Metric Junkie – An Amazon Sales Ranking Fix for My Author Friends

Feeding Your Ranking Addiction

That’s “fix” as in a desperate fulfillment of a need.  Most of my author friends and colleagues have a borderline obsession with a little something called “Amazon Sales Ranking” (ASR- Street name “Ranking”).  I’m among this group of pathetic addicts that can’t get enough of measuring our self-worth through the sales rankings of our books on the world’s biggest online purveyor of books.  It’s like watching the score of a championship football or basketball game, only this game never ends.

Some authors will deny having a Ranking addiction, but most of them are lying.  They don’t want you to know that the first thing they do in the morning is go to the Amazon website and look up their book’s Ranking -The higher the Ranking the better the emotional high.  If your Ranking is low, a sinking depression begins your day. Some have such a bad Ranking addiction that they will check every hour, even wake up in the middle of the night to get their Ranking fix.  If you have several books on Amazon, you could spend all day Ranking.

For those authors brave enough to admit you have a Ranking problem, I have a little present for you.  I discovered a website called Metric Junkie that will track your Amazon Rankings for you.  It’s pretty cool.  It won’t help you stop Ranking, but it will give you all your ranks at once, you can even track Rankings of other books.

I pulled this from their “Features” page:

  • FREE to use
  • HOURLY AUTOMATIC COLLECTION of Amazon “Sales Rank” for books you track
  • VIBRANT INTERACTIVE GRAPHS present your “Sales Rank in a meaningful way, allowing you to quickly determine the effectiveness of your sales promotions, media campaigns, & social networking buzz
  • USER-FRIENDLY INTERFACE cleanly displays information in an intuiative and easy to follow format
  • CHA-CHINGER™ TECHNOLOGY shows you when a sale has occurred for any book you track
  • MARKET SHARE APPROXIMATOR™ shows you how your product stacks-up against your competitions
  • GROUPS allow you to organize your collection into smaller more manageable categories
  • PRINTABLE CHARTS allow you to take your information with you to review off-line at your favorite coffee house

So, there you have it, safe Ranking via Metric Junkie.  Use it wisely, and remember, you’re still a good person even if your Ranking sucks.

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Do Self-Published Authors Need Barnes & Noble?

Little Known Fact: I played the bearded love interest in 1987's "Some Kind of Wonderful."

No need to prolong the suffering.  Let’s just rip the band-aid off.  Barnes & Noble doesn’t want to carry your self-published print-on-demand book.  In fact, they are annoyed that you would even ask.  It’s nothing personal.  They have limited bookshelf space and they are selling a product that is losing market share to other forms of entertainment.  From a business perspective, they want books that are going to carry the smallest amount of risk.  They want books that have the best possible chance of disappearing from the shelves and turning into profit.  Your self-published book with its limited marketing budget and your author’s name that has zero brand recognition just doesn’t fit the bill.  Not to mention they get a sweet returnable deal with major traditional publishers that basically gives them 90 days to sell the book or return it with no financial penalty.  In other words, it’s just business, and they are only annoyed with you because you are about the 100th POD author to ask in the last hour.  Barnes & Noble is not a bad company.  They are not trying to think of ways to prevent you from selling your book in their store.  They are trying to make money.

Do they think your book is crap because it’s self-published?  Probably, but that really doesn’t enter into their decision.  Plenty of crap is published by traditional publishers, and they have no problem carrying those books. They don’t care that your book is well written or is designed well or even won an award or two.  They just want to know what you’re going to do to get the books out of their stores once they agree to shelve them.  And frankly, you can’t match what the traditional publishers are offering them.  I’m blunt because I care, and I don’t want to see you waste your time.

You don’t need brick and mortar bookstores, and if you think you do, you shouldn’t use POD.  It’s not for you.  If you’re POD, and you’re trying to solve the brick and mortar puzzle, STOP!  You know all those goofy romantic comedies where the unpopular guy is always trying to get the homecoming queen, while totally ignoring the cute geeky girl who is madly in love with him?  Well, in this case, you’re the unpopular guy making a huge mistake by not seeing the opportunity right in front of your face.  Amazon is your geeky girl, and she’s head over heels for you, my POD friend. But she’s not just a geeky girl.  She’s a very popular geeky girl. Stop ignoring her, and get on with the relationship.  How?

