knowledge is involved, a blog can still be a useful way for an author to showcase his or her voice, style, humour etc. although the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) value might be limited.

Of course, like many such 'opportunities' in book marketing, doing this well is easier said than done and presents several challenges including coming up with a regular supply of engaging new content, choosing the title and keywords to optimise each post for Google search, and deciding how best to promote it once published. Blogging can therefore be a useful tool for an author, but represents a commitment and discipline that won't suit everybody.

So what other content marketing options are available to authors?


A few weeks ago, I received an email from Ani Alexander, of the popular Write 2B Read podcast for authors, asking if she could interview me about my experiences both as an author and as founder of Readers in the Know. Already familiar with Ani's work, I gratefully accepted, a date was set for our Skype session, and the result can be listened to here.

Since then, we've had several interesting chats about author marketing and podcasting, and on the last such occasion, she mentioned that on Wednesday February 18th, she and Meron Bareket, Founder of PodcastIncubator.com (upon whose platform Write 2B Read is produced), will be running a free webinar on Podcasting for authors in 7 easy steps.

I immediately registered, and since this struck me as something you might also find valuable, I decided to share it here also.

To register for this Free Webinar, click here.

How to time your book promos to create the perfect campaign

29 Jan 2015

by Simon Denman

3 comments

Image of hand holding stopwatch to symbolise timing of book promos After the amazing response to my previous post announcing our new book promo submission tool, I decided to contact RITK author and Amazon promo guru, Wayne Stinnett for his thoughts and feedback.

"It's a great tool," he said, "but do you know what what would make it even better? - Timing!"

He then went on to explain how he had recently been attempting to time his promos, not just on a day-to-day basis, but also by the hour.

The logic behind this is simply an extension of our previous deductions about the working of Amazon's algorithms taking into consideration that the sales rank is updated hourly rather than daily. So it makes sense, if you can manage it, to aim for an increased rate of sales not just day upon day, but hour upon hour.

With this goal in mind, Wayne had already started to record the approximate time of day when various promo sites send out their email blasts and so he generously agreed to share these with me for inclusion in the tool.

So, I quickly added a new column to the table to show the approximate hour at which email blasts are sent out, and then added a few more lines of code to allow you to select the time zone (since by default, the times shown are GMT).

Luckily, it all seemed to work like a charm and so the update went live this morning.

I don't yet have all the email timings for all sites that do an email blast, but I hope to be able to fill in the gaps over the coming days / weeks, so if you already have any of this missing info, please let me know.

For a more complete explanation of how to use this new data in the planning of your promos, I refer you to Wayne's post in the Kboards Writer's Cafe, What would a perfect five day discount promo look like?

The Ultimate List of Book Promo Sites and Free Submission Tool

24 Jan 2015

by Simon Denman

6 comments

List of Book Promo Sites Just before Christmas, I promised to publish a comprehensive list of book promo sites and some of you may now be wondering why it's taken so long.

Although I already had a fairly comprehensive list in Excel, which I could have just posted here, I wanted to go one better than that and create a fully interactive book promo submission tool.

In particular, I wanted to:

  • Classify each site according to the kind of criteria I myself find useful when planning a book promotion.

  • Provide a way to quickly sort the list based on these criteria.

  • Be able to create a configurable shortlist of sites that I can come back to each time I promote my book.

  • Have this shortlist also act as checklist so I can keep track of which sites I've already submitted to and keep a permanent record of these for future reference.

  • Store all the relevant details for each site in a database so I can easily keep them updated, as urls, pricing and other attributes inevitably change over time.

The result, which you can find on its own dedicated page here, (accessible under Questions? in the main menu), I hope you agree, has been worth the wait. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that this is now almost certainly the most comprehensive list of book promo sites and free submission tool anywhere on the web today.

Of course, although I've just recently tested the links and verified all the information to the best of my ability, there may still be a few errors in the data and possibly even a bug or two in the application software, so please test it out and share it as widely as you can.

