Saturday, 27 October 2012

PPC Ineffective? -Excerpt

An excerpt from a guest post I have recently completed:

PPC Ineffective for Authors?

Pay-per-click was once one of the hottest new things in advertising. Being able to get a small advert to millions of people through carefully selected websites and only paying when your advert was clicked on sounds like a good idea. Even if your advert is not clicked readers may see the name of your business and look further later on. One would even assume that anyone who clicked on to your advert would be very interested in your product/service and be very likely to buy.

But this is where the bubble bursts.

Over the years, I have run PPC campaigns and studied them in various organisations and from that I suggest it only really works for certain products. Research released this year seems to back up my opinions. The research was compiled by taking fifty organisations who had advertised using PPC and compiling their results from 2005 to 2011.

From the research, a click through to the website could cost anywhere from $0.32 to $1.24 (with the past three years all being above $1.00 per click). The click through rate has mostly been around the 0.3% of advert views. One year (2005) it was above 1% and in 2006 and 2010 it was 0.7%. This shows that PPC is rather ineffective on getting people from seeing your advert and clicking through to your page. This could be explained that along with your advert there are anywhere from three to five similar products being advertised.

To read the rest of the post: please visit here.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Branding Part 2 – Why to get branding right

To read Branding Part 1 - Introduction click here

In 1991, a businessman stood up in front of business leaders to give a speech. His business, a high street jewellery firm that was popular with the public from all classes and income levels. The company had built up a reputation of selling quality goods at reasonable prices. This is his speech:

We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, "How can you sell this for such a low price?", I say, "because it's total crap."

The UK market reacted badly to what his speech. Customers stayed away from the shops and the business lost £500 million off its valuation in a matter of months. It was, at best, a disaster.

So how is this related to authors?

I would like to ignore the aspect of what he called his products as I don’t think we need to cover what damage you could do with negative comments about your books. What I would like to comment on is the perception that he has given about the customers who bought the products. Essentially by calling his products crap, he cited that his customers bought crap. This has a negative connotation about the customers’ taste, intelligence or both.

The same goes if you insult your readers’ intelligence. And you don’t have to criticize your book to do that. Imagine that you claim your reader’s do not leave reviews, like or tag your book? Surely your readers have enough intelligence on whether or not your book is worth that level of interaction. And just because they don’t leave a review, it doesn’t mean they won’t tell their friends or mention you in their Facebook, Goodreads or real life circles. If you complain, you are tempting a reprisal from readers and they will drag your reputation down.

It’s all part of what some authors’ think that they deserve from writing a book, its called entitlement. In reality, it is not. As authors we are artists, and artists can get praise, criticism or silence. It is not our job to tell our readers what to do. It is our job to write our best and thank people for giving us a chance.

To read more about entitlement I think this article is good.

Some people may remember that in part 1 I mentioned Gordon Ramsey; the famous British chef who has a reputation of having a bad temper. I also mentioned that his attitude is part of his branding. Despite his bad temper he is doing well. Some people will argue that if he can make it work, so can they. However there is one exception between an indie author who is barely known and Gordon Ramsey. He has paid his dues, he has worked his way up and he is seen as a bestseller with a good enough knowledge base that he is an expert in his craft. The vast majority of authors do not have that.

He can afford to act in such a manner.

He has gotten the respect of those in the industry, his product is top quality and he is respected by the customers. Gordon Ramsey annoys a couple of people from his abrupt behavior, it doesn’t matter; there are many other people who will listen to him.

But Gordon Ramsey also has a second level of his branding. His attitude to the customers is completely professional and polite. You never see him arguing with a customer, you never see him complaining about a customer or being rude about one. Compared to how he is to everyone else he almost completely the opposite. In front of his chefs he can seem to be very dominant but in the limelight of the customer he is almost submissive.

Why is there this second level of branding? Because research shows that 68% of people will not return to a product if they feel undervalued. Hence Gordon Ramsey knows that his customers’ feelings are key and knows that if he makes them feel undervalued they are less likely to return. However his staff and others want to be there for various reasons (money, career development, etc) and are willing to put up with his abrupt attitude to get their rewards in the long term.

In his defense you cannot argue that his attitude does produce amazingly good food.

