Last week I launched my first business book, Romancing The Sale and I have been busy learning how to sell books. Not my normal fare of sales - I'm more used to face-to-face encounters and selling complex stuff.
Selling books requires a different mindset. Without being able to see who you're selling to it's rather like attending an orgy in a pitch back room - you're not sure what you're grabbing hold of. Retail selling is clearly about throwing enough stuff out there and hoping some of it sticks on the right people.
So after 1 week I can now state that I'm an expert on selling business books on Kindle. I've read 5 or 6 books this week on book promotion. I've read blogs and of course thought about it and done some of my own things. This puts me in the top 5% of knowledgeable people since most of the information out there is ill considered rubbish.
Let me share my new found knowledge with you.
1. Business books are not fiction
The vast amount of information out there on book promotion is aimed at mass market fiction. Business books are a niche and so the recommended websites are off target. Although my book might have the right title, announcing it to the Romance and Lovers book review club is not going to propel it to best seller in its category. I have yet to find a business book review club equivalent.
The second observation is that there are loads of book review websites out there. No clear market leaders. The Pareto principle tells me that 80% of the benefit will be delivered by 20% of the websites. I've yet to figure out which ones I need to invest my time with.
I'm also dubious about book review clubs that want to charge me $49 per month for advertising my book before they will review it or even list it. Sure their website needs a business model but is their readership on target? What is the conversion rate I can expect from their advertising - information which sadly lacking. Will readers consider them impartial when they know they are charging me for the privilege of being on this website?
2. Build a Promotion Platform. Not
The other advice out there is to build a promotion platform for your book. Blogging, social networking etc so you can promote your book through this channel. Hmmmm. How long is that going take to realise sales? Building a loyal following on a blog takes time and lots of effort producing content. I've been doing this blog for coming up to 1 year and get a few thousand readers per month. Say 1% of my readership purchases my book from this blog then I get a few tens of book sales. Horrary I'll be able to retire on that (not that the intention of my book was to get rich quick anyway).
The problem with building a Promotion Platform is that it is yet another product which you need to promote. If you already have a large following (100,000+ followers) then it would be a viable vehicle. Building yet another thing in order to promote a book is ludicrous. If I was seduced into going this route I would think "Why not build a platform to promote all books rather than just limit it to mine?" (even though it is clearly the best).
Make a Killing on Kindle is one of the best books on book promotion I read this week. It's a no nonsense approach to promotion. Ignore the get rich quick title - there is some great advice in there.
I've experimented with using Google advertising as a book promotion tool this week. I wasn't expecting big results from paid advertising. I was working on the basis that I wanted to build a readership therefore revenue from my book sales is being ploughed back into Google AdWord advertising. I was expecting to come out neutral (the advertising cost generated sales which matched the margin from resulting book sales).Zero cash gain. Sadly it is on-track to come out negative.
So a little explanation on how Google AdWords works. Google displays my adverts. The adverts display based on what the person at the other end is searching for. I declare which keywords I think are relevant for my book. Google don't charge to display the advert. If someone clicks on my advert I pay. This is called click-throughs. The industry average is 0.3% click through rate. So in other words, the advert needs to be displayed 333 times before someone clicks on it.
I've done a lot with Google AdWords in the past so I know how to optimise it quickly to control costs. My initial click through rate was 0.12% (833 ads per click) so worse than the industry average. Google recommended I bid £1.75 per click (guess what I didn't pay that). A click takes my prospective book lover to my Amazon page where they have the option of buying my book. Of course every single one of these prospective book lovers will buy it won't they? Nope. I guessed maybe 1 in 5.
So lets do the business case.
5 x clicks @ £1.75 = £8.75 in order to sell a book priced at £7.20 (with VAT) - negative case
I wasn't prepared to pay £1.75 so I bid 45p - it got me a top 3 ranking which is good enough.
So revised business case
5 x clicks @ 0.45p = £1.25. This could be viable to promote it.
The reality is the conversion rate to a purchase is closer to 1 in 20. £5 to get one purchase. Into negative margin territory.
So lets do the math. 0.12% click through 5% conversion. In other words I need to display 16,000 adverts to get one sale! It looks like there are about 50,000 advert banners displayed per week so 3 book sales per week with negative margin. Horrary. 3 book sales per week is sure to make me a best seller!
I've experimented with my keywords and the average is improving. Some of my keywords are now yielding an amazing 6% click through rate but the sales conversion is still only 5%. I'll keep you posted on how this works out as I experiment with this.
Advertising is therefore not a viable vehicle to get a best seller. I'll keep using the advertising since I want to get readership. Conclusion - it needs to be a part of my overall promotional sales strategy.
4. Free Download Day
The most successful promotional tool this week has been the free download day. I dropped the price to free for one day! This proved a massive draw with hundreds of copies flying off the virtual shelf around the world. Clearly the zero price eliminates perceived risk from the buyer and is an effective way to get a readership.
Free is a great way t get the book out there but not a great way to make money.
It's been an interesting journey this week learning about a whole new dimension to selling.
One of the statistics I've learnt is that 30% of new authors sell less than 100 copies of their book. How depressing would that feel. There are plenty of books out there advocating writing a book as a way to generate income so you can quit your job and live the high life. Get real.
A book is a product. Creating a product is 10% of the job. 90% of the job is selling the product. Why should books be any different to anything else in the real-world.
Selling is necessary for success.
My job is selling technology. Actually I'm more of a translator. I sell technology to other businesses and that's where things get weird. There is a bewildering array of tech out there and unfortunately many companies think technology sells itself and the value that the technology delivers should be obvious. Wrong. That's where I come in. I said I was a translator. My job is to translate techno babble into value that customers understand. This blog share my adventures with high tech sales. Selling high tech is fun so come join me on my sales journey!