Okay, so this is a post about marketing books, or rather it is a post about one of my books that sold particularly well. (At least in the first few weeks after publication).
I am NOT a marketing guru. I have no special formula and am not trying to sell you anything, get you to subscribe, donate, join a club or even buy the book in question… or any of my books… but you can if you wish!
I am uncertain if my book would not have performed as well if I had done absolutely nothing, if I published, sat back and waited. (Although I doubt it)
The reason I am writing this post is to share with you, (my Indie author friends and colleagues), the history of first few weeks of my books performance on the Amazon sales platform.
I hope you can take something, even one small factor from this and use it to enhance your own sales, or at least gain further insight into what makes books sell. Or not!
To understand and to place the following information into context I need to explain how the book came into being and the lead up to release. So, I’ll take the Advice of Winnie the Pooh and start at the beginning; as “That’s a very good place to start”.
The Book in question is The Pussers Cook Book. The Amazon hyperlink is https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pussers-Cook-Book-Traditional-recipes/dp/1544690584 if you want to take a look, or get a copy (hint hint).
The Pussers Cook Book contains twenty-two recipes of traditional dishes served in the Royal Navy during the 1960’s to the 1980’s. Apart from the recipes, it contains a factual historical information and social comment, written in a witty and humorous style.
The book is listed under this Amazon category: Books > Food & Drink > Reference & Gastronomy > History of Food. (It is currently ranked No.3 as I write this).
The creation of this book came about after many conversations with other veterans. Most hold the food they ate during service in some esteem, some higher than others! What was clear among all personnel was the huge part food and dining played in keeping moral and spirits high during deployments.
With that in mind, I started to search for a cook book containing some ‘Good old British Naval recipes’ and came up with absolute zilch, zero, nada.
There are American forces cook books, Royal Australian Naval recipes, South African, Indian, but I could not find a single book which recorded any Royal Navy dish.
This is where it all starts!
So… I asked in several forces forums who would be interested in such a book, who would share stories and memories of food and dining from their time in the service. The response was substantial and led me to believe there was a market, an audience for such.
I had found a niche, a ‘gap in the market’ so to speak.
A few months later I had compiled and written The Pussers Cook Book.
Now for the nitty gritty about the promotion.
As I have said above, I spoke to a quantity of people about creating a Naval recipes book and kept the contact details of those who expressed a solid interest in such a book.
Once I was ready to release The Pussers Cook Book, I posted a string of ‘Coming soon’ social media announcements to the groups I identified as being the books prime market, ie Royal Navy/ex royal navy/military/FAA/RFA/ex Forces/Veterans sites.
Many which I had joined since conception of the book in readiness for its launch. This gave me time to build a good, solid reputation and establish myself as a known, trusted and active member of these groups. You may consider this rather mercenary, but I see it as good business sense.
This type of planning and foresight takes a lot of time, work and effort. But once you are accepted, initiated and integrated, the fact that you an established part of a close, sometimes closed network, will pay dividends in many future endeavours.
It is a commitment I think is worth the time and energy needed to sustain the relationship.
The second part of my advanced planning was to design some posters and flyers, and the preparation of initial of blogs needed to spread my message, in a colourful and eye catching way, when posted on social media.
The next was ensuring that my book is listed with ‘book sites’ such as Goodreads, Authors Den, Authorsdb, Promocave etc. And, of course listed on my own website.
Added to this is obtaining listing on other sites servicing my targeted market. In this case, military historical sites and archives, military book, gift and paraphernalia stores, Naval museums. In fact, anywhere that has a library, store, shop, or service which does, or could list books or carry a link. Not forgetting any of their private forums, even those with fifty or sixty members…I would be happy with 1% sales from these.
Once again this is time consuming and often boring, but it is getting all your duck in order before taking the plunge.
Once all these items were in place, I was ready to promote the book.
Before the next step, the launch, I must explain that I made The Pussers Cook Book in two formats, a Hardcover version and a paperback.
This post is ONLY concerned with the PAPERBACK version as this is the only format available via CreateSpace/Amazon.
It may also help to know that it is a 6×9, full colour, fully illustrated book. (hence the price)
I decided that a ‘soft launch‘ of The Pussers Cook Book was most appropriate, as this book is targeted at a niche market, a major launch, such as a Thunderclap or Facebook party would have been irrelevant and had little effect on the initial ‘reveal‘.
The launch therefore consisted of a major blitz on as many social media groups as possible, over as many platforms as possible. In this case it was Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, twitter, Tumblr, Ello, Yeopen, StumbleUpon, Flipboard, Pinterest, WordPress, Blogger and so on.
