Author Topic: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study  (Read 8851 times)  

Offline Fel Beasley

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 481
    • View Profile
Re: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study
« Reply #25 on: September 21, 2017, 09:20:07 am »
Thanks for all the information in the OP. I love your posts.

I did super cringe at your CPCs. Had you been able to get those down a lot (and fast) I think you'd have had more success with the relaunch. Or at least saved a bit of cash ;)

But managing a successful CPC campaign for a launch (or relaunch) is a lot of work (aka hours). I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who doesn't already run successful CPC campaigns on their other books. Even then, ROI campaigns and launch campaigns are two different beasts. And there's a big risk that you are simply setting money on fire.

Getting visibility on Amazon keeps getting harder, and without some algo love from Amazon (which they are more likely to give to a new release) I'm not sure a big relaunch is a great idea. So I agree with your post. I've found incrementally increasing sales for a series that is older and not selling has a higher chance of success (though that success won't be huge or anything) at a much, much lower risk rather than a short, big burst.

KBoards.com

  • Advertisement
  • ***

    Offline Athena Grayson

    • Status: Jane Austen
    • ***
    • Posts: 336
    • Gender: Female
      • View Profile
      • Athena Grayson
    Re: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study
    « Reply #26 on: September 21, 2017, 09:58:09 am »
    Nick,
    First off, thank you for your analysis! FWIW, here are some random thoughts from someone who's been very good at doing the wrong thing for a long time:

    1.) Get out of KU. Your page-reads don't seem to be making up for the missed opportunities.
    2.) I think your covers are fine, although they're not super-remarkable, and maybe that's what you need--you did good on picking out the "fits the genre" elements, but now you need to also have something that tells the browser how you stand out.
    3.) Selling Urban Fantasy at 99 cents is probably killing you. The average UF reader has the choice of one 50k book for a buck, or an astonishing number of UF box sets featuring twenty whole books for a buck. Your "one for a buck" CANNOT compete with the volume appeal to the volume reader. And you said it yourself--the Zon is about the churn, and the age (relatively speaking) of this series has already tied ankle weights to it. Go up to full price. If you're not selling at 99 cents, you can not-sell about the same amount at 2.99 or 3.99 and come away with more money.
    4.) Do not rule out the fact that shortly after your re-launch, large portions of the United States were experiencing weather and events usually only found in B movies on the SyFy channel. While it is arguably true that the US is not the center of the world, it's a pretty big market, and you were competing for attention with attention grabbers of epic and biblical proportions.

    To those playing the home version of the game show, the churn is one possible way to float up to success, just like the lightning strike. There are things you can do to ride the churn or to goose it, but if they don't work, churn prompts are only going to be as effective as the average beerfart in a whirlwind. Long term, you must ask yourself if the books are ones you want to be known for in two, three, or five years. Do they reflect you as a writer? Do they fit into your body of work? Did you have fun writing them? Do the stories speak to you and the reason you started writing in the first place? What makes them special? Who is the ideal reader that would be changed by this story/series? These questions can help you figure out the long-term viability of a series.

    Space opera with sizzle
    Athena Grayson | site | newsletter | facebook

    Offline Out of Ink

    • Status: Dr. Seuss
    • *
    • Posts: 4
      • View Profile
    Re: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study
    « Reply #27 on: September 21, 2017, 10:18:23 am »
    Thinking about how the math would work, author rank probably has the greatest impact for titles with no data and as a rank tiebreaker. Thus, you're most likely to see an impact at low ranks where the large numbers of authors produce a greater chance of a rank tie by selling the same volume (or none at all) over the same time period. Skilled marketers will quickly generate sales on new releases, elevating their title above the maddening crowd where author/publisher rank will have less effect because of both fewer rank ties and smaller differences between reputations.

    Before you decide on a reset, plot your author rank on a graph with your title ranks. You'll see short term spikes in both and long term trends that will give you a sense of how much inertia the author rank produces. I can see a historical impact in mine, but I'm past the point where a reset makes sense. Consider a reset only if you're near the back of the pack, i.e. no brand value to lose, and you truly get how to market titles now, which is a stretch if you're at the back but possible.

    Quote
    I was told they have already banned the use of duplicate KDP accounts?
    I'm not going to get into a ToS discussion because ToS have never stopped people. They will either achieve their goal in a ToS compliant manner or ignore the terms (frequently w/o consequences).

    Offline Goulburn

    • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
    • ****
    • Posts: 871
      • View Profile
    Re: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study
    « Reply #28 on: September 21, 2017, 10:21:18 am »
    Thank you. Nick for such an honest and interesting read.
    I do not consent to the Sept 2018 TOS change that was made without asking my consent or even offering notification.  If VerticalScope republishes content I own I will sue them for breach of copyright.

    Offline ibizwiz

    • Status: Lewis Carroll
    • **
    • Posts: 138
      • View Profile
    Re: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study
    « Reply #29 on: September 21, 2017, 03:04:01 pm »
    Nick, and Out of Ink, thanks especially to both of you. I'm in fact getting ready to do a relaunch/series completion so Nick's thread is wonderfully timely. Not to mention comprehensive and (as always) honest, with a nice summary of the many potential bumps in the road for a series relaunch campaign.

    Then, as I draft this comment, here comes Mark Cooper!

    The skinny is this. I have 3 neverending series dragging me down (they sell, they give me hope, they have readers DEMANDING MORE BOOKS, but they won't ever be big sellers), and 1 series giving me my 6 figures.

    The future IMO is write lots of trilogies, not gigantic neverending series that if they fail to hit simply drag you down the rabbit hole of hope and despair. I'd release 3 books at a time, and write more trilogies. I'd use the artists I've finally learned are the right ones for my genre covers, I'd stay wide, keep using my facebook page and my newsletters.


    Before I began rewriting the six published novellas into the first two novels of the relaunched series, I studied you experts in here and concluded:

    -   The new series will be a trilogy (of 60-70K novels) with new covers
    -   The various WIP I was drafting for the follow on stories will also be implemented as trilogies, with lots of intriguing cross-story arc links to "hook" readers into those trilogy series as they're published
    -   The trilogy launches will be three at a time
    -   The most popular characters from the relaunched series/trilogy will get their own trilogies over time

    Wow! The successful Mark Cooper has today re-affirmed my basic strategy going forward, and that, coupled with the great comments in this thread are really motivating.

