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Well, that makes sense…

Recently, Nick Cole gave an interview on Geek Gab, touching on his launch strategy with his new series Jason Anspach – Galaxy’s Edge. They’re doing extremely well: Book one, released in June 2017, is still at 3200 in the kindle store, and the latest release (3 weeks ago) is at 787 in the kindle store.

Clearly, these guys are doing awesome! In the interview, they touched on several things that they’ve done to ensure that these books were a success. One really interesting thing was focusing on how to jump genres from their prior books, and getting their books recommended to genre fans in that new genre.

Discovery is always an interesting problem, eh? And they cracked the issue of discovery and the Amazon algorithms in a way that’s utterly logical and sensible, and flows with Amazon’s philosophy.

Before I get to that, though, let’s back up, and explain what Nick Cole calls “ghettos”, and I usually call “pools of readers.” Readers cluster. Sometimes they even cluster in formal fan groups around a specific author, like Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter Nation. Rarely, a publishing house may have such a strong editorial vision or consistency in what they offer that they have a fan club, like the Baen Bar.

Generally speaking, outside of Amazon, the way you get discovered is to have somebody in that group read you, think your book is awesome, and then happily tell everyone else in that pool of readers about this book that they’ll like. This is part of why I was thrilled when Peter was invited into a Baen anthology for Michael Z Williamson’s Freehold world ( Forged In Blood ), because that let all the Baen readers who enjoy Mad Mike’s space opera and milscifi try a story by Peter.

You can see this in your book’s Amazon also-boughts; beyond your own books, Amazon will show clusters of what people read. Cedar Sanderson has a great space opera named Tanager’s Fledglings. When you look at the also-boughts, on page 2 you’ll see other MGC authors – Peter’s fantasy, and Ellie Ferguson’s latest urban fantasy release. This means that there’s a group of readers who like reading this blog’s authors. (Hey, readers! THANK YOU! Glad to entertain! )

After Peter was published with Castalia, the Castalia readers promptly started working their way through Peter’s entire backlist. Similarly, after Peter was published in the Baen anthology, (okay, after Baen released the advanced reader copies, because knows how to satisfy their voracious readers and hard-core fans), I saw a distinct uptick in the number of Baen books in the also-boughts on Peter’s books.

And this is a good thing, if you’re working hard to get any discovery at all – because if you start getting recommended to a new pool of readers, then they hear about you from friends, and see you in the also-boughts of stuff they like, and they’re likely to pick you up and try you. If you’re releasing in the same genre as your usual, this means your new book will show up in also-boughts of your fan’s current reads, and even if they missed the notice, they’ll be “Ooh! A new Bujold!” and snap it up.

If you haven’t already, go to http://www.yasiv.com/ and plug your book’s ASIN into the tool – it’ll create a spiffy visual chart showing also-bought links.

And here’s the drawback… why Nick Cole calls them “ghettos”: because Amazon will market your new book in a new genre to your existing fans, not to the fans of that genre. For example, take a look at one of Peter’s westerns, Brings the Lightning.

The also-boughts are for his other books (his fans), Castalia house books (Castalia reads), books by J L Curtis and Lawdog (gunblogger readers… although J L Curtis’s Grey Man series is modern day westerns with cowboys vs. drug smugglers, so it gets western readers, too.), and finally, past page 5 in the also-boughts, some westerns.

Which means that when Peter put the book out, he announced it to his fans, and Castalia announced it to their readers, and they all went “Western? I don’t read those, but hey, why not? He’s a good author.” And then they bought it. (You can see this in the reviews, too, where folks went “I don’t usually read westerns, but..” or “This reminds me of the westerns I watched with my grandpa as a kid…”)

And Amazon’s algorithms took a look at the first wave of buyers, and went “Who likes this book? Who do I market it to? Readers of Military science fiction, space opera, and Castalia house books.” It did not market it to western readers.  And when everybody was likely to buy it because “it’s Peter Grant” had done so, the sales tanked – because it’s not being marketed to westerns, or appearing in their also-boughts. So the genre readers don’t see it!

