Monday, January 30, 2017

The Inspector's Report - The All Important Author Newsletter

Not being the most computer savvy individual, it has taken me a bit to get the signup page for my new author's newsletter, The Inspector's Report, up and running.

Of all the things I have tried to market my non-fiction books, the best tool was my e-newsletter. It allowed me to establish myself as an authority on the subject and put all of my titles in front of potential customers.

It was a lot of work, largely because I published it too often. I sent it out once a week for a total of 40 issues a year, slowing the pace only during the summer months. 

I will say this. Each week my Kindle sales spiked one day a week, always during the twenty-four hour period following the release of that week's e-mail.

It takes a lot of time and effort to build an e-mail list. Over an eight year period, my list grew to just over 5,000 subscribers. 

Building a list that size not only takes time, but you have to be aware of the laws surrounding building e-mail lists. 

The Inspector's Report will be a new venture for me. I don't plan to release it on the same grinding basis as I did my other newsletter. Once a week for a one man operation is a guaranteed recipe for burnout.  Once a month is my goal and I hope a far more sustainable schedule.

In addition to announcements concerning new releases of my works of fiction, I plan to include things only the subscribers to the newsletter will receive, such as:
  • Short stories
  • Back history of characters
  • Reviews of the latest work of science fiction or crime noir I've read
  • History of this and that (I'm a history teacher after all)
  • Answers to reader's questions
  • Plus other stuff I hope my readers find of interest
If you'd like to sign-up for the newsletter, The Inspector's Report, even if it's just to see what the newsletter looks like so you can generate some ideas to start your own, please click here.

Monday, January 23, 2017

My Amazon Kindle Scout Campaign - A Brief Review

My Amazon Kindle Scout campaign has ended. Within the next fifteen days I will be notified by Amazon whether or not they will buy the ebook and audio rights to my novel The Predator and The Prey. Regardless of Amazon's decision, the campaign itself was worth doing.

It is often said, and printed, being a financially successful author is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Thirty days is not a long time. When running a promotional campaign it becomes a long time. The value of participating in the Amazon Kindle Scout program is the experience allows you to manage a promotional campaign for your book and collect valuable data.

Let me state upfront I have no idea what value Amazon places on any particular set of data when the Scout TEAM is deciding if a title is worth further consideration. Still, for me, the data is interesting and hopefully I can gather some insights into my efforts to promote and market my book.

When a reader clicks on a title's description page and then decides to nominate the book, the image below is what the reader sees.

I have no idea if any of this data will be provided to me by Amazon, but I would love to see how my book rated in each of these categories. If I could only have one set of data from the campaign, this is what I would find the most valuable. Four important marketing aspects are rated by real readers: cover, book description, title, one-line hook, narrative hook. The first 5,000 words of your novel are also provided for the readers, allowing them to get a feel for whether or not they would want to read the book as well as having a chance to judge the copy editing. Finally, readers may make comments about the book (I might pass on those - unless they are all good!).

By campaign end, I had generated 457 hours out of 720 total hours and over 1,000 page views (1,048) of my description. I have no idea how many nominations qualifies as being "good" nor do I have any idea of how many page views is good.

Without knowing how Amazon interprets the data collected, and being the farthest thing from an analytical statistician, I can only make what I think is a reasonable decision.

Without seeing the data from reader evaluations for the four key areas of attracting a potential buyer/reader, I believe I did a good job. The graph above shows nearly two thirds of my traffic came from readers who visit Amazon Kindle Scout on their own accord (If the books nominated by the reader are selected, they receive free copies. Amazon also has an informal competition of sorts. Stats are provided to readers showing their place, or score if you will, on how well they select books. The more books nominated by the reader that the Scout TEAM selects, the higher the reader ranks).

I have to believe I did a good job with the last three items of the four and my cover designer, Robin Ludwig of Robin Ludwig Design, did a great job with the first item, cover design. I say this, because traffic from external links, traffic generated by my own promotional efforts, only accounted for 35% of traffic.

It could also be that the vast majority of my nominations came from traffic generated by my own campaign, indicating, by my math, that only 15% of the nominations came from organic traffic from Amazon Kindle. My hope is a 15% rate is pretty good, meaning it will generate a lot of sales, if I can get buyers/readers to click through to the product page of my book.