So getting your branding right is paramount. Looking at the example of Gordon Ramsey, you can tell that treating your readers courteously and making them feel valued is the most important aspect. If you don’t; you will lose customers and getting them back will be hard if not impossible.

In this day and age, our branding cannot be on two levels. It would be very easy for one of our readers to search our name and find a post made on a writers’ forum where we are annoyed by the lack of readers leaving reviews or complaining that our readers are so unappreciative of our writing. What message is that sending to your readers? That they are not worth anything! Now that reader has turned away and will never buy a book of yours again.

That is why I say that authors should concentrate on one brand image. This brand image can be a group of words that define them as an individual or their books, but it is one single identity. In the next part I will discuss how we can construct that brand image.

Connect with the Author:

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Review of "The Long Silent Night" by Shane Berryhill

Story Overview:

Jack Frost is a Private detective asked to looking into the kidnapping of his adoptive father, Santa Claus. What he discovers on his journey is that not everything as it seems in the worlds of the holiday times.

Cover Page:  18/20

The cover certainly has an interest about it. With the shadow on the front and the simple sign does stand the novel out amongst its peers. However I would think that a few of the other characters behind the main figure would intrigue me more.

Characters (and their development):  15/20

There are holiday characters from practically every season out there and lots of creatures from mythology. Each one seems to have a new twist on them which is not what you would expect of them. The true brains’ behind the plot is particularly good in my opinion and having Jack Frost as a rather sarcastic anti-hero plays very well. The interactions between can be very amusing at times, however there is little development from the characters which is a little sad in places.

Storyline:  18/20

The story is certainly interesting. The idea of Santa Claus being kidnapped and an everlasting night due to magic with every holiday wanting the night to stop is certainly an interesting slant. What I find most interesting is that this is a humorous story with a good back story for people to enjoy.

The twist and the real culprit revealed at the end of the book is certainly satisfying and well thought-out and I cannot fault the authors reasoning’s when he wrote that.

Style:  15/20

I’m not a particular fan of the heavy dialogue novels which is what the main story is about: the interaction between the characters. However on the plus sides a new slant on holiday characters and the poems at the end of each chapter certainly make the novella unique. Unfortunately the way in which some of the dialogue is done requires the reader to go through the novella slower as sometimes it is easy to lose track who is speaking is speaking and who is not.

Spelling and Grammar:  12/20

There are a lot of grammar mistakes within the novel, mostly missing punctuation which would benefit the book if they were sorted out. The spelling is sound, but the grammar makes it hard to determine who is speaking in some parts of the book.

Conclusion:  75/100

This is a good story if you are looking for a story to have a laugh with in the middle of dark winter nights. The storyline is interesting with a good twist at the end. But I warn that the mistakes made with the grammar and the heavy dialogue may put some readers off.

Purchase this book.

Connect with the Author:


Monday, 22 October 2012

Branding Part 1 - Introduction

Recently I spoke about the effects of spamming and how it is not exactly the best marketing option. This week I thought I would talk about branding. The problem was that the post kept on getting longer and longer until it reached about 3000 words and I still wasn't finished. So I decided to do it in three parts. 

Part one will be a brief introduction
Part two will be based on getting branding right
Part three will be about how to create a brand

So I would like to start with branding part 1. 

A brand is an identity in which the public will recognize a person or organization by. It’s like a personality created for the products and services. It can come in many forms, from a logo to the way in which a company interacts with its customers. But a brand is never the product; the brand connects the products with the person or organization.

Branding in terms of authors; can also come into many ways and authors, whether or not they realize it, are branding themselves every time they enter the public light. For example when you discuss something on Facebook you are portraying something about your personality. That may be the first interaction a perspective reader may see of you. If you are moaning about a recent reader review, complaining of the latest sales slump or even spamming the forums the reader will form a negative impression on you. However, if you join in the discussion on helping an author with a certain problem, a reader will see a positive side.

Of course branding can take many forms. Gordon Ramsey for instance has a distinct brand of being the chef who is bad tempered and (in my opinion) very nasty. Yet he is popular. I have seen a couple of authors who have gone down this route, but I have also seen the backlash that sometimes occurs from their posts. Very often in the writing circles they are not well received and I will discuss on a later post why I think that is.