Nick Cole and Jason Anspach wanted to break into a new genre with Galaxy’s edge. So instead of announcing it to their current readers, they deliberately set out to announce it first to hard-core readers of that genre’s readers. They used street teams, asking some of the big names in that genre if they could trade announcements on mailing lists, and in general building genre-specific excitement. And then they announced the release only to those hard-core genre readers, to train the Amazon algorithm with the first 100 sales to market it to that genre’s readers alone.

That’s right, the first announcement was not to their general fan list.

And it worked!

Listen to the interview yourself, and chew that one over. Because it’s almost the inverse of traditional word of mouth.

So, you ask, what do I plan to do with this info? First, I’m going to send out a query – probably an easy quiz – to Peter’s email list, to see who likes which genre the most. Also, likely, if they want to hear about the others when they come out. And then I’m likely to split the list by genre, so people who really love his westerns but not his space opera will get the first announcement when the next western is published, while people who really love the MilSF will be the first to get that announcement.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch actually runs a mailing list per major series (which is also per genre), and a separate one for her romance penname. I thought that sounded entirely like too much work for no real return, but turns out she was right and I was wrong!

Here’s the interview! If you have the time, it’s really worth listening to the whole thing, because there’s a lot more in there.

28 Comments
  1. Marketing, I think this is one area that I will need a lot of work when it comes time. Not a pushy person like this, blame the experience of door to door sales when I was younger. Will watch the video when I get a chance later free of distractions and grabby sticky fingers.

    February 11, 2018
  2. This is where I get the cold willies: networking and marketing. I suspect an overexposure to “you have to network!!! Go forth and schmooz” in grad school has something to do with it. That and really needing to take the class on genre structure so I know what exactly I write and how best to market it. And then market it. 🙂

    February 11, 2018
    • BobtheRegisterredFool #

      On Networking: Jim Zub, a comic book writer, had some really good advice on his website. (Which I haven’t checked in a few years.) Networking, the best networking, is doing something with other people that you all agree is very cool. So if you and everyone else find these discussions at ATH and MGC as neat as I do, you’ve already gotten in a fair amount of networking.

      February 11, 2018
    • I was never really good at the networking thing, myself so it was a bit scary.

      February 11, 2018
  3. I’m not sure I understand yasiv.com. When I go to it I see my books’ also-bots, but smaller and harder to read. Is there something more to be gotten out of it?

    February 11, 2018
    • Dorothy Grant #

      One other thing to get out of it are in the arrowheads at the end of the lines – the ones with arrows going out from your books are the book in your book’s also-boughts… and the arrows headed back toward your book indicate where your book is showing up in other’s also-bought.

      By knowing where your book is advertised, and how the books cluster, it can help you get an idea of 1.) who your readers are, 2.) how wide a net of readers your book is reaching.

      By who your readers are, I don’t necessarily mean “49% are white females in the 25-35 age range, average education of master’s and salary of blahblahblah”, but I mean “my readers cluster under “people who read mad genius club, people who love Larry’s work and also pick up anything he book bombs, and this cluster of folks who really like these books over here. What do all those books have in common? Hard scifi, and space exploration. Is my book like that, too, in a way? Oh, yeah, that’s how! Okay, if I tweak my blurb / subgenres to emphasize to the readers in that crowd that I’m what they’re looking for, it’ll be even easier for them to decide that they want to pick me up and read me.”

      February 11, 2018
      • So yasiv can save checking my also-bots to see if I’m in their also-bots. Very cool. Thanks.

        February 11, 2018
    • I checked it out … and oh, gosh – my books are linked all over the place with regards to genre. Adelsverein goes to mostly other historical novels, my first book, To Truckee’s Trail goes to a lot of western romance and historicals, so does Quivera Trail … but the Luna City series goes all over the place, and crosses a good many other genres than light-hearted regional comedy.

