Measure Your Results - Resolutions - Indie Pub It
This is part of a continuing series on small changes you can make throughout the year, instead of sweeping, scary New Year resolutions that tend to crash and burn long before you read this post.
Each suggested task is a year-long adjustment to your indie business that could reap some very nice rewards.
Indie publishing is a game won by increments. Most of us write in small doses because we don’t have the luxury of full time writing. We squeeze production into our spare time. We don’t hit best seller lists the first month out but (often) end up selling more over the long term than last month’s #1; a copy here, a copy there.
Check the intro post from January for more on this idea, if you haven’t seen it already.
Here’s the on-going list of tasks:
January: Review Your Backlist
February: Strengthen Your Sales Pipeline
March: Improve Your Hourly Word Rate (Prolificacy, Part I)
April: Write More Words This Year Than Last Year (Prolificacy, Part II)
May: Refine Your Production Process
June: Refine Your Production Schedule
July: Schedule Your Promotions
August: Improve Your Product
September: Add More Sales Channels - Resolutions - Indie Pub It
October: Measure Your Results the Smart Way
When I was publishing solely via legacy publishers, promotion was a tiresome expectation that I met by hanging out on Facebook, running a blog site and attending conventions. None of it seemed to make a drop of difference.
The critical word there is seemed.
I had no idea what worked. No one else seemed to know, either.
Legacy publishers tend to believe that an author platform consistently mostly of social media is the pinnacle of author promotion. In the meantime, the promotion a legacy publisher most often limits themselves to a listing a title in their seasonal catalogue for booksellers. If you’re lucky, the cover will be included in the listing. If you’re very lucky, the blurb will be added, too.
It’s no surprise, then, that a lot of indie authors still think in terms of “let’s try this…” for their promotion efforts and paid advertising is still a dirty word.
There are thousands of people telling you how to sell your books and what works and what doesn’t. These thousands of experts may even be right…for them. Their promotion efforts work for them, but that doesn’t mean it works for everyone.
The only sure what to know what promotion, PR and advertising is the most effective for you is to measure it.
Once you have measured it, you will know without doubt what promotion and advertising works. Then it is simply a matter of doing what works, over and over – while still measuring – until it loses its effectiveness.
Eventually, all promotion and advertising does get stale, but in the meantime, you’ve been experimenting with other forms of promotion and advertising, and have new and effective channels to exploit.
Get a baseline measure, first.
I’ll briefly discuss some types of measure in a moment, but no matter how you chose to measure your promotion activities, you should ensure that you have a “baseline” first. This is usually a matter of measuring results before the planned activity, and then afterwards, so that you have as accurate a measure of the results of the activity as possible.
Types of Measuring
The type of advertising or promotion you are doing will most often determine the type of measuring you do.
A lot of advertising and promotion directly affect the number of books you sell. It makes sense then to take note of sales before and after the planned activity, to measure the effectiveness.
Your daily sales can also be a measure of the overall health of your book writing business, so keeping a centralized record of daily sales for all titles on all retail platforms is a great pulse-monitor.
Note that at the moment, there is no single sales-recording service that keeps track of ALL retail platforms and multiple titles, or lets you manipulate the data to find trends, compare retailers, etc. Keeping daily sales is still a DIY task, but worth doing for the information it provides.
If you’re running a promotion that encourages newsletter sign-ups, then a count of subscribers before and after will give you a result.
Constant records on subscriber numbers will also give you a feel for when subscription activity is jumping. If you haven’t actively promoted, it will let you analyze what possible reasons have affected subscriptions…which means you can deliberately duplicate that activity for similar results.
Google Analytics is hackers’ beloved tool, for the depth and breadth of information it will provide about your site. If you do a lot of promotion that pushes readers toward your site (for newsletter subscriptions or direct sales, or for sales page activities, or simply for blog subscribers), then Analytics will give you detailed measurements of any of the above.
Note, Analytics only works for self-hosted sites, where you can control and change the headers of your pages, as you need to insert code snippets to get Analytics to measure properly. If you’re using a proprietary site like Wordpress.com, Blogger, or the free site builders like Wix or Weebly, you can’t use Analytics.
Facebook Page Analytics
If you rely on Facebook as the base for your promotion efforts (and I won’t go into the wisdom of that strategy right now), and if you have set up a professional author page rather than using your personal profile, then you have access to biometric data and measurements on the activity of your readers, how many saw various posts you have made, and much more.
There are dozens of metrics that can be recorded and analyzed; page views, clicks, subscriptions, shares, downloads, and much more. The activity you schedule will determine what you need to measure. Just don’t forget to get a baseline before you start!
Measure the source, first.
Here’s something that many authors tend to overlook. When they hear of a new advertising or promotion effort, they don’t research the avenue.
There are a couple of ways you can check out the source of the opportunity to decide if it’s worth risking your money or your time.
Alexa rankings. These are much more specific that Google rankings. If the site in question ranks in the lower millions, you know they don’t have the traffic to provide a good ROI on your money and you can happily move on. If you’re not sure if the ranking is good or not, think of a similar site that you know is very good, and check their Alexa ranking. You’ll instantly get a feel for what is a good ranking for sites of that type/genre.
Ask. If you’re going to give money in return for advertising in particular, you’re perfectly in the right to ask the site for their visitor impressions, daily traffic, and any other advertising metrics they care to share.
Trial and Error
Most of us are working with a very tight budget, so the idea of paying for a “trial” activity seems wasteful, but in the end it will save you money.
When you learn of a new promotion or advertising opportunity, that you think shows promise, and their Alexa ranking or the metrics they share seem solid, then pay for the least amount of advertising or promotion possible, over the least amount of time possible, and consider it a trial.
It is important when you’re measuring for results that you don’t do any other promotion or advertising at that time. Make sure you have a baseline before the activity starts, let it run, then check the results. If they’re good or even promising, consider more ambitious promotion.
If the results are less than stellar, you’ll know to avoid that channel or activity – at least for now. There might be external circumstances (the time of year, the economy, who brought out a BIG book in your genre this week) that impacted the results, and make it worth trialing again at a later date to see if the results improve.
Always measure every promotion and advertising activity you do, even if this is the umpteenth repeat of the same activity. Eventually, the activity will lose its effectiveness, and measuring will tell you instantly when that happens. You can retire the activity, or put it aside for a while, then trial again after a good interval of time has passed, to see if the ROI picks up. If it doesn’t, then you know it is time to stop doing it altogether.
Another form of measuring is keeping good records of all your promotion and advertising activities, and their results. Over time, this will become an invaluable historical record that will help you plan future promotions…no guessing needed!
Columnist: Tracy Cooper-Posey writes paranormal, urban fantasy and science fiction romance, and romantic suspense. She has been nominated for five CAPAs including Favourite Author, and won the Emma Darcy Award. She published 35 titles via legacy publishers before switching to indie publishing in March 2011. She has published over 50 indie titles to date. Her indie books have made her an Amazon #1 Best Selling Author and have been nominated four times for Book of the Year. Byzantine Heartbreak won the title in 2012. Tracy has been a national magazine editor and for a decade she taught romance writing at MacEwan University. An Australian, she lives in Edmonton, Canada with her husband, a former professional wrestler, where she moved in 1996 after meeting him on-line. Her website can be found at http://TracyCooperPosey.com.