Branding isn’t a one minute wonder. It will take time to develop your branding and it will need constant maintenance. But the effects can be astonishing. If you look at vacuum cleaners the best example of the positives of branding can be seen. Normally when people say they’ve got to vacuum the house, I hear them use the word ‘hoover’. Hoover is actually a company that built vacuum cleaners– yet it has been such a powerful brand and popular product (in the UK at least) that it has become synonymous with vacuuming. And the positives go beyond becoming the namesake for cleaning. Now a lot of people when needing a new vacuum cleaner will search the word Hoover and their products will come up first on the results page.

Another example is the use of Rudolph the red nose reindeer. Originally a creation for marketing purposes in America, he had nothing to do with Santa or the eight original reindeer beforehand. But his popularity was so great and he became such a great image for children that he has become part a main part of the Christmas legend and children leave him a carrot and glass of sherry on Christmas Eve to thank him for delivering their presents.

But what about the numbers in regards to authors. Well this we can look at in regards to the Forrester report that tracked the online sales path of customers that was recently released.

One of the most startling conclusions of the report is that less than 1% of sales are reported from links on social media. This is comparative to my post last week about spamming. Think of it like this, if you spam, you are targeting only 1% of buyers.

The most common way for online sales is the direct search. 20% of sales were tracked through that method. What do they mean by direct search? That is where a customer goes onto a e-shop and searches directly for a specific product. For an author, they will be either looking for your name or your book. Looking at the numbers that we did last week we can see how much of a difference that can make.

Book Junkies:
Estimated 275 regular readers

1% = 2 – 3 sales
20% = 55 sales

The Indie Exchange: Estimated 209 regular readers

1% = 1-2 sales
20% = 41-42 sales

Indie Author Group: Estimated 190 regular readers

1% = 1-2 sales
20% = 38 sales

Now people may consider that looking on those numbers that just posting the name of their book is a great idea. On Book Junkies 3 people will click directly and 55 people will search for their book on another site. But the Forrester report rebuts this all on its own. According to the report, 33% of consumers needed two or more sites of the product (or brand) before making a purchase. And this number rises if they have used an e-shop before to 48%.

The second most popular (16%) online buying path was by organic search. That is where a reader will search for “action thriller e-book” or something similar and just so happen to find your book. The next most common purchase path is paid searches (11%). That means the top three buying options account for 47% of all sales.

I am not someone who is going to use PPC (or paid searches) in my advertising campaigns. For the reasons why I won’t I will blog about at a later date. But a simple break down is that from certain research on PPC has found that conversion rates can be around 7.5% of clicks to sales with costs ranging from $0.32 to $1.24 per click. So with a 1 in every 14 clicks a sale, I would be spending $4.48 to $17.36 advertising to get one book sold. I am not even going to be selling my book for the lower figure – the margins are just not worth it.

My aim is to target the 20% of the people who will look for my product. For this I need to create an image that will be come across as likable. I try to be helpful, resourceful, accommodating and appreciative. The easiest way I can achieve two of those aims is by giving advice from my knowledge and experience, like I am doing now.

How many people know I have a Business degree and masters and was offered a PhD? But why am I telling you this now – because it is the same as branding. I didn’t tell you about my masters at the start or when we first interacted. I conveyed the knowledge that it gave me in something that was meaningful to you. I don’t pretend to know all. In fact when I give facts I spend hours looking them up. But I use what knowledge I have gained in order to create meaningful topics of discussion. And by doing so, I am completing two of my branding goals – helpful and resourceful.

When I am posting a review, one of the things that I do is allow the author a heads up on their review. Give them a last chance to back out before I post the review. Why? Because I want to be accommodating, I don’t want to post something that they will see as being negative marketing. If I did I would go against one of my principles, being helpful. So by doing this I am consistent with one of my branding images and fulfilling the other.

Also when I do guest posts I comment on the post thanking the blogger for their time and allowing me to post there. Every time someone posts on my blog, I comment and thank them for it. It’s not just a matter of manners it is fulfilling one of my branding goals of being gracious.

It is the same with your book. No one is going to buy from you if you say you have a great book. But if you show what you have learnt from writing that book or from being an author, readers will buy into you. The reader will possibly look you up, try to find other posts by you, visit your blog and so forth. This is great news as the Forrester report stated that 33% of new consumers have visited two sites with a product on before buying the product.

