Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why Mailing Lists?

It’s time for a bit of an update.  My blog will probably continue to be something that generally only gets updated once a month or so.  I’ve got an extremely demanding day job in addition to trying very hard to sneak in time to get new stories written, but occasionally something will come up that needs to find its way onto here.

Broken went free on Amazon Dec 28th and when the dust all settled, we’d seen a bit over 6,100 free downloads and I had a renewed appreciation of the power of Amazon’s algorithms.  The ability to let Broken go free for that 5-day period meant I had to accept delayed release dates for the rest of the retailers like Barnes and Noble, but it was a calculated risk I felt was worth taking.  That being said I wanted to explain the logic to my fans that tend to buy from somewhere other than Amazon.

When Broken went free, Katie and I reached out to all of our friends and family and asked them to help spread the word.  They responded like real champs, but I’m pretty confident that they didn’t manage to contact 6,100 people.  Even if they had, not all of those 6,100 would have gone out and downloaded Broken.  What they did do though was make enough of an impact for Amazon’s recommendation algorithms to take notice and start pushing Broken to other customers.  Broken also spent a bit of time ranked in the top 10 on one of the romance lists which I’m sure helped some as well.

I’m sure that most of those 6,100 people won’t ever get around to reading Broken, but since it’s gone back to paid we’ve sold another 60 or so copies of Broken and 88 copies of Torn.  We’re seeing some positive reviews go up on Amazon and Goodreads and we’re getting a trickle of purchases of some of my other 9 titles.  Nobody in the Murray household is getting ready to quit their day job or anything yet, but that’s a marked increase over our run-rate of sales from before Christmas.

There’s still always the chance that some of those who read Broken and Torn will turn into the kind of ‘rabid’ fans (pun intended J) that every author hopes for and Broken will pick up additional steam over the next few months.  But even if Broken and Torn just trickle along at their current rate it represents a big win to the extent that people continue to enjoy them enough to wander over here out of curiosity.  Some percentage of those fans will decide to subscribe to my mailing list and that’s where the magic will really start happening.

Some of you who are writers might have spent some time over at Dean Wesley Smith’s blog(DWS from here on out-there’s too many Dean’s here otherwise J).  He’s got some very interesting things to say; and while I don’t agree with all of his positions, in most things he talks a lot of sense.  One of the really interesting things he highlights is the fact that ten years ago a writer had a very short window in which to sale each new book.  The book stores would stock a bunch of copies of their new title, and after six weeks or so most of the copies that were left were sent back to the publisher or destroyed.

It’s just one of those economic kinds of things.  Book stores don’t have room to stock dozens of copies of every title out there, they have to try and match up with people’s buying patterns.  A new book generates a little or a lot of buzz.  A bunch of people come to buy it and then things slow down.  An author who sold a few copies and then needed a bit of time to build word of mouth might have found that by the time their early readers had told a few friends and the friends started looking that there weren’t any copies of the novel in question in the bookstore.

DWS calls it the produce model of book distribution.  You’ve got to move a lot of books in a short time because they go bad if left unsold.  In the new world of publishing your books don’t ever go bad.  They don’t ever have to be out of stock, they can always be just a click or two away from finding a new home.

As a long-term pro who probably saw dozens of books he’d put his heart and soul into go out of print, I can understand DWS being frustrated with the produce model.  Frankly, I’m very excited that books aren’t forced into the produce model, but I’m equally happy that we can still get the benefit of the produce model at the same time.

Let’s say two books were released, each from authors with 1,000 fans who were absolutely going to buy the authors’ work…eventually.  Book one moves 1,000 copies in the first two days.  Book two moves 1,000 copies over the first two years.  I would argue that book one is the winner all other things being equal and the reason is the algorithms.

Amazon and the other retailers will flag the book that sells well and quickly as being something people are excited about and will tend to recommend it to other potential customers.  People will see it at the top of genre lists that they are interested in and decide to take a chance on it.

That’s where my mailing list comes in.  I’m hoping, to reproduce a bit of the distribution spike we saw with Broken for all of my future stories.  It lets me reach out to some of my most excited fans and let them all know within a short time that there’s a new story available that they will probably like.  As each new story jumps, even briefly onto the lists, top selling, also bought and otherwise, it will help put Alec and Adri, Va’del and Jain, and a host of other stories in front of thousands of new potential fans.

Ultimately that’s a win for everyone.  Amazon makes money, the readers get enjoyable stories that hopefully stay with them after they finish the last page, and I get one step closer to being able to write full time which means more stories for everyone.

If you’ve been on the fence about signing up to my mailing list please give it another thought.  I really won’t spam you with a bunch of stuff you don’t care about.  You’ll get announcements when I put a new book up for sale and maybe the occasional other Dean Murray writing development that other fans are telling me should go out in the next update.

I wouldn’t feel right closing without saying thanks to all of the people who are helping to spread the word about Adri, Alec and all of my other stories.  I’m really excited about what comes next and hope you all enjoy the ride as much as I think you will.