Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Social Marketing 101

I had to modify my plan for the social marketing of e-books.

A few weeks ago, I received notice that my free Kijiji online ads, posted in major cities across Canada, were not in compliance with Kijiji terms, and so they were deleted. Sooner or later, that was bound to happen, and there are no hard feelings here.

However, those ads clearly drove a number of page-views and some sales of e-books. A quick look at the Toronto Kijiji site, under the ‘Books’ category will show how popular these ads are. There can be twelve or fourteen thousand ads in there on a given day. Kijiji is Canada’s most successful free classified ad site by far. It gets the traffic.

How then, was I to continue to sell e-books, and now, my print on demand paperbacks? Certainly Facebook and Twitter do help with exposure and sales. Having a product for free on Amazon and other sites does bring free exposure, and assuming it’s a good book, this drives subsequent sales down the road.

But to take out those ads, when I have products to market, and more coming soon, had me worried. In the first week or ten days of March, sales were very slow, and it’s pretty easy to get discouraged. On the bright side, I’m not banned, and I can still use my local ad site.

And, I kind of figured out a plan.

The Plan.

To continue to provide a kind of journalistic tweet style, one which covers a distinct beat, and which evolves over time. It also gets better the longer I go on. Figuring out who the audience is helps to figure out what to tweet. I plan on building up the numbers on Twitter, Facebook, and other social sites. I already belong to a number of those.

On Facebook, the goal is to make more use of groups that I belong to. In the past, I neglected this. But I have already had a couple of people from groups say that they bought one of my titles. The conclusion is obvious: more group interactions. Commenting on high-traffic websites and discussion sites is a good strategy, assuming it is kept relevant and relatively polite. More on this another day. However, I only do this sporadically, where I am following my own interests, rather than just trying to comment in the New York Times or something like that. The fact is, I only read the NYT occasionally, and I can’t comment on each and every story. I try to think about whether it’s really valid or is it really just comment spam, designed to drive views of my blog or something. I’m not dependent on revenue from my blog, so this really isn’t a big part of my day, or my plan. There is no quick fix for low blog traffic, it takes time and relevant, useful content that finds an audience.

In terms of blogging, I try to keep on message, and not to get too political, or engage in too many rants. I see it as a kind of teaching tool. Remembering how badly I wanted someone to teach me how to write, I figure there must be others out there like me. It’s best to keep the blog a valid resource for people looking for ideas, tips and techniques in writing, editing, publishing, and selling books and stories. I’m not really an expert in any of those things, so it is learn as we go around here.

Another thing is to submit a few short stories, and to write a few more, and of course to figure out the next book-length project. Some new poems are a good idea. You give them away for free, true enough. You also get a link back to your blog or your website, or even one that leads back to good old Amazon…

I’ve never done a mass e-mailing, and so far I have no plans to do one. I’ve only attended three small conventions, right in my home town. I have never held a book in my hand and introduced myself as an author at any event. I have never spoken to a big-time editor, agent, or publisher at such an event. All these are traditional methods of selling books, and I’ve never done any of them!

If I find a free search-engine submitter, I would of course use that to get a few hits on the blog. As for some other changes made, so far I’m writing the blog now to be a little more search-engine friendly, and paying more attention to titles and tags, first sentence key words and things like that. The plan here is to keep on learning. I’m also paying more attention to the content.

Why would I do all this?

On the Smashwords Blog, there is an interview, ‘Ruth Ann Nordin Shares the Secrets of her Success,’ and she said something very interesting. She said that she had interacted with groups on Facebook and in discussions on Amazon. This eventually led to some interesting numbers which she has provided in the story.

I’ve only had a few reviews and maybe two interviews. That’s not much to build on.

Bear in mind that this writer has never exchanged blog posts, nor had a guest blogger, which is another popular technique for getting readers. I’ve never had a signing at a bookstore, or toured for promotional purposes. I’ve never ordered a box of books and tried to get them in a local bookstore. At this stage of the game, (keeping costs low,) we are limited to the potential of the internet—which theoretically, should be ‘unlimited.’ That’s because it keeps on growing and developing.

In my opinion all social marketing and all promotion and advertising, works on the simple repetition of effective techniques. And, it also has a cumulative effect over time. I published my first two books in October 2010. If you published one yesterday, and I published one a year and a half ago, and assuming I’ve sold a few books, listen carefully: ‘Of course my book is higher up the rankings than yours,’ it’s had longer to get there. The only way your book could be higher is if you sold a lot of books since yesterday.

I kid you not.

