Analyzing a really bad at-bat

Here’s a tidbit: The PG13 edition of The Awful Mess: A Love Story — which is the only one up there — has 22 sample downloads at Smashwords and zero sales. This means that 22 people who probably didn’t know me at all (since I’ve never mentioned or linked to that version) were interested enough to try it, but not interested enough to buy.

Now, this little data point doesn’t necessarily mean a whole lot. Smashwords readers may be an odd subset of people. There’s an awful lot of erotica there, for example. (But would those readers click on PG13 in the first place?) There’s also an awful lot of Christian romance (they might try PG13, but they’d probably be turned off by this book pretty quickly).

I could also try lowering the price and seeing if that makes any difference. Believe it or not, $3.99 is on the high side for indie-published e-books these days.

Still, batting 0 for 22 sucks.

Can I get anything out of this tidbit?

For one, it suggests that the cover and sales blurb can’t be too awful, but what these folks read just isn’t grabbing them.

I wish Amazon would let me know how many people have clicked “Preview this book,” but it doesn’t. Of course, at Amazon it’s unlikely anyone would ever see it in the first place, unless they’re browsing Episcopal fiction, the one category tiny enough that my book sometimes appears on the first page.

I’m beginning to realize exactly why so many agents felt this was a good book but a hard sell.

Because it IS a hard sell. (Doh!)

Even some of my kindest reviews point out that the first chapter suggests Mary’s life is going to be about nothing but cats and isolation.

To me that’s a clear signal that it will be anything but — which obviously doesn’t work as well I’d hoped. I’m still not sure how I could avoid that and still set up what I want to set up there.

(You can be sure I’m thinking a lot harder about how to make sure the first chapter of the NEXT book grabs any reader I can get in a choke-hold.)

So my expectations for this novel have been usefully lowered even further than they were when I started this experiment.

But onward and upward. Maybe one of these books one of these days will break out, and then the others might find their audiences, too. Or maybe the next novel will offend enough people that it will attract more attention. (I’m afraid I’m not joking about that.) Or maybe I’ll just continue to sell to a very, very small group.

And that’s fine, too.

Thank you for being part of my very, very small group!

4 thoughts on “Analyzing a really bad at-bat

  1. I have been meaning to right a review… I loved your book. It was perfect reading for our week at the Cape. Although truth-be-told I finished it in less time than that because I couldn’t put it down! (I had to download the Kindle App. on to my laptop and read it from my laptop but that was fine.)

  2. Can I ask where/how you’ve been marketing your book? There really isn’t anything wrong with your book, so I am not sure that changing what you write about will change that much about your sales. 0/22 is not a surprising statistic for sales. Even the most popular things sold on the web have something like a 1-2% conversion rate (# of people landing on the page to check it out vs. number of people who buy). Apps which offer a free version and a paid version have a similarly dismal conversion rate, even the mega popular ones like Evernote or Angry Birds. On the internet, a 5% conversion is considered stupendously, ludicrously, even suspiciously successful, and 5% is the minimum you’d need to see a single sale at 22 sample downloads. The average is 0.5% and most people aim for 2%.

    You’ll probably see proper sales if you get enough eyeballs landing on your sales page. One of the best ways to get eyeballs is to do “blog tours”. Lots of blogs are interested in hearing from self-published new writers of fiction and are willing to publish interesting content by you on their widely read blogs, and you get to advertise your book and your name in that way. Surf around, gather up links to book/author/self-publishing blogs and the ocntact info, type up a slightly customizable form letter, start sending emails to all these blogs. Aim for a “conversion” rate of maybe 10%? I don’t know from experience, this is what I hear, I have never actually done it myself.

    When you do write for these places, link there from here and from Facebook. If you manage to land a particularly popular blog then consider adding a permanent link to that post from every future “blog tour” post you write for smaller blogs.

    I’m sorry for the lecture if you already knew all this, but just thought I’d mention it!

    • Oh, please please please feel free to lecture me. I know nothing about conversion rates on web sites. I am going to blog for Jenny Milchman’s “Made it Moments” blog, but I haven’t organized a whole tour, mostly because I find this whole enterprise vaguely baffling. Other than writing for other would-be writers and self-publishers about my ongoing experiment here, I’m not sure what I’d have to say that would be of interest. And if I’m ‘touring’ isn’t there an expectation that I’ll come up with something unique to say for each blog? Which requires researching about the blog… which is more time away from writing…

      To be honest, part of me wishes I could just write fiction and then blog about gardening or cooking or whatever, where I might have something slightly more useful to say. The web is absolutely awash in self-publicizing authors. They politely trade likes and sometimes reviews and so forth, but in most cases they’re not really the readers we need to make contact with.


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