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Looking at numbers, part 2

Part 1 is here and it talks about the numbers without giving specifics, but this post will.

No, not sales numbers. Clicks. And not clicks for something I’m trying to sell. This is a situation where “click” = “something people already paid for.”

Obviously, I’m talking about Kickstarter backers getting copies of my new book, plus.

Some background:

Because I had to get ebooks to almost 1200 people, I couldn’t send a flood of emails, especially ones with attachments over 5 or 10MB. That would have gotten me blacklisted by a bunch of ISPs (don’t ask me how I know that).

So I set up a newsletter program that would automate the emails, spreading them out over many hours. I also uploaded the ebooks to a folder on my website so I could send download links instead of attachments.

Finally, I did my best to make things as simple as possible. The email subject line was “The Great Way ebooks are here!” to be totally unambiguous. The list of books included cover pics. The download links were alone in their own section with a single line of text for each of the links. This is what it looked like (behind the cut) for people who backed at $25 or above. Backers at $12 had two fewer covers.

I’m sure there are marketing/design professionals who could have done better, but that’s the best I could do.

So how many people clicked through?

The first email, which contained two stretch goal books and the first novel in the trilogy, went to 82 people on Wednesday. (That’s how many backers I had at the $12 level.) As of the writing of this email, on Saturday night,

23 (28%) people have opened the email without clicking on the links.
34 (41.5%) have opened the email and clicked a link inside.
25 (30.5%) have not opened the email at all.

I’m a little stymied by the 23 people who opened the email but didn’t bother to download their books. Didn’t like the covers, maybe?

A second email went out afterwards: this one contained five books, the whole trilogy and two stretch goal novels. That image above is what people received. It went to 1080 backers.

261 (24.2%) opened the email but didn’t click a link
584 (54.1%) opened the email and clicked a link
235 (21.8%) never opened the email

I guess I understand the people who didn’t open the email. Maybe they gave Kickstarter an address they don’t check much. Maybe I was caught in spam traps. I do know that I had to fill out one of Earthlink’s ridiculous white list forms. I didn’t hear from that backer again; I hope she got her books. Maybe, after a year and two months, they just didn’t care anymore?

Of all 1162 emails, three came back as undeliverable, which I assume gets lumped in with the non-openers. Only three bounces is pretty good, but MailPoet doesn’t break them out from people who have not opened the email. (How could it?)

If this were marketing, I’d be pretty happy about those percentages. Unfortunately, it’s not. It’s fans of mine who are owed something, and I can’t even get their attention to accept it.

Case in point: along with the stretch goals in this email, there was another that I released last July. It was a short fiction collection, and it included a Twenty Palaces novelette.

You know what people are always asking for? More Twenty Palaces. The first review for The Way Into Chaos on Amazon slammed it for not being Twenty Palaces. Readers like Ray, they like the mysterious setting, they like the dark and desperate tone, they like the noirish sensibility without the trench coat pastiche, and they’re always asking for more. So I created it and sent them the link to the collection through Kickstarter messages.

But with this system I had no way to know if people downloaded the file. So, when I sent out the address survey (KS allows only one survey per project), I asked people: “Did you go to [site] to download your copy of this this short fic collection? Yes, I have/No, and I don’t want to/No, but I will now.

Results?

0.5% Didn’t want a short fiction collection with a Twenty Palaces story in it.
51% Had already downloaded the collection
48% hadn’t downloaded it before but said they would now.

These numbers aren’t perfect, because it’s only people who responded to the survey, so there are a bunch of answers I couldn’t get. Let’s assume those non-responders would lean heavily toward the segment that hadn’t picked up the book.

Still, even ignoring them, 502 people wanted the collection with the 20P story in it but didn’t have it yet, despite the fact that I’d messaged them about it, blogged about it several times, pushed it on Twitter, Facebook, G+, Tumblr, LiveJournal, and Dreamwidth, and it had been on sale for weeks at online ebook vendors everywhere.

More Twenty Palaces is what people tell me, over and over, that they want, but I hardly get them to take it, even when they’ve already paid.

Let’s be honest here: Obscurity is the enemy. It’s not piracy, not censorship, not new technology, and it’s certainly not “gatekeepers” of any kind. It’s extraordinarily difficult to catch the attention even of people who want to give it.

I operate in an attention economy, and I won’t become one of the attention upper class with terrible marketing stunts. I need books that people want to recommend to each other with great enthusiasm, and if/once I have that, I need the lucky twist that will make my books break wide.

Until then, I’m still struggling to get the attention of my own fans.

PS: I have a new book out that you would like. You should buy a copy.

Mirrored from Harry Connolly. You can comment here but not there.

Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
blairmacg
Dec. 22nd, 2014 04:38 pm (UTC)
It's definitely a competition for limited/fractured time. I first saw your email when I a) wasn't in the middle of something else, and b) wasn't also hit with three or four other emails in need of a lengthy response, and c) had more than 30 minutes before another commitment. So I saw it, clicked it, and downloaded the books.

