How to Hack Amazon Algorithms By Starting at the End.
I had yet another book to launch. As you know, I like to work backwards on these things. The phrase (attributed earliest to Socrates) is: “Begin with the end in mind.”
This book was basically all set to go. I just had an inspiration for a final title and did the cover for it. All nice.
The problem was what I’d just found out in my recent course studies.
Tim Grahl’s book launch course confirmed what I had found other places: Amazon really likes bestselling authors, not unknown authors with no platform.
Because of Grahl, I finally had a definition for “author platform.” (See that link for explanation.)
That didn’t matter so much, because I still didn’t have one. Chalk it up to loving to research as a recluse.
Well, I did have one, but not that I could leverage very much to get any big launch happening. Less than a hundred on my mailing list, no experience with FB ads, no network of podcasters to talk to their audiences.
If I simply published, it would dive off Amazon’s 30-day cliff with not even a thud. And then disappear into obscurity after their 60- and 90-day cliffs.
They do this to keep fresh content up there and scammers at bay. For authors, it means “feeding the beast.”
The secret was in what I’d learned from Geoff Shaw’s “Kindling” course. I laid this out in my “How to Write Less and Publish More.” That is successful for research as it’s easy to publish a book literally overnight.
In Shaw’s course, there is one post where its pointed out that publishing in parts or a series two weeks apart keeps the sales up for the entire series. This is really only possible if you are writing short reads, or you split up a book into parts and publish them individually.
This was my Eureka moment.
Short Read Publishing Advantages
When you publish in smaller sections, the book becomes more manageable. I like about 10K words myself, but you can get buy with 2500 if you want, or 7000 if you want to publish a paperback on CS to match.
With that short text, it’s fairly simple to do the editing yourself. Do your first draft to get it out of your skin, then a second draft to trim it down and add in the links and other tidbits. A third draft is the line edit. The fourth draft is spoken aloud, where you also get your audio book. This is all doable by yourself, without having to pay for outside help.
At 10K, I get a decent-sized short read, a thin paperback, an audiobook and audio-CD. All good.
And these show up in the regular categories as well as the short read categories. So all is good. Cheap, fast, efficient.
How to Chunk Out a Bigger Book Into Short Read Parts.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Because the book parts have to get people to read the whole book, preferably.
You add extra material at the end of each part to get the reader ready to get the next one. But you also have to add your “reader magnets” at the front and back of each one. And you really need an appendix with links and bibliography. So you have a lot of parts that are in a big book which are duplicated a bit in each of the parts.
What made this easier to decide where to split the book was because I had written it with the narrative approach, having four acts like a screenplay or TV episode. Since the final book was cut down to about 140 pages, it would mean approximately 35K words for each part (m/l).
The big book started out originally as 200+ pages, but when I had to make all the parts hold together, I cut out a lot of dross at the end which had been added on and wouldn’t stand alone. The reason I had a big book like that was to make it look substantial on a book shelf in a store. The problem with POD, however, is that after about 150 pages, you can’t keep the price down where people are expecting to find it, which is between $10 and $14 USD.
So that edit is going to help the final book quite a bit.
How Does This Work Amazon’s Algorithms?
I mentioned above about being able to publish every two weeks. That is now possible with four parts that I can affordably invest two weeks into editing and publishing all the parts. That should steadily build up any sales from other ads I can run on the ebooks.
Yes, that means launching the ebook parts for .99 so the book blogs will do ads for it.
There’s a catch there. This runs counter to all the now-conventional wisdom about how to launch. That 30-day cliff will actually have a steep drop if your book has any sort of unsustained peak. Amazon likes slow and steady sales growth over a longer period of time. They make more money that way, and will tend to keep it selling at that level if they can.
So your ads start after it’s been out for a couple of weeks, and are spread out over those last two weeks that it’s on the “new arrivals” section. This is after the next one is released, and so both books are increasing the sales of the other. The idea is that I have four books which will all leapfrog each other.
The other point of ads is to only use the free ads on these .99 books. The price will raise to $2.99 after they have been out a month, but that’s still not high enough to afford Facebook ads. The trick is to set up some sort of grid of book blogs to contact with that week’s release (which had been out for two weeks.) Half of the blogs trigger through one week, the other half through the second week, then they are alerted to the next book, and so on.
Two weeks after the last part is released, then I launch the entire book as one set. It has bonus material in it that the parts don’t, and vice-versa. This is launched for a couple of weeks at .99 and then jumps to $4.99 where I can afford to start running FB ads. In that case, the book blog ads are changed out a bit to hit both books while they are .99 priced.
You’ll note that I’ve said to have the paperback, and audio versions also available with the ebook, but only running ads on the ebooks. This is because no one has figured out how to run that type of promotion for these other books. (Note that this is an ongoing back-burner research project.)
Once you hit the final book at it’s final price, then FB ads are run weekly to keep those sales up and pay for themselves with increased book sales. You then can inch those sales up profitably from there on out. The full audiobook and audio CD is released as well as the full hardback to match the paperback. That way you get all the versions people want.
