Survive Your Amazon Ranking with a Good Review

Or…The Dragon talks about the Amazon marketing blues today

(this is a re-post from May 2009 at the old dragon blog in response to an Amazon ranking article at this week’s Writers Weekly)

My fantasy novel Choices Meant for Gods had been available at http://tinyurl.com/CMFGamazon for about a day when a friend of mine sent a message through an online group saying something to the effect of OMGlookatyourrankingonamazonlookatitnow. The note may have been in all caps.

I obeyed her to find my ranking at 200,000+. Well, that ain’t half bad for a then-unknown author with only one book out. But I recalled a warning a fellow writer gave at a meeting in the not-so-distant past. He cautioned that your book can perform much better in a day than the numbers/rankings at Amazon reflect. Here’s why: (remember, this was presented at a conference in 2009–Amazon may have upgraded since then)

The great and powerful Oz O’Amazon hides behind his curtain and sorts information every hour. He sends all those computer-language ones and zeroes skittering toward their end equations until, at about some point past the hour, according to the presenter, the rankings at Amazon.com change. This is every hour.

It’s enough to make an author bi-polar. And I don’t think you have to be a fantasy author like me who’s already half way to a state of confusion to develop the condition.

So I looked at my 200,000+ ranking for Choices Meant for Gods when my friend told me to, came back an hour later to a 100,000+ ranking, and visited that night to find a 68,000+ ranking. I was elated. Elated, I tell you! But I have seen numbers all over the board since then. One recent night when I was contemplating the arsenic-laced Kool-aid because my ranking had been down around 1,400,000+, I checked one last time to see what exact figure to include in my suicide note. I found the blasted thing back at 200,000+! How does that happen? (I think that hour’s traffic can be attributed to an Author Island blog post, actually, and I recommend every published author get in touch with DeNita Tuttle for her much-needed support.)

There are other ways authors can manipulate their Amazon rankings. First, I would ask if it’s worth your time and energy. Second, I would caution you against unscrupulous agencies preying upon the insecure or inexperienced in our industry. Beware of PR companies that want to charge a few thousand dollars to get your Amazon ranking up to No. 1. Look closely at what they’re going to do:
* What gimmick or free give-away are they offering when someone buys your book? Maybe you’re cool with a bedroom toy for a free giveaway if you’ve got an erotic romance to promote, but, for the sweet romance couched in my fantasy Choices Meant for Gods, a French tickler would definitely be over the top!
* Who are they going to align you with for promotional purposes? I’ll keep politics out of this blog post, and you probably want to keep political affiliations away from your romance, memoir, sci-fi, or mystery title, too.
* What sort of discount off your book are you going to have to take? If you’re just interested in building audience with a first book or a new genre, maybe giving up a small royalty in your contract is no big deal. For Choices Meant for Gods, I was so pleased to get my foot in the publishing-industry door that I didn’t fear the industry’s warning cry that I’d make no money on the first book. I went in with both eyes open, knowing this is an audience-building venture.
* How much are you going to have to pay? You have to weigh this marketing idea against other promotional and marketing weapons in your arsenal. In this day and age, few publishers hand out copious amounts of cash to authors for promotional efforts. Promoting and marketing your book is your responsibility. Luckily for me, ArcheBooks Publishing has some technologies in place to help its authors and the man in charge is a wiz when it comes to creating banners, flyers, ads for print or web, etc. Also in my favor: ArcheBooks Publishing has a stable of authors who have done this before and they could warn me against the predators who would seek out a fledgling author and scam her with an Amazon-rank-hiking scheme.
* Is your No. 1 ranking guaranteed? Just what will the company you’re paying guarantee to do with your Amazon ranking? Is it guaranteed for an hour? When is that hour—at 2 p.m. on a Saturday or at 3 a.m. on a Wednesday? Or is the No. 1 ranking guaranteed for a day, which I personally define as 24 hours.
These things are often a scam. Let me emphasize that for you. These things are often a scam. Please use your hard-earned money wisely and protect your hard-earned reputation carefully.

