Now that I have a few books out, the question I get asked most often is how many have sold. But, my answer usually brings the conversation to a grinding halt. I have to insist that beyond the handful of friends who have told me they bought a book, I honestly do not know.
WordPress has great tracking and blog statistics even on their free platforms. So I assumed that actual commercial profit oriented sites would have similar information. It turns out that is not so.
I chose the hybrid publisher I use because they have over ten thousand different distributors from all over the planet. Some are well known public site like Google and Amazon, others are small private distributors. Since people from all over read this blog, I wanted to make sure that they could buy a copy regardless of where they might be located. In the long term, I am still sure that having access to the global market is a good thing.
In the short term, it is confusing and frustrating. Each distributor has up to sixty days to get my books on line. Then they have thirty to a hundred and eighty days to report sales if those sales add up to a certain minimum, Then my publisher has thirty to ninety days to report those sales to me, assuming that enough books have sold to meet their minimum. That minimum also varies from distributor to distributor.
My first challenge is that even if enough books sell through a specific distributor to meet their minimums, the sales figures I see will run six to eight months behind what is actually happening on line. I could also sell a thousand books overnight and still not know what is going for up to a year because any one distributor only sold a handful.
My second challenge is that while many of my posts continue to be viewed years after I posted them, my readers seek me out one by one. Over the course of a year, an individual post may have a several hundred views, but those views are usually a handful per day or even per week. I assume that my books will sell the same way. Unfortunately, even hundreds of slow and steady views or sales do not impress search engines.
So my third challenge is figuring out how people searching for me on line can actually find me My blog started showing up on Google a few years back when they decided that they should base their rankings on how different the information on a particular site was from other sources, not just how many views a site received. However, with the changes in laws regarding internet traffic in the USA, most search engines are offering up oodles of entries, mostly some sort of paid advertising, that might or might not even be relevant to your search
If you ignore the distractions and read closely, you can find usually my name somewhere on the results page. If you persist in clicking on my name that will usually take you to my books. But finding me ain’t easy.
Amazon in particular insists on offering items with a high number of sales regardless of whether or not they have anything to do with your subject. Their search engine does not even bother to differentiate between non-fiction and fiction. . Searching for horse care or equestrian sports is more apt to get you a selection of more or less horsey novels than anything relevant to actual horses and horse activities.
Worse, if you type in Sara Annon, Amazon currently offers a response that says ‘Did you mean Sara Cannon’ and a link to a free box set of paranormal demon romance novels. Occasionally, you may get a second entry that says ‘Did you mean Sarra Canon’. Like the spam the Akismet filter catches on WordPress, those misspelled entries usually offer insipid trite ‘erotica’ that really should just be categorized as pornography.
Some search engines even offer up equine themed porn, but I can guarantee that whoever thought putting naked women on horseback was a good idea had to be a guy. Horsehair is short, stiff and plentiful, so I am quite sure that the first woman who got up on a horse was also the first person desperately driven to invent both pants and saddles. And any guy who came near her was best off keeping their various parts to themselves because she was preoccupied with getting rid of the worst catch of crotch itch ever.
Since the vast majority of horse enthusiasts in this country are women, offending them from the get go with skanky porn seems counter-productive. I find myself wishing that booksellers in particular and the web in general would just go ahead and set up an .xxx address. Then anyone who wants to read about throbbing members and quivering thighs can do so. And, those who do not want to will not have to sift through the trash to get to what they do want.
I have to wonder why on-line booksellers, Amazon in particular, act as if they have never heard of the Dewey Decimal system.. Every public library out there has computerized records of what books they have on what subjects by which authors, how many of them they have and where they are. Computer science and library science seem to get along fine.
Making sure that those who want to read about a particular subject, like schooling horses, could find what they are looking for might actually pay off. I assume that the point of a business is making a profit, so I would like to say Hello Capitalists! If you want to sell more books and make more money, perhaps your computer programmers should take advantage of library science and make it possible for your customers to find what they want.
Meanwhile I will have to figure out how to maintain an online profile that ups the odds of real people with genuine interest being able to find me and my books on line. I am beginning to understand why indie authors plead for their readers to leave reviews. Reader reviews do impress search engines and they are one of the very few ways we can find out what is happening out there in cyberspace in something resembling real-time.