Wednesday, May 13, 2015

How to Market Test Your eBook - Before You Port to Amazon

How to Market Test Your eBook - Before You Port to Amazon
(Photo: Wikipedia)

Test Your Book's Sales Ability Before a Big Amazon Release

Simple really: sell everywhere else first.


Because Amazon is known as the new book graveyard. That is why there are so many, many books written about how to "crack" Amazon, how to "make it big" on Amazon", "make a killing", all that sort of stuff.

Amazon, simply, is the 900lb. gorilla in the room, but also a complete pain in the butt.

Reason? It's weird algorithms which only push up regularly-selling books. You get one chance - for about 2 weeks - to prove that your book will sell well for them. And then, it's back to the bottom of the heap for you.

The source of this (besides their ruthless capitalism) is that funny review system they have. Not only do people not rely on reviews (according to survey) - also, Amazon's reviews are bought, sold, faked, padded, and gimmicked to be unreliable. They even pay people to do reviews - and those people have such a volume that they don't have time to read the books they are talking about.

That said, Amazon is where you can make the most income if you are able to make a hit.

The simple strategy to this is to
  • publish on all other platforms first and 
  • let it sit for a couple of months 
  • (while you work on your release campaign, book trailer, launch emails, etc.)

The story behind this approach

I've written and/or edited and (re)published a couple hundred books now. None of them were marketed. Some have never sold, some have sold occasionally, some sell regularly, and a very small handful are bestsellers.

Note: without any marketing.

Mostly public domain (PD) and PLR books, plus a handful of my own.

The reason for no marketing was simple - I got fascinating with all the great books out there which didn't even have good covers and descriptions, but sold enough for me to do this full time. That small number of books is paying all my bills and then some.

I've been testing ebooks and book publishing for a decade now.

When I decided to leverage that book income into a higher range, I realized that I would have to crack Amazon.

PD books on Amazon are very discriminated against. Because they only want unique books, not more of the same. Anywhere else who will publish PD books will generally accept anything you throw up there.

Getting PD books into Amazon proved to be very time-consuming affair, with additional research far beyond the time you already spend editing, creating a fascinating cover, working up an enticing description, and cross-checking to make sure the book is actually in the public domain.

The extra research is to find out what your competition within Amazon actually is. Then you have to re-edit the book to add in additional material so it will be "(annotated)" or "(illustrated)" enough to pass their sentries. (Even then, I've had books simply be "unavailable for sale" after they were first approved.)

Amazon, for public domain editions, is an additional "special" edition you publish after you've already gotten it everywhere else.

Books that sell well, sell everywhere well.

The funny part is that the books which (finallly) sell well on Amazon are already selling everywhere else first.

What is making these books sell? Titles, covers, descriptions, price.

No where else uses reviews. Amazon already bought up Goodreads, which is the only other place that sponsors reviews on their sites. (Unless you count Amazon's Shelfari, which is a "red-headed stepchild" these days.)

Every book that sold well, sold well everywhere. Some books sold well on certain platforms and not others. But a bestseller on one was generally a bestseller on all of them.

Reversely, why put a lot of work into marketing a book into all the various places you have to log into and create content for - if that book will never really take off?

That means: Publish on iTunes, Nook, Google Play/Books, and Kobo before you approach Amazon.

What you can do meanwhile is to set up all the marketing you need to do (which is a long list of steps, plus lots of content ported from your book.)

It can take you a few weeks or a couple of months to get all those sites lined up for your "big release" event. Meanwhile, you can be test-selling your book, and tweaking things with your audience.

At that point, start ramping up a release schedule and either pull the other versions or increase their prices drastically, so that your Amazon release is a spectacular bargain.

This approach is really good if you don't have a mailing list of trusted loyal fans who are beta-reviewers and helpful tipsters.

How about the Amazon Bestseller Tactic?

Where you simply get a few hundred people on your list who go out and buy your book the day it's released on Amazon and instantly post rave 4- and 5-star reviews...

Well, Amazon got wise to that one - you need to have regular and ongoing sales after those first two weeks. Otherwise, you get demoted for another book to take your place. And while your book now has reviews, so will get promoted as an "also-bought" more than a book with no reviews - Amazon is interested in leveraging their own sales, too.

Which is why they are the new author's graveyard. Your book is consigned to the very long tail of sales - which means you'd better have your next book ready to be published if you're going to make any living with original fiction or non-fiction books.

Getting your list to buy and recommend your book to others (particularly if you can sign them up as affiliates to get paid for pitching your book - not Amazon Associates, which pay piddly if at all.)

That's a complete different tangent to go down, not for this blog post.

Your Amazon Release Strategy For Success:

  1. Publish everywhere else first and watch the sales. 
  2. Then either 1) work up your marketing material, or 2) write the next book in that series.
  3. When you a) have a sales record established (and meanwhile have been building up your mailing list) and b) have your marketing materials figured out, and c) have a series of books to release over a period of time (like every two weeks on Amazon)
  4. Now you can launch your set on Amazon over a couple of months.

What will happen is that people will go back and buy the earlier ones in the series because they liked the last ones - and Amazon will push your earlier ones as an "also-bought" or "by this author" or "related books" when people look for your later ones.

Using your loyal list in this, with some nice email enticements, they'll then buy and review all your new books in that series, which will set the stage for new readers (who discover your book in other ways) to then go and buy the earlier books in that series - a rising tide that floats all old boats as well as new ones.

The secret is to test on other retailers as well as your own list.

And no, this isn't set in stone. You can probably see lots of variations in this already.

Just wanted to get this out to you so you could earn more income from your writing.

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