Thursday, November 18, 2021

The Anatomy of Raising Your Book’s Rankings

MY FAILURE: Last month I decided to run a sale on my latest release, a political thriller titled, we are but WARRIORS that debuted in October of 2020. We all realize how hard it is for an indie book to gain traction on a new release, and I must say I don’t do a whole lot to help myself. I’m terrible at promotion, don’t do book signings, don’t have release parties. I definitely failed Marketing 101.

THE PROBLEM: Getting your book noticed in the marketplace takes a superhuman effort, and I’ve already explained how bad I am at that. Now, everyone with a computer, a love for words, and a good story idea can write a book, and they do. Some are terrific, some are not. It was easier back when I started. Self-publishing still had a negative vibe attached, so some of us made inroads where we can’t today, given the glut of books in the marketplace. Back then, a BookBub ad could generate anywhere from 30-60K downloads for a free book and half that for a $.99 book. Really! BookBub even gave me a freebie when they started, but they kept raising ad prices, and it’s out of my price range these days. I just checked and a BookBub ad for WARRIORS would be over $900. For $1.99 it would be over $1600. That’s too rich for my blood, even if they accepted the ad. The last three times I tried, my book was rejected. They prefer books that are on sale on multiple platforms because they get more click-throughs. Another element is that more well-known authors are running BookBub ads at higher sale prices, which makes BookBub more money. It is a business, after all, and making money is the goal. Having been a business owner, I can’t argue with that.

MY PROCESS: I tried something different with this book to any of the others I’ve written. This time I left WARRIORS on Kindle Select for the required three months. Then I went wide. I’d never done that before, but I wanted to see if it helped reach a wider audience. I put four books on Draft2Digital, publishing the Amazon and B&N books myself. I left them for two months without one sale. Not one. Well, I told myself, I tried. It didn’t gain me anything, and probably the way my sales were going, it didn’t lose me much either. I took them off D2D and republished them on Kindle Select. Now I wanted to shine a light on the book I felt needed more exposure. I chose a seven-day Kindle Countdown promotion with two venues for paid advertisement. I’d always done well with eReader News Today and The Fussy Librarian, so those were the two I signed up for on consecutive days. I created a Photoshop ad to run on Facebook and some of the FB thriller/suspense groups. Here’s what happened.

RANKINGS: My starting ranking was an embarrassing 1,638,342. On the first day of the sale with only a Facebook ad, I sold two books. The next day was the ENT ad. I sold 29 books. The next day was the Fussy Librarian sale – eleven books. During this time, I staggered my own ads on Facebook groups. I really didn’t see any bump from these group ads. That doesn’t mean they don’t work; they just didn’t work for me. I’d still do them. The fact that nothing was gained doesn’t mean it will be the same way next time. After the ENT ad, my ranking that night went down to 11,000, and the book missed the top 100 bestseller list by 11 points. I was pleased, but I did so want to crack that barrier. ☹ The Fussy ad didn’t garner the same sales, but it’s hard to attribute them all to Fussy as some people might have seen the ENT ad the next day. If I do this again, I’ll stagger the ads better to see a more direct result. I would also run another paid ad near the end of the sale period. I sold 6 more books in the last days with a new Photoshop ad on Facebook, totaling for the sale period, 48 books, including one at full price. One day after the sale is over, my ranking is 129,500, a far, far better ranking than when I started. I didn’t get a screen capture at its lowest, but here’s a good image near my lowest ranking number.

QUESTIONS: Will this project garner me reviews? I hope so. Will this project gain me new readers? I hope so. I have sold some of my other books during this time, but it’s hard to attribute that to anything other than a reader wanted to read one of my books. Did I make any money? My ads cost me $65. A $.99 book sale will earn me approximately $.62 per sale. You do the math. Will I boost the ad on Facebook? Probably not. Even though the reach in numbers is good, it has never generated sales. I still might boost. Would I do this again? Yes, in a heartbeat. Forty-eight people have my book who didn't have it before my sale. Of course, my book could sit unread on their Kindles forever, but it was still worth it to me.

BOTTOM LINE: It’s hard to be a writer, especially during these fraught times. One would think because we’ve been sequestered at home for the most part during the last year and a half, that we’d be more apt to write. It hasn’t been the case with me. I’ve had a lack of concentration and a pessimistic view because of “the world.” Actually, planning the sale helped. Now to get back to business.
Polly Iyer is the author of ten suspense novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, Indiscretion, and we are but WARRIORS, and four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash and The Scent of Murder. She’s also the author of four erotic romances under the pseudonym, Maryn Sinclair. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can connect with her on Facebook and visit her website for more information and to read the first chapters of her books.

29 comments :

  1. What an excellent article, Polly! I, too, am definitely not a marketer. Keeping that in mind, you can understand why I relate to your post, as will so many of the writers I know. But as you said so well: "now to get back to business."

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    1. Thanks, Linda. I shall update what's happened since in a comment.

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  2. Just an update: five days after my sale ended, I have not sold one copy of my book and have had one review. The way Amazon now treats reviews, option to just put in the star rating, I'm not sure what that review is. It's the same way now on Goodreads.

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  3. I can sympathize. I'm terrible at marketing and hate it. My last sales did very little. Thanks for sharing your information.

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    1. I still think it was worth it, considering that 49 people have the book they didn't have before. Of course it would be nice if they read it. :-)

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  4. Good article! I've tried similar things with a couple of my books...with very similar results. Sadly the market is pretty saturated, and there are a lot of bad books out there. Yours are very good books (I've read several!) but it's hard to stand out from the flood.