I can't tell you how fucking rare it is for all those things to align. Most times I'll see a Kickstarter fulfillment and think, "Cool! I'll take care of that after I (insert task achievement)." Then other stuff happens, or the email scrolls below the first page and I forget.

Since this is an issue of time commitment in my life, there's not much you can do. :) But it's the primary reason I--as a reader/consumer--don't for a moment understand the "never send more than once-a-month marketing tweet/email/facebook post to your fans!" brigade. I'm busy. I need reminders. And I'm in sufficient control of my attention-filters to scroll past a repeated tweet/email/post, so I don't find repeats about sales, availability, and such to be bothersome.

Once an hour, every hour, for weeks? Excessive. Once a day, every couple days, for a couple weeks? Doesn't even register as an issue for me. Writers (myself included) are competing with every other commitment in the reader's life.

Aaaand I almost went on to a long discussion about marketing theories, sense of urgency, and creating the appearance of convenience, before deciding I'm going on too long. :)
burger_eater
Dec. 22nd, 2014 05:49 pm (UTC)
There's a wide variety of tolerances for this stuff. Too little and people feel neglected/forget about you. Too much and they feel that their time is being wasted and just delete things unread, even if it's something they want. It's hard to find a sweetspot between them because responses are so scattered. At the time I started, though, everyone was annoyed at the flood of Veronica Mars updates.

Besides, updating only once a month makes things easier on me. Less work.

Anyway, if you can imagine an author who, as soon as you saw they had something new on the market, you cast everything else aside to get it now now now... well, that's where I'm trying to put myself.
blairmacg
Dec. 23rd, 2014 12:01 am (UTC)
At the time I started, though, everyone was annoyed at the flood of Veronica Mars updates.

Ah, I get it. I see those sorts of status updates differently (yeah, they bug the crap out of me if they come more than once every couple, three days) than fulfillment reminders.

But I'm apparently an oddball outlier as a marketing target, so I tend to discount my own reactions and preferences when looking at "what works" for most folks. :)

paragraphs
Dec. 22nd, 2014 04:41 pm (UTC)
Am wondering on those who opened the email but didn't download it yet - they probably opened it on their phones? I generally do that and later go to my computer for downloading, etc. And some may have starred it or whatever to do it later when they are done with their current read. I also wouldn't download a book to my work computer - would wait until I got home.

And I will buy a copy! But not until after I get hopefully that Christmas bonus we are waiting on :)
burger_eater
Dec. 22nd, 2014 05:30 pm (UTC)
While the emails were going out, I had people telling me that they'd received it on their phone and would grab the books later/at home/whenever. That's why I waited until Sat. night to collect the data. I wanted to give people time.
paragraphs
Dec. 22nd, 2014 05:34 pm (UTC)
Ahhh! I understand now. (wonder if it would be acceptable to have a 'don't forget to download!' email?)

burger_eater
Dec. 22nd, 2014 05:49 pm (UTC)
Maybe I'll do an extra (unplanned) Kickstarter update.
mizkit
Dec. 22nd, 2014 06:21 pm (UTC)
I managed to download mine immediately, which is incredibly unusual. It usually takes me months, which has far more to do with my recognition that I'm probably not going to have time to read it now anyway than a lack of actual interest in the project. And yes, it falls off the radar and then months later I'm like OH LOOK I SHOULD DO THAT NOW, but...yeah. It's hard to get peoples' attention.
burger_eater
Dec. 22nd, 2014 08:05 pm (UTC)
I wonder how unusual my process is, which is

1. ACQUIRE NOW!
2. I'll get around to checking that out.
3. Two years pass.
4. What the hell is this?
5. Oh. Right. I remember now.

Did you have this sort of trouble?
mizkit
Dec. 22nd, 2014 08:43 pm (UTC)
Well, I had far fewer backers, and didn't have such fancy trackable downloady stuff...but also I didn't think to keep track. I was (and am) inclined to feel that once I've delivered the product in an easily acquirable location and informed them that it was there, that it's on the backers to do their part. The product is *there*; if they don't go get it, that's on them.

I quite emphatically feel that it's not commentary on you or your writing if people haven't instantly gone to download things. If it's commentary on anything, it's commentary on the general flakiness of humanity.
martianmooncrab
Dec. 22nd, 2014 07:41 pm (UTC)
its also the holidays, and perhaps a lot of folks are being good to open their prezzies on xmas..

or they are traveling..

burger_eater
Dec. 22nd, 2014 08:05 pm (UTC)
Re:
Truth.
martianmooncrab
Dec. 22nd, 2014 08:14 pm (UTC)
I did go back an open my enews from you, and then I sent Peter an email asking him to order the books for me..

Santas book elves work year round yanno.
nihilistic_kid
Dec. 23rd, 2014 12:07 am (UTC)
Re:
My first thought was "Saw this on a phone, while boarding a plane."
wenadin
Dec. 26th, 2014 02:51 pm (UTC)
The stars aligned for me. I had just finished reading a book when your e-mail came in, so I was able to start reading it immediately.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )