How Amazon Data Science Helped Sell More Books Thanks Chris Fox!

By September 16, 2017Uncategorized

In May of 2017, I received an email from Amazon KDP stating that they were considering including my book The Nonfiction Outline Book in an Amazon marketing book promotion in July.

I did a double take.   Seriously.

If anyone has ever gotten the “pick an egg” scam email from someone “claiming” to be from Amazon then you know there are evil people out there scheming pretending to be Amazon KDP.

After authenticating the email was from Amazon I did additional research because I wanted to know what an Amazon promotion could mean for my book – What’s in it for me (WIIFM)?

I searched for other authors who received the email and also who may have previously had their work included in the marketing book promotion.

I shared the exciting news and email I received from Amazon with Pat’s First Kindle Group,  a Facebook Group of about 17,000 nonfiction and fiction writers.

Here’s the email.

Hello,
From time to time we reach out to our KDP authors and publishers about participating in certain types of promotions.
We are considering including your book(s) in an upcoming promotion in the Amazon.com Kindle Book Store. We would offer the books at a discount we determine off of your book’s list price (up to 85%) for a period of up to approximately one month. Your list price won’t change, so that customers see your list price and the discount. If your books are included, your royalty will be calculated based on our discounted price (not your list price).
If you would like to participate in this promotion, please follow steps below:
  1.   Click on the link: (link removed)
  2.   Enter the code: (code removed)
  3.   Fill out the form to accept the terms
Kind regards,
The Kindle Direct Publishing Team

A few people in the Facebook group, about five, commented on the thread that they had gotten the email from Amazon or knew of an author who also received it.

A few pointed out the drawbacks after reading the email, being Amazon didn’t guarantee that my book would be included and even if the book were included it’d be heavily discounted.

 

THE POWER OF BELIEF AND BEING HAPPY

And oh yeah, shakin’ them haters off.   I was thrilled to receive the communication from Amazon because even if 5, 10, or even 20,000 authors had also received the email it meant we were lucky because there are millions being sold on Amazon and we are lucky to be on Amazon’s radar amongst the large number of books.

Yay, us.

I strongly believed my book would be included in the promotion and this wasn’t because I felt lucky and instead because of energy I put into marketing this book.

One thing I do if nothing else is I stay in my lane.  I marketed my book the best way that was doable for me in 2015.  I’ve grown a lot since then and in 2018 the best is yet to come.

HOW I GOT AMAZON’S ATTENTION

I wrote a long, helpful blog post How To Outline A Nonfiction Book” that is directly targeted to the blog’s target audience those who want to outline and write a nonfiction book in what I call the New Writing and Publishing Universe.

The post is long and helpful and I include links to my outline book on Amazon.  The book takes a deeper dive into the process of outlining.

The post usually ranks on the first page of Google for a combination of longtail keywords.  I didn’t do any keyword research when I wrote the post. But I’ve created well over 500 book outlines and I know a thing or two about outlining.

The post gets on average between 25-50 visitors daily.  It has gotten as much as 100 hits per day.

A pause here.  I was listening to a Q & A with author Joanna Penn, just last night and she states her blog gets about 600 thousand monthly visitors. Maybe a few of you reading my visitor numbers are thinking the numbers aren’t much.  Screw yoooou

Nevertheless, Google’s algorithms finds enough value in my post and for over two years, they continue to send visitors who want to create a book outline to my site.  Visitors stick around and read the post until the end. Throughout the post, I include a link to my Amazon book in case readers want to take a deeper dive into the process of outlining.

In sending my blog readers to Amazon, it shows Amazon who my target audience is, people who want to outline and or write nonfiction books.   I figured sending people to Amazon had to count for something but it wasn’t until I read Chris Fox’s book Six Figure Author: Using Data to sell books Write Faster Write Smarter that I figured out what it all meant.

According to Fox if you can show Amazon the exact type of person who will love your book, they can then show your book to target readers.  Fox states, “If you can give Amazon several hundred sales to a highly targeted audience, then Amazon will quickly and easily go find more people like them. “

At the beginning I did what some people do when they launch a book. They ask family and friends to pick up a copy and I did some other marketing  stuff too.