Concentrate your efforts on building your personal brand online.  Make a name for yourself through all the personal branding tools, blogs, social media, podcasts, Youtube, etc.  Use that energy you would have used to get into brick and mortar stores to no avail and drive traffic to your Amazon detail page.  You have all the power to sell your book online where you are wanted.  Why are you wasting your time and energy trying to sell in an arena where you have no power and you’re not wanted?

I close with one piece of advice.  If you’re considering a POD company that has convinced you that they can get you into brick and mortar stores, run away as fast as you can.  They can’t.  They aren’t going to spend a second of time trying to place your book in brick and mortar bookstores.    They want you to buy into their returnable program, mostly likely with Ingram.  This will include your book in Ingram’s database, but they won’t carry any inventory in their warehouse.  Your book will be available as a special order title.  Someone will have to enter the store and ask for your book to be ordered.  So, I ask you, if the returnable program doesn’t mean you’re going to get shelf space, what is its value?

Stop looking for love in all the wrong places.

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I’m Opening Up the Blog to Self-Publishing Questions

Classic Jeff!

Okay, so you know I quit my job (assuming you frequent this blog.  If you don’t, welcome, and I quit my job. Consider yourself caught up). But you probably have no idea what I did for a living the last five years because I purposely never mentioned my company’s name on this blog, or made references to my work.

I worked for BookSurge (now CreateSpace).  I sold publishing packages for three years, and then served as the author marketing specialist for a year and a half and finally ended my time there writing for the corporate blog.  I LOVE the company.  I didn’t leave because I was unhappy there.  I left because my duties started to interfere with my writing, and I wasn’t able to be aggressive enough to build my own personal brand. Writing and selling books is what I do.  Can’t help it.  Sometimes I wish I could because the benefits suck.  But that’s for another blog post.

Today, I’m serving notice that I am going to start talking about publishing and self-publishing a lot more on this blog.  I study the industry obsessively, and I am endlessly fascinated by it.  I know there are a lot of writers/authors out there with questions about print-on-demand, self-publishing, traditional publishing, blah, blah, blah.  Consider me the Perez Hilton Edward R. Murrow of publishing news, rumors, etc.  If you have questions, fire away in the comment section, follow me on Twitter, Friend me on Facebook, send me an email, whatever.  I’ll answer it here or in a video.  Don’t be shy.  Ask away.  If I don’t get any questions, I’m going to pretend I do each week and answer questions from John Smith in Poughkeepsie or some other generic named person living in an oddly named city.  Don’t make me humiliate myself like that.  Just ask me questions!

So, for our first question, John from Poughkeepsie asks:

“Just how sexy is Jeff Bezos in person?”

Wow, John, that was really inappropriate and very sexy.

Let’s turn the dignity dial back up a couple of notches with this segment from NPR.; iPad Could Help Self Publishers Kick Open Doors

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I Figured Out How to Sell More Books!

Meet my new author’s photo!

The "Real" R.W. Ridley?

It’s not actually a picture of me. My eyes aren’t that kind of “haunting” blue, and I can’t pull off dangling earrings.  Oh, and I’m not a woman, but I have a theory that if I used this picture of my wife, I’d actually sell more books.  As I pointed out to Mia (my wife), R.W. is gender neutral… the name, not the author.  I’ve got gender, baby.  Tons of it.

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How Can a First time Novelist Sell 1 Million Books? (Text Version)

Even bad fiction is art!

(Text version of video)

It is a question I am asked frequently by someone who has no concept of the true nature of publishing.  Selling a million copies of a novel is extremely difficult.  Can it be done?  Yes. I’m not here to discourage you and tell you to give up on the idea.  It is indeed possible to sell a million copies of your novel, just as it’s possible to make a hole-in-one in golf.  But unlike a hole-in-one, it takes more than persistence, practice and luck to sell a million books.  It takes a cultural shift.

What you have to understand is that novels are a form of art.  Some are more worthy of that label than others, but even bad art is art.  Successful art, art that becomes part of the water cooler conversation, has to be either loved or hated.   You cannot sell a million copies of a book that does not ignite some sort of passion in the reader.  Passion creates cultural shifts.  Cultural shifts are waves of behavioral changes that make art not just popular, but so popular it becomes common.