Also remember that if you log in before sharing any public link on this website, you will automatically earn referral points each time someone registers, having first found us through one of your shared links.

Are you an Ethical Author?

23 Dec 2014

by Simon Denman

2 comments

Ethical Author Code of Conduct preview from Alliance of Independent Authors Want to show the world that you're different from other authors? - That you'll never stoop to the unethical behaviour that occasionally brings indies to media attention for all the wrong reasons?

A little while ago, I wrote a post entitled The New Gatekeepers of Publishing Quality in which I mentioned that the Alliance of Independent Authors would soon be launching a voluntary code of ethics to which we could all potentially declare adherence.

Well I'm happy to announce that such a code has indeed just been launched and you can find all the necessary details on the SelfPublishing Advice Blog here.

Furthermore, if you would like to have the "Ethical Author" logo displayed here on your Readers in the Know public author profile page, all you need to do is confirm your adherence to the code by ticking the new checkbox at the bottom of your author profile Edit form (just above the "Save" and "Delete" buttons). To access this edit form, just go to your Publisher Dashboard and click the pencil icon to the right of where it says Author Profile:

The following logo will then be displayed under the social sharing icons below your author profile photo on your public author profile page.
Alliance of Independent Authors /

How to engage Amazon's algorithms to sell more books

14 Dec 2014

By Simon Denman

3 comments

Screenshot from Laurel & Hardy to show how influencing amazon's algorithms is like moving a piano When you want to move a piano, you don't audition each of your neighbours in turn to see which one of them can move it all by himself, you ask a whole bunch of them to lend a hand and as a result, the lifting becomes easy.

Well, for reasons I'm about to explain, the same principal also applies to book promotions and yet the approach that many authors seem to take, is that of individual audition rather than collective assistance. Their logic is sound. By trying each book promotion site in turn, they expect to be able to determine which services have an effect on sales and which ones don't. Except this doesn't really work, unless one of your neighbours happens to be an elephant.

So why is promoting your book like moving a piano?


What you need to remember is that when you run a promotion and publicise it on any of the myriad book promotion sites (for a comprehensive interactive list of these sites, see here), your total (Amazon) sales will depend on 2 things:
  • the number of customers sent to Amazon by that book site and

  • the degree to which sales from those customers influence Amazon's algorithms.

This is because when it comes to increasing sales of your book, almost nothing you can do as an indie author will come close to the potential contribution from the Amazon algorithms.

Let's say you're running a Kindle Countdown Deal on one of your books and you choose to promote it here on Readers in the Know (by scheduling a promotion of type 'Discount'). Of all those whose reading preferences match your book's classification, let's say that 30 decide to check it out in more detail.

Of these 30, let's say 15 decide to click Buy Now and are sent to Amazon to complete their purchase. If this is an isolated event, you'll get just 15 sales, or maybe only 10 or 12 since a few may see something else they like better in the customers who bought this also bought this section just below your book. And while this one promo may already cover a good chunk of your membership fee for the whole year, it's hardly cause for celebration.

However, if you've promoted it on 5 other sites as well (for a full list of other sites, see here), all of which bring you 10 additional sales that morning, then Amazon's algorithm might just think, "hmm...50 sales in 3 hours...what's happening here? Let's show it to a few more customers and see if they buy it too." So you might actually get 80 or 100 sales that morning.
Now if that's it and you don't send any more customers their way, then the algorithms will loose interest and your sales rank will quickly drop back to what it was before (in fact your rank will be devalued by roughly 50% every 24 hours*).

If on the other hand, using a combination of some of the bigger more expensive sites, you send another 80 or 100 customers the following day, then Amazon's algorithms will see an upward trend and start to recommend it to even more customers. That day, you might get 200 sales and the longer you show them an upward trend, the more the algorithms will reward you.

Now you might think that this is all pure conjecture. After all, the details of Amazon's algorithms are a closely guarded secret and probably subject to frequent change anyway.

