By now you’ve probably heard about the 80/20 Rule.
You know, the theory that states 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your efforts.
When it comes to Kindle Publishing, I feel this rule has many applications.
Sadly, one of them is that 80 percent of book sales are completely out of your hands. If Amazon “likes” your book, they’ll work hard to promote in places like their search engine results, the “Customers Also Bought” section, top category lists and targeted email campaigns.
It’s awesome to know that Amazon does a lot to market your books. The problem? This means that you as an author can only do so much to increase sales. In my experience, only 20 percent of my unit sales are directly affected by specific marketing strategies I’ve implemented. Everything else is driven by the Kindle marketplace.
The good news?
While your efforts only have a minimal impact on book sales, there are a handful of strategies that can have a significant impact on your bottom line. The trick is to know what actually works and what doesn’t.
Today’s post is a special one. Instead of talking about what works, I will show real-world data on the different marketing techniques I’ve tested over the past year. Each strategy will be analyzed, dissected and given an overall grade. Then, at the end, I’ll provide a couple of recommendations based 100 percent on the techniques I’m personally using in my Kindle business.
Let’s get to it.
DevelopGoodHabits.com: A Year’s Worth of Data
If you’ve followed along with the Authority Internet Business case study, then you know I started monetizing my site DevelopGoodHabits.com (DGH) about a year ago (May 2013). From the beginning, I’ve been fairly vigilant about tracking each marketing campaign. This means I have a year’s worth of data from every email, Fiverr gig, advertisement, social media campaign and section of my blog.
With a few exceptions (which I’ll mention), the following analysis will only contain marketing campaigns for my “habit books” that I promoted through the DGH brand, with a date range of May1, 2013 to April 30, 2014. This means I won’t analyze the other 33 books in my catalog. This is an important distinction because I wanted to give the best real-world example of what actually works with launching new books and increasing sales on old ones.
How to Create Kindle Book Tracking Links
Unfortunately, not everyone can create tracking links for their books. You have to be part of Amazon’s Associates program, which isn’t available in many states and countries. That said, if you’re really interested in turning a Kindle business into a full-time gig, then you could always create an LLC in an Amazon-approved state and then open up an account there.
WARNING: This is not legal advice, just a suggestion. I’d recommend talking to a lawyer if this is something you’d like to do.
Creating a tracking link isn’t that hard, but here is a short tutorial.
First, create a new campaign for whatever you’re trying to measure. In your Associates account, do this by selecting the “manage” link:
Next, click the “Add Tracking ID” link:
Third, create a unique tracking ID. Pay close attention to this step because if you have dozens of books and marketing campaigns, then it’s important to use an intelligent naming convention. For instance, I prefer to use short acronyms and abbreviations that describe each title in the following order:
The Book Line –> Marketing Strategy –> Individual Campaign –> Book Promoted
So let’s pretend I’m promoting a book called “Supercool Habits” as part of my habit book line. The marketing strategy would be email and the individual campaign would be the book launch.
This would look like: dghemaillaunchsupercool. And here’s the individual breakdown: dgh (DevelopGoodHabits), email (email marketing strategy), launch (individual campaign) and supercool (book promoted).
All you have to do is create this label, search for it, and if it’s not already used, add it as a tracking link.
Here’s how this would look in Amazon:
Once you’ve set up a link, select it on the left side of the screen and click the Links & Banners –> Product Links option on the top part of your screen:
Finally, look for the book on the next page by searching for the title within the Kindle store; then select the “Get Link” option.
Don’t worry; this whole process is actually really easy once you’ve done it a few times.
At this point, you might be wondering if it’s really worth it to track individual campaigns. My answer is a resounding YES! This goes back to our discussion of the 80/20 rule. By identifying the marketing campaigns that work, you know where to best spend your time and money. This kind of information is priceless when it comes to growing your Kindle business.
With that in mind, let’s go over the data from the past year. To keep things interesting, let me go from worst to best.
16 Kindle Book Marketing Strategies (Analyzed and Graded)
#1: Fiverr Promotions
Clicks: 820 / Sales: 0 / Conversion Rate: 0.00%
Analysis: We’ve all been tempted to purchase one of those Fiverr gigs that promise to promote a book to “thousands” of loyal fans and followers. But have you ever tracked the success of these campaigns? I have, and the results are horrendous.
25 campaigns, $125 and five hours later, I can say with certainty that Fiverr sucks when it comes to promoting a paid or discounted book. Sure, it might be great for promoting a free offer, but I honestly feel that even if someone downloads your free book, they probably won’t turn into a paying customer.
#2: SlideShare Presentations
Clicks: 58 / Sales: 0 / Conversion Rate: 0.00%
Analysis: In my last traffic and income report, I raved about the awesomeness of SlideShare.net. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that while it’s a great way to build an email list, it doesn’t generate book sales.
