Happy Thursday! Thursday’s aren’t so great for me because they’re actually my Mondays, and work has been super busy lately. But I have been able to get a lot of editing done on my days off and I might be able to publish a little sooner than the April release date I was aiming for. Anyway, so I missed my blog post for Monday–I was just so into editing last week I completely spaced on it. Not much is going on right now in the indie publishing world anyway, so probably a lot of my blog posts for the next little while will just be my writing updates as I finally publish after two years of not.
But I was perusing Twitter like I’m wont to do, and there have been many authors lamenting over their lack of sales, especially as the new year has rolled around, and lots of celebrating when they manage to cajole one of their followers into a purchase. I just want to caution anyone who begs for a sale by saying this: a sale isn’t just a sale.
When you’re an indie author going through a dry spell, you might not think that’s true. You celebrate every sale, and to an extent, you should. But on the other hand, if the readers who buy your book don’t regularly read in that genre (i. e. they bought your book as a favor or to do something nice or to “support” you) their sale isn’t helping you.
Amazon’s algorithms are stronger than we want to believe, and it’s IMPERATIVE that when you publish a book, Amazon knows exactly what genre it is and exactly who will read it. I’m sure you’ve all gotten those emails of recommended books. I’ve seen tweets from amused (and bemused) authors wondering why Amazon would email them about their own book. It’s really because you’re been looking at your own product page without using an incognito window and now Amazon thinks that’s the kind of book you’re interested in. This happens when you look up any of your friends’ books, too. I get emails for all kinds of books I would never actually buy–because I’m clicking on links from Twitter, looking at books mostly to see why the author is complaining they aren’t selling.
While this can be amusing, maybe even frustrating, it’s actually a demonstration of how you can use Amazon’s recommendation emails to your advantage. You want Amazon to email potential readers about your book, right? You do want Amazon to list and feature your book at the bottom of another author’s product page and encourage them to buy it because it’s similar to the book they’re already looking at?
This isn’t successfully done if you don’t train Amazon to understand who your book is for. When you receive an email about a book that doesn’t interest you, you simply delete. But what if Amazon emails you books you might actually like? You at least click over to the product page. I’ve purchased several non-fiction books this way because I’ve taught Amazon to know I love publishing industry books through my order history.
For example, I was looking at an author’s product page whom I know from Twitter, and the authors in the CUSTOMERS ALSO BOUGHT ITEMS BY section were all authors I recognized from Twitter. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Twitter authors were obviously supporting each other, but they all wrote in different genres. It’s obvious this author wasn’t finding readers in his genre. His friends were supporting him, and while that’s great, you can’t make a living like that, either.
So what can you do? In this case, a sale isn’t just a sale. A sale to the wrong reader can muddy your book’s sales history on Amazon and either Amazon will send emails to the wrong readers, or worse yet, not bother to promote you at all.
Amazon algorithms can help you sell books, but you have to help it help you.
- Make sure your book’s categories are correct. You can add more than the two KDP allows you to choose when you publish if you email support
- Make sure your meta data is correct when you publish (the 7 spaces for keywords you fill in when you publish)
- Don’t promote to your #writingcommunity friends
- Run ads and target your category/comparison authors/comparison titles
- Use newsletter promos (choosing the right category) to attract new readers. David Gaughran has a great list here.
The more in alignment your book is to your genre, comp authors, and comp titles, the better chance you have of Amazon helping you sell your book.
If you want to learn more about the Amazon algorithms, Reedsy has a great course they will email you for free. It will explain what the algorithm is and how you can make it work for you. You can sign up here.
I love keeping an eye on what’s going on in the industry, and I think another trend that’s coming is longer books. My first person books are naturally longer than my 3rd person, and when I made the switch, I was surprised I could consistently hit a 80-85k+ word count when before I was happy with 70-75k. But lately I’ve been seeing billionaire/bad boy/mafia romances coming in at 100k+ word counts. Are romance books getting longer? And if so, why? A lot of romance authors are in KU, and many romance authors also write in series which can up the word count because they are setting up the next book.
Will this affect my writing? Probably not. 85k is a sweet spot for me and unless I work harder at creating subplots, I think that word count works for the way I write my stories. It is interesting though, how it seems romances are getting longer and could be evidence that readers would prefer longer books over books half that size or even novellas. Longer books also give writers room to build that slow burn, and explore deeper and richer character arcs. I’ve read several books that are huge with including family and friends. When your characters explore relationships outside of their romance plot, that can also deepen your character arcs and add words. Ultimately, you do have to do what’s right for your book and the story you need to tell. But I’ve always been big with meeting reader expectations, and if a reader is expecting a 350 page book, and you give them half that, you could find yourself with unhappy reviews.
I think this kind of goes along with the pricing increase I’ve been seeing as well. A longer book does mean a higher paperback price due to printing and paper shortages, and indies are pricing their ebooks at 3.99, 4.99, 5.99, and even 6.99. If you’re going to price that high, you definitely want to give your readers what they are paying for. I, too, will probably raise my prices this year, though my marketing strategy isn’t focused on ebook sales (my books will be in KU) or paperback. I’ll leave my paperback prices as low as I possibly can make them and still earn a dollar a book. I love reading paperbacks, but unfortunately, I can’t afford 15.99 per paperback, even if I understand why authors need to price them that high.
I’m going back and forth with writing a Christmas novel for this year, and it’s hard for me to get into the Christmas spirit three weeks after the fact. I can not offer one, and publish three books this year, or I can write it later this year. The problem with writing it later is that I’m going to spend the rest of 2022 getting my six book series ready to publish in 2023. I probably will need all year because these books still need a bit of an edit, formatting, covers, and a beta reader/proofer if I can find one who is willing to do it cheaply and be time efficient. (A big ask, I know.) I don’t want to stop my editing and production momentum to take a break writing something for Christmas. So either I do it after my duet is done and before I start editing my series, or I skip it all together. I have another standalone hanging around I could prepare and publish, but I don’t know how well a non-holiday book would do with a December release.
Anyway, that’s about all I have for an update. Monday, and I will get to a blog post, will be about BookFunnel, my reader magnet, and my experience with setting up my account.
Have a great weekend!