Eyes Wide Open
Posted On: 2015-01-28
by: Bill Platt

28th, 2015
Whether you want to admit it or not, the reality is that if you are a self-published author, you have no one but yourself to rely upon to help you sell your books.

Of course, you can pay someone to help you market your books and help you find new audiences for your books. You can also pay other people to advertise your books.

However, a lot of self-published authors make the mistake of thinking that Amazon will do all of the marketing for them, so they just need to publish their books and wait for Amazon to deliver the buyers to their books.

To a certain degree, it is true that Amazon will send you customers, if you are willing to wait long enough for Amazon to notice your book.

But honestly, Amazon's support is based on a mathematical calculation -- a computer algorithm...

Amazon gives an extra advertising boost to books that they believe will make them a lot of money.

Put yourself in Jeff Bezo's shoes.

If Book A is selling 2 copies per day and Book B is selling 500 copies per day, which one would you promote?

Bezos isn't a bozo. He is going to promote the book with a proven track record for big sales, rather than to promote an unknown author with a book that is barely moving off the shelves.

I know I have said this before, but the only difference between a winner and loser in the business world is less often the quality of the product and more often the quality of the marketing.

The VHS-format crushed the better Beta-format, due to JVC having a better marketing plan.

In the hamburger wars, McDonald's has been the top dog for decades and will remain so for the unforeseeable future, since McDonald's now has 32,000 stores to Burger King's 12,000 stores and Wendy's 6,600 stores.

McDonald's food literally gives me terrific heartburn, so I don't touch the stuff, but they still get some of my money. Why? Two words... kid's meals... And not because I am too cheap to buy my kids real food, but because my kids badger me to buy them kid's meals so they can get a 10-cent toy.

In my town, we have two McDonald's, three Sonic Drive-In's, one Whataburger, one Wendy's, and one Burger King. Based only on the traffic at each one at any given time, I bet the two McDonald's outsell the other six stores combined.

Yes, marketing trumps product quality.

The books with the better marketing will fly off the shelves faster than the books that have no marketing accompanying them.

Once you can get the ball rolling in favor of consumers purchasing your books, then Amazon will notice how much money you are making for them, and they will step up to help you sell more copies of your books.

A friend of mine writes in the fiction genre. She has made a deliberate effort to build a mailing list for her customers to follow news about her upcoming books.

It is startling to realize how few subscribers she has on her mailing list, and the awesome results those subscribers create for her books.

She has a mere 1,500 people on her author's mailing list. On the day that she launches a new book, she sends a short note to her past customers, informing them that she has another book available.

Interestingly, 50% of her subscribers generally buy her books on the day of her book release. She never offers her books for free. And the 750 book sales that she typically sees from the release of a new book results in her reaching Amazon's top 100 books on day one in most cases. Which has a butterfly effect on her sales...

She sends a "hey, I have a new book available" email to her mailing list. An average of 750 people from her list will buy her book on that first day, which will trigger Amazon's sales algorithm, elevating her book to huge sales over the next few days. Amazon will put her book in the top 100 paid list in several categories, and they will mail her previous customers to let them know that she just released a book, and they will mail people who have never purchased from her previously recommending her book.

I know the latter to be true, because they mailed me several times to tell me about her books, even before I actually purchased one of her books.

The bottom line is that when you can create sales momentum for your books, Amazon will support you by sending you even more customers.

This is why I pay close attention to how other people market their books. It is why I take the time to reverse-engineer how others are successful with their books.

By paying close attention to how other authors can lift their books to best-seller status, I learn how I can do the same with my books.

Not every idea will work for me, but some of the ideas I discover will work for me and others.

A couple years back, I got a flyer from the grade school. It immediately caught my attention, because it was from a children's book author.

The flyer stated that so-and-so would be visiting my child's school in a few weeks to read to the children. The flyer had an order form, so that I could order copies of her books for my son. The flyer offered that for one price, I could get my son a copy of one or all of her books -- she had eight books on the order form. And for a higher price, I could order a signed copy of her books for my son.

Intrigued, I went directly to Amazon to compare prices.

All of her books were available on the Amazon website, and buying directly from her would cost me anywhere from 50 cents to $5 more per book -- if I only got the unsigned copy of her books. A signed copy of her books was two dollars more.

The order form said that if I wanted to buy copies of her books, I needed to fill in the form, and send a check back to school at least ten days ahead of the author's visit to my child's school.

You and I both know that she can purchase her books from CreateSpace at a discount, since she is the author. We also know that if she collected all of the orders and all of the money ten days in advance of her visit to the school, then she could order in bulk and have the books delivered to her house before she was scheduled to visit my child's school.

She was scheduled to do 4 readings in the course of two days -- Kindergarten and first grade, two classes in each grade at each school, and four schools. With an average of 22 students in each class, the order form was hand-delivered by roughly 350 students to their parents.

Most parents would likely buy only one book. A few parents might have bought the entire collection. As a betting man, I would bet that she sold 500-1000 copies of her books within my town's school district, with an average of $5 profit per book, in exchange for going to four grade schools over the course of two days.

The author was from Oklahoma City, and I live in Stillwater, Oklahoma. To come to our schools, she had to drive one hour each way.

Now, imagine if she filled 9 months of the year with four days of readings each week...

Clever, right?

Captive audience... And parents badgered by their kids to get them copies of her books...

Which brings me back to the title of this article, "Eyes Wide Open."

Maybe I am just a fool -- you will have to be the judge, but I honestly do believe that we can learn how to better market our own books and win Amazon's attention, if we are simply willing to watch other authors, figure out how they market their books, and learn how we can incorporate what they do into what we do.