    I'm going to assume that Mark would agree that this three-up, rinse and repeat approach also will yield a steady stream of 9.99 boxed sets.

    In a few areas, I'm not planning to follow Mark's (and others') path. FWIW:

    -   Pricing - Each novel will be priced at 5.99 -- after reading the latest thinking in here, and having decided the folks who like my characters and story will pay more
    -   KU - Since the first trilogy has no significant visibility, the three novels will initially spend at least 90 days in KU. The follow-on trilogies can go wide at the outset. These stories are all "realistic erotica", and the options for going wide with erotica are few, so we'll see going forward
    -   A collection, fairly early in the game, of sexy short stories featuring the younger characters getting into comic troubles 
    -   An active author blog and newsletter, with bonus and fun content targeted at readers of "realistic erotica"
    -   Direct sales - This is my long-term objective as the best hedge against a fickle KDP, and the uneven reliability of the other platforms. I've run ecommerce sites, so it's not scary, especially with all the tools now available to a small indie storefront
    -   Community - Beginning with a true newsletter-based mailing list, we'll build a community of adult readers of richly-developed characters and story-arcs. I was a ten year Amazon Merchant of humorous goods, so know how to integrate related products to the blog sales backend.

    Thank you all again for your comments on the relaunch and series promotion threads! I only wish my MMC's timing was as good as yours!

    Offline Nicholas Erik

    • Status: Scheherazade
    • *****
    • Posts: 1115
      • View Profile
    Re: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study
    « Reply #30 on: September 21, 2017, 04:42:55 pm »
    If you haven't had success with a handful of books but you've learned how to write, publish, and market, try resetting with your next new book. There's little downside with a new account and new content, and no record may be better than trying to overcome a poor one. It's not a pure A|B test but if you do reset, let people know how it goes.

    [snip]
    Of course, the fact that this was done with existing books (and bringing the reviews and history along with them) would quite possibly just bring the author rank along with it in creating a rank for the "new" publisher.
    So, like I said, not a great test, but I still think this was worth sharing.
    And I too would be VERY interested to see if a complete reset would help.

    I was told they have already banned the use of duplicate KDP accounts?

    This is all very interesting, indeed. I would likely do a test if it was easier. I don't think it's against the TOS to have multiple accounts if they're separate entities (e.g. you have a different TIN/EIN for each one, so they're different companies). But don't quote me on that; I'm not a TOS ninja. Nonetheless, even if it's allowed, you might be risking some mix-ups with Amazon KDP service. And it's a logistical pain in the butt, regardless. It'd only be worth it if Amazon's predictive algos were essentially tying lead weights to your account for each new release. Hopefully that's not the case.

    The theory of a pen name's history holding it down has been suggested before. Anecdotally, there have been significant breakouts from people with previously unsuccessful pen names. So I don't know if your name's history acts as a negative or not. I'm inclined to say no - or it's such a minor factor (e.g. the rank tiebreaker that Out of Ink mentioned) that it's not worth the trouble of creating a new pen name for the most part - but there's no way of being sure. And Amazon's algorithms change all the time.


    I did super cringe at your CPCs. Had you been able to get those down a lot (and fast) I think you'd have had more success with the relaunch. Or at least saved a bit of cash ;)

    But managing a successful CPC campaign for a launch (or relaunch) is a lot of work (aka hours). I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who doesn't already run successful CPC campaigns on their other books. Even then, ROI campaigns and launch campaigns are two different beasts. And there's a big risk that you are simply setting money on fire.


    Yes, the CPCs were absurdly high. Part of that is my lack of skill, the other part comes from scaling up too rapidly. Also, a lot of ads just don't scale at all; they might work at $5, but then they're terrible at anything higher. Costs hit a point where they just go vertical. Starting with big daily bids + budgets pretty much guaranteed that I was going to take a bath. Wouldn't do that normally (the launch was a special occasion), but I also wouldn't do it again for a launch.

    @ Athena - I agree; I'm going wide & the titles are $3.99, now (and have been since Aug 20). Maybe seasonality and other outside factors had an influence, maybe not. Hard to say, so I don't tend to worry about acts of God.

    @ Mark Cooper - I like the idea of trilogies as both a writer (to not get bored) and a publisher (to mitigate risk). On the other hand, if you do have a hit with high read-through, a long-running series blows your advertising opportunities wide open - you can spend a (comparatively) enormous amount to acquire a reader, which means you have a virtually endless revenue stream with little competition. I think I'm going to write in trilogy arcs, so that I can cut off a series at 3, but have the option to keep going for as long as it's profitable and readers are interested. This probably varies by genre; some readers were frustrated that I only wrote a trilogy for this series, since UF tends to run many books.

    @ ibizwiz - interesting plan. I know nothing about erotica, which seems like a whole different ball game. I think it'll definitely support higher prices, especially since your new books will be fairly long in a genre where people will pay $2.99 for shorts.

    Nick

    Offline Patty Jansen

    • Status: Harvey Chute
    • *********
    • Posts: 13239
    • Gender: Female
    • Sydney, Australia
    • Destroyer of Science Fiction
      • View Profile
      • Patty Jansen Author of SF and fantasy
    Re: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study
    « Reply #31 on: September 21, 2017, 05:03:51 pm »
    Quote
    On the other hand, if you do have a hit with high read-through, a long-running series blows your advertising opportunities wide open - you can spend a (comparatively) enormous amount to acquire a reader, which means you have a virtually endless revenue stream with little competition. I think I'm going to write in trilogy arcs, so that I can cut off a series at 3, but have the option to keep going for as long as it's profitable and readers are interested.

    This is one of the things I said in the Three-year Plan post. Make sure you have natural rest points in a longer series, where you can let it sit for a bit without feeling incomplete, or walk away from it, either for a while or forever.

    I have a long-running series that I've invested a lot of time in this past year. It has a read-through of as close to 100% as you can get from book 2 onwards, so as long as I keep writing new books and shovelling people into the freebie book 1 funnel, it's printing money. But I plan the books in sets, so that I close off an arc, and I can go and write something else for a while while goosing sales with a Bookbub on book 1 or other forms of advertising. A soft relaunch (which I've done) could focus on a few things:

    I could go for increasing wow appeal through a new cover and nicer design (this is is what I did), in order to woo Bookbub (which I got and was my best-performing Bookbub ever), or I could go for increasing read-through. I would do the latter if readthrough was quite poor, or if there was a genre expectation mismatch. But I chose to do the first, because I could see the appeal, because readthrough was so high.

    Offline TellNotShow

    • Status: Jane Austen
    • ***
    • Posts: 354
      • View Profile
    Re: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study
    « Reply #32 on: September 21, 2017, 05:08:04 pm »
    I was told they have already banned the use of duplicate KDP accounts?
    Which is why my friend "sold" the copyright of her books to her boyfriend. A lot less trouble than her creating a separate new business entity just for that purpose.


     but if they don't work, churn prompts are only going to be as effective as the average beerfart in a whirlwind.

    Your whole comment was great, but this line, this line deserves to be written on the wall in a colourful, large, eye-grabbing font. For more than one reason. We are not only impressed by your logic, we are downright and outright amused. Thank you.


    Before I began rewriting the six published novellas into the first two novels of the relaunched series, I studied you experts in here and concluded:

    -   The new series will be a trilogy (of 60-70K novels) with new covers
    -   The various WIP I was drafting for the follow on stories will also be implemented as trilogies, with lots of intriguing cross-story arc links to "hook" readers into those trilogy series as they're published
    -   The trilogy launches will be three at a time
    -   The most popular characters from the relaunched series/trilogy will get their own trilogies over time

    Wow! The successful Mark Cooper has today re-affirmed my basic strategy going forward, and that, coupled with the great comments in this thread are really motivating.

    I'm going to assume that Mark would agree that this three-up, rinse and repeat approach also will yield a steady stream of 9.99 boxed sets.

    In a few areas, I'm not planning to follow Mark's (and others') path. FWIW:

    -   Pricing - Each novel will be priced at 5.99 -- after reading the latest thinking in here, and having decided the folks who like my characters and story will pay more
    -   KU - Since the first trilogy has no significant visibility, the three novels will initially spend at least 90 days in KU. The follow-on trilogies can go wide at the outset. These stories are all "realistic erotica", and the options for going wide with erotica are few, so we'll see going forward
    -   A collection, fairly early in the game, of sexy short stories featuring the younger characters getting into comic troubles 
    -   An active author blog and newsletter, with bonus and fun content targeted at readers of "realistic erotica"
    -   Direct sales - This is my long-term objective as the best hedge against a fickle KDP, and the uneven reliability of the other platforms. I've run ecommerce sites, so it's not scary, especially with all the tools now available to a small indie storefront
    -   Community - Beginning with a true newsletter-based mailing list, we'll build a community of adult readers of richly-developed characters and story-arcs. I was a ten year Amazon Merchant of humorous goods, so know how to integrate related products to the blog sales backend.

    Thank you all again for your comments on the relaunch and series promotion threads! I only wish my MMC's timing was as good as yours!

    Now this is a PLAN! It's going straight on the wall too. (I am now very carefully not saying anything about the MMC's timing, most particularly in relation to what's going on the wall.)

    Look at all the great strategies coming out of this post of yours, Nick!
    Descent Into Madness: 99%

    How To Win KBoards Friends and Not Puss People Off: 0.1%

    Writing Desk Space Won Back From Dangerous Cat: 0.2%
    All things in moderation

    Offline Yayoi

    • Status: Lewis Carroll
    • **
    • Posts: 196
      • View Profile
    Re: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study
    « Reply #33 on: September 21, 2017, 08:28:13 pm »
    I gotta say, I'm posting this reply even before I read what the OP has to say. He's that good.
    Okay, gotta go reading now.

    Offline Skip Knox

    • Status: Lewis Carroll
    • **
    • Posts: 184
    • Gender: Male
    • Kuna, Idaho
      • View Profile
      • Altearth
    Re: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study
    « Reply #34 on: September 21, 2017, 08:52:20 pm »
    Lots of well-deserved praise here, so I won't repeat all that. I'll only say this:  I'm sufficiently impressed by Nick's posts that I'm going to buy one of his books; and this from someone who flat out does not read urban fantasy.

    Offline ibizwiz

    • Status: Lewis Carroll
    • **
    • Posts: 138
      • View Profile
    Re: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study
    « Reply #35 on: September 22, 2017, 11:44:29 am »
    I was so excited by Mark Cooper's response to Nick's great thread I missed this advice from Athena Grayson:

    Long term, you must ask yourself if the books are ones you want to be known for in two, three, or five years. Do they reflect you as a writer? Do they fit into your body of work? Did you have fun writing them? Do the stories speak to you and the reason you started writing in the first place? What makes them special? .... These questions can help you figure out the long-term viability of a series.

    She has written the necessary, sometimes painful steps in analyzing one's reason for putting up with Amazon, weak platforms, fickle readers, arcane formulas, and more promotional tips and tricks one can count, much less fathom.

    Athena makes me realize I've been thrashing each of these questions ever since I decided to become a self-published author two and a half years back. Putting these questions so clearly would be reason enough to thank her. But with her final questions:

    Quote
    What makes them special? Who is the ideal reader that would be changed by this story/series?

    Athena smacked me upside the head: she's raised the basic, fundamental questions in audience targeting, and I, with nearly a half century in marketing, didn't even think to ask them for our upcoming three-novel series!

    Even more embarrassing, my books are "realistic erotica", and, given the way the Zon and the other platforms abuse erotic sub-genres, one would realize knowing one's reader is critically important, more so than for the thriller writers, or the vanilla romance authors.

