book promotion

Tweeting Links to Amazon, Day 2

As I noted yesterday, I’ve begun tweeting links to Amazon again, despite railing about them in the past. I made this decision mainly to gather some more data and see if my December sales boost was related or an anomaly.

It’s too soon after 36 hours or so to gauge the effect on sales (yesterday was weak and I’ve already beaten it so far today, but my midweek sales are usually erratic so that doesn’t mean anything). I can, however, report the effects on Twitter.

Checking my stats in my ads.twitter.com/user section, I can report that adding book link tweets to my regular blog and review tweets seems to have caused an interesting spike in engagement. As I’m typing this, I’ve gotten 60k impressions today, which is not only an all-time high but is also almost 50% higher than my previous record (~43k). I also doubled my previous record for retweets and favorites. That’s good, but also partly attributable to the fact that I’m now tweeting 72 times a day instead of 48.

Total link clicks—the most important stat, as far as I’m concerned—are high but not a record. So, key data point here: Tweeting more often does not appear to be getting me more clicks. (This is actually no surprise if you have a background in social media marketing.) However, the real key is where those clicks are going. And here is where I see a big change from the last time I tested this.

Today, I got 65 link clicks from my 72 tweets, but WP tells me I got only 33 inbound clicks from Twitter. That’s a significant difference. While I also tweet to my reviews on Christina Harding’s blog, checking the data for those tweets shows me they got only two clicks today. That means the other 30 clicks went to Amazon.

If you’ve been following this series, you may recall that the last time I tried this, almost all of my clicks were coming here. Now, half of the traffic is going to Amazon.

I’m definitely going to track this in the next few days to see if the trend continues—then we’ll talk about why.

Yes, I’m Tweeting Book Links Again

After discussing the Twitter Book Link issue with some other authors, and reviewing my sales for January, I’ve decided to give it another try with tweeting links to Amazon. But I’ve changed my approach from how I was doing it before. Initially, I was doing it almost constantly, at times as often as every 15 minutes, with nothing else to break up the stream of book promos. This time, I’m going to be more sparing, no more than once an hour, and I’m going to continue the blog and review tweets as I’ve been doing.

Why the change? Well, in the back of my mind all along was the knowledge that my uptick in sales could have been due to something completely unrelated, like the holiday sales season. So I was watching to see if things slowed down after New Year’s, which they have. So in the interest of gathering more data, I’m going to conduct another experiment.

I’ll be updating this week if there are any significant changes in my sales patterns.

More on Treating Writing as a Business

I was planning another post on this subject, but then this post by Kris Rusch came across my Twitter feed. Here’s the money shot:

[W]hen you do what you love, you learn all aspects of it, from craft to business. You do what you need to in order to continue doing what you love.

I’ve been an indie author for only a couple of months, but I’ve been in publishing for nearly all of my adult life, and everything she says strikes me as true. Boiled down:

  • Writing is a difficult trade, always has been, and always will be.
  • You survive and succeed by respecting the fundamentals of the business, not by looking for shortcuts.

Go read it now. Really, go. It’s long, but worth it.

More Thoughts on Amazon’s Bestseller Lists

Since The Wizard’s Daughters made it onto several Amazon bestseller lists (briefly in late November; then continuously starting a couple of weeks ago), I have naturally been interested in seeing how it rises and falls with sales.

This past weekend, it peaked at #35 on the Historical Fantasy List, #37 on the Medieval Romance ebook list, and mid-40s on the Medieval Romance book list. It’s generally been floating between the 30s and 60s the past week.

What’s been intriguing to me is how the sales don’t always translate into an immediate jump in the rankings, since of course you’re competing with other authors. A jump in sales might just reflect Amazon traffic patterns, and if other books outperform yours, your book will drop. Conversely, what looks like a slow sales day can still result in a boost if you’re outperforming others yourself. I’ve seen both patterns happening with TWD (and the latter as I’ve been typing this post).

Does being on the lists really translate to book sales? I’m convinced now it does. As much as I’ve been harping on the uselessness of Twitter in selling books, and the importance of your author platform, I know from watching my WP stats how many people are clicking through to Amazon, and though I am getting those clicks, they’re nowhere near enough to explain the rising sales.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that the more sales you accumulate, the less tied the book appears to be to real-time sales data. This is fairly logical, but it is something I’ve observed.