One other promotion you have going is to take the audiobook and set each chapter up as a podcast episode. Theoretically, I’ll have about 50 episodes running one per week, and these will then promote the book all year long. I’ll then simply reschedule these episodes to run during the following year after they run out. (Yes, you heard it here first. My other tests have already proved this successful, this being an extension to make these podcasts pay.)
Ad Stacking with Podcast and Radio Interviews
The other promotion I’ll be working up is to get onto podcasts and even radio shows in order to promote the books. The first book-part will become perma-free and will be given away with additional material (such as the first quarter of the final podcast) for their audience in exchange for their emails.
I’ll probably rotate through finding more book blogs to run on the parts, as I can drop those prices for a week or so while the ads are run – as well as the complete book. I think there are a lot of book review blogs which can be contacted, while Grahl doesn’t consider them very effective at raising sales. Tests are tests.
Meanwhile, the Real Work is Started
You’ll note that this book is an introduction to a following book, which is actually an overview of a series of courses. I’m coining (and trademarked) a phrase “Mindset Stacking™” which is a marketing ploy. Since these books are public domain, but all have problems on Amazon as ebooks, I’ll actually be creating a series of study guides for each book on each chapter, which will be able to go up as ebooks on Amazon as original works. These are recorded and become podcasts, and themselves might be split into several 5-minute videos to use on the course. Each chapter would become a module, with 5 lessons each.
This is where building a book backwards from the course comes from. These individual lessons will be just above 2500 words, and so will require 4 of them to be published as a thin paperback with at least 32 pages. Most of these will have 13 lessons, with another 3 bonus lessons to make a round set. Four sets of four will give me over 120 pages, which makes a nice paperback (and hardback, and audiobook, and audioCD.)
That’s per book, and I have four books to receive this treatment.
Meanwhile, the Mindset Stacking Guide will be extracted from the highlights of these four books to lay out a way people can shrug off the mis-programming they’ve been receiving all their lives and fine-tune their mind into an automatic success engine.
You’ll also see that the promotional scene I’ve worked up for this first MYGA book. As I build out these very short reads, they each get promoted and are released two weeks apart. In this case, the thin paperback and audio versions are released with each collection. 8 weeks of singles, then a collection, repeated four times, then the final book is released and gets continuing FB ads until the next book comes out.
If I can get ahead on these, I’ll start simultaneously releasing the other books parallel to the first. In that case, I’ll pre-launch the other ebooks, which keeps them on the New Releases line just that much longer.
Why Do This With Your Own Big Book That’s All But Ready?
You get the advantages of testing your content and ideas and style before you release the whole scene. Then you can adjust. This gives you a way to treat your bo0k like a start up and iterate as you go. “The Martian” and “50 Shades of Gray” did this by blogging the book first for free. Putting these books up on Amazon just makes it more exciting and allows you to build your buying audience from the start.
What you may find is that your audience loves your book more than you think they will. Or you missed the mark slightly. Or it’s only going to be a vanity work if you keep it in that category.
The point is that you can test with a book you’ve nearly got ready, and then the income you get (if it’s successful) can finance finishing the rest of your masterpiece. (I’ve heard the sequel to “50 Shades of Gray” is being written and published this way – two chapters at a time.)
Frankly, if you can keep up the pace of publishing (which is only about 8-10K every two weeks, edited. The cover is the same with variations) then you can build quite a scene while you “feed the beast” without killing yourself off. Yes, the smallest is 2500 words on Kindle, which is probably a chapter. You can use screenwriters format and run about 120 pages, which would be close to 30K words. Split that into four acts (2nd act into two parts) and release your book in four parts as a serial. 7500 words each, a thin paperback on Createspace and a short audio book you can record and edit.
The first part of this book I’m publishing is 12K words. It took me a little over 2 hours to record it and about 10 hours to edit that audio. Again, this is editing the audio from the fourth proof. (But I’ll tell you more about this in the next installment…)
The total book is just around 30K words, and 132 pages. If you run the math above, I may only have three parts to publish, or will have to add in order to get one of these up to minimum paperback length. (Again, I need to go into this in more detail with the next installment…)
The conventional wisdom ideas along this line have been to write 80-100K books and publish every two to three months. Amazon doesn’t reward these, though, since your audience wants your back titles now, not a few months from now when they’ve forgotten you in favor of other authors. Amazon and your readers to reward short pieces coming out every couple of weeks. New readers discovering you can binge all they want to catch up. And you’re getting consistent feedback on your work meanwhile.
I think I’ve covered this before. You could do like several authors and crank out tons of books and publish them a month apart. Or write the whole book like I did and publish the parts of it regularly. Obviously, they are both “long haul” approaches, but the shorter of the two is measured in months, not years. And you see how your doing as your doing.
That’s where I’m headed, as you can see above. It’s more involved for me than you need to get, but I like to work and keep things exciting as I go.
Until next time…