Raise your hand if you look at your real time sales numbers multiple times a day.
Raise your hand if you actually do something with those sales numbers.
Educated guess: Most published authors who have access to real time sales data check it at least once a day. Very few of those authors will actually get something out of that data, aside from a momentary spike in blood pressure and a mood swing. This is a problem not just for authors, or business professionals, but for everyone in every walk of life. We are inundated with so much data on a daily basis we’re drowning in it. What we need to be doing is converting that data into information we can use in a practical way, and that’s tough to do when you don’t know where to start. So here’s where you start (brace yourself, this will be rather long):
Do you keep track of your published books?
What I mean by that is, do you know the most basic things about the books you have out there? If you don’t already have one, you should probably make a spreadsheet with some info for quick reference:
- series name (if applicable)
- book number in series (if applicable)
- publication type (eBook/print/audio/large print/foreign edition)
- publication date
- publisher name
- ASIN (Amazon’s version of ISBN)
- word count and/or page count
- distribution channels and direct buy links (easily obtainable through Books2Read)
What you’re basically doing is getting the lay of the land. If you’re (self)published through multiple channels, different publications might be available in different stores around the world. You may have multiple editions of the same book floating around. Some of this is information you’ll only need in rare cases, but some, especially the buy links, word count, and genre, will likely be asked of you quite often when you start setting up your marketing. It helps to have it all on hand as a quick reference.
If you use GMail, take advantage of their Google Sheets to store this information. That way, it’ll be easily accessible wherever you are, and you can edit it from anywhere.
Where are your books published?
Most of us only focus on the Big Players in the industry, the outlets everyone always talks about, where we get most of our sales:
- Barnes & Noble
- Apple iBooks
But your book is most likely published in many other outlets that you might not even know about. Many of them will be specific to a foreign country, and you might not get many (or any) sales from them, but it’s still important to know about them. It’s also important to know if your book is showing up somewhere it shouldn’t. Piracy is one of the realities of eBook publishing that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. To combat it, be aware. Set up Google Alerts for your book title, author name, and a longer excerpt (from somewhere in the middle of the book). You can also create an account with Blasty, which monitors internet content for illegal activity, can flag pirate sites hosting your book, and send take-down notices for you.
Where and how do you advertise your books?
I have a confession to make: I hate advertising my books. The few times I have done it, the results have been dismal, but that’s probably because I was doing it all wrong. Advertising isn’t a “set it and forget it” venture, especially on social media, which has become very popular among authors spreading word about their books. Ideally, you’d want to monitor your ad on a daily basis, and make changes/corrections based on performance. Maybe the ad copy isn’t as enticing as it should be. Maybe the imagery isn’t eye-catching. Maybe you’re targeting the wrong audience segment. To get the most out of your ads while they are active, they need to be fluid.
Then, of course, there are the metrics:
- How many people saw your ad?
- How many people clicked on the link?
- How many people purchased the book (or signed up for the thing)?
- How much did the ad cost?
- How much revenue did it bring you?
Keep in mind that no paid ad will ever be as effective as sincere word of mouth. The whole reason behind getting on social media should not be to advertise, but to engage with readers, build relationships and genuine interest in you and your work. A loyal, excited fan base is your best marketing tool. As someone very smart once said, advertising will expand on the base you already have, but it won’t build it for you. If you don’t already have readers eager to get their hands on your next book, odds are, paying to advertise it won’t bring them out of the woodwork.
What’s your best seller?
Do you know which of your books is selling the best? Do you know why? Probably a good idea to find out. It could be that this is simply the best book you have ever written. It could be it’s your favorite, and people pick up on that enthusiasm and get interested in reading it. Or, it could simply be that’s the book you talk about the most. As important as it is to monitor external variables, internal ones can sometimes be even more influential.
If you absolutely love the book you’re currently writing, you’ll likely talk about it more. You’ll write it faster, and you’ll pay better attention in edits and cover design. That book is your baby, and you’re ever so proud of it, and excited to see it out there. Readers will pick up on that passion and enthusiasm. That kind of positive energy is what creates buzz and gets readers excited to get your book hot off the presses.