    Oh, sure, I've chipped away at Athena's question these past eight months of furious (for me) writing. We figured out that about 40% of the mailing list subbies are male, for example. That raised a big flag, since the stories clearly appeal to adult men, quite apart from the women.

    The Beta readers, all female, tell me that the stories are ultra hot. Cool, but I didn't bother to relate their opinions to their perspective as women with wide worldly experience.

    Now, thanks to Athena, I'm rethinking just who these stories are for. It's always been clear to me that smarter women were the primary audience, in three demographics. But that says little about the story elements these segments will find most engaging. Further, following Athena's insight, assuming we can connect with enough targeted readers, I have to ask if we've devised a story arc that engages them, and written a group of characters that will make most readers wish to share the characters' journey and sexy adventures as more trilogies within the story family are added.

    I won't go into boring (for most) details how this self-examination has changed our launch plan. Suffice to say we'll be running numerous low-budget tests of precisely defined FaceBook audience segments against A/B/C/D blurb copy on the new author website, so we can get much more specific about our "ideal" female reader. Then, we'll do the same for the more shadowy males readers in several likely segments.

    Thanks, Athena, for your cut-through-the-talky-talk advice! If only I'm able to keep it in front of me and our little team going forward.

    Online Crystal_

    • Status: Dostoevsky
    • ******
    • Posts: 3081
    • Gender: Female
    • Portland, OR
      • View Profile
    Re: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study
    « Reply #36 on: September 22, 2017, 12:22:44 pm »
    To be clear, this is my speculation. I don't work for AMZN, and I haven't seen any disclosures about their formula. I know how I would build the algo. Derivative features like Author Rank are an obvious add to refine predictive power.

    There is a risk to total reset: AMZN may decide the content in the new account infringes the original account and ban the reboot; but, hey, as long as you didn't cancel the first account, you can republish and continue as you were. The downside is lost time; plus, if you're successful in a reset that's later shut down, you lose a good brand. Banning duplicates is the most likely outcome in the long-term because if authors find success in resets, AMZN will block the practice. This may seem paradoxical--AMZN punishing authors for success, but it has been their MO from the start with any type of algo manipulation, e.g. free-to-paid ranking transfers, promo spikes, shill reviews, click farms, etc.

    If you haven't had success with a handful of books but you've learned how to write, publish, and market, try resetting with your next new book. There's little downside with a new account and new content, and no record may be better than trying to overcome a poor one. It's not a pure A|B test but if you do reset, let people know how it goes.

    I've wondered this, but I don't think it's the case. But first three books bombed hard and I've still had many other books find success. You never know with Amazon, but I doubt publisher history has a big impact on algos.

    Offline Patty Jansen

    • Status: Harvey Chute
    • *********
    • Posts: 13239
    • Gender: Female
    • Sydney, Australia
    • Destroyer of Science Fiction
      • View Profile
      • Patty Jansen Author of SF and fantasy
    Re: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study
    « Reply #37 on: September 22, 2017, 02:58:42 pm »
    I've wondered this, but I don't think it's the case. But first three books bombed hard and I've still had many other books find success. You never know with Amazon, but I doubt publisher history has a big impact on algos.

    I sometimes feel that people get so hung up about Amazon algos that they throw their most valuable baby out with the bathwater: their existing readers. This is why I'm not at all a fan of all this pen name division of audiences.

    I noticed that Nick also has multiple pen names. I think this ultimately harms far more than it helps.

    People get starry-eyed for new changes with virgin names and new series and poplists and HNR lists and yadda yadda yadda, but when you do something like that, you ditch all the readers you already had. I fail to see why that is beneficial. Oh, but the ALGORITHMS! Seriously, algorithms, schmalgorithms. It's about your readers who like your fiction and have already liked your fiction.

    So, if you're like Nick and spent that much on a mailing list, you want to make sure that you advertise all your books at them. ALL of them. Not just these ones in this little pen name over here. Those are the people who will make a book fly or sink because they are your readers. And if they're not, you sort them out until they are.

    It seems to me that far too much of relaunching hinges on the nebulous hope that somehow it will tickle different algorithms.

    Earlier this year I relaunched a novella I wrote a few years back. It almost sold to a trad magazine, but it fell through and I couldn't be bothered to send it back onto the submission circuit so I published it for a look-see under a pen name. Well, no one looked and no one saw. I had no audience for that name, and I realised soon that having an extra pen name would cost far more work than I was willing to put into it, so I let it sit. I unpublished the thing a while back, and did a new cover. Republished with a new title under my own name. Sold 500 copies. Most of them to my list, my audience. I know, because I could see the affiliate links come in. The thing is still selling.

    Offline ibizwiz

    • Status: Lewis Carroll
    • **
    • Posts: 138
      • View Profile
    Re: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study
    « Reply #38 on: September 22, 2017, 03:31:48 pm »
    I sometimes feel that people get so hung up about Amazon algos that they throw their most valuable baby out with the bathwater: their existing readers. This is why I'm not at all a fan of all this pen name division of audiences.

    I noticed that Nick also has multiple pen names. I think this ultimately harms far more than it helps.


    Thanks, Patty, for this comment and for oh, say, about a hundred others since I've been a KBoarder. Your experience and others have affirmed my decision to build my chosen pen name rather than dilute it. Earlier this year, as I was planning my relaunch and series completion, I briefly toyed with rolling out one of the WIP trilogies under another name. Not so much to reshape the algos -- I agree that most authors place far too much emphasis on Amazon's reputed and alleged algorithmic manipulations. My thought was to develop an alternate persona and reputation. I even went so far as to begin developing a kind of "parallel" world to that described in the first three (scheduled) trilogies -- nine books --in the new scheme as outlined by Mark Cooper.

    Then it hit me: the readers I want will, if I do my writing job well, tend to like any book in the vast story arc I've mapped out for all my trilogies and supporting one-off promo books. Why then would I want to confuse their loyalty? I settled on doing as you say, instead: all the trilogies will be by the same author, and set in the same "world" as the other books.