If you’re wondering how to get on the lists yourself, I don’t have any magic bullets to offer, but my impressions so far are these:

  • Stay away from the crowded genres. You can get a sense of how crowded a field is by comparing bestseller list ranks to overall sales ranks. TWD is currently around 7,000, which wouldn’t even get it into the same zip code as the top 100 in Paranormal and Urban Fantasy. (Call this the Twilight Effect.)
  • Try to come up with new approaches and themes. Think hard about what you’ve read before, and do something different. With TWD, I tried to marry alternate history, romance, and steampunk in a way I hadn’t seen done before. That sense of “Whoa, this is new” is what hooks buyers.
  • Obviously do your best to make your book awesome, but in particular, make the beginning of your book as awesome as possible. It’s that preview section that has to do the heavy lifting in hooking potential buyers.
  • Make your book description equally awesome. Give readers just enough to make them want to click through to read the preview. You only have about five seconds to hook a potential buyer, so shorter is better than longer. Don’t bore them with reviews and other promotions, and excerpts are pointless—why read an excerpt when you can just read the preview section? If the opening to your book is weak enough that you feel the need for an excerpt, that’s likely your real problem. (Also, don’t forget the paragraph breaks—your description shouldn’t be a single big wall of text.)
  • Finally, I’ve said this before, but spend the money on a professionally designed cover. I can’t stress this too much. After you’ve slaved away for months or even longer on the insides of your book, don’t saddle it with a crappy outside. Like it or not, buyers judge books by their covers. The job of the cover is limited—it serves to get potential readers to click through and read your description—but critical. A weak cover can prevent you from ever getting your book off its launch pad. While you can certainly spend a ton of money on a cover, good ones aren’t really that expensive.

Obviously, there’s a lot more too it, but these are things to think about.

 

Kicking the Amazon Link Tweet Addiction

Today is the last day I’m going to provide updates on my experiment in no longer tweeting links to my Amazon book pages, because as far as I’m concerned now, this is no longer an experiment, it’s my approach going forward. (If you’re just coming across this five-part series, you should read Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 4 first.)

To put a bow on this undertaking, these four days have easily been my best four-day sales period since I began publishing my stuff back in October. I beat my previous best (last Fri-Mon) by 20%, and my third-best (Thanksgiving weekend) by 110%. And when you consider that the #2 spot includes about three days when I was blacklisted by RoundTeam and my book tweets got far less engagement, I think the conclusions are pretty clear.

So if it doesn’t work, why does everyone do it? My guess is that’s one of those questions that contains its own answer: Everyone does it.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in nearly 20 years in writing and publishing, it’s that there are very few shortcuts to success, and most of them involve being already famous or deeply connected with people who can let you past the usual gatekeepers. For the rest of us, there’s just the hard work of honing your craft and building a following. Blasting out links to your book pages is easy, and it makes you feel like you’re doing something. But the truth is, you’re probably not.

[Update 1/7/15]: I’m off the wagon, but I’ve changed my approach again.

Death to Amazon Book Link Tweets, Day 3

If this is the first post you’ve read on my theories about using Twitter to sell books, you should first read the earlier posts: what got me started on this, why I think it’s useless and why it may actually hurt your sales, and what I’ve seen since I stopped doing it.

The main thing I wanted to see yesterday was whether the dramatic spike in my sales Thursday was a fluke. I’ve had one-day sales spikes before, and I know they can happen for a variety of reasons or no apparent reason at all. So I was watching carefully for a drop-off.

There was no drop-off at all. As with Thursday, yesterday was my best Friday ever, and at 4:30 p.m., this is already my best Saturday ever, and if my usual evening sales trends continue tonight, I’m on track for best day all-time.

All of this is since I stopped tweeting links to my Amazon books pages. I’ve not done anything to directly push my books sales since Thursday morning. Instead, I’ve been tweeting links to my blog posts and book reviews. And the sales boost has continued even though my Twitter engagement and blog traffic has leveled off a bit since peaking Thursday.

It may not work for everyone, but at this point, I see no reason to go back.

[Update 1/7/15]: I found a reason.

You Need to Stop Tweeting Amazon Book Links, Day 2

Since I got a bit long-winded yesterday, I’m just going to share a couple of screenshots as an update.

Here are my sales for December. Note the previous Thursday dips and what happened yesterday after I stopped tweeting promotional links to my Amazon book pages. (I took this screenshot at 8:00 am, so ignore the point for today.)

dec sales

As you can see, yesterday was not just my best Thursday ever, but my best weekday ever and my third-best all time. I’ve also annotated what happened last weekend when I was briefly blacklisted by RoundTeam.

Now here is the track record for The Wizard’s Daughters yesterday on authorRise. Note the point where I stopped tweeting to Amazon and started tweeting to my blog.

authorise

AuthorRise lags about an hour behind, so the book is actually up to #7,334 as I type this. It’s jumped about forty points in the bestseller lists since yesterday morning.

It’s only one day, true, but I think the trend is fairly clear:  Tweeting links to your Amazon book page probably does nothing whatsoever for your sales and may be hurting them.

[Update 1/7/15]: I’ve reopened the experiment.