Well yes and no. In many ways it's a bit like trying to optimise a website to rank highly in Google's Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). For years, web developers and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) consultants have tried to outsmart Google using various shortcuts. For a while, these shortcuts would work and then Google would make their algorithms that little bit smarter so at best, they brought no advantage, and at worst, you would find your site penalised and suddenly ranking nowhere at all.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, although there are still some important dos and don'ts when it comes to website SEO, the most reliable way to get ranked highly now is simply to produce regular high-quality content that satisfies the highest possible number of genuine search queries. And if you can manage to do this, it will always work because ultimately, that is Google's goal, at least as far as search goes, to provide the best possible answers to people's search queries.

When you apply this same philosophy to Amazon's algorithms, you realise that whatever the specific details, their ultimate goal is to maximise the number of books sold. This means that they will always be aiming to recommend whatever books they think will sell most quickly and in the greatest number.

Starting with this high-level understanding of their goals, it's then possible to conduct various experiments to see what specific factors appear to influence the algorithms and how they do so.

So how do the algorithms actually work


Drawing on my own experimentation, as well as that of Wayne Stinnett and Robert Bidinotto, who recently posted both his initial campaign plan as well as its results here on this blog, we can deduce the following:

  • External ads only need to drive above average sales volume over a short time-frame in order to have an influence on the algorithms.

  • Sending in (above average) sales over a sustained period (2 to 3 days at least) is better than sending them all in one go.

  • The algorithms reward upward trends but seem to drop all others – so if your 3-day promo peaks on day 1 or day 2, the momentum can disappear overnight and the whole effect can be lost.

  • The faster the climb (assuming you can continue to increase its rate of climb), the more the algorithms will boost your results.

  • The higher the pre-promo starting rank, the greater the subsequent boost and the longer it lasts.

  • Higher numbers of Amazon customer reviews appear to boost any positive effect you invoke, but exactly how much is not yet clear.

  • Price does not (in itself) influence sales rank*

  • Enrolment in KDP Select does not (in itself) influence sales rank*

  • Borrows on Kindle Unlimited influence the sales rank immediately (i.e. you don't have to wait for them to read 10% for your rank to increase)*

*The last 3 observations come from a very clever experiment conducted by Matthias Matting in which he actually created four new books, all derived from content taken from his website Selfpublisherbibel.de. By doing this, he was able to create uniquely consistent conditions in which individual factors could be tested one at a time. This is probably the best example yet of the scientific method being applied to book marketing and I really take my hat off to Matthias for doing so.

The effect of KDP Select


My only caution to Matthias' results are evidenced by the addition of (in itself) which I added to the first two of his points. My reason for this is that although within his controlled experiment, both price and enrolment in KDP Select had no effect on sales rank, I am pretty certain that if he were to engage the algorithms as described earlier in this post, then the titles in KDP select would in fact do better, and those with a lower price would probably do better still.

The reason for this relates back to the piano metaphor. Putting a book in KDP select has no effect on rank. In fact even running a Countdown Deal within KDP Select doesn't do a whole lot of good unless you also promote that deal through multiple sites such as this. However, when you do that and your sales exceed some critical level, Amazon's algorithms will not only show your book to more customers in the usual ways, but you'll also start to be featured in the various Kindle Countdown promotions pages, which can make a huge difference. And of course, when customers compare the various countdown deals, those with the lower price will (other factors being roughly equivalent) do better than others.

Of course the main argument against KDP select is its stipulation that you have to sell exclusively through Amazon. After all, even though Amazon is by far the biggest, most powerful outlet we have, why not increment your Amazon revenue with sales from other channels? And indeed a great many authors including myself are beginning to ask that very question. For me, the answer will depend on how well I can engage the algorithms for future KDP Countdown Deals.