Conversely, if you’re not feeling the book, if it’s problematic, if you’re not wild about the characters, or if you’re just writing it to wrap up a series, it’ll translate into everything you do in the book and around it. It’ll make readers reluctant to take the plunge, and they will feel your struggles through the story, which will affect how they feel about it.
Which is your most lucrative market?
Sure, you look at those sales numbers every day, but what do you do with them? A few things you should be keeping track of:
- Which store gets you the most/fewest sales?
- Which book sells most/least?
- What are their price tags?
- Which months out of the year are best/worst for you in terms of sales?
- Do you see any repeating patterns?
As with your best selling book, it could very well be that your highest performing store is the one you advertise the most. This then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, but it could be you have several well-performing outlets and you’ve simply been neglecting them. Giving them a bit more attention could actually boost sales there, too. Keep in mind that it’s easier to go where people already are than to drag them where you want them to be. You may get the highest royalty rate through your publisher’s storefront, but if people have a dedicated eReader or a favorite store, they’re not likely to want to go through the hassle of buying outside of that. Therefore, you should always share all major buy links, or rotate them if you post one at a time, to keep traffic going to all of them.
Sales will often happen in cycles. You may have slow months and busy months throughout the year, and that pattern will probably be fairly consistent from year to year. This is a great planning tool for you in terms of promotions and expenses, but it also gives you peace of mind. Understanding your sales cycle means you won’t have to stress about last month’s low sales because you’ll know this happens every year, and things usually pick up a month later.
How is your blog/newsletter doing?
Maybe you have a blog, maybe you don’t. Maybe you focus your energies on social media and aren’t much of a blogger. Maybe you’re tired of the newsletter swap drama and getting your own inbox inundated with newsletters to ever want to create one of your own. That’s all perfectly understandable. Not everything will work for everyone. But if you do have these things, you should be paying some attention to how they’re performing. These aren’t just outlets for your rants, but tools you can and should be using to generate traffic and interest in your books. If they’re not doing that, you’re better off spending your time writing books instead.
- How many followers/subscribers do you have?
- How active are they? (do they “Like,” click, comment, reply, etc.?)
- Which was your best performing post/newsletter and why?
- How many new subscribers/followers do you get on a regular basis?
- How many unsubscribes/unfollows? Do you know why?
Any decent blog or newsletter provider will give you real time statistics you can use to gauge the health of the content you’re sharing. You should be able to look at them and identify what interests readers and what doesn’t, what frequency of posting works best, and how much is too much. Once you know, you can adjust your strategy to make the most of these tools, and make them work for you. Your time is a precious resource that shouldn’t be wasted on unproductive endeavors.
Is there an opportunity you may have missed?
This one is a little more difficult to address, since it’s hard to know what you don’t know if you don’t know what to look for. If that makes sense… But there are still ways to learn. For example, if you blog, do you always use tags on your posts? You should. Tags help readers find your post based on the topic. The same goes for hashtags on social media. Weird ones like #livinglifeonacrazynote will likely not do much, but using genre-specific tags in your promotional posts and tweets can make a big difference. You’ll want to use tags people are already looking for, such as #dystopianfiction, or #AuthorDIY to increase your visibility.
Networking within the industry can also open additional doorways and give you ideas. You might meet someone with a brilliant tweet strategy that you can emulate. Or someone who found a good way to capitalize on Instagram traffic, or generate sales through Pinterest. There may be websites you want to be a part of, communities you might want to join, service providers you might need. The best way to find them is to keep your eyes and ears wide open, and not be afraid to ask questions.
The information shared here is meant to be a guiding hand to new and aspiring authors, and is offered with a grain of salt and good intentions at no cost to you. However, if you found this post helpful and want to show your appreciation, a nice way to do it would be to buy one of my fiction books. Check them out on my author website at AlianneDonnelly.com. You might find something you like. 😉 Thanks for your support!