    Full disclosure: This is a lot easier for me than for most long stroy arc authors. My "world" is simply an overlay on the very real one we live in right now. All I had to do was re-write the relaunch set of three novels to "plug in" some characters and events and secret entities that were originally conceived for the future WIP series. Now, all share the same reality, and common history and background. A new event or major MC can have an impact across the entire family of trilogies, if that's useful.

    Offline Lefevre

    • Status: Jane Austen
    • ***
    • Posts: 304
      • View Profile
    Re: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study
    « Reply #39 on: September 22, 2017, 03:40:42 pm »
    Thanks Nick! Great post.
    Lefevre

    Offline sela

    • Status: Scheherazade
    • *****
    • Posts: 1607
    • Gender: Female
      • View Profile
    Re: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study
    « Reply #40 on: September 22, 2017, 06:18:32 pm »
    Great post, Nick -- I did something similar in 2015 and saw pretty good results, but times were different at that time. Also, different genre (Paranormal Romance).

    What I did:

    1. New covers
    2. Permafree first in series wide
    3. Started Facebook ads for Boxed Set and permafree
    4. Got a Bookbub

    ETA1: I should put in some $$$.

    New Covers: $499 for 4 books and 1 boxed set.
    $30 for stock photos used in covers
    Facebook ads: $10K or thereabouts
    $300ish for a free Bookbub.

    Definitely got a good ROI -- about 282% ROI.

    Who can say what helped most?

    I would suggest the permafree first in series and wide plus advertising back when Facebook was just getting started for Indies (IOW after Mark Dawson's course on Facebook ads ;) ) However, Bookbub was indispensable but I didn't get one until after I had success with Facebook ads and got some better rank and reviews.

    Everything changed for my series, as you can see. It went from underperforming to doing pretty well.

    Here are the results of my big push in 2015:



    ETA: Actually, I realize I haven't included data for Smashwords in this table. So you can add on another maybe $20K in 2015 & 2016. I don't have access to my data for Smashwords as easily as the other retailers and I forgot about them! Will work on it and post a revised table but you get the drift. Relaunching and trying different stuff with advertising and price worked for me.
    « Last Edit: September 22, 2017, 06:35:42 pm by sela »
    The Author Formerly Known As Sela

    Offline TellNotShow

    • Status: Jane Austen
    • ***
    • Posts: 354
      • View Profile
    Re: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study
    « Reply #41 on: September 22, 2017, 06:31:51 pm »
    Re relaunches, I stumbled across something interesting on Amazon just now.
    Seems HM Ward has recently done some repackaging/relaunching of a series she sold (literally) millions of books from. And at this early stage -- going by Amazon ranking alone, which is not the full story of course -- they're kinda failing.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0748NJZ4L/ is Book One.
    It's been out almost two months and is currently ranked 285,000. And it only has five reviews.
    This book is marketed as a "Psychological Thriller" and is actually books 1-4 of the series, The Arrangement.
    Thing is, The Arrangement is still available, and is marketed as New Adult Romance.
    However, the "new" book has two very short chapters added at the start, which is presumably what make it a psychological thriller. No idea if other changes will be made in subsequent books. There's nothing about that on the Amazon sales page.

    It has a really great cover, IMO. That's how I noticed it. Great title too. "The Girl by the Grave"
    Book Two's been out a few days, and it's ranked 179,000. No reviews yet.

    Now, I know nothing about these books except what I just said. For all I know they'll burn up the charts soon on the back of some promo. Or maybe they're just a victim of their own previous success. No idea.
    Whatever the problem is, the results, on amazon.com at least, are not good.

    Yes, I know each case is different, and everyone's mileage may vary. But Nick is one of the most knowledgeable marketers around, and while he admits he could have done some things better, I'm 100% certain that I would have done some of those things worse.
    So I'm absolutely not going to relaunch anything. I'm going to concentrate on new stuff, and be grateful that some of my old stuff continues to sell a bit.
    Because it also seems to me that if a popular writer and master marketer like HM Ward can be having such poor early results relaunching books from a series that's sold 13 MILLION copies, I'm not sure how wise it would be of us mere mortals to do so unless at least one of the three things listed below apply. Or probably two of them:

    Quote
    Quote from: Patty Jansen on September 19, 2017, 11:27:35 PM

    1. The covers are laughably bad, but you can see potential in the series
    2. The series has out-earned its original covers and there is money for a relaunch (I've done this)
    3. You like burning money




    Descent Into Madness: 99%

    How To Win KBoards Friends and Not Puss People Off: 0.1%

    Writing Desk Space Won Back From Dangerous Cat: 0.2%
    All things in moderation

    Offline Anita Chance

    • Status: Dr. Seuss
    • *
    • Posts: 46
      • View Profile
    Re: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study
    « Reply #42 on: September 22, 2017, 06:38:32 pm »
    Great post. Thanks for going to the  effort to document all this and share it. I wrote a book I had some success with a few years ago, but things have changed a lot since then, and I need all the advice I can get!!


    Anita Chance | Facebook

    Offline Patty Jansen

    • Status: Harvey Chute
    • *********
    • Posts: 13239
    • Gender: Female
    • Sydney, Australia
    • Destroyer of Science Fiction
      • View Profile
      • Patty Jansen Author of SF and fantasy
    Re: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study
    « Reply #43 on: September 22, 2017, 06:50:15 pm »
    Quote
    Because it also seems to me that if a popular writer and master marketer like HM Ward can be having such poor early results relaunching books from a series that's sold 13 MILLION copies, I'm not sure how wise it would be of us mere mortals to do so unless at least one of the three things listed below apply. Or probably two of them:

    Maybe I should add a 3a: when it's so blatantly obvious that you're trying to sucker onto a trend. That does not feel genuine. Good cover, but really? Really, really? I would think once you have a brand you stick to your own brand and attempts to copycat will backfire.

    Just one more thing and it's probably going to come across as a bit snarky, so forgive me.

    We all love Nick's detailed posts about all the stuff he tried and the results of these experiments. I mean that seriously. But. A good marketer, I don't think he ain't, because a good marketer would have aced a relaunch or not bothered.

    Not saying I am a good marketer (far from it), but the value in Nick's posts is that he explains what he did and what the results were. That alone may eventually make him a good marketer, but at the moment he's experimenting. I really wish people would see these posts in this light, because I (sadly) see people burning a lot of money in relaunches "because some respected peeps on the KB said you should".

    Please be careful. Don't gamble money you can't afford to lose.

    Offline Jack Krenneck

    • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
    • ****
    • Posts: 1000
      • View Profile
    Re: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study
    « Reply #44 on: September 22, 2017, 07:30:24 pm »

    Flavors of Relaunching

    Relaunching has a range of definitions, so let's cover the most common ones:

    1) optimization: basically a brush-up of your Amazon page. Usually free stuff, like categories, the blurb and so forth - fixing obvious problems. Might include doing some marketing, if you haven't done any, or didn't do it properly the first time around.
    2) reskin: you get a new cover, maybe brush up a few things in the book itself (say the intro sucks), tweak the blurb, do more advertising. Maybe you take the book wide, or put it in KU to shake things up.
    3) all-out: you re-tool the entire book/series, new cover, new blurb, tons of advertising
    4) all-out + new ASIN: resets the clock on the 90 day cliffs.

    I've done the first three. Not the fourth. Frankly, they've almost always been a waste of time and money. Optimization is low-risk and low-cost, so it's where you should start, but it can quickly become a time-suck as you change things just for the sake of it. This is not to say that some of you wouldn't benefit from doing these things - again, if the presentation of your work is bad right now, then any of these might be in order. But if something isn't clearly broken, then a relaunch generally is not the answer. It's either the book, the market, or something intangible/"hidden."

    If I was insistent on doing a relaunch, however, and was going to invest a decent amount, I would absolutely do #4. Get that extra algo love.


    Good post, as usual.

    Item 4 on that relaunch list is the one that strikes me as optimizing the chances of success. But wouldn't you be worried about getting dinged in reviews by people who have purchased the book in its previous incarnation?

    If a book has only sold a few hundred copies before being launched with a new ASIN, then no problems. But what if a book has sold several thousand copies? This is less than a drop of water in an ocean of potential sales - but surely some people will accidentally re-purchase it, and they wouldn't be happy when they realized this...

    One way around this would be to mention it's a relaunch in the blurb. But some people don't read blurbs. Also, I don't think mentioning it is good marketing. It will only turn people off the book.

    Even with this potential issue, an all-out relaunch is an attractive temptation for a book that never really hit its stride...but that might the second time around...
    « Last Edit: September 22, 2017, 07:32:32 pm by Jack Krenneck »

    Offline kathrynoh

    • Status: Arthur C Clarke
    • *****
    • Posts: 2609
    • Gender: Female
    • Melbourne, Australia
      • View Profile
      • Kathryn O'Halloran
    Re: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study
    « Reply #45 on: September 22, 2017, 07:40:56 pm »
    Great post, Nick.

    One of the things I've found is that there is not only an opportunity cost in finishing a non-performing series but it's something that will erode your audience. Release one book that doesn't resonate with your readers and they will just ignore it but, by the time you've released three books they've stopped opening your emails or unsubscribed. Your readers just stop being excited. Even if you're releasing a book a month, that's three months where you've not engaged people. You've become a writer who doesn't write books they like, in their minds. I know I get mails where I see the sender name and mentally think I don't deal with that person/business even though I've forgotten the reason why.

    Killing an under performing series is definitely a smart option especially if you have an established reader base. The series doesn't work for them and maybe it will eventually find a new audience but that's a risky thing. If you want to finish it for some reason, it's a labour of love or you've written the entire series before release, etc then stagger the releases.

    Doing nothing can be a worthwhile thing. About 18 months ago, I released a 5-part serial, spent a decent amount on the launch and it never caught on. Because I was doing a quick release schedule, I'd written all the books before assessing that it was a bomb. It gets good sell through, close to 100%, from #1 but the problem was not enough people picking up the first book.

    I panicked, trying to work out how I could get it happening then decided to do nothing with it. It doesn't really mesh well with my other books on that pen name and I don't plan on writing any more in that sub-genre.  I put it wide, made #1 permafree and threw the occasional $5 or $10 promo at it. It's just sat there, making a bit of money every month- on a good month, edging into triple figures. I figured out this month that's finally in the black. Maybe I'd make more from it if I tinkered around with a relaunch but maybe it'd just be throwing good money after bad. Not just money but time and head space too. The alternative is that I can keep doing nothing and have it earn a bit every month forever :)

    Offline anniejocoby

    • Status: Arthur C Clarke
    • *****
    • Posts: 2182
    • Gender: Female
      • View Profile
    Re: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study
    « Reply #46 on: September 22, 2017, 08:38:41 pm »
    Great post, Nick! I read every word, as I always do with your posts. I agree, totally, about killing off series early. Basically, my rule of thumb is that if I release Book One, and it doesn't hit, I might release one more book, and make the first book permafree, and then assess. If the sell-through is anemic (<2% during promo months), then it's time to pull the plug. I went through three series where I kept on writing books in those series, long after I knew that the series were duds, and it was months and months of wasted energy on my part. Energy that should have been going towards something that might actually resonate.

    And I tried everything with those three series. Different covers. Sunk thousands into that. Facebook ads, a lineup of heavy-hitting promo sites. Nothing. I even got a BookBub ad for one of the funnels for one of the underperforming series. That did nothing. When BookBub doesn't work to revitalize things, it's time to face facts. Nothing is going to make that turkey fly.

    I know that there's a thought around these boards that you're supposed to keep on writing in an underperforming series, because people don't pick up the series until there's three books in the series, or whatever, but here's my thought - that conventional wisdom, about keep on producing long after the series failed to catch on, is probably for brand-new writers who don't have a name. But, once you have at least a small fan base, you really shouldn't keep on throwing good books after bad. IMO.

    Plus, I don't think that's necessarily true that fans will wait until there's a bunch of books in a series before they try it. I believe that Annie Bellet knew right away that her series was a hit - from the first book. In my current series, my first book stuck pretty well the entire time, even before there was a Book Two. I just kinda think that the handwriting is on the wall after the first book, although I could be wrong. That's just been my experience - if Book One doesn't take off, it's kinda time to reassess.