Incidentally, one of the reasons I've kept the buy links on this site pointing exclusively at Amazon is so as not to dilute the effect of your campaigns on Amazon's algorithms. By offering a choice of retailers, quite apart from the complexity of doing this for all countries like we currently do for Amazon, the sales you'd receive from Apple or Barnes and Noble would obviously not contribute to the trends you want the algorithms to notice.

Kindle Unlimited


The last point about Kindle Unlimited borrows affecting rank immediately is particularly interesting. So although authors only get paid for KU borrows if the reader completes 10% or more of the book, there may still be some benefit even if they don't. This is because the increase it still gives you in sales rank will expose your book to more potential customers and therefore increase your chance of earning incremental sales.

Whether this small benefit is enough to justify keeping your book enrolled in KU though is still up for debate. Some high-earning authors are reporting large drops in monthly sales coinciding with the date their books were enrolled in KU, which suggests a high degree of cannibalisation. Then again for books priced at only a couple of dollars or less, that cannibalisation should make very little difference, and in some cases may even lead to an increase in revenue.

For a more considered account of the pros and cons of KU, I refer you Porter Anderson's excellent article, "Is the honeymoon over? KU comes between Amazon and its self-publishers" here.

What have you discovered? Do the above observations correspond to your own?
Please let us know via the comments below.

Book Competition with Free Enhanced Listing for RITK members

06 Dec 2014

By Simon Denman in collaboration with Conrad Murray at Bookbzz.com

17 comments

Bookbzz.com book competition logo Readers In The Know is pleased to link up with book recommendations site Bookbzz.com which is currently promoting a "Prize Writer Competition" where authors in 11 categories get the chance to win a Prize Pool and scoop a substantial winning purse.

Entries to this book competition cost $25 per book, but all entry fees are added to a prize-fund which is divided solely between the winners. And to get things started, bookbzz.com have added $1000 dollars to the stakes.

A few days after launch the current prize fund already stands at $2500, but that is expected to expand substantially between now and the closing day for entries on 15th January 2015.

To enter, you must first list your book on bookbzz.com (which is free).

But members of Readers In The Know will get their free listings upgraded to "enhanced" (saving $15) by entering the following coupon code for any entry made before midnight on December 9th 2014.

#RiTK05-09/12/14

Enhanced listings qualify for front page and feature pages display and appear higher in searches on the bookbzz.com website.

For full details of the entry categories, how it works, and how to enter, visit bookbzz.com/bee-bookbzz-com-prize-writer

Don't forget to copy and paste your free "enhanced listing" code:
#RiTK05-09/12/14 to get your free bookbzz.com listing upgrade.

If you have any questions about the competition or entry rules please contact support@bookbzz.com for assistance.

Kindle Countdown Campaign Results - Hunter in Orbit

26 Nov 2014

By Robert Bidinotto (edited by Simon Denman)

2 comments

Photo of Space Shuttle Challenger in orbit above the earth On November 13 I posted a guest blog here, describing a book promotion experiment I was about to conduct. I’m now back to share with you the results of that experiment, in the hope that other authors might find this useful in their own book promotional efforts.

Campaign Recap


Strategy
Build a sales campaign upon on an Amazon exclusive 5-day Kindle Countdown Deal (KCD), with three days of paid advertising ending in a Bookbub thriller list promotion (which boasts 1.3 million subscribers) on the third day.

Hypothesis being tested
That the Amazon ranking and recommendation algorithms reward a rising trend of ebook sales over several days, more than a one-day spike.

Details:
Book being promoted (Book 1): Hunter by Robert Bidinotto
Regular Price: $4.99
Countdown Price: $0.99 (99p in UK)

To further increase sales during this period, I also arranged advertising with about ten different book promotion sites, including Readers in the Know (this site) and Bookbub. Some of these rely solely on their websites and social media, while others (including this one) additionally send out email blasts to lists of subscribers.