Now here’s something you can do to improve not just an arbitrary number, but your sales as well: get some good reviews. Do you know people who have already reviewed books on Amazon.com before? Those are good folks to talk to because they have a track record. Politely request they read and review your exciting new breakthrough work. Now, a person who already has a few reviews under his or her belt will carry more weight than your Aunt Edna who’s never heard of Amazon before, but, hey, if Aunt Edna’s the only person biting right now, she’s better than no review at all! (unless she pans it…)

Beware of site owners who are paying for reviews. Potential buyers will start to pick up on that and get turned off. You’re better off selecting your own reviewers who are doing it because they love stories, love to read, love to offer their opinions and love to get home-baked cookies in the mail. (I’m joking. I’ve never sent cookies to a reviewer…yet.)

And here’s an interesting fact for you. When a five-star review goes up on Amazon, the book’s sales are supposed to increase by 38 percent. That’s nice.

So manipulate the ranking at Amazon.com (or B&N.com) however you wish, but don’t let it rule your life. Seeing it at 200,000+ at 6 p.m. doesn’t reflect the 45 books that sold at 10 a.m., or vice versa. The great and powerful Oz hasn’t perfected a system to make you look good for the whole day with numbers, but you know what? I think you look good because you have a published book! Hooray for you!

And if you’re still working to get your book to that stage, there are tips and tidbits from interviewed authors here at Today the Dragon Wins to help you pursue that goal. We’re all pullin’ for ya.

“Some days, you just want the dragon to win.”

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Another Dragon Story is Out

I’m a couple weeks late announcing this here. I apologize!

My short story titled “Dragons in Crisis–Overcoming Neuroses, One Dragon at a Time” has been released with a variety of great fantasy stories and fantasy authors in the second edition of Winter’s Night magazine. You can order a downloadable digital copy or a snazzy print version with fantastic dragon cover art from the lulu site. Richard Bray, the editor, did a lovely job again this year of gathering a nice mix of fantasy spice.

I also posted an edited version of my dragon story on Smashwords, which you can download for free. I’m going to make you work to find that, though. Why? Because I’m a horrid person. (To be honest, I want you to do a search for me on Smashwords to find all kinds of goodies AND I’d rather you support the writing group that Richard Bray leads with the proceeds from the Winter’s Night magazine.)(You can also pick up the first edition, which contains my short story titled “A Legacy Protected.”)

“Some days, you just want the dragon to win.”

Let’s Set Goals

Call them resolutions. Call them goals. We set them around the first of the new year in an attempt to better ourselves, improve our lives, move our careers forward, etcetera. I’ve got a set of goals in mind that I’d like to share for the sake of just putting them out there for the universe and everybody to see. My hope is that sharing these goals will help me keep them in the forefront of my mind as the year progresses. Here we go.

My first resolution for 2011 is to perform at least some act of promotion or marketing for the furtherance of my book publishing career each and every day of 2011. (For instance, Saturday, Jan. 1, I posted a free read on Smashwords. Sunday, Jan. 2, I sent updates to my website, including two advance excerpts for Choices Meant for All, to my web gal. Tomorrow, Monday, Jan. 3, I’ll post a scene from What Choices We Made Vol II on the Brenda Williamson Romance Party list. I have a variety of blog appearances and speaking engagements already lined up for the spring in addition to postings and whatnot. It’s going to be a full year!)

My second resolution for 2011 is to complete eleven (11) books of novel or novella length. I anticipate there will be a couple of short stories in there, but I have a list of books that are on the roster. Almost ready, you might say. Choices Meant for All is the first comin’ out of the chute. I’ve got the follow-up to Problems on Eldora Prime (Problems Above Pangaea Moon) waiting in the wings. Then there’s a holiday ditty that needs some polishing. I also have my NaNoWriMo piece to finish and edit. There are more. I’ll report back as we dive into March, April, etcetera.

My third resolution is to read more. I started with a mystery novel that tried my patience Saturday. Ugh. But, hey, what can you do? I also read a short fantasy story called The Gauntlet that was delightful. Now, I don’t know that I’m going to take time to write reviews for these things…

I think that’s enough for one person with a day-job.

Have you made resolutions? Goals? A wish-list? I wish you not just a happy, safe, and healthy 2011, but I also wish you much success with the goals you’ve set for yourself. Check in from time to time and let us cheer each other on.

“Some days, you just want the dragon to win.”

Real Life, Writing, and NaNoWriMo

If you’re a writer, you’ve been bombarded with information and “pep talks” concerning National Novel Writing Month, which has just begun. If you’re not a writer, those people in your life who are writers probably look a bit harried right now. They’re seeking peace and refuge so they can get their 1,677 words a day (or whatever the minimum is to hit 50,000 for the month).