    YMMV and all that...
    « Last Edit: September 22, 2017, 08:52:53 pm by anniejocoby »

    Two dollars! Two dollars! I want my two dollars!!!
    Annie Jocoby | Annie Jocoby website

    Offline sela

    • Status: Scheherazade
    • *****
    • Posts: 1607
    • Gender: Female
      • View Profile
    Re: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study
    « Reply #47 on: September 22, 2017, 09:31:43 pm »
    There are several reasons why a series might be underperforming:

    1. The series does not appeal to a large audience.
    2. The quality of the writing gets in the way of sales. No sell through is a big tell in this case.
    3. Improper marketing -- categories, keywords, covers, blurbs, leading to a lack of visibility.
    4. Lag time between launches.

    In case #1, there's really not much you can do. Even if you reached every potential reader in your target market, you might not make much money on that cross genre non-tropey category-bending story.

    In case #2, you can get an edit, either line or developmental, which might help you see the story's flaws and fix them. I remember early days in the series I posed above when I got beta readers who offered suggestions and when I made the edits, wow. The result was significant. A good edit can make a story flow better, get rid of writerisms, and help with pace and other issues. I find issues with pace are key. A great opening and a great pace (appropriate to your genre) keeps readers turning the pages and wanting to buy the next book in the series.

    In case #3, the right categories and keywords can mean that your book is put in front of the right potential readers. The covers and blurbs may make your book irresistible to those readers once they see it.  If your potential readers never see your book because it's mis-categorized or has bad covers or an unappealing blurb, they may never click on that purchase button. You can fix this by recategorizing, revising blurbs, and getting genre-appropriate covers. You can also help by advertising to the right readers, using comparable authors and books as interests in whatever platform you choose to advertise. That's a good way to find readers who like your kind of book.

    In case #4, those readers who are impatient to read the next book in a series may forget your name when they move on to someone else. Unless you are a huge seller, this is quite possible. I had someone who bought my first big seller back in 2013 who only learned three years later that Book 2 was out. It happens. The longer you go between launches, the greater the chance that your first readers will forget about you.

    I think you can definitely relaunch a series that is faltering or that never took off. The issue is whether you have a product that has a market and whether you have been unsuccessful in getting the book in front of that market. Once you do, it's possible to find success.

    My series is a case in point. The first three books sold pretty poorly in the first years. The original covers were not appropriate to the market. The first books were not edited beyond a proofread and so there were a number of places where the pace and prose could be improved. Nothing much happened until I got new covers and went wide with a permafree first book. The series started to sell. I also started to advertise the boxed set and that's when things definitely improved. Every book sold better. I released the next book and the series made mid-five figures that year and the next year.

    I only spent a lot of money on advertising once the series was showing a positive ROI. I made enough money and more so that advertising was well-worth the price. In other words, I put in minimum investment in advertising and relaunching up front until I saw results and then I doubled down. I didn't go all out before the relaunch and spend thousands of dollars. I spent about $550 total on new covers and nothing to go wide with a permafree first in series. Once sales started to increase, I considered advertising and took Mark Dawson's Facebook Ads course. I started out with $5 a day ads and when that showed results, I upped spend to probably $50 a day and had 300 - 400% ROI for months. Facebook ads kicked my series into high gear. THEN and only then did I finally get a Bookbub, which meant my books sold even more with a nice long tail.

    This is the chart from Book Report for the series in 2015. You can see I was in KU 1.0 in January. I pulled my books out in February and put them all wide by March 2015. I started to advertise in April and you can see the step up in revenue in April and May and then a slight decrease in June. In July, I had my very first Bookbub for the series -- a free promo for the first in series. You can see it was a very good  month. The revenues dropped back down in August and I pulled it off wide distribution in September and put it in KU 2.0 but you can see the 30-day cliffs clearly like a stair case going down. I pulled it back wide in December and ended the year back at a pretty low level because of my stint in KU. Of course, this is a graph just of Amazon and doesn't show the revenues from iBooks, B&N, Kobo and Google Play but you can see how fortunes changed on Amazon over the course of the year.

    So yeah. Maybe most underperforming series are best to stop and the author move on to something new. But my example shows it can be done and you can improve performance of a series with editing, new covers, blurbs, categories, keywords, ads, and promos plus finishing the series. You don't have to sink a lot of money into it and probably should be cautions, watching performance to see how it goes before doing a huge spend. Start minimally and increase as you see positive results.

    The Author Formerly Known As Sela

    Offline jaehaerys

    • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
    • ****
    • Posts: 975
      • View Profile
    Re: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study
    « Reply #48 on: September 23, 2017, 09:19:55 am »
    There are several reasons why a series might be underperforming:

    1. The series does not appeal to a large audience.
    2. The quality of the writing gets in the way of sales. No sell through is a big tell in this case.
    3. Improper marketing -- categories, keywords, covers, blurbs, leading to a lack of visibility.
    4. Lag time between launches.

    In case #1, there's really not much you can do. Even if you reached every potential reader in your target market, you might not make much money on that cross genre non-tropey category-bending story.

    In case #2, you can get an edit, either line or developmental, which might help you see the story's flaws and fix them. I remember early days in the series I posed above when I got beta readers who offered suggestions and when I made the edits, wow. The result was significant. A good edit can make a story flow better, get rid of writerisms, and help with pace and other issues. I find issues with pace are key. A great opening and a great pace (appropriate to your genre) keeps readers turning the pages and wanting to buy the next book in the series.

    In case #3, the right categories and keywords can mean that your book is put in front of the right potential readers. The covers and blurbs may make your book irresistible to those readers once they see it.  If your potential readers never see your book because it's mis-categorized or has bad covers or an unappealing blurb, they may never click on that purchase button. You can fix this by recategorizing, revising blurbs, and getting genre-appropriate covers. You can also help by advertising to the right readers, using comparable authors and books as interests in whatever platform you choose to advertise. That's a good way to find readers who like your kind of book.

