Learning from others

I’ve had a lot of feedback concerning my article, two weeks ago, about lessons learned from launching my most recent trilogy.  I’m glad so many of you found it helpful and/or thought-provoking.  It was the first pass at the topic;  in two weeks from now, I’ll have another look at it, this time including a graphical analysis of sales and the “trilogy effect” or “series effect”.  It should be even more interesting.

Meanwhile, I’ve run across a few articles that add depth to some of the points I raised in that first article.  I thought you might find them useful too.

David Gaughran has taken a look at “The Amazon Algorithm Myth“.  Here’s an excerpt.

One of the enduring myths surrounds “The Amazon Algorithm.”

That phrase alone is a red flag to me because anyone who has a good idea about how Amazon works knows there is more than one algorithm — for example there are separate algorithms which determine how books are ranked in the bests seller charts, in the popularity list, plus which books appear in search for a given term and what order they appear in. And that’s just the tip of a very big iceberg.

. . .

“The Amazon Algorithm” isn’t some immensely powerful AI. People sometimes speak of it as if it was a 21st century Greek God, whose capricious nature is only matched by its wrath.

In fact, algorithms are pretty dumb.

I don’t mean that they aren’t complex, or that they can’t be designed in intricate and beautiful ways — of course they can. But an algorithm doesn’t possess any sentience or independence or creativity or latitude. It’s simply a set of rules for the system to follow. There is nothing arbitrary about it whatsoever.

. . .

But that doesn’t mean we can’t try and reverse engineer what these algorithms probably look like. There are over seven million books to observe in the Kindle Store after all, which is quite the data pond. As a result, over time, we have built up a pretty reliable picture of how Amazon works, particular the bit which sells ebooks.

There’s more at the link.  Interesting stuff.

Next, Written Word Media takes a look at “eBook Pricing Strategies to Sell More Books and Maximize Author Earnings“.  You’ll recall we examined Amazon’s recommendations in that regard in my earlier article.  They also examine whether it’s worth enrolling your book in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program, and outlier factors for success.

This year we looked at Amazon sales data from March, April, May of 2018. Please note that this analysis is based purely on data we have collected from the promotions we ran to our audience. These pricing best practices are not necessarily true for all audiences or promotional sites. They are true for books on Amazon and reflect the behavior of Written Word Media readers on Amazon.

When running a promotion most authors have one of two goals: 1) Sell lots of copies or 2) Make lots of money. Ideally, you’d be able to achieve both, however that can be tricky because of the royalty structure on Kindle ebooks. The price you choose for your promotion will be a major factor in determining your results.

. . .

There are many successful authors who have chosen not to enroll in KDP Select [i.e. including the Kindle Unlimited program] and there are many successful authors who are enrolled in KDP Select. We are not advocates for or against the program. What we see when it comes to running price promotions is that authors enrolled in KDP Select are more likely to be able to achieve both goals simultaneously.

. . .

When comparing a wide book to a KDP select book, the sales from other retailers (Apple, Nook, Kobo) generally do not match the additional earnings a KDP Select author is making from the higher royalty rate and the KENP payout.

. . .

Outlier factor #3: Books with poor book covers saw significantly fewer sales. Many industry professionals talk about the importance of a good cover and for good reason. Your cover is the face of your title, and what readers build their first impression off of.

Again, more at the link.

Finally, a lot of us write blogs, over and above our online presence on other social media.  I suppose I’m one of the relatively few who concentrates on his blog alone, and doesn’t bother at all with Facebook, Twitter, etc.  (I’m on Gab, because I value its emphasis on uncensored free speech and want to support it, but my posts there are mostly to let people know about my blog articles.  Yes, there are an annoying number of trolls on Gab – but that’s part of the price one pays for free speech.  Gab provides its users with the tools to deal with them ourselves, and expects us to do so.  It doesn’t hold our hands or censor others, for both of which I’m duly grateful.)

