Episode 128 – Whale Math, Landing Pages, and Rosalind James

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Question of the Week: Do you think too many authors and piracy are the reason Colleen Hoover’s book sales have decreased? Why or why not? If you were her, how would you use your large following to try to turn things around?

This week, Jim and Bryan took on the latest in news and tips! After thanking their latest patron Matthew Paulson and his book The Ten-Year Turnaround (available here: http://www.amztk.com/tenyearturnaround ), the two trailblazers took on tips related to paid advertising, email collection, and erotica promo sites. News stories included Barnes & Noble blame, Hugh Howey’s publishing projections, some trad pub “Whale Math,” Colleen Hoover’s industry thoughts, and Rosalind James’ slow and steady approach to making readers happy. This week’s Question of the Week: Do you think too many authors and piracy are the reason Colleen Hoover’s book sales have decreased? Why or why not? If you were her, how would you use your large following to try to turn things around?
What You’ll Learn:
  • Why success in self-publishing may be “pay to play”
  • The best way to collect email addresses from readers
  • Where erotica authors should go to promote their books
  • What Barnes & Noble’s CEO blames for his company’s issues
  • Why Hugh Howey thinks bookstores in malls would work better than big box stores
  • An example of “Whale Math” from the traditional publishing industry
  • Why Colleen Hoover thinks her book sales have dropped
  • How to sell more books by giving the readers what they want
Question of the Week: Do you think too many authors and piracy are the reason Colleen Hoover’s book sales have decreased? Why or why not? If you were her, how would you use your large following to try to turn things around?

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  • C.E. Martin

    Question of the week:
    If her readers left it’s because they lost interest in her product. Period. Anything she can do to keep them she should–even if it means changing her product.

    And I’d kill for 1/10 of her readers!

    • Bryan

      Thanks for the comment, C.E. Yeah, she’s got to take some action, for sure!

  • Spider McGee

    I’m not familiar with her work. Maybe because there’s so many authors out there, all trying to sell books? Nothing is guaranteed. You snooze, you lose.

    • Bryan

      Very true that nothing is guaranteed!

  • Hashbrown ILoveKimmySchmidt

    • Bryan

      I’m glad SOMEBODY got it. Thanks, Roland :).

  • Laura Martone

    I hate to disparage another author, but methinks Colleen Hoover doth protest too much. Her reasons for the decline of her book sales smell suspiciously like sour grapes – and frankly seem like red herrings. Her real problems may stem from the fact that her book prices are unreasonably high – and she’s unwilling to employ the creative, industrious marketing strategies of indie authors. Also, as indie publishing has become a more viable choice for authors, the quality as well as the quantity of indie books have increased – so Colleen needs to make sure that she’s still keeping pace with the competition. In other words, she can’t rest on her laurels and expect to be as successful as she once was. She needs to “put on her big girl panties” (as my mom would say) and take advantage of having such a big following: lower her prices, run some promotions, and, in short, do a better job of connecting with her fans – and inspiring them to be advocates for her work in this increasingly crowded marketplace.

    • Bryan

      Yup, $7.99 book prices don’t help. Your mom said it right ;).

  • I think B&N could make smaller, boutique stores work with B&N’s existing real estate. Picture this: B&N has ceded more retail real estate in their big stores to cafes, games, knick-knacks, etc. What if they maintained that “aisle” as gathering space (aka a “food court”) and turned each of their sections into a boutique department with a dedicated staff that’s knowledgeable about the genre/subgenre, present for recommendations, and who *has the ability to make stocking decisions based on their own knowledge of the genre and their specific customers.* B&N started going down when they stopped letting the individual CRMs and staff make most of the stock decisions–they couldn’t respond to their own customers other than to offer a stupidly-outdated offer to “order it and have it in within two weeks.” One thing B&N has that Amazon doesn’t is live people to curate–let them do what they do.

    • Bryan

      Fantastic points, Athena. I love the idea of a food court gathering space for book lovers.

    • Good insight. You have some special snowflake talents.

  • Ethan Jones

    Hi Bryan and Jim:
    I have no problem with Mr. Hoover blaming too many authors and piracy for her book’s decrease, if she also gives the merit for her book sales and success to the lack of many authors and no piracy in the past. This means that she was successful because of nothing she did, but because other factors did nothing to affect her.
    If I had 300 k followers, I would try to convert 1% of them into loyal fans (make them part of my street team, give them ARCs, make them beta readers, ask them to share on social media about my books). If 3 k readers bought everything I wrote and I made $3 from each reader every two month, that would be a pretty good monthly income.

    • Bryan

      Great points, Ethan. Thanks!