Fox said that when you have random people buy your book Amazon does not know who your target audience is because all those people have in common is you.

He further claims that when you show Amazon who your target readers are they know who to show your book too.  If you want to get a better understanding of using data science to sell books read Fox’s book.

Essentially, I did everything Fox recommends that authors need to do, although I didn’t know I was doing it at the time.

The month of July was busy and zipped by without me realizing my book had yet to be promoted by Amazon. However, on August 1st about 1:00 am I woke up and checked my book stats. I usually check my stats once per day whenever I think about it.

Another pause. Chris Fox states that you should not sell books on other platforms.  He advises that you put all your eggs in Amazon’s KDP basket.     Right now, it doesn’t make sense for me to do so, but it might make sense for your book marketing plan.

Back to post. I checked Amazon and noticed that I’d sold seven books. Five more books that I usually sell per day.  I was sleepy checking.  That’s when you sleep walk on the internet so I didn’t know why sells were up.  I decided to figure it out in the morning.

The next day I checked my book and noticed that Amazon had marked it down from 2.99 to 1.99, it occurred to me that my book was being included in August and not July’s promotion.

And the good news just kept comin’.  On the best day in August my book sold 15 copies and on the slowest day it was three copies.  My book at one point was ranked in the top 10 in three different categories and also the ranking was as low as 15,000. That made my heart smile. Millions of books on Amazon are sold and my book is in the 15,000.

I was pleased with that number because usually, the book sells about 40 – 60 copies per month with a typical ranking ranging from 80 to 180 thousand.  Most books, if they sell – sell two copies per day on Amazon, some don’t sell at all. I felt encouraged that my book was selling.

I saw another book (click HERE) that had been included in the Amazon promotion at the same time as mine.  It made it into the top 100 on Amazon.  It has a different and much larger target audience.

WHAT WOULD I DO DIFFERENTLY?

I would have changed the book’s cover before the promotion started. My book has had several covers.  The cover on it and now and during the promotion is a premade template from canvadotcom.

Long story short when I first started selling the book on Amazon I included 37 outline templates and had a pretty decent cover made from someone on Fiverr in 2015.  I decided to scale down the number of templates in the book from 37 to 12 and I needed another cover. The Fiverr covers I had made after the first cover were horrible because some designers on Fiverr disappear and do inconsistent work, blah, blah, blah.

Canva has decent premade covers and also if you play around on the site you can make a nice original cover. It was an easier option for me at the time I switched covers to slap on a premade cover.

I am busy but aren’t we all and I should have made a better cover or paid someone $40 or $50 bucks on Fiverr to make me a book cover.  When I had the cover made in 2015, you could get a decent cover for $5 or $10.  These days you need to spend around $50 on Fiverr.

I reached out to Amazon during the promotion to see if I could change the cover. They said if I did it would halt the promotion and of course I was not havin’ that.

I know the importance of a good-looking book cover and shame on me for not having a better one, and I still don’t. The pre-made cover isn’t awful, but on a site with so many books, covers matter.  To my credit, I updated book’s content long before I knew anything about the Amazon book promotion.

Side note: I scaled down the book on Amazon to sell on Gumroad at a different price point.

Secondly, I would have raised the price of the book from 2.99 to 3.99. The price increase would not have affected what the customers paid for the book, but it would have allowed me to earn $2 per book as opposed to $1.

Thirdly, I would have gotten some additional reviews because covers, like reviews, matter. When my book went into promotion it had about 24 reviews.  When it came out of promotion it had 27 reviews and three are negative. Ouch. Since then I’ve got another review and it’s positive.   Thank gawd.

The negative review didn’t affect my books rating. It started at a 4.0 and ended that way.  About four people that I know reviewed my book, but the rest of the reviews came from people I don’t know.

Although negative reviews hurt more than positive reviews feel good, these didn’t hurt as much for a couple of reasons.  The book is about writing and the reviews didn’t attack my writing or state that the book is full of errors.