So far, I’ve created three different SlideShare decks and not one has generated sales. I’m still going to test it a few more times, but so far it’s a dud. My thinking is that this site is considered “cold traffic” so you need to get people on a list and build a relationship before asking for a sale.
#3: Call-to-Actions (CTA) in the Backs of Your Books
Clicks: 644 / Sales: 42 / Conversion Rate: 6.52%
Analysis: This strategy is a major disappointment. For many months, I operated under the illusion that I was being pretty smart by creating a targeted “call to action” at the end of every book. The idea here is I would identify “what else” readers would want after reading a book, then I would recommend one specific title that would help them. In theory, this would encourage readers to keep buying more books.
To be honest, this strategy has been a flop. Sure, it has generated 42 sales, but the conversion rate isn’t great and this is the result from more than 10,000 book purchases over the course of two months. Do the math and you’ll see that the numbers are pretty low.
#4: Email to Author Page
Clicks: 56 / Sales: 7 / Conversion Rate: 12.50%
Analysis: Later on, we’ll talk about the importance of email marketing. However, this strategy isn’t always a magic pill for generating sales. For instance, one strategy I tried was creating an autoresponder email (almost like a solo ad) that promoted my habits author page. I ran this for a month and only saw seven total sales.
As you’ll see, an autoresponder sequence can do amazing things for your book business, but there’s a risk every time you “pitch” a product to subscribers. Done incorrectly, every marketing campaign will hurt your overall relationship. In my opinion, promoting just my author page is not worth the cost of potentially damaging my relationship with readers.
#5: Sidebar Sticky Widget
Clicks: 408 / Sales: 46 / Conversion Rate: 11.27%
Analysis: This is another example of my delusions of grandeur being dashed by cold, hard data. On DGH, I installed a widget that randomly displays a clickable image of one of my books, which sticks to the page as a reader scrolls down. In a year’s time, this has only generated 46 sales. We’re talking about a site that gets hundreds of visitors a day, and this technique has only generated a sale about once every nine days. Ouch!
The only reason I didn’t grade this lower is because I don’t have anything better to put in its place. Eventually, I’m going to find a better way to leverage this area of my blog.
#6: Menu Link
Clicks: 768 / Sales: 63 / Conversion Rate: 8.2%
Analysis: The DGH blog also has a direct link to my habit books in the header tab. Like the sidebar widget, this has been in place for almost a year, and the sales don’t add up to much.
#7: “Latest” Email
Clicks: 254 / Sales: 22 / Conversion Rate: 8.66%
Analysis: After testing a dedicated email to my author page (strategy #4), I changed the scope of the message and created a “blind” link that recommended my latest book. The idea here is I’d have a permanent autoresponder that encouraged readers to check out special deals and offers. All I had to do was swap out the link whenever I had something new to offer.
I’m currently testing this strategy, but so far I’ve only seen so-so results. Again, there is a cost to being too promotional with your email list. Frankly, I don’t think 22 sales in a month is worth this cost.
#8: Thank You Page
Clicks: 566 / Sales: 86 / Conversion Rate: 15.19%
Analysis: This is another strategy I’ve recently started to test. Whenever people subscribe to your list, they’re brought to a “thank you page,” which acts as a reminder to check their inboxes for the free offer and encourages them to take a specific action. In the past, I’ve used this area to build up my social media platforms, but for the past month, I’ve tested promoting my latest Countdown Deal or book launch.
So far the results have been decent—about three sales a day. That said, the thank you page is one of the most important areas of your website. Like your email list, if you get too “promotion happy,” you could lose credibility with subscribers.
#9: Hello Bar
Clicks: 277 / Sales: 45 / Conversion Rate: 16.24%
Analysis: I’ve only tested Hello Bar for a few weeks. Basically, this is a plugin that generates a clickable banner ad at the top of your blog. What makes it compelling is you can test different color/text/book promos to see what actually works for your audience. (Important: Hello Bar doesn’t work in some browsers, so I recommend using Firefox.)
I’d say 45 sales in a few weeks’ time is worth a closer look. Currently I’m playing around with the color schemes and calls to action. I hope to find the right formula to maximize book sales.
#10: Facebook (Organic)
Clicks: 408 / Sales: 72 / Conversion Rate: 17.65%
Analysis: Let me start by saying I’m not a Facebook expert. Actually, I’m pretty bad at all forms of social media. That said, I started tracking this traffic source about two months ago and was honestly surprised that my half-assed efforts generated decent book sales.
Now what do I mean by “organic” Facebook? Basically, it means I’m part of a Kindle-specific group where I try to regularly provide value, plus I have about 2,000 friends on my page. To be honest, I don’t follow any sort of strategy with this site. I often forget to mention my latest book on my page. But, these aren’t bad results for a traffic source that I often forget about.