Once you have sold a book, the algorithms can’t take it away from you. Sell another, and you have doubled your sales—a mathematical construct to be sure. We don’t have that product presentation algorithm, which substitutes for a shelf in a brick and mortar store, all nice and clearly laid out for us. We can figure out a few of its variables. And, if we can figure them out, we can manipulate them.

Okay, on the left side we have a bunch of variables, and then an equal sign, (=) and on the right side we have a result. The left side has to add up to the right side when all operations are solved, right? It’s an equation, and the result is sales, measured by sales rankings. Comprene vous?

What is a product presentation algorithm and how does it work?

When someone looks at a book on Amazon or other site, they will be presented with a display that says, 'People who bought this book also bought...(insert title here.)' Amazon also uses algorithms to make personalized recommendations to people who arrive at the main page or are just browsing, based on past purchase history, and whatever they were just looking at, and 'likes,' etc. We want to be presented by Amazon to customers as often as possible to maximize our chances of selling a book.

Sales are measured over time, (‘T.’) It’s an equation. Different price categories means different customers, and maybe different weight in the product presentation. There is a reassuring human element to all of this, as a good cover and a good product description, a good preview, will win out over inferior products, given an informed buyer and sufficient time. Time is also an important variable in our theoretical equation. That’s an obvious inference. Another aspect of the human element is the number of titles you have. I have nine titles to sell, while another author might have just published their first book. I have nine times the chance of selling one book, if we eliminate all other considerations. Someone said the algorithm measures ‘velocity.’ I think it measures an acceleration, which is different, but if you sell ten books, the ranking will go up so far and stop. In that sense, it has to be measured against a base-line. While total sales is a variable, Amazon measures sales hourly, and each month is a new 'sheet,' with total sales carried over in one baseline variable. That way it can rise and fall over time, and in fact you can see a graphic representation of something analagous to this on your Smashwords dashboard under ‘page-views.’ You can see that total page views can only go up, while daily page views rise and fall.

The ranking and product presentation algorithm measures something which looks very much like a lateral acceleration, i.e. g-force, but the curve is also exponential. That means it gets steeper on the way up, and a lot steeper the further you go. At the top, the incline is near the vertical. (It measures a lot of things in order for it all to work.)

The most weight is given to the most important variable. If you sell a book, that’s the most important variable. It drives the book up in the sales rankings. It really is just that simple. Now, extrapolating from Facebook to Amazon, a logical deduction would be (drum roll please,) to interact more on Amazon.

Amazon has plenty of discussions, threads, etc. And this is also another area that I admit I was neglecting. You can’t participate, write reviews, or comment on threads until you have bought a book from Amazon. Seriously, it’s worth buying one $0.99 e-book from almost anyone to do these things.

It’s like my dear old daddy used to say, ‘There is more than one way to skin a cat.”

I don’t mean to be a soul-less monster, but we should be doing everything that we can to drive up book sales, one book at a time, but also just trying to drive up page-hits, trying to raise the number of reviews, and the number of people clicking ‘like’ and sharing the link with their friends, trying to increase the number of mentions and RT’s on Twitter, picking up new blog followers, and getting ourselves interviewed. I mean everything.

Anyhow, there is plenty of room for exploration, experimentation, and much fun will be had by all.


So far, in March I made more money, not less, than when I had ads up in ten cities across Canada. Part of this is the fact that I raised prices on book-length titles which means you can actually sell fewer books and make more money. That's because $0.99 books have a 35% royalty, but a $2.99 book has a 70% royalty. This is assuming that you can move them at all. One of the reasons why I give away so many books is because I like to see those numbers going up, up, up...


Ads are useful, and I still maintain the ones I have. They are not essential. As for successful social marketing, there is so much to learn, it will keep me busy for quite some time. That’s good, because I like being busy, and I like selling books too.

Incidentally, my new e-book, ‘On the Nature of the Gods,’ will be out soon, and in the meantime, you’re certainly welcome to take a copy of ‘Redemption: an Inspector Gilles Maintenon mystery,’ from Amazon. Please click 'like; if you go there, and we are always looking for reviews. If you found this article interesting and relevant, please feel free to share it with your friends. Thank you!


  1. Great post! I really learned a lot. Anyway, do you have other blogs that talk more about social medias use for business marketing? I'm always looking for additional information about this topic. Thanks.

    Darryl Foster
    Just click here for social marketing

  2. Great website...and cool article man...thanx for the great post...keep on posting such articles..

  3. Over the past few years, I have learned that having a social marketing strategy is a great and inexpensive way for businesses to get their name out there. All it takes is to start a twitter or Facebook account.


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