The graph above shows me where I have plenty of room for improvement. I hardly ran a sustained campaign. My efforts peaked early and then floundered in terms of page views. The two peaks in the middle when my efforts lagged are from organic Amazon Kindle traffic. The campaign page traffic mix graph shown above came on the last day of the campaign. Each day the graph changes to reflect the data of the last 24 hours. This allowed me to recognize when the bulk of my visits were a result of days when I believe my campaign was generating traffic and visits on days when my efforts did little or nothing.

I managed to scramble and via hours of work, found and joined numerous Facebook groups founded for the purpose of allowing authors promote their work. If you look at the graph below, you will notice the solid run of 24 hour periods where The Predator and The Prey was in the desired Hot and Trending category. Better preparation on my part might have allowed for a campaign that consisted of almost nothing but days on the Hot and Trending list.

Examination of the data on external traffic sources is show below. If you will note, excluding direct traffic from clicking on a link directly to my books nomination page (traffic generated largely by my efforts in the first few days of the campaign), the overwhelming bulk of external traffic came from two sources, Facebook and a Kboards notice I posted asking authors to nominate my book.

I learned four valuable takeaways from the campaign, regardless of whether or not The Predator and The Prey is picked up by Amazon. The first is have a predetermined way to collect data. If Amazon did not provide the data, I would have had no means by which to evaluate my efforts. Get the data!

Second, my campaign was ill conceived. I started strong and finished strong but was awful in the middle. If my assumption that my cover, etc, did its job, is correct and explains the strong performance of the organic traffic from Amazon Kindle Scout, it makes me want to kick myself for not having strong external sources of traffic pushing readers to my books page the entire thirty day period. 

Amazon loves the long tail. Consistency is important to Amazon. My campaign started okay and ended strong, but lagged in the middle. Better planning in advance would have allowed me to spread my reach and generate more external traffic to my book's campaign page.

If this had been an actual sales campaign, how many sales did I cost myself as a result of a weak performance in the middle of the campaign?

My third takeaway is Facebook is where I will put almost all of my social media efforts in the future. If I run a Headtalker campaign again, I will focus on attracting those whose reach is based on Facebook and not other forms of social media such as Twitter. was valuable and is the other area I will invest time and effort in future campaigns. I have not used any of the ebook promotional sites that send out blasts to readers so I cannot comment on how I would incorporate them into a campaign.

My last takeaway is the need for careful planning. I want to succeed as an author. Succeed financially! Promotional campaigns are just as important as writing a good book and having a great cover, etc, etc. 

I left too many things to chance and had to scramble to finish strong. I plan to write a prequel for my series, the first of which is the book I ran in this campaign, The Predator and The Prey. I will submit the prequel for an Amazon Kindle Scout campaign and compare the data from the second campaign to this one. Hopefully I will produce far superior results.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Review of Headtalker as a Promotional Tool

In an earlier post I described in a fair amount of detail how to use the Social Media aggregating site Headtalker as a promotional tool. I had used it to promote my campaign for my novel The Predator and The Prey in its Amazon Kindle Scout campaign.

My campaign on Headtalker had 51 supporters which provided an impressive Social Media reach of 1,087,260 social media accounts whose owners promised to mention my Kindle Scout campaign and provide a link to the novel's campaign page.

Kindle Scout provides analytics for where the nominations come from. Out of my 1,087,260 individuals, my Kindle Scout campaign received seven total nominations. 

Not a good return for the time I spent learning how to use the site and recruiting supporters.

I did learn something valuable from the experience which has not turned me off completely from ever using Headtalker again.

The overwhelming majority of the Social Media accounts my campaign received were Twitter accounts. Puzzled by the poor results, (.0000064 per Social Media account) seven visits out of the million plus reach, made me do a little research about the effectiveness of Social Media for promoting a specific item like a book or a promotional campaign.

What I learned fit the results of my Headtalker campaign. Facebook is the king of Social Media when it comes to selling or promoting an item, i.e. getting people to click on a link to visit something you want them to visit.

The absolute worse form of Social Media for producing the desired marketing behavior? Twitter. Tumbler and Linkedin aren't much better. Needless to say, the bulk of my million plus Social Media accounts for the program were Twitter accounts.

Checking the various Social Media accounts that did produce clicks and nominations, the head of the list was, sure enough, Facebook. The Facebook accounts that generated the traffic included my own Facebook author page, seven Facebook pages from the Headtalker campaign, Facebook groups for authors and those of Friends and Family who shared my link.

I won't rule out using Headtalker again in the future. But if I do, I will focus heavily on recruiting Supporters whose Social Media reach is based on Facebook.