    In case #4, those readers who are impatient to read the next book in a series may forget your name when they move on to someone else. Unless you are a huge seller, this is quite possible. I had someone who bought my first big seller back in 2013 who only learned three years later that Book 2 was out. It happens. The longer you go between launches, the greater the chance that your first readers will forget about you.

    I think you can definitely relaunch a series that is faltering or that never took off. The issue is whether you have a product that has a market and whether you have been unsuccessful in getting the book in front of that market. Once you do, it's possible to find success.

    My series is a case in point. The first three books sold pretty poorly in the first years. The original covers were not appropriate to the market. The first books were not edited beyond a proofread and so there were a number of places where the pace and prose could be improved. Nothing much happened until I got new covers and went wide with a permafree first book. The series started to sell. I also started to advertise the boxed set and that's when things definitely improved. Every book sold better. I released the next book and the series made mid-five figures that year and the next year.

    I only spent a lot of money on advertising once the series was showing a positive ROI. I made enough money and more so that advertising was well-worth the price. In other words, I put in minimum investment in advertising and relaunching up front until I saw results and then I doubled down. I didn't go all out before the relaunch and spend thousands of dollars. I spent about $550 total on new covers and nothing to go wide with a permafree first in series. Once sales started to increase, I considered advertising and took Mark Dawson's Facebook Ads course. I started out with $5 a day ads and when that showed results, I upped spend to probably $50 a day and had 300 - 400% ROI for months. Facebook ads kicked my series into high gear. THEN and only then did I finally get a Bookbub, which meant my books sold even more with a nice long tail.

    This is the chart from Book Report for the series in 2015. You can see I was in KU 1.0 in January. I pulled my books out in February and put them all wide by March 2015. I started to advertise in April and you can see the step up in revenue in April and May and then a slight decrease in June. In July, I had my very first Bookbub for the series -- a free promo for the first in series. You can see it was a very good  month. The revenues dropped back down in August and I pulled it off wide distribution in September and put it in KU 2.0 but you can see the 30-day cliffs clearly like a stair case going down. I pulled it back wide in December and ended the year back at a pretty low level because of my stint in KU. Of course, this is a graph just of Amazon and doesn't show the revenues from iBooks, B&N, Kobo and Google Play but you can see how fortunes changed on Amazon over the course of the year.

    So yeah. Maybe most underperforming series are best to stop and the author move on to something new. But my example shows it can be done and you can improve performance of a series with editing, new covers, blurbs, categories, keywords, ads, and promos plus finishing the series. You don't have to sink a lot of money into it and probably should be cautions, watching performance to see how it goes before doing a huge spend. Start minimally and increase as you see positive results.




    Thank you for this post, Sela, it's very helpful!  :)


    Offline Nicholas Erik

    • Status: Scheherazade
    • *****
    • Posts: 1115
      • View Profile
    Re: The $3k Relaunch: A Detailed Case Study
    « Reply #49 on: September 24, 2017, 08:17:46 am »
    Thanks, Sela, for your two detailed posts - they've already been quoted, so I won't requote them. Always good to have a counterpoint. This has sparked a good conversation.

    Thanks for the comments and anyone (Skip mentioned it specifically, but anyone lurking) who bought the books. That's wasn't the goal (or a goal) of sharing by any means, but thanks.

    I've wondered this [that pen name history impacts future books' ranks], but I don't think it's the case. But first three books bombed hard and I've still had many other books find success. You never know with Amazon, but I doubt publisher history has a big impact on algos.

    I'm leaning this way, too, although there's a tiny dash of hope skewing the scale, merely because it would be super-annoying if accounts/pen names were heavily weighed down by past performance. My new pen name did a lot better than the old one, but that's mainly because I wrote better books and had a better idea of what people wanted.

    Great post, Nick.

    One of the things I've found is that there is not only an opportunity cost in finishing a non-performing series but it's something that will erode your audience. Release one book that doesn't resonate with your readers and they will just ignore it but, by the time you've released three books they've stopped opening your emails or unsubscribed. Your readers just stop being excited. Even if you're releasing a book a month, that's three months where you've not engaged people. You've become a writer who doesn't write books they like, in their minds. I know I get mails where I see the sender name and mentally think I don't deal with that person/business even though I've forgotten the reason why.

    Yeah, optimally we'd all get to the point where readers will wait, regardless. That's rarified air, not air I've tasted, but what the real purpose, I think, of all these marketing efforts is: to get readers excited about your storytelling voice and style, and willing to follow you through a few duds or books that don't resonate with them specifically. Hard to get there, but the "resilient" authors who have survived through many changes seem to have this quality.

    Good post, as usual.

    Item 4 [the full relaunch with new cover/ASIN] on that relaunch list is the one that strikes me as optimizing the chances of success. But wouldn't you be worried about getting dinged in reviews by people who have purchased the book in its previous incarnation?

    I see most authors doing such a relaunch specifically state at the bottom of the blurb that the book was previously published under a different title/pen name (if applicable). Seems like the standard go-to practice, so wouldn't worry about turning buyers off. I think they'll appreciate the heads-up. There might be a couple people who mistakenly pick up the book again, but I wouldn't be too worried about an influx of negative review scores. Most readers will just return it if they buy a duplicate copy.

    Great post, Nick! I read every word, as I always do with your posts. I agree, totally, about killing off series early. Basically, my rule of thumb is that if I release Book One, and it doesn't hit, I might release one more book, and make the first book permafree, and then assess. If the sell-through is anemic (<2% during promo months), then it's time to pull the plug. I went through three series where I kept on writing books in those series, long after I knew that the series were duds, and it was months and months of wasted energy on my part. Energy that should have been going towards something that might actually resonate.

    Annie brings up a good point: it's a good idea to develop your own mental heuristics/rules of thumb specific to your own career. Having these principles in place can cut through the fog on what to do next when it comes time to make difficult decisions. Otherwise, it's way too easy to get spun for a loop, where even good information that might not be relevant to your goals can distract you.

    Book recommendation to anyone interested in that mode of thinking: Principles by Ray Dalio. Boring name, great advice.

    Nick

    KBoards.com

    • Advertisement
    • ***