      I guess by this I must be doing something right in setting up my books in the first place… damned if I know what, though.

      February 11, 2018
  4. So the advice to separate your releases by genre and pen name does work — but not for the reason everyone thinks. Rather, if you launch solely for the also-boughts, you should be able to use one name across genres without ghettoizing yourself.

    February 11, 2018
  5. Draven #

    but i don wannaaaaa make a twitch login….

    (yes, that is one of the next steps in my efforts)

    February 11, 2018
    • Dorothy Grant #

      you lost me. Twitch login why now?

      February 11, 2018
      • Draven #

        Sorry, i meant Twitter, not Twitch. Because i need to promote myself and tell people when i post, stream, and things… i wish i could avoid Twitter….

        February 11, 2018
        • Actually Nick Cole discussed social media and how it doesn’t really work.

          February 11, 2018
        • You can avoid twitter. Just because you may want a way to let folks know when you do things doesn’t mean you have to do so via twitter. No more than you have to have accounts with facebook, google+, MeWe, Gab, Instagram, Myspace, a WordPress blog, a blogger blog, accounts at every message board related to your interests, a mailing list, a Twitchy stream, Periscope videos, and and a whatever else.

          Where do you hang out with folks who share your interests already? That’s where you let them know. If you don’t hang out on twitter, don’t start.

          February 11, 2018
          • Draven #

            Problem is, i will be expected to for what i am doing- a workstation and graphics related YouTube and twitch channel. I was covering this market segment at a major tech site until said coverage was cut last year.

            February 11, 2018
  6. Not my strong suit… Ran the algorithm you recommended, and found 170 connections. Interesting…

    February 11, 2018
  7. Holy crap! That video is so information dense and relevant and good I just don’t know where to start! Thanks for linking this video here because this is something that everybody that writes needs.

    February 11, 2018
  8. Nathan #

    If you have the money, it’s worth paying for Anspach and Cole’s After Action Report. Because while mailing lists are important, there’s a trick to when to release those as well. For example, compare the dates when a Castalia House or Superversive or Galaxy’s Edge book hits Amazon and when the mailing list and public announcements go out.

    February 11, 2018
    • I think the free podcast makes it pretty clear that the targeted mailing lists have to go out before you take to social media. The mailing list should be targeted to people who read what you are publishing so that your book appears in the also-bots of similar books. Then you take to social media. Is there more than that in the After Action Report?

      My problem is that I don’t have a mailing list of 10K readers to trade with Mongol Khans. (Also, don’t we tell people who sign up for our mailing lists that we won’t give them to other people?)

      February 12, 2018
      • Nathan #

        There’s more. The algorithm needs time to work before even the first mailing list. Specifics are behind the paywall.

        February 12, 2018
        • Ah. Good to know. Maybe it’s worth it. I really got a lot out of the free podcast, and since I have another book coming out soon, I’ll go check.

          February 12, 2018
      • (Also, don’t we tell people who sign up for our mailing lists that we won’t give them to other people?)

        Not everyone does, but I certainly do. Trading around mailing lists is pretty much exactly what most who sign up for an author’s newsletter don’t want. Just sayin’.

        February 12, 2018
        • Nathan #

          ” Trading around mailing lists is pretty much exactly what most who sign up for an author’s newsletter don’t want. “another sc

          A lot of authors will let their readers know about books by their friends or books they really liked. Galaxy’s Edge will often package an ad for another science fiction writer when they make announcements for their series.

          February 12, 2018
          • test

            February 12, 2018
          • Ah. That makes much more sense. They send notes out one each other’s behalf.

            February 12, 2018
  9. C4c

    February 12, 2018
  10. It may be that most Amazon readers are faithful to one genre, but that is not how I read. I am delighted to read almost any genre, so long as I like how the writer writes and the type of story the writer writes. Which makes me wonder how to sell to people like me.

    February 12, 2018

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