Day -1 (pre-launch), 9pm (EST) Wednesday Nov 12th
Start of 5-day KCD (started early to avoid any potential screw-ups)

DAY 1, Thursday Nov 13th
  • Case study blog on Readers in the Know

  • Extensive Facebook and Twitter promotion

  • Free Kindle Books & Tips

  • Digital Book Spot (via BKnights at Fiverr)

DAY 2, Friday
  • Readers in the Know (featured book of the day)

  • Riffle Select

  • Fussy Librarian

  • Awesome Gang

  • Ebooksoda

  • EbookLister

  • More Facebook and Twitter promotion (including listing my book on other dedicated Facebook pages)

  • Two blogger friends also posted interviews that they had conducted with me.

DAY 3, Saturday
  • Bookbub Promotion in "Thrillers"

  • Ereader News Today (ENT)

  • More DIY Social Media promotion

DAY 4, Sunday
  • Minimal DIY Social Media promotion

DAY 5, Monday
  • Minimal DIY Social Media promotion

Results


By any measure, the campaign has been a stunning success.

The following table shows the number of sales and borrows, both for the promoted book - Hunter (book 1) and for Bad Deeds (book 2), which in spite of not being the focus of any direct promotion whatsoever, benefited enormously from the promotion of Hunter.
The area shaded in orange represents the 5 days of KCD.




UK RESULTS
I’ve never previously sold many books in the UK—maybe half a dozen per month. During this campaign I used KCD, Readers in the Know (~43% UK), Bookbub, and Ebooksoda to reach the UK market. Here are the results:
  • Day 1: 8 sales from KCD + Readers in the Know

  • Day 2: 6 sales from KCD + Ebooksoda

  • Day 3: 86 sales from Bookbub + KCD, plus perhaps some residual Ebooksoda effects.

  • Day 4: 24 sales + 2 borrows—“tail” effects from all the preceding.

  • Day 5: 24 sales + 1 borrow—more “tail” effects.

That’s 151 paid units during the campaign, from a market that usually generates but a trickle of sales. I wasn’t paying close attention, but well into the campaign I saw that the UK Kindle rank for HUNTER was in the 500s. For days the book held down the #1 spot in the UK Kindle “Vigilante Justice” category, simultaneously holding #1 for that same category in the USA.

SUMMARY


  • More than 3,000 copies of HUNTER were bought during the five-day promotion. In addition, 200+ copies of the (unadvertised) sequel, BAD DEEDS, were purchased.

  • On Saturday, November 15, HUNTER sold 1,515 copies in a single day.

  • For the second time in three years, HUNTER entered the U.S. Kindle “Top 50” bestsellers, peaking at #38 among some three million Kindle ebook titles.

  • The book soared to #1 in the U.S. Kindle categories “Crime Fiction,” “Vigilante Justice,” and “Assassination Thrillers,” and as of this writing still holds that top ranking in “Vigilante Justice.” It also hit #2 in “Espionage Thrillers,” reached #12 in the much larger “Thrillers” category, and #14 on the even bigger “Mystery, Thrillers & Suspense” list. (It may have gone even lower in those latter rankings; I wasn't paying attention all the time.)

  • HUNTER also reached #1 in “Vigilante Justice” in the UK. In a market where it has been lucky to sell about three copies per month, it sold over a hundred copies in a single day. So far it has racked up 170 paid downloads in the UK this month, and it continues to generate a few daily sales and borrows there daily. The enhanced visibility apparently is spilling over to other foreign sites, as well: Today I received my first-ever sale in Mexico. I’ve also scored sales in Germany, India, Canada, and Australia, in numbers higher than usual.

  • During the six-day period after the promotion ended (November 18-23), an additional 565 ebooks sold—357 copies of HUNTER, 208 copies of BAD DEEDS. That’s an average sales rate of 60 copies per day for HUNTER, and a combined average for both books of 94 copies per day—more than double their daily averages prior to the campaign. This level of increased sales has persisted during the post-promotional period and has yet to show signs of flagging.

  • The collateral benefits of the campaign include big spikes in sales of the HUNTER audiobook—90 so far this month. Audio sales continue at the rated of several per day. (However, to my surprise, I noticed no measurable increase in paperback sales.)

