Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Your book, story or series has flat-lined on Amazon. That means the rank is steadily climbing, which indicates no recent sales. When the rank bobs up and down over a period of days, it means you have sales activity. It's rather difficult to tell just how many sales, since a 150,000 drop can indicate only a single sale, and usually does. It does depend on the other author's books and how well they're taking off, at any given minute. If you do a fair amount of promotion and marketing every day or a few times a week, and have been doing so for months, you should see a regular roller coaster rhythm in your ranking status. For instance, for the past three months, I pretty much know where I rank on the average. My lows hit around 60,000 and then climb to about 235,000 before I see another dip. And this happens with regularity. My rough average is about 140,000 or so, give or take. You'll see much lower ranks (huge dips and higher sales) upon your book's release. Not talking about that. I'm talking about months of exposure and a consistent push campaign.  

It's also possible that you're doing really well and your rank is somewhere between 10,000 and 40,000 on a consistent basis. For those of you who are ranking better than this, like in the top 100, or even top 10, I hate you and don't want to hear about it. But for us average folks who shamelessly flog our books and hawk-eye our Amazon book page, watching a steady increase (numbers rising) in rank and drop in sales is heart-crushing. I know that we shouldn't put too much into the rank thing, but let's face, we're addicted to it and no one is going to pry us away from our stats. Thank you very much. Right now, I'm at the high end of my coaster after about four days and it's beginning to worry me. If after a week I see no sales, I'll know that I'm approaching flat line. I can give it an extra promo and marketing push, doing all my regular links, articles, blogs, display site updates and forum participation, and yet if it has no effect I know I'm in trouble. I can redouble my efforts and still see no effect, and if this goes on for more than eight to 10 days or so, then I'll know I've officially flat-lined. If I haven't done any marketing or promo during or slightly before that time, I know that my book has no sales momentum and can't carry its own without my constant help

This most probably happens when you reach a saturation point. Depending upon how many resources you use (I use about seven or eight large sites or social networks), you get to the point where you've overstayed your welcome, or more precisely, you've introduced your book to the main population and made all likely sales to interested buyers. You only have so many friends on FB and Twitter. You only have so many blog followers-subscribers. You have a fairly finite population in your groups. And if you don't charge your batteries by joining new groups and discussions, you've reached your maximum audience. Of course, there will always be new members, but for the most part, you've roped in all of your potential customers. This can happen anywhere from 30 to 60 days after your debut on Amazon. Most books are bought during this period--when all the announcements and friend purchases hit at about the same time in the early stage.

A real good example of a book that's flat-line is my paranormal romance, Gate Walker:

Gate Walker has been sitting there for years with no activity, in spite of me whipping up a huge campaign, loaded with interviews, reviews, press releases and display listings. The title and the cover art are substandard--there's a huge problem right off the bat. No reviews to speak of. And even when the publisher dropped the price to $.99 seven months ago, it still had no effect. I tried reviving it but it floundered just the same--no notice, interest or sales. That book is a true flat-liner. Nothing can resurrect it, short of pulling it from Amazon and starting all over again with new art and an captivating title. It's a shame--Gate Walker sold about 70 books and committed suicide right after the third month of its listing. It's actually a much more popular genre than my current SF book, which outsold it in one month. 

So what can you do to bring that corpse-like book back to life? Find new forums, new groups, and social sites. Add friends on Twitter and FaceBook every day, but keep your numbers down--a few members at a time adds to your little clubhouse. Have you written a romance? Join romance writing and reading groups. Same for SF and fantasy. Look for high group member populations--new people. Search the WWW--Google groups that cover your genre. You might try joining additional (general) writing groups, the one's who have large forums, thousands of threads and dozens of topics. Always follow your genre people, and look for those threads. Wherever you go, drop links to your Blog and website. Don't have a blog? Guh. Get one, make one. Pick a theme or topic and run with it, and blog frequently, at least every three days, or a every week if you're pressed for time.  List your book covers on your website and supply a blurb and reviews for each.

There are thousands of book review sites out there that will review your book for free and list it on their blog or review site. It might cost you an e-book, but it's well worth it. If the reviewer wants a print copy, just make sure their review site is legitimate and large enough to draw some serious traffic. Google lists that contain bloggers who love to interview authors. Write polite but enthusiastic letters to those hosts, explaining who you are and what topics interest you. Nine times out of ten, review and interview sites will direct the discussion around your book/s or stories.

Check out one of my older blog posts: E-Publishing on Amazon and How To Make It Work.

Just remember, you can market and promote in your old sites, but if you're approaching flat-line, you'll have to go out there and find fresh faces--readers-writers who haven't met you, seen your blog, visited your website, seen your book pages, read your announcements or followed any of your links. Hint: when contributing to discussions in writers forums or in blogs, use a little levity. Yuk it up some. Writing is a deadly serious and oft time negative business, so when you can arrive on a scene and add a little humor to a topic, you'll find people gravitating toward you. You want them to Like-me-like-me-like-me!


Now the shameless plug. If you haven't found out what Planet Janitor is all about, forget Amazon. Check out the website and read the character profiles. A while back somebody (humorously) summed up my characters thusly: Two nerds, a boyscout, a dumb giant, a crazy bastard, a big-breasted matron, a virgin and a slut. See what you think, ha!

Planet Janitor: Custodian of the Stars (Engage Science Fiction) (Illustrated)