I’m not following the daily minimum all that closely because my first week of NaNoWriMo has been rife with life. Yes, the day job required a business trip with air travel and I’ll be headed across the state for a wedding tomorrow. Original plan: I’d type while my date drove. Plan B: my date can’t get out of work after all so I’m driving myself. Now, yes, I am quite adept at writing and driving at the same time, and I’m sure I’ll do this well. But I have a new plan up my sleeve.

I’ve booked a room at the wedding’s resort (because it was actually less expensive than any of the resorts or hotels nearby, if you can believe that) for the night. I have an ocean view with balcony for 21 hours. Factor in Daylight Savings Time issues and I have 22 hours. Factor in late check-out and I can probably eek another hour or two from the hotel proprietor who is stoked to have the tourism business at all.

Yes, I have to take time out to attend the wedding. But, dudes and dudettes, I can walk back to my room, open the computer file, and type like mad.

It doesn’t get any better than that.

Get hungry? Room service, please. I don’t have to make any food. I don’t have to clean up the dishes. I don’t have to make the bed in the morning. Heck, if I don’t feel like it, I don’t have to shower in the morning. Just wipe the drool off my computer keyboard and pour everything into the trunk of the car…off we go.

This is going to be a good NaNo weekend. The dragon in me is pleased.

“Some days, you just want the dragon to win.”

Published in: on November 5, 2010 at 8:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Sword is Mightier Than the Pen

Sandy wields a sword at a weapons shop that also sells her novels.

For my line of work, strangers often assume I’m a crime writer; I think about ways to kill people. But I’m a fantasy author, and, believe it or not, coming up with creative ways to kill off obnoxious characters takes up a lot of my time. It can’t always be “stepped on by dragon” or “eaten by dragon” or “impaled by dragon’s claw.”

You see what I mean.

No matter what your preferred genre, a pen to a character’s jugular (and I mean that on both levels) is a messy yet efficient way to off someone, but the sword holds a special place in my heart. It gets attention. Take a sharp, pointy weapon into a book store (which I do for my book signings) and it garners attention. The sword is mighty attractive.

If you’re an author planning a book signing, consider your table accessories carefully. Heck, plan your accessories for photo shoots. No matter what genre you write, there are some eye-catching objects you can use to attract attention. Care to start a list?

“Some days, you just want the dragon to win.”

Dragon in Motion

Far above the shadowed cave, shafts of light stab down from errant cracks in the mountain. The cavern has become unstable here. In her dream state, she has sensed it.

An observer could hear the smooth scratch of shifting scales. The air moves with thDragon with Sword Illustratione changed rhythm in her breathing. What had once been an uneasy mustiness churns with dust and a fetid, rank meat smell from the moist cavern. She has awakened. She stirs, and a ray of light glances off a patch of onyx scale.

With a groaning of bones she labors to raise her head. The graceful black neck glistens through a shaft of light. The dragon has been asleep for years; only instinct forced her tongue to lash out for the morsels that dared to creep by during her slumber. Now the stink of rotted tidbits offends her as she flares her nostrils at the garbage dotting her bower.

As she drags energy into her muscles she moves a wing for support. This disturbs her treasure-bed. Gold and silver and pretty trinkets cascade from her mound, clanking and clunking to the stones below. The sound is satisfying. Even its echo through the halls of her lair pleases her, but the clutter from sleepy feasting does not. She snorts a vicious blow. Dead things scatter with a clatter, and the lighter of her trophies scratch across the floor. Dust and rocks swirl among them, dinging little clinking sounds.

She’s cleared a path. It’s time for the dragon to move.

Fantasy enthusiasts used to find her on blogger. Now she’s here…at Today The Dragon Wins. Enjoy the journey!

“Some days, you just want the dragon to win.”

Published in: on October 14, 2010 at 1:30 pm  Comments (2)  
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We’ve Moved

Today the Dragon Wins has moved from its former server, where it enjoyed more than four years of simple blogging. As its administrator, Fantasy Author Sandy Lender went out into the world teaching classes on blogging and social media. She built other blogs for other people and left poor TTDW floundering alone…unfledged.

It’s time to take things up a notch. (or more)

Welcome to the new and improved Today The Dragon Wins. We’ll be adding content and features over the next week or so. We may even let Nigel Taiman guest-post…

Published in: on October 13, 2010 at 5:58 pm  Comments (1)  
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