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    1. Thanks, Karen. As I said above, the book is in the hands of people who wouldn't have had it before, so for that reason alone, it was worth it. (Unless I get a bunch of one-star reviews. Ugh.)

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  5. Hi, Polly. Good article. I keep thinking I need to do SOMETHING to promote my backlist but I don't. I keep postponing. It's hard to get enthusiastic about spending the time.

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    1. Kindle Countdown makes it easy. Finding the sites on which to advertise is the time consumer. I still think it was worth it.

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  6. Count me as another who dislikes marketing. But your experiment has sent me exploring Kindle Countdown. It sounds like something I could handle, instead of the complex marketing plans some best-selling mystery authors have. Glad it helped revive your enthusiasm!

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    1. It certainly jumped my numbers, which was the point of the sale. I'm still in a better place now than when I started, though the ranking is going up fast.

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  7. Great post, Polly. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    I totally get the reticence behind advertising--we're creators, first and foremost. But. As novelists who want to sell books/be read, we're in a retail environment and retail requires a business mindset to sell. Coke still advertises, Apple too. Most authors I know don't sell much without some kind of advertising plan. Thankfully, there is a LOT of free help out there (re: writer groups on FB).

    You're a fabulous writer, Polly, and your books deserve a much larger readership. You'll find it, I'm certain. Here's to many, many more books!

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    1. Thanks, DV. Yours is praise from a master, so I will ride high on your words for a long time. You had a better plan than I did. Part of my problem is liking to write stand-alones, which get in the way of continuing a series. That time is crucial to maintaining a readership. Your books are kick-ass female empowerment. You deserve your success.

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  8. Very helpful analysis and reporting. Thank you. I'm also in that group of those who really have to push myself to market. Seems even more difficult in a world of diminishing returns. But, your article brought me here -- and I'm looking forward to learning more and reading one of your books!

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    1. Thank you, Beth. I always appreciate someone else reporting on their learning curve. It helps mine. Hope you find a way forward.

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  9. Thanks for sharing your experience in such an open, clearly-stated manner. I agree that, though the financial numbers are discouraging, it's worthwhile to have your book in the hands of 49 new readers. Plus, don't forget, everything you do leaves a footprint. This campaign may result in sales or name recognition in the future. Kudos to you for trying. Personally, I would be delighted to see my Amazon rating change so dramatically.

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    1. Thanks, Sandy. That's how I felt. I'd do it again. I thank Facebook for getting the word out, so I guess my exposure there was worth cultivating.

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  10. Ducking in to say hello. It is hard to find readers, for sure. I am hit or miss in my marketing. I ran a $0.99 sale in October and got some nice bumps in rankings from sales from a series book. Need to check to see if the other books are still moving are if they are once again mired in pandemic-related quicksand. Anyone who clicked over for Polly's very apropos article, try her books. They are page turners!

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    1. Maggie, next to me, you're a pro. Whenever you have a book to promote, I am exhausted just reading what you do. You're my hero.

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  11. Thanks for the detailed analysis, Polly. I'm constantly tinkering with different promotions. I've found that a few new readers discovering my books can lead to hundreds more if they spread the word. You never know. Keep writing those great books!

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    1. Thanks, Cindy. You are a promo master. I'd be happy with a couple of dozen.

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  12. You and I have talked about this, Polly, but thanks so much for your analysis! Marketing is just a big, grey swamp for me.

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    1. You would think after all the years it would be easier because you have readers, but sadly, unless a writer can churn out books faster than I can, readers find other authors and we lose them. Of course if I had a mailing list... but that's one of my problems. I don't. Sigh.

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  13. I love writing until it becomes a product that you have to market and promote.

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    1. Isn't that the truth. Yes, it becomes a product not a creative project. It's where the creator becomes a business person. Yuk. Been there, done that.

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  14. Thanks, Polly. I've never so methodically evaluated any promotion, but agree a BookBub ad (even if I got one) probably wouldn't even pay for itself. Will think about the countdown promos--something I've never tried

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    1. I couldn't get a BookBub ad either, and even if I could, I couldn't pay for it. Kindle Countdown is a good promo, but you still have to do the promotion. Amazon doesn't do any of it because they want you to buy their ads. I know you've tried that.

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  15. Thank you for this insight you’ve shared. You’re work on promotions and ads makes me realise I’m not alone in this area. It’s a battle to be noticed and it seems to continue to cost the author as the price of advertising gets further out of reach or our reach becomes diminished and blurred because of the amount of other free or 99 cent books out there.my latest pact is no more free books. To me, giving them away has created a whole lot of expectations in people who will only ever get the free books. Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t get our other books read and grossly undervalues our work and standing /respect as an author.
    This idea, of course has left me in the cold. Haha. But I do buy my books in and sell them to real people where I live. The response is often very good. I launch each one in our local library too and sometimes (not often enough) go to the markets. This helps my picket at least.

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    1. Hi Unknown. Free used to be a way to get readers, and it worked ... for a while because if the reader liked your book, s/he would buy one of the others. Now there are so many free books that one never has to buy any. Yes, there's a lot of crap out there, but there are a lot of good books, too, that will find readers they wouldn't have otherwise. I download a lot of books from my library, so in truth, they are free, but I know the author gets paid for those downloads. We're all in the same boat and have to make promotions that work. Some do, some don't. Best of luck finding your audience.

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