#11: Kindle Countdown Deal “Solo Email”
Clicks: 497 / Sales: 89 / Conversion Rate: 17.9%
Analysis: Now we’re starting to talk about the benefits of having a large email list. Last month, I tested the strategy of sending a “solo email” for a book that’s going through a Countdown Deal (“70 Healthy Habits”). In the past, I resisted this idea because I thought that most subscribers wouldn’t be interested in my older books, but this one test showed that it’s smart to promote your older titles to an email list.
The trick, I feel, is to occasionally promote a Countdown Deal—no more than once or twice a month. Plus, you want to send this message to the subscribers who have completely gone through your engagement-building autresponder sequence (more on this later.)
Overall, I’m loving this strategy so far and will continue to test it.
#12: Group Author Event
Clicks: 610 / Sales: 544 / Conversion Rate: 89.2% * (see notes)
Analysis: One strategy that’s extremely successful is to be part of a group author event. This is where you get a bunch of writers together (that all have a similar theme to their books) where they all offer a price break on their book. One of these events can get a lot of publicity because each person is supposed to promote it to their followers.
At the end of February, I was part of the “March to a Bestseller” event hosted by Bryan Cohen. Unfortunately, I can’t accurately track what this event brought in sales. I know that the link to my list generated 544 total book sales, with 29 purchases of my title “Writing Habit Mastery.” What I do know is at the end of my Countdown Deal, this book had 796 total sales, which made it one of my successful promotions to date.
Overall, I recommend being part of an author event if you’re asked. I’m just not sure I’d be interested in putting one together because that it’s a time consuming strategy (again a big thanks to Bryan for his hard work).
#13: In Content Blog Links
Clicks: 1805 / Sales: 304 / Conversion Rate: 16.84%
Analysis: Recommending your books within blog content is a decent way to supplement your sales. While you won’t get a flood of purchases all at once (unless you create a promotional article), you will get a sale or two per day.
Like a lot of strategies in this post, I haven’t fully tested this idea. But I feel that it doesn’t hurt to recommend a book if you’re talking about a technique that directly relates to a topic you’ve covered in one of your Kindle books.
#14: “Last Chance” Offer via Email
Clicks: 495 / Sales: 89 / Conversion Rate: 17.98%
Analysis: As you’ll see in the last two strategies, sending an email during a book launch can drive a lot of sales. But many people (including myself) often forget to follow up a few days later with a quick reminder about this discount. In the last month, I’ve tested two “last chance” emails for books about to go up from the $0.99 launch price to $2.99. While the earnings aren’t astronomical, I feel they give your book that last push to improve your visibility on Amazon.
The trick to using this technique effectively is to only email the people who haven’t taken any sort of action on your previous message. Personally, I recommend contacting people who match this criteria:
- Are currently subscribed
- Have completed your autoresponder sequence
- Didn’t click on the link to your book in the last message
As an example, here’s how this looks in Aweber for the promotion of my most recent book Habit Stacking:
You never know when someone might have missed a message. By sending a single follow-up email, you can turn those lost clicks into book readers.
#15: $0.99 Book Launch via Email (Steve Scott Site)
Clicks: 3289 / Sales: 697 / Conversion Rate 21.19%
Analysis: This is the part of the analysis where I skew from a “100 percent pure case study.” About six months ago, I made the decision to promote my habit-related Kindle books to email subscribers for this site. (Read the second Traffic & Income Report for more on this decision.) I’d be lying if I said this strategy didn’t have a positive impact. In fact, I’ve sent an email for the past five book launches, which netted a total of 697 sales. As a result, this has become my #2 favorite strategy for promoting Kindle books.
Sidebar: I know a few people are annoyed with this decision. My response? I know that most people won’t buy a book – even at $0.99 – if they’re not interested in the subject matter. Yes, I’ll admit that the “Authority Internet Business” case study has been skewed because of this decision. But I also know that there are lots of people who are interested in both Internet business principles and habit development. So it would have been a dumb decision on my part to not at least offer people a chance to check out my latest book at a discounted price.
I do recognize that most people won’t have the opportunity to promote their books to multiple email lists. That said, you could gain the same benefit by aligning yourself with other successful authors in your niche. Then you can agree to help one another out by promoting your latest books through email marketing. I know this strategy works because it’s what I’m starting to do with a small group of Kindle publishers.
#16: $0.99 Book Launch via Email (Develop Good Habits)
Clicks: 3646 / Sales: 1054 / Conversion Rate 28.91%
Analysis: Okay, here is the cream of the crop when it comes to promoting a Kindle book. Put simply, using an email list to launch your latest Kindle book can generate a huge number of sales in a short amount of time. If you launch a book for a week at $0.99, you’ll get a lot of visibility and traction in Amazon’s marketplace. From there, Amazon will promote this book on their various sales channels.