This is where branding really becomes important. Your brand has to be consistent across your marketing sphere. In other words; on Facebook, twitter, your blog, e-mail, etc you have to portray the same person. If you are a kind and gentle soul on one medium and then an aggressive pig on another your branding is fractured. You will be thought of as two faced, which generally isn’t a good thing and no-one will buy into you or your book.

If you get your branding right, it can benefit you by the bucket loads. By targeting the right people, you will get sales and then reviews. If those reviews are great; people who find your book by organic searchers will be more inclined to buy your book. As they review; online retailers are likely to put you higher up the search results, giving you greater exposure and more organic sales. Your branding has created a snowball effect.

Next time I will talk about getting your branding right and why that is so important.

Connect with the Author:

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Review for Sanctum Angels Shadow Havens Book 1 by Edenmary Black

Story Overview:

Pria is a half angel half vampire that has decided to run a bakery in the human world instead of living her life among her own kind in the Sanctum. One day when she goes to the bank she is taken hostage by a robber. During the events she meets Detective Joe Cafaris and falls in love with him soon after. In the meantime her stepbrother, Keirc has fallen in love with the daughter of a rival tribe’s leader, the ruthless Sebastien Galaurus. As the bank incident becomes better known Sebastien seeks out Pria to use her for his own devices.
Cover Page:  19/20

The book has a strikingly complex and yet simple cover art which entices the reader in to delve into the book and read the story. There is little to describe what is going on in the storyline, yet the attractive cover fills your mind with the possibilities and the title gives you some clue of what you are in store for.

Characters (and their development):  18/20

My first reaction to the characters was feeling a little overwhelmed. There were so many of them that at the beginning of the book I struggled to keep up. But as you get further into the book I found that the characters came into their own lights. Which is the brilliance of the author’s writing: every character, even the secondary ones is unique and cannot be described as characteristic. Every character has their own agenda and reasons for their actions that it seems like a bunch of real people.

I have to admit that Vampires and Werewolves are becoming too typical in literature at the moment, yet this author has put a completely unique slant on them that makes them feel fresh and a joy to read about.

What I thought was a problem was Joe and Pria’s quick fixation on each other. I sometimes questioned very early on how easy their romance blossomed. Their conversations can sometimes seem a little unrealistic, but they do move on the story swiftly. Plus characters didn’t seem to develop throughout the story but rather their character, motivations and reasoning remained constant.

Storyline:  17/20

Parts of the story line seem very reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, but to my relief turns out to be a happier ending. I found the storyline to move along perfectly and the depth of the characters and their back stories and concurrent stories were brilliant composed so that while they started separately they all converged into one excellent ending.

Everything that the author writes was well thought-out so that it could contribute to the ending, but I did feel that some scenes were redundant as it had no part in the climax of the story. But generally I thought that the storyline was well conceived and executed and I applaud the author for their creativity in the story.

Style:  15/20

The style was the sticking point for me in the novel. I give the author credit that it was rather easy to read and because of that the flow of the story could continue. There were a couple of sticking points but nothing that detracts from the enjoyment of the story. My main issue is with the changing perspective in the middle of a section. Sometimes I felt that I was seeing two or three people’s thoughts in a couple of paragraphs with little to tell me that the viewpoint had changed. Also a lot of the later book is heavy on the dialogue, something which not the case in the beginning of the book.

Spelling and Grammar:  20/20

It is not often that I can say that I didn’t spot a mistake in the writing. And this is one of those occasions. So full marks here.

Conclusion:  89/100

This is an enjoyable story and if you are a paranormal romance fan I would certainly recommend this. However I warn that this is not a book for young readers, it is certainly an adult orientated book. The characters are unique to each other and other works of literature and the supernatural elements are fresh. The storyline is good which develops from a bunch of unconnected stories into a single story which does not disappoint. The love scenes are well described without giving too much details that the scenes seem too much like “adult pictures”.

 Buy at Sony  Buy at iTunes  Buy at

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Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Spamming by Numbers

One of my pet hates is people who spam, or just post once in a while only posting their book with a direct link to their book on amazon or smashwords. It’s not that I have a problem with people promoting themselves, as authors we must promote ourselves in order to gain sales. But spamming groups and forums is both a waste of time and not pleasant for the general readers of a group. As normally spammers don’t tend to listen to the “please don’t promote” or “we’ll ban you if you advertise” I thought I would come down to the level everyone understands, numbers.

