This week I got four emails from readers and friends who reported that they’d gotten an email from Amazon alerting them that I had a new book coming out. This is the first time I’ve ever experienced this from Amazon, so I thought it was worth trying to analyze what’s going on.
First, the book in question is a small, stocking-stuffer-sized book published by Quirk Books, entitled Stuff Every American Should Know.
The Stuff Every…Should Know series sells well for Quirk, and they asked my wife/co-author and me to contribute a book of U.S. history trivia, as a result of our series for Quirk on the signers of the U.S. Constitution and Declaration. The signers books sell well in historic site gift shops, and Quirk thought it might be smart to do a “Stuff” history title. The book is really short—10,000 words—and lists for $9.99. The print edition is out June 5; the Kindle edition is already out.
But look at what Amazon’s been sending to my readers. All of these emails were sent between 6:30 AM and 7:00 AM of the days in question.
On May 22, Reader #1, who has only bought my (traditionally published) children’s book—in other words, none of my history titles are in this person’s purchasing history—received this:
Notice that the ad features the new book but also has room for four more titles, in this case my book for freelancers (Random House); a history title (Quirk); my children’s history title (Scholastic); and my weeks-old, self-published novel, The Mesmerist. (Bang drums, blow trumpets here.)
On May 24, Reader #2, who has only ever bought one of my self-published books, The Scientist and the Sociopath, reported receiving this email:
In this case, Amazon dropped The Mesmerist and added my children’s book about the mathematician Fibonacci, traditionally published by Holt.
On May 25, Reader #3, who has bought my signer titles in the past as gifts, reported receiving this ad. Notice that it displays yet a different permutation of my titles. Clearly, the system omits from the ad any book which it knows the person has already has bought.
My wife heard from a fourth reader who has only bought our freelancer title. Reader #4’s ad promotes the same Stuff title but touts it as my wife’s book. This makes sense; my wife’s byline comes first on our freelancer title in Amazon’s system.
I have no idea how many of these ads went out this week. My contact at the publisher confirms that this is a “new” thing Amazon is trying, but she didn’t know if it’s only for certain titles or authors. It’s also not clear if this ad went out to people who had bought books similar to the Stuff” title.
I was excited to get some attention for not one, but two of my most recent books. The big question here is what impact have all these ads had on sales of all of my titles? I’d say, Meh. Judging from the ranks of the “older” books that have appeared in the ad, I’d say not much. I can tell you that the ads had virtually no impact on The Mesmerist, which is the title I was most curious about.
For about two seconds I wondered if they’d ever send out something like this to announce the arrival of one of my self-pubbed titles, but I think it’s clear that this is aimed at drumming up pre-orders and self-pubbed titles don’t get logged into the system the same way as traditionally published titles, which have on-sale dates. But the system does use sales data from self-pubbed books and isn’t above promoting self-pubbed books in the “more” section.
As for Stuff Americans Should Know, it is now solidly in the five-figure rank range, a far cry from the deep six-figures it was a week ago. In fact, on May 23, when I checked the hardcover book’s rank, I saw that it had hit three lists:
I just checked the title and the rank is slightly better and it’s still on the same three lists—all without racking up any reviews. I don’t expect this bounce to last long without the reviews.
So I guess we can say that the ad did its intended job, which was to drive sales and pre-orders for Stuff. I intend to check the sales figures of all the books that have appeared in this ad this week and report back if/when I learn anything interesting.
Some other news:
I’m looking into some other blog options because it’s becoming apparent that people actually do stop by to read this and I’d like the chance to interact with you in a manner better than this iWeb blog will allow. More on that as soon as I make a decision on platform.
I was surprised/delighted that The Mesmerist has picked up some reviews already from people I don’t actually know, which is gratifying. The most substantive review is here.
Both of my novels could still use some reviews, so I’m continuing my offer: If you’d like a free copy of either Jersey Heat or The Mesmerist in exchange for your honest review on Amazon and anywhere else you’d like to post, kindly contact me via my contact page and I’ll send you a file for your device. If you want to participate but don’t “do” devices, write me anyway and I’ll hook you up with a tidy PDF version. (Paperbacks coming soon; I promise.) And no, I’m not afraid that you might hate the books. I need reviews of all kinds, good and bad.
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