I’ve used this sales tactic for about 10 months and, so far, it has been my top marketing strategy. You won’t make a lot of money up front, but if you can get over 100 sales in that first week, your book will start to get extra visibility on Amazon. From there, you’ll get a consistent level of sales when a book goes up to its normal “post-launch” price—usually $2.99 or higher.
How to Apply this Information to Your Kindle Business
Think back to our discussion of the 80/20 rule. If you look closely at the data, you’ll see that sales on Amazon are largely determined by a handful of strategies: email marketing, blog advertising and building relationships. So what’s the next step? In my opinion, your goal is to find what’s working for your business and focus on improving these techniques.
I feel the “key takeaway” from this article is the importance of email marketing when it comes to driving Kindle book sales. I guaran-freakin-tee that it’s going to get harder and harder to compete as more people discover the advantages of Kindle publishing. In order to stand out, you’ll need an email list of people interested in your niche and books. Honestly, the best thing you can do right now is start building a list (here’s how) and identify the traffic strategies that convert browsers into subscribers (here’s how).
Now let’s say you’re a little more advanced and *get* the importance of list building. What do you do then? My advice is to tweak what’s working and see if you can maximize the results. Put simply, I’d recommend putting your list-building efforts into overdrive.
As an example, last week I looked at the above data and realized two things: 1. Email marketing was my top strategy. 2. Most of my other strategies generated minimal results. As a result, over the next few months I’m doing a number of things to improve the effectiveness of my marketing efforts:
#1. Create a New Lead Magnet. The “77 Good Habits to Live a Better Life” report is getting a bit stale. I feel that my opt-in rates will improve if I create a slam-dunk, no-brainer type of free offer. Specifically, I’m toying with the idea of giving away the audio version of my “Habit Stacking” book (credit to Chandler Bolt for this awesome suggestion). I feel this is a smart move because it’s something that I plan on actually selling. So every new subscriber gets a freebie that has real-world value.
#2. Substitute Low-Converting Offers. As you’ve seen, a lot of marketing campaigns simply don’t generate a significant amount of book sales, so it only makes sense to swap them out with a free offer. Specifically, I could easily substitute the calls to action at the end of my book with a compelling free offer. That would take readers who might like my book and hopefully turn them into loyal fans. Sure, I might lose a sale or two, but I feel this will have a positive long-term impact whenever I have a new or discounted book to offer.
#3. Build a Better Autoresponder Sequence. As of right now, my autoresponder sequence is a mix of quality content and direct sales pitches. The “salesy” stuff doesn’t convert well, so the smart move is to create a 14- to 21-day series of emails that focuses on relationship-building. If you think about, a good sequence is only about 7 to 12 messages long, and by the time subscribers are done with it, they will be familiar with how habit development can help them.
This strategy is similar to what Gary Vaynerchuk recommends: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. If I can give away great content in the first few weeks, it won’t be hard to convince subscribers to check out a new book and possibly leave a positive review.
#4. Generate More Traffic. Throughout this case study, I’ve emphasized the importance of not relying too much on Amazon. It’s nice to see a steady stream of sales, but you never want to assume it’ll be around forever. That’s why it’s important to build your own stream of traffic.
In regards to improving sales, I now know that email marketing is my #1 strategy, so it only makes sense to add as many subscribers as possible. A simple way to do this is to generate more Web traffic. That’s why, for the next few months, I’m focusing on improving my results from SlideShare and organic search results. (Here’s a post that dissects the different sources of traffic to DGH.)
#5. Test Paid Advertising. In the past, I’ve avoided the expensive paid book advertising platforms like Ereader News Today and BookBub because most don’t allow tracking links. But now I feel it’s time to test them out and see if they can generate a noticeable bump in sales.
Honestly, it was a little depressing to see the data behind a year’s worth of book sales. It’s not easy to realize that my “proven” sales strategies aren’t as effective as I once thought they were. And I guarantee you’d be shocked at the numbers if you tracked your marketing campaigns.
But there’s also some good news behind this data. It clearly demonstrates the value of building an email list. All you have to do is follow this very simple formula:
Content (Paid or Free) –> Free Offer on a Squeeze Page –> Multi-Week Email Sequence –> Ask Subscribers to Buy and Review a $0.99 Book (when one is available)
It really doesn’t matter if most of your marketing campaigns are a flop. As long as you’re focused on writing good books and building an email list, you’ll stand out from the competition.
Now it’s your turn.
Agree with this data? Think I’m full of it? Have something to share?
If so, please leave a comment in the section below.Take Action. Get Results.