Nine Month Review
Sales, rankings, ratings, reviews and marketing roundup
This has my numbers!
It has the worst marketing mistake I made!
It has a challenge to find a book that beats SoH’s rating!
It has a reading recommendation while you wait for Wild Card!
It has predictions 🙂
This is pretty much the last opportunity I’ll have to feed back on the success of my first phase marketing plan for the Bite Back series, so I’m taking some time out from Wild Card to report. It is also a suitable date for an analysis, as it’s 9 months (plus a few days) after I pressed the Amazon Save & Publish button for Sleight of Hand.
The reason for this being the last opportunity is that, soon Raw Deal will be published, and this prequel novella is being provided free as a marketing ploy. This is a significant change from the original marketing, which was based primarily on price, cover, cover copy, reviews, blogs and interviews.
I am going to limit, for the sake of simplicity, much of what I have to say about reviews and ratings to Sleight of Hand, so the statistics on sales reflect this.
Sleight of Hand reached 14,665 sales yesterday. 80% of that is from Amazon.com, which includes sales from all of North America, Australia, New Zealand and India. 17% is from the UK. Average daily sales have just dropped below 30, and the forecast (without marketing changes) is to finish the 12 months since publication at about 17,000. Readers of previous blogs will know that would be below my aim of 20,000, but I’m still very happy and slightly bewildered to think there are that many people out there reading my book. I will, of course, report back on the sales effect of providing Raw Deal as a free taster and hope that I’ll still hit my objective.
As a small postscript to sales, I want to mention Germany again. I have not yet arranged for a German translation, so all sales to German readers are the English book. My sales in Germany this month are a mere 2 books behind my sales in the UK. I am delighted!
Sleight of Hand missed single figure ranking on Amazon (US and UK sites), peaking at 10 highest-ranked Contemporary Fantasy book in both countries during January. In the US, Sleight of Hand is now ranked below 100 (I don’t follow it any longer than 100th), but in the UK, it has been varying between 40th and 90 over the last few weeks.
It has achieved single figure ratings in Germany, in the English book section of Contemporary Fantasy.
Ratings and reviews
Reviews form a major part of marketing a book, and I have to say this part of my marketing plan has been a disaster. Despite that, unplanned reviews and rankings form the basis of my success. I will explain this after I cover the overall statistics for ratings.
On Amazon.com today, Sleight of Hand has 116 reviews with ratings. These are distributed, highest to lowest, 79, 30, 5, 2 and 0. Amazon’s overall rating is based on a formula adding 5*79 to 4*30, 3*5 etc. and dividing by the total. This gives me a rating of 4.6 by their method. On Goodreads today, Sleight of Hand has 265 ratings. These are distributed 100, 104, 51, 7 and 2. This gives an Amazon style rating of 4.1.
I’m very happy with these ratings.
However, I’m indebted to Mike Gamber for sending me an alternate rating calculator, which takes the ‘positive’ ratings (4 and 5 star) as a percent of the total, including the remainder, which are ‘neutral’ (3 star) and ‘negative’ (1 and 2 star). I know this doesn’t correspond with the rating guidelines on Amazon or Goodreads, but rather the widely held perception of what ratings mean. On this rating, Sleight of Hand achieves 94% on Amazon.com. What Mike pointed out to me was that, given a filter of a minimum of 50 ratings, he can’t find any first or stand-alone book, in any category, on Amazon.com which has a higher rating than Sleight of Hand!
I’ve looked up some of my favorites, and I can’t either (but I highly recommend Huntress Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff which comes in at 92%). But the thing about putting this out there, is one of you will find a first or stand-alone book that scores higher, and the first one will get themselves a free copy of Wild Card when it comes out…
Okay, reviews, which are sort of integrated into ratings, and why I think my planned marketing here was such a disaster…
Indie writers, when launching their book, send it to reviewers to get the reviews going. I’m not talking professional reviewers you have to pay, I’m talking about the infrastructure of hundreds of bloggers who run web sites and post reviews. I did this and I had already failed.
How badly did I fail? I sent out over 100 free copies of the book, including 20 printed copies which I bought and shipped all over the world… I got 5 reviews back. They all scored the book at 3 stars. None of the reviewers who received printed books reviewed it. This is 6-9 months after receiving the book.
Does this mean blogger/reviewers are a waste of time?
No! Firstly, those people scored other books at 5 and said how wonderful they were. They just didn’t particularly like Sleight of Hand or didn’t ‘get it’. Further, I’ve had 5 other blogger/reviewers, who I hadn’t approached, who reviewed the book and they all gave it a 5. Lessons learnt … research your reviewers, find ones you are sure will like your book, or at least ‘get it’, and send them ARCs well in advance of publication. I failed miserably with the planned reviews, but my unplanned reviewers have been fantastic.
The blogger/reviewers and the people who said something on Amazon or Goodreads have provided a strong marketing campaign. But an independent author has no control over this. At best he or she has influence, and that influence comes down to the basics; price, cover, cover copy and of course the best story you can write.
Blogs and Interviews
It’s very difficult to assess the effect of these on sales. I enjoy writing this blog and doing interviews on other authors and bloggers sites. I’ll expand the blog a bit, do some reviews and recommendations, looking for cross-pollination. And I’m listening if anyone wants something particularly…
I’ll keep you posted about any travel plans, and I’d be delighted to sign books or give talks to book clubs if I’m in your area. No dates yet, but I’m in Germany in late summer, Denver and Albuquerque in the fall…
So that’s it for phase one of the marketing. Next month, I’ll be watching the effects of a free prequel and maybe looking at putting the books on iTunes.
My predictions for May/July…
I will increase sales and hit the 20,000 for Sleight of Hand by the anniversary of publication.
My rankings on Amazon will go up to where they were, but I still won’t get into single figure ranking in Contemporary Fantasy.
My overall ranking, including the one provided by Mike Gamber, will go down.