First of all let’s start with a couple of rules of business.

Direct marketing comes in many forms. Spamming falls into the same category as those companies that carpet bomb your house with leaflets through the post or cold calling or door to door sales people. The reason why these people phone constantly hundreds of people a day is because only 1-2% of their ‘sale pitches’ will result in a sale. Even the good sales people only achieve a 4%, but the average is about 1-2%.

Second, Pareto’s principle dictates that 80% of the traffic of a website or forum or facebook group will be generated by 20% of the members. The number of that can go up and down slightly, but the two numbers always add up to 100 and it is very rarely higher than 25% of the population but often can be as low as 5%.

Thirdly people on forums and facebook tend to only look at the top 5 / most recent posts.

So let’s use three good facebook groups as an example with the two rules applied above on how well your book sells.

1.       BookJunkies – 1,374 members
Book Junkies is a great group to be a member on. They do allow promotions, but only on certain threads with certain criteria but have a sub group which is specifically set up for promotions. Let’s say that you did you post a promotion in this group and it didn’t get noticed so wasn’t deleted. According to Pareto’s law you not really advertising to 1374 members but closer to 275. Book Junkies is very an active group with good topics staying close to the top of the group for long period of times and some discussions that have little community value would quickly lose the top spot.

Personally I would say that 275 regular posters is way off the mark. I would say at most there are 50 people who regularly post on the group. So at most, a post would gain you 2-3 sales (1% of 275). However if only 50 people use the site regularly you are more than likely not to get a sale at all.

2.       The Indie Exchange – 1,092 members
The Indie Exchange is a favourite of mine. It’s not why it is on the post, it is on the blog post because it has a lot of members. At this group they are completely against book promotions and will remove users that do. But let’s assume as before. Those 1092 members come down very quickly to a core audience of 209 people. Now the group is active beyond belief with new topics started at a rate of nearly one an hour. Plus the group is very tight knit – which is one of its main appeals to an author in my opinion.

Honestly, again I think 209 core users is a high value again. Personally I haven’t seen more than 50 people use the group regularly. So although technically you achieve 2 sales, I would argue you are more than likely not to achieve a single sale.

3.       The Indie Author Group – 949 members
This is a great group. They are very community based and the people who run it are very enthusiastic. Conversations often stay close to the top for a long time compared to other groups and there are fewer new topics, but what is said on the group can be worth gold to authors.. This was the first group that I joined when I started writing and to be honest, I probably spend more time on here and the sub groups than any other group. It’s what I call my facebook home! (Although I will admit that I spend a significant amount of time in the two groups above as well). The IAG is very anti promotion on any day except Friday, which they allow one post per member. But often there aren’t any more than 20-30 promotions on any given Friday. But let’s assume as before. Those 949 members become 190 core users and potential sales figure of 2 people.

But as with the other groups I can’t say that I see more than 50 people use the group regularly. So again I would argue again you are unlikely to get a sale.

4.       Authors, Agents, and Aspiring Writers – 2,859 members
This group has no limits on promotion or advertising. New conversations are started at a rate of one per 10 minutes or less. But let’s assume as before.  Those 2859 members become 571 core members with a sales potential of 6 sales.

Great News!

But as always there is a catch. Those conversations are 99% of the time, sales. Most of those topics are from the same 20-30 people. These people don’t want to buy anything they just want to sell. So they aren’t going to even look at your post, they will just simply advertise their own services. This completely devalues the point of posting there.

Here’s another point to make. Those 50 people who post regularly on Book Junkies, about half of them are regular visitors on The Indie Exchange which again half of those 50 people are regulars on the Indie Author Group. Each group offers something unique that the others don’t. Those three groups are good groups which authors can hone their skills and pick up good tips. But marketing to those three groups is a complete waste of time. Even if your post wasn’t deleted, which it most certainly would be, you are really only advertising to about 75 people. And 1% of those 75 isn’t even 1!

These groups frown on spamming and by doing so will get you a bad reputation; which will only make it harder for you in the future to communicate with potential readers. Ask yourself the question; do you really want to spend your time getting a bad reputation with the likely hood of earning nothing?

I welcome comments.

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