There are books on writing in which reviewers not only attack the writing but criticize books for having lots of typos and grammatical errors.  Lucky for me a few months before the promotion I went in and cleaned up the book.

As an indie author/self-published author your wear way too many hats and your book can suffer.

I know blah, blah, blah.  Anyway, I’m proud of the eBooks I put out these days and that hasn’t always been the case.   Early on I rushed to put out books that didn’t make me proud and I’ve taken those most of those books down because I care deeply about putting out quality books.  My books aren’t perfect but as money and time permits I get them in the best shape I can.    Quality matters.

Reviews play a BIG part in Amazon showcasing your book, and I wish I’d reached out to people and asked for honest reviews.

The negative reviews came from people that bought the book after seeing it on Amazon and not those who bought it after reading my post on my website.

I’m pretty sure of where the reviews came from because I use a tracking link on my books and it’s pretty easy to track one or two sales per day.  Also, my blog readers, all 100 of them, lol,  (even if they are new to the site), get a good feel in my post and if they read other posts on my site that I share information about writing in the New Writing and Publishing Universe.

GOOGLE VS. AMAZON ALGORITHM

I think this is where Google’s algorithm understands my audience more so than Amazon’s. Forgive me Amazon because I love your platform and I know you have a team of Data Scientist and really what do I know?  I’m just this writer from the Midwest trying to sell books.

Perhaps “understands” isn’t the right word and let me try to explain what I mean the best way that I can.

Google’s algorithm recognizes that I’m not trying to help someone write a big science or history book.  As an example, read the review below that I received from what I assume is an old fogey who wants to write a big long, boring book that no one will read.

On the other hand, Amazon is showing my book to people who want to write boring nonfiction books that people who are used to reading a computer screen’s worth of content won’t read.   Being serious, maybe the guy is writing a boring book for history buffs who like reading books that those who play in the new writing and publishing Universe don’t take the time to read.

My target audience is people who want to write books in the New Writing and Publishing Universe.  Books that are written by people like Avery Bryer, Steve Scott/S.J. Scott or Scott Scott, Patrick King and Robert Duff.

I’ve read several of Scott’s books, one book by King and scanned books by Avery and Duff.  I’ve heard these people (except Avery) on podcasts and these authors write shorter books up to 60,000 words. They appear to invest in the quality of their books, they put a face to their books, and it doesn’t seem they participate in the deeply ridiculed (what some call) KDP Gold Rush.

I’m not teaching people how to throw up fast books to make a quick buck because be sure your book reviews will find you out.   I may not be crusing it on Amazon but I’m eating and traveling with my earnings (I sell books on other platforms like Gumroad & Fiverr, under various pen names).  Happy Face.

HOW IS MY BOOK DOING NOW THAT THE PROMOTION IS OVER?

It’s slow goings. I feel like Cinderella at the end of the ball having to give the shoes back.   Back to book sales of two books or less per day.  One day I sold five books and another day three. Yay me.

The book is old 2015, although I updated in 2017.  I’ve got new books that I’ll figure out market with Fox’s information and in other ways too.

I’m very grateful to the Amazon platform and a BIG thank you to KDP for promoting my book.

WHAT’S NEXT?

The money I make from ghostwriting far exceeds my book writing royalties. But I spend so much time ghostwriting that it doesn’t leave a lot of energy for my own writing. That’s gonna change. In 2018, I’ll only take on one or two clients who can afford to pay the value of my services.

I’d like to be a guest on a podcast and or write a guest post for a blog.  Having worked in some capacity on hundreds of nonfiction book projects including having been a part of Pat Flynn of Smart Passive income’s book launch team – that helped launch his book to the Wall Street Best seller’s list.  I can offer insight and value to an audience.

Hey, if you put it out in the Universe it will bring it to you. The power of belief!  What are you working on authors?  Do tell in the comment section below.

How many books did I sell? Drum roll please…. 211 Books.  Ehh.    244 in total including my other books.

(I was having all kinds of issues posting this blog post.  My website is doing screwy things like incorrect formatting, repeating sentences, and incorrectly highlighting words. I’ll fix issues later, but for now I’m POSTING.