Along with all those private sites and forums directed at Military and ex-military personnel I mentioned before.
The first day or two the book was only available from CreateSpace, as it takes a day or two to appear on Amazon sites.
If you look at the beginning of the sales chart, the launch date of the 17th of March, (it was late at night, so the figures show as/from the 18th), you will see that sales were instantly quite good. It looked like all that planning, all the time effort and the brainstorming had paid off.
Until… March the 21st when it all died off!
I still have no idea why this was, perhaps it was something to do with the listings on Amazon becoming live?
Like everything concerned with being an Indie author it takes work, hard work and lots of it.
Pushing your sales is just one of the areas that you must concentrate your efforts. This is what I have done so far in relation to The Pussers Cook Book.
On the 26th of March I saw the sales figure slow for the first time.
I was ready for this. I had a plan, well it was more of an idea which I formulated after reading several various, (unrelated) articles about books, business, SEO, other authors, and a host of topics I cannot recall!
My plan was to try and push the name, the title of my book to the front of the search lists on the prime search engines algorithms.
Now, most probably you know little about how ‘SEO’ works. You are not alone, neither do I!
BUT I had gleaned a basic understanding, or at least an understanding of the logic behind the principle of how SEO functions. It was with that limited knowledge that I made my next move.
I sent a post asking people to ‘google’ my book by name on whatever search bar they were using, Google, Yahoo, Bing, Edge…whatever.
I did this with emails to other contacts around the world, and on all social platforms and forums. I asked my son, cousin and friends to do the same, to share and re-post the request, and to ask others to do the same.
I was trying to drive the search for ‘The Pussers Cook Book‘ or The Pussers cookbook’ etc. as viral as I could.
Within 24hrs The Pussers Cook Book was showing as the top 6 to 8 listings on most searches, eventually making it to the top 10 lists on about every search engine.
The chart shows a boost of sale from that date. I like to consider this a direct consequence of that SEO attack…but again, I have no control specimen to compare effect.
It could simply be a coincidence?
On May the 30th I saw the trend of sales slipping, so I gave the book another boost by simple advertising, posting updated posters and status’s on social media.
April the 4th I noticed the figures dip once again. This time my marketing effort was aimed at the sites I term non-prime. These are the sites that are peripheral to major networks, or adjacent in content and demographics, to the mainstream platforms, but still play a key role in my marketing strategy.
Such sites, I am sure, will differ greatly from person to person and book to book. Much of regarding any site as such is whole subjective.
April the 8th I am have convinced myself, The Pussers Cook Book has run its natural course of being an Amazon bestseller for an Indie author. This is, no doubt the start of the natural decline in sales.
With a hurriedly conceiver promotion, using Easter as a gimmick, “Last chance to get/gift a copy before Easter…etc, blah, blah…” I hope to squeeze out a few more sales and try to keep The Pussers Cook Book as high in the charts for as long as possible.
The reason is, the higher a book’s ranking, the more visibility it is given by Amazon. The more it can be seen the higher the likelihood of getting an extra sale, or three.
If these sales keep the book up in the ranking, the more it will been seen…..& so on. As the sales decrease so does a books appearance. The alternative is to spend a fortune on paid advertising with amazon and Facebook etc.
So, as much self-promotion and marketing you can do without giving the ‘big boys’ a fortune the better it is.
Remember, whatever you spend on, say an Amazon advert, is the amount you must earn in royalties from Amazon, BEFORE you start making any money. All the while, on each sale you do make, Amazon will still be taking their cut. Think about it.
It is now, as I write the 13th of April, 27 days, a month – all bar the shouting – The Pussers Cook Book has been at the top, not bad for an unknown Indie author.
I shall do another marketing blitz over the next day or two. In fact, even this post is part of my overall marketing plan. It has raised awareness of the book, which you will notice I have repeatedly given its full title of ‘The Pussers Cook Book’ throughout this blog post. Hinted that you should at least Google it, if not get yourself a copy (another hint).
What I am trying to convey is, never miss an opportunity…you never know where it might lead.
I do hope that by sharing this with you, you can take something constructive or reassuring from it. Even something that makes it worth getting yourself a copy of this book, or any of my fictional works, as a thank you?
I know sales will now slow. It is inevitable. Yet, I do hope the book will ‘tick over’ for the foreseeable future.
For now, I have four ‘Works in progress’ I must complete; you never know one of these may be my next best seller?