A number of us, and many of our readers, have often asked about starting a blog, with particular emphasis on how to gain (and keep) readers.  The authors of the NJRoute22 blog point out that it’s a lot more difficult to make that happen today than it was in previous years.

It’s literally hard as hell to make a “blog” successful. Not impossible, but an uphill battle all the way. Not for the faint of heart, or those who do the “bare minimum.”

Especially if your budget is practically non-existent and time constraints are large. Doubly hard if you choose content that isn’t political, celebrity, or other trending pop culture nonsense.

. . .

The market today is flooded beyond belief. And as the marketing genius, Gary Vaynerchuk says – “you have to day-trade attention spans” these days in order to succeed online … just creating posts on a blog is akin to whether a tree falls in the forest and if anyone hears it hit the ground … Today, it is a complex web of many social media platforms, keyword analysis, guest posts, link exchanges, advertising, SEO optimization, and much, much more.

. . .

Let’s take a look at 8 steps that are almost mandatory for any blog site to succeed in 2018. (If you’re looking to start one yourself – this might be helpful.)

•  SEO / Keyword strategy. You need to literally write your posts in the proper format (not just your honest thoughts), but rather how people “Searching” for whatever, can find your site. This feels unnatural to us, but it is a strategy that is necessary for you to be “found.”

•  Site speed. Another aspect the major search companies (Google, and the rest of the scrubs) watch is how fast your site loads. “Page speed” is what they often call it. You’d get penalized if you have a poorly loading website.

•  Mobile friendly. Another aspect is whether your site is optimized for mobile devices. I personally hate looking at information-laden pages on a tiny 5-inch screen (Full PC screens are our preference), but apparently, 90% of the population has become accustomed to getting their information from these eyesight-killing postage-stamp-sized screens of dopamine hits.

More at the link.

I’m going through the process of setting up my own Web site at present, moving from Google’s Blogger interface to the latest iteration of WordPress, and including marketing information for my books.  I’m taking note of NJRoute22’s recommendations, and discussing them with the team setting up my Web site.  There are some useful suggestions there, although some won’t apply to writers like ourselves.

There you are.  Food for thought this Friday morning.  I’ll be back in two weeks with another in-depth study of lessons learned from my recent book launches.  I think you’ll find them interesting, and thought-provoking in their own right.


  1. Apropos of algorithms and NJRoute22, I was recently taking a trip, and drove down…. wait for it… Route 22 in New Jersey, per a recommendation by the Google Maps algorithm. It bypassed construction on Interstate 78.

  2. I stumbled across a link on Twitter yesterday to an article that I was not allowed to read because it is only available to mobile browsers. It literally took me to a lock out screen saying this. I forget the exact address but it was some sort of .com.au site. First time I’d ever seen this.

    Please, please, please do not let this be the future. 😦

    1. Sorry for the double post, but I found the site. It is goat.com.au . On desktop it brings up a screen that says “Don’t be a sheep! Goats run free. Try us on your mobile.”

      Oddly, I was looking at the site on my Chromebook when this happened, which is why it wasn’t in my laptop’s History (duh) so I kinda, sorta was mobile, wasn’t I?

    2. I’m sorry, that sounds an awful lot like they are trying to put something on your phone.

      1. Hope not. FWIW, I looked it up on my phone, there’s a LOT of content of the Donald Trump is the anti-Christ sort. Looks to be some sort of HuffPo or Vice wannabe, but if it is a scam site it is a site somebody’s putting a lot of effort into. Not that I’ll be back to it, with content like that.

  3. I don’t see how those of y’all that are both writers and daily bloggers manage to do both. If i wrote some of the blog posts y’all get together every day, that would be my writing spoon for the day…

  4. IMNSHO, I write a blog for the same reason I write a novel, because I want to. I have no illusions about how much my blog can earn me; I have a shed ton of illusions about what my stories may earn me, but that’s another matter.

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