If you want to sell a million copies of your novel, all you have to do is rewire culture.  Easy, right? Here’s the rub.  In large part, readers don’t buy books, they buy authors.  In order to give yourself the greatest opportunity to make your book a cultural phenomenon, the author has to become a cultural phenomenon first.

Your personal brand has to ignite the same kind of passion you expect your art to ignite.  That’s where web 2.0 and your online persona come in. This medium – blogging, social media, web videos, etc. – this is where the reader in 2010 and beyond is going to get to know you.  This is where the cultural shift begins.

Your personal brand has to be bold, be consistent, and be authentic.  And as the builder of your personal brand, you have to carry on in the face of self-doubt and outside ridicule. Not everyone is going to connect with you.  Accept it.  Embrace it. Move on.  Not everyone who connects with you is going to buy your book, but they will do something more important.  They will spread the word about your personal brand.  Over time more and more people will be exposed to you and your book, and – we’re back to the golf analogy – with persistence, practice and luck – the cultural shift will take place, and you will sell a million copies of your book.  By the way, for those of you who are disappointed to still see luck as part of the equation, I happen to believe that luck is when preparation meets opportunity, so you can make your own luck.

Remember, your book won’t sell a million copies.  You will sell a million copies of your book.

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The Fed Issues Commemorative “Beware the Takers” Dollar Bill!

Mad Takers money, yo!

Mad Takers money, yo!

Okay, not really, but Scott Vaughn (friend to this blog, Taker Supporter, and radio personality extraordinaire) is doing an exceptional job of spreading the word about the Takers, and it is perfect timing.  He wrote “Beware the Takers” on a genuine US dollar bill, and placed it on a wall at restaurant in Florida.  Here’s the email he sent with the pictures:

The family and I went to Carillon Beach, near Panama City Beach last week. We ventured over to Destin and ate at McGuire’s Pub and Steakhouse. The place is covered with “signed” dollar bills. Soooooo we left a Taker’s bill stapled to the railing.

Enjoy!

El Barto strikes again.

Way to go Scott!  His self-motivated marketing efforts have moved me to start a new competition centered around either the Oz Chronicles’ books or Lost Days.  I haven’t worked out the particulars, and I won’t be giving away a Kindle again, but it will be of equal or greater value.  Stay tuned.  The new contest is coming.

The wall of moneys

The wall of moneys

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Don’t Sell Me Anything!

Id like to sell you... nothing!

I'd like to sell you... nothing!

Granted, I am really slow, but I just came to the realization that I don’t want to be sold anything. I want to be informed. I want to be dazzled. I want to be amused. I want to be delighted. But I do not want to be sold. I feel like I’m being worked when I’m being sold something. In short, I feel used and uni-essential – I’m only important to the seller’s cash flow.

I came to this revelation during my pursuit of finding out about all things marketing. I’m an author. I have books that I need and want to sell. I’ve researched and tinkered and experimented with all types of marketing strategies, and I always come away with the feeling that I was trying to sell something. It made me feel… inauthentic. It’s a strange position to find yourself in when you want to learn everything there is to know about marketing, but never ever want to be marketed to.

This blog was a calculated element in my marketing strategy. It was created to sell books. I use the word “was” because without me realizing it, it has evolved into something much more than a marketing tool. In fact, I no longer consciously use it to sell my books. It is a way for me to express myself, to meet other like-minded people, to get goofy and have a blast. This is my attempt to inform you, dazzle you, amuse, and delight you. Everything I want out of a relationship. You are not a source of cash for me, and I promise to never treat you that way.

For authors looking for advice on how to market your book, don’t. Not in the classic sense of marketing, the kind of marketing that results in a sales pitch. Take part in the kind of marketing that is centered on building relationships instead. It’s much more fulfilling, and you’ll never feel disingenuous or phony. You obviously think you have something important to say because you wrote a book. Be yourself and spread your message without asking for the sale. If you do that, you’re going to end up with something much more valuable than a sale. You’re going to end up with a supporter.

And remember; never, ever sell me anything.

Here are some experts at the Tools of Change conference this year kind of saying the same thing, only much, much better,  and with a lot more gravitas.

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