Changing our Release Approach

To put it very loosely, there are three audiences out there: readers who know and like you, readers who liked your books but forgot about you, and readers who’ve never met your books yet, but will like them when they do.

The first are the easiest to sell new work to, but the smallest, while the second are more numerous, harder to find, but still easy to sell new work to once you get their attention. The third are the hardest to find of all… but there are tens of millions of them, and when you do, they have your entire catalog ahead of them to enjoy.

Which reader pool are you chasing? Where is your time, money, and effort spent? Thinking this through led to the strangest book release we’ve had yet. Just under two weeks ago, Peter released his latest Western, Wood, Iron, & Blood. It’s first in series, in a small genre, so we had a good idea what it’d do in sales overall (Not exactly a science fiction bestseller in popular series). However, this also meant we could play a little bit with it, and see if changing the release strategy changed the sales trajectory.

Announcing the release immediately on all the social media channels that have Peter’s readers always results in a spike of sales, followed by a sharp drop – and it gets reviews from people who say “I don’t read westerns, but I read Grant.” The also-boughts populate with military scifi and space opera, and it gets silo’ed by discovery to genres it doesn’t belong in.

Announcing the release over several days, staggering the announcement here and there across all social media channels, makes for a lower immediate sales on release, but higher sales overall as people are more likely to see it a couple times, and remember to go buy it. Still gets the same silo’ed discovery problem, though.

So this time, we announced it on his blog… and that was it. Then I started making Amazon Ads, for the new release, and for his other western series. With relatively low bids, this wasn’t a “show up everywhere all at once” ad blitz campaign, but a “start trickling in impressions, in the relevant western categories.”

I figured, by making it show up in the place people were looking for something good to read, we could catch the eye of the readers who had read Ames before, and pique curiosity about “Oh, he has more out?” as well as catch the eye of people who’d never seen Peter before.

In the week following, we had expected the sales and borrows to crater for lack of social media publicity… and they didn’t. Granted, they started much lower than we would have gotten with the publicity – but they were actually fairly steady, and climbing as people saw the ads. Despite the ad dashboard itself not showing many click-throughs (call it 68 clicks for 70K impressions), total western sales overall have significantly ramped up as readers pick up where they left off, or those who haven’t seen Peter before started working their way through the Ames series as well as buying Wood, Iron, & Blood.

We could also see this on the also-boughts for the books: they were almost solidly Western-genre books, meaning that unlike prior releases, we were finally getting discoverability in own genre.

After about a week, I did announce it on Facebook, and set in motion the other social channels – because I don’t want to miss those sales. (I like food. And having the mortgage paid. More sales better.) On the other hand, the staggered delay means that when the “I don’t read westerns but I read Peter Grant” sales come in, they’re no longer the primary history, nor a large enough percentage of the total to kill discoverability in the western genre. That algorithm is already in motion!

All in all, I’d say this way was a lot more work, will cost a couple hundred extra by the time I’m done, and… turned out absurdly well. As evidenced by the orange tag!

15 comments

  1. Congratz! I’ve found the slow but steady Amazon Ads approach works well for me as well. To my surprise, my sales are actually better in Europe and Australia than the U.S. I don’t know what that’s about, if my cover art is more appealing to non-Americans, or what. But I do know that without those ads, folks in the UK, Germany, France, and Australia wouldn’t even know I exist.

  2. Good going. Once you’re in the right silo and doing well, Amazon starts doing a good bit of work for you.

    Another tip I recently learned is to advertise your pre-orders. This does two good things. It sets your also-bots even before launch and it puts your books into the also-bots.

    Lastly, the “experts” say that 1 click per 1000 impressions is good.

  3. I may try doing that for the next Merchant book, since it comes chronologically first, before the other series books. (Although since it does have more “classic” fantasy elements, it might give the wrong impression of the series. Something to think about . . .)

  4. I don’t see the fourth category of audience, those who note the releases only to whine and kvetch about how the book is a sign of White Supremacy and the Patriarchy and transphobia or something like that. Mind you, you won’t be getting any sales from that category, so I can totally see ignoring that category.

  5. They are public domain images of (1890s?) classic Western art by Fredrick Sackrider Remington (Ames) and Charles Russell (Ash).
    They work well for Peters’ books, and while the underlying image is public domain, the covers are not.
    John in Indy

  6. One reason why that works, as David Gaughan tells us, is that Amazon’s algorithms like steady sales over a long period rather than a spike that lasts a day or two.

  7. Oh good! I am happy the books are finding their readers. I do not read Westerns, full stop, alas, unless I have to.

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