Aren’t There Magic Beans for This?

Hi, my name is Russ Linton. I’m an author. Have you heard about my superhero novel, Crimson Son?

I’m a broken record lately. For those of you that don’t get the reference, I’m a scratched CD. For those of you that don’t get the reference, I’m an iPod with a bad sector on the hard drive.

Marketing a book is tough. Everyday, I’m seeking new places to hang my virtual sign. I’m vandalizing websites across the ‘net, paying for quick ads and “reach”, and even trying to just be conversational and charming without shouting “BUY MY DAMN BOOK ALREADY!”

As impatient as I am, I’m still not to the point where I’d trade my cow for some beans. Plenty of places offer the opportunity to do just that, but I’m exploring low cost and free alternatives first.

Yesterday, I sold five books inside of five minutes for the cost of about half a gallon of gas. A local staple, Recycled Books, decided to take a chance and put a few copies on their shelf. I hit up another store and hope to get in contact with their management today. This was my first foray into the “real world” of selling books.

(FYI, CYA – For anyone interested in doing the same – these are all sales to a distributor and are thus, nontaxable. Selling direct to customers requires sales tax collection. Talk to your accountant for professional advice!)

While the digital world is less complicated for completing sales – I place a book online, the distributor sells it, collects any sales tax owed and pays me a royalty which transfers automatically to my PayPal or checking account – for making sales, it is a whole different beast. A 500 pound gorilla to be precise

At one time I thought Amazon had about 3 million books online. They actually have something closer to 12 million titles. You are a molecule of H2O in the pacific when you upload. Finding ways to climb higher in the rankings (both overall and your category) is what makes or breaks you.

So far, I’ve been lingering around #50,000 to #100,000 with a steady trickle of sales. The numbers update hourly so they can be very volatile. And while #50,000 out of 12 MILLION doesn’t sound bad, trust me, it just tells you how horribly over 99% of the titles are doing.

The stats I have seen indicate that to crack the top 100 you need to sell 500 books in a day. To crack the top ten, closer to 2000, but these are totally unverified and I suspect could be higher. I won’t do that anytime soon, but I’m counting a slow build of momentum to get me up to seeing those figures on a hopefully monthly basis.

For my fellow authors and self-pub friends, here are some of things I’ve tried:

Reviews – Whether these drive sales or not is up for grabs. What they do provide is great blurbs you can use for marketing (assuming it is a good review). I mistakenly paid for one before I had researched it much (Reader’s Choice – don’t bother), but there are plenty of free review sites out there, you just have to dig. I have two more reviews coming up mid and late July and plan to find more willing souls. It can’t hurt to keep building up praise at all corners of the web (Of course, this goes back to step one of self-publishing – write a damn good book). There are legit paid reviews and for hundreds of dollars Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly will gladly review your book, but I’m holding off on those.

Facebook and  Twitter Campaigns – You can pay to promote a tweet or Facebook post. Every aspect of the cost is under your control so it is very customizable to your budget. While these campaigns were successful in driving traffic to my social media presence, I did not see sales proportional to the “conversions” (people that interacted with the post). For a bit, my Followers were growing quite steadily and I got several new “likes” on my Facebook page, however, several is a relative term – of the 36,000 Facebook users the post was shown to, I received 14 new “likes”.

Reddit Campaign – I drove a fair amount of traffic to my site through a promoted Reddit link, but again, it did not result in a high rate of either new follows or sales.

GoodReads Ad Campaign – I have yet to try a book giveaway, that is on my list as soon as I get back from my son’s scout camp next week. However, their Ad campaign at the moment is pretty atrocious. My interaction and conversion rates with Facebook and Twitter were pretty good (anything better than 2-3% is good in the online world). At Goodreads they are under 1%.

AwesomeGang – Free, or for $10 they not only send your book out to their followers but feature it on their homepage. I went for the $10 but should have stuck with free. I couldn’t see any appreciable difference in sales after this.

eBook Soda – Also $10 and they advertise your book to their readers, presumably targeting only your niche among their untold number of followers. This one, I do believe I got a slight blip in sales from and would possibly try it again.

Interviews – Just started these (thanks Ange!) and I have a couple more on the way. We’ll see how they fair in either followers gained or sales.

The hardest part about gauging success is not having access to all of the tracking data. For instance, places like AwesomeGang and eBook Soda sort of have an interest in not tracking how many people have clicked your link. They also require direct links to product and not tracking links (like you can create at http://tiny.cc/).

To counter this lack of data, I have tried to spread these attempts out weekly or bi-weekly so I can look for overall trends at that part of the week. I do this each Monday when I break out my spreadsheet and record traffic, interaction and sales along with search data from Google and Bing webmaster tools. No rocket science here – these are really basic sheets.

So far, the data is too thin for a pattern to emerge, but if I find those magic beans, I’ll share. Why would I do that? Cause you’d better believe if I had them, people would start clicking!

3 thoughts on “Aren’t There Magic Beans for This?

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