Sunday, July 03, 2011

How I Didn't Sell 1 Million eBooks - the Analysis


Now that I’ve let the cat out of the bag, I had better follow up with the promised analysis.
I was hesitant to post that article, but it turned out well because the comments by Catana really sharpened my focus, and in some surprising ways.  But let’s start with the baseline, what my assets and advantages are and then go into what I think is going wrong and why.
My baseline (aside from a sale of zero books in my first month) is my product: it is a good product, one I honestly believe in and one, even though I am a hesitant salesman, I am not hesitant to recommend because I know it is value for money.  I am not trying to sell crap, I am selling a quality product, edited and proof read to a professional level with a professional quality cover and one which, I am certain, will give the reader full value in terms of entertainment and enjoyment.
That is my asset and my advantage, which brings us to price: how much is that entertainment and enjoyment worth?  That is hard to pin down.  I purposely set the price as low as I could without making it seem like a $.99 throwaway title.  $2.99 was, I believed, a bargain price.  But Amazon added tax on that (it has been on the site for $3.75 – 80% – that’s some hefty tax!) and that has, in my mind, moved to book out of impulse-buy territory.  The paperback I priced as low as I could.  Some of you probably don’t understand that you have a lowest price threshold for Createspace books.  Mine is priced as low as I could get away with and still make a buck (literally, $1) on each unit sold.  The marketing channels Amazon opens up (this, I assume, includes sites like Barnes and Nobel, as the paperback is on there and I cannot think of any other way it might have ended up there) earn me $0 due to my low price, but I accept this as I do not expect to sell enough on those sites to really matter.
So is it the price?  Is it low enough?  I can’t say. I think it’s a fair price, and I cannot make it any lower without opening up a whole new can of worms I would just as soon avoid.  So, for now at least, the price will remain as it is.
That leave marketing, which is a two-fold process: getting my message in front of as many appropriate people as possible and, once their attention is gained, convincing them that they need this book.
And here I made some errors that I didn’t realize until reading Catana’s comments.  Catana referred to me as an unknown author, and a new blogger.  Both of these references rankled me, but I soon saw that the first was true and the second was of my own making.
An unknown author?  I beg your pardon.  I have a book out, published by a real publisher, thank you very much.  I have been on national radio, I am a name among the expat community, I am…full of shit.
The fact that I gained a following, and a bit of notoriety for the first book and am known around a tiny portion of cyberspace counts for nothing.  As far as the cyberworld is concerned, I don’t exist.  But, and this is where the problem originated: because I thought I was actually known, I made the assumption people would “get” the book without much explanation from me.
My message to people needs to introduce me and entice them to want to know more about me, not just say, “Hey, I have a new book out!” and assume they will understand A) who I am, and B) what the book is about.  Lesson learned.
The other observation was that I am a new blogger.  That is patently not true.  I have been blogging non-stop since 1995.  Postcards From Across the Pond began in 2001.  This blog in 2006.  The boneheaded thing I did—after spending all those years building a following—was move everything to this new Blog Empire at the same time I released the book.  I had good intentions.  I read that, if you are going to be a self-published author, a professional looking blog is a must, and—long unsatisfied with my Blogger blogs—I used that as an excuse to create what you are now reading.  I am pleased with the final product, but it resulted in me losing three quarters of my followers and is apparently giving any new followers (my potential book buying public) the impression that I am a newbie.
Unfortunately, that error has been made and cannot be unmade.  All I can do is carry on and regain followers, one at a time.
So I need to rethink my book ads, and rebuild my fan base.  Leaving us with the bugaboo of Social Networking.
This is something I have only recently gotten into, and only because I realize it is absolutely necessary if you want to reach more than the few hundred people who regularly read your blog.  It is a brilliant strategy, though: you put up a post that either directly or obliquely mentions your work, you tweet something clever to bring your followers to your blog and ultimately to your book page and your book description is so enthralling that they cannot but help buy it.  That is something I think I could do.  However:
When John Locke tweets, he reaches 21,000 followers, Joe Konrath’s announcements are read by his 5,300 followers, when I tweet, I hit 127 people.  Not exactly a huge pool of potential buyers.
But that is simply because I am new to it; that can be remedied by time.
I am way over my limit here, so I will summarize and close:
Price: May or may not be a factor but will stay as it is for now.
Marketing: Revamp the promotional material for the book to describe it better and give people more of a reason to buy it.
Social Networking: Continue to responsibly tweet (more about this next time) and build a following.
One of the cardinal rules of self-publishing is that this is a marathon, not a sprint.  I am not out of the race yet.  More as the story develops.

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