  • HUNTER currently is hanging in the Kindle sales rankings below #1400, while BAD DEEDS lies in the low #4000s. Prior to the campaign, both books were in the #8000 - #10,000 range. HUNTER remains at #1 in the “Vigilante Justice” category, #9 in “Assassination Thrillers,” and #22 in “Crime Fiction”—all giving it continuing visibility.

  • The book is showing up among the “also boughts” of more books by other thriller writers. And it has received 16 new Amazon customer reviews since the first day of the campaign—all but three of them “5-stars,” and the rest “4-stars.”

Did this promotion make money?


In October, I sold about 780 ebook copies of both titles combined. By contrast, this month I’ve already sold over 3600 copies of HUNTER and about 625 BAD DEEDS ebooks, or over 4200 total ebooks. During the first 12 days of November, prior to the campaign, I recorded 444 total downloads. That means about 3,756 of November’s paid downloads have occurred since the campaign began.
It’s hard to get precise royalty figures yet, because income from units “borrowed” through Kindle Unlimited is calculated later and separately from sales. But just my combined sales for both ebook titles this month—excluding borrows—have generated around $4,000 in royalty income, $3,000 of which comes from sales that have taken place since the campaign began. On the expense side of the ledger, all the ads and lists cost me around $740.
So these promotional purchases have paid for themselves, several times over. You can see that when royalties from “borrows” will be added in later, the promotion has proved to be lucrative.

Conclusions and Suggestions


As I write this, it’s the early evening of the seventh day after the big HUNTER promotional campaign ended. Today’s sales and borrow figures are on pace to approximate those of the past two days—somewhere around 100 paid downloads in total. Again, that is almost three times higher than the average daily numbers my books were pulling down before the campaign.
Of course, it remains to be seen how long the “tail” effects of this promotion will last, and whether, in coming weeks and months, my two books will settle in at daily sales levels higher than they were previously. If it does, then it would seem to confirm my hypothesis that Amazon algorithms do reward books that show rising sales trends, rather than one-day spikes.
But clearly, this kind of multi-day, KCD-based campaign can generate several thousand ebook sales—including higher sales and visibility for other books in a series. For that reason, it is best to promote the first title in a series. In fact, I would not bother trying this type of promotional campaign if you have only a single published title, or unrelated ones. If you do have more than one series book, I suggest that you do what I did:
  • First, schedule a Bookbub promotion for whatever date you can get one. (Check to make sure that the date is acceptable by the rules of your KCD enrollment period.) Be forewarned that Bookbub schedules well in advance, and they are also fussy about which titles they accept.

  • If and when you secure a Bookbub date, then schedule a four-to-six-day KCD promotion, to commence two or three days before the Bookbub mailing. Reduce the price of your book either to 99 cents or to “free” for the duration of the promotion.

  • Next, approach other book promotional sites—Readers In the Know, Free Kindle Books & Tips, Booksends, Ereader News Today, and whatever others you can get—and try to schedule ads with them during the several campaign days leading up to Bookbub. Sales from their promotions will improve your book’s Kindle ranking before Bookbub hits—thus making it much easier for their email blast to propel your book much closer to the top of the bestseller lists.

  • Try to schedule a lot of social media in conjunction with your campaign. Approach friendly bloggers in advance and ask them to run interviews with you or reviews of your book during that period. Ask your Facebook and Twitter friends to spread the word once the campaign starts. Post about it on your own blog and social media pages, too

  • Finally, schedule a few final promotions for the closing days of the reduced-price period, to run after the Bookbub promotion. I didn’t do that this time; but I think it would help to sustain for a longer period the better rankings that you achieve.

If all runs on schedule and without serious glitches, you should attract thousands of new readers, gain higher sales and visibility for the targeted book and any sequels, and give your income a nice boost.

Good luck!

What is Readers in the Know?

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