  • It’s hard to make a determination on what’s going wrong for Colleen Hoover. First of all, she has an amazingly supportive fan base. She does giveaways all the time on her FB page. She’s been writing a book for fans for free on Wattpad. She’s leveraging FB ads (I see them all the time), and she posts regularly on social media, including video directly to her fans. Heck, they even have a nickname for her they use all the time, CoHo. If I were to make a guess, I would believe it’s the shift of her work to traditional publishing and higher prices. She used to self-publish and her books were affordable, but I believe the strain of managing everything was hard, which is why she took the trad deals (she wrote a very revealing blog post about how she started out, living on nothing and how writing saved her from poverty. I highly recommend checking it out). But now that the books are more expensive, the situation has led to a decrease in sales and more people are either pirating (illegal), or waiting for sales / requesting from the library / borrowing from friends (legal but not helping her bottom line). I believe that if she were able to drop her prices or publish more books herself, she may be in a better place financially. Otherwise, she’s doing what she can as far as I can discern. Definitely not resting on her laurels or anything like that. She’s very proactive.

    • Laura Martone

      Thanks for clarifying the situation with CoHo (I love that!) – I’m sorry if I misrepresented her by suggesting that she was resting on her laurels. To be honest, I’d never heard of her before this episode, so I didn’t know how hard she was working to sell books. I was simply reacting to her own reasoning – which seemed, well, whiny somehow. But I definitely see your point – and agree that, while the trad deal might’ve saved her some time, it didn’t do her any favors when it comes to pricing. So, if she wants to sell more books, she might have to go indie again – and lower her prices.

      • Bryan

        Yeah, Laura, this is a tough one. She’s now pushed herself above poverty, but she needs to remember her roots (which may take going indie again).

    • Bryan

      Thanks for the comments, S.J. I totally understand her taking the trad pub deal, many of us would! Maybe she can take more of a hybrid approach to get sales from her entire fan base.

  • I had to look up who she was. When I did, the first quote I found from her was, “I would be writing whether my books sold or not because it’s what I love to do,” author Colleen Hoover told HNGN. ( http://www.hngn.com/articles/115997/20150804/colleen-hoover-talks-november-ugly-love-film-adaptation.htm ) …so my first thought to your question is, “Does it really matter? She’s already gone beyond her expectations and hopes, so why not continue to do what you love and let the process filter itself out?”

    As for me, I just wanted to stop by and say thank you guys—as I’m a new fan of almost 2 weeks now. =) Downloaded all your podcasts and listen to them non stop all day as I work illustrating children books for Indie Authors.

    The best thing about your show is that I feel encouraged. Deeply encouraged, in fact.

    I’ve been an indie author for over 12 years. I also made a living selling $0.97 pdf comic books right out of the gate in 2004-2007, before the Kindle even existed…so I’ve been riding this wave a looong time in digital years. Unfortunately, I’ve never quite hit the mark I desired (but I’m GETTING there).

    Your show helps me focus. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve discovered that I actually do 99% of this right.

    …just didn’t realize how much of a difference that last 1% makes!!

    *bangs head against desk*

    If there is ANYTHING that ‘should’ be told to Indie Authors out there, I believe it would be “Stay calm, be patient…and record your efforts so you can make adjustments until you GET the results you want.”

    Keep up the wonderful podcast episodes guys…I think you’re both awesome and greatly appreciate your views.

    Jaime Buckley

    • Bryan

      Haha, that’s a very telling quote you found, Jaime. If she can stay above the poverty line (and hopefully well above it) with her trad pub deals, maybe just continuing to write for the love will be enough.

      So glad to have you as a listener! Wow, that’s a very cool story.

      I love your message of preaching patience. It’s so important.

      We’ll keep it up! Thanks so much!

  • Given the size of her fan base I have to side with Jim. I just can’t see how more authors and piracy can account for that kind of sales drop for an author active in reaching out to her people. Which, given nothing else to go on, suggests she is not doing so in a meaningful way.

    • I agree. What fan would have purchased the book at Indie prices, but would pirate it instead because it’s up a couple of bucks. They might not read it, but pirate it?

      Where are these huge networks of pirated book that I’ve never heard of? It’s not like this is music or movies.

      • Bryan

        Yeah, Roland, I don’t think most people pirate books.

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Edwin. Yeah, I think she doesn’t necessarily need to do MORE work, but she may need to work smarter.

  • Barb Drozdowich

    My guess is the increase in price. I have a lot of trouble paying $7.99 for an ebook version of a book. If I wait a few months, I can get a used copy of the paperback for about $5.00 at my local used bookstore. I read a lot of books, but my budget is quite small. I have to REALLY want to read an ebook at $7.99 to be unwilling to wait a short time and pay $5.00 (or in some cases get the book from the library). I typically only buy Trad pub ebooks when they are on sale.

    • Bryan

      Good point, Barb. Yeah, I rarely buy $7.99 books unless there’s no other option.

  • I’m a lurker, but I love the show. Read a very cool tip on a blog this morning, doubt you can use it for this week’s show, but it might be good for next weeks. One thing about it, I use D2D to load my books, so this wouldn’t be an issue for me, but if you load directly to B&N, it might be a future concern. 🙂 http://boyceink.com/fyi-barnes-noble-wont-let-you-change-your-tax-info-in-nook-press/

    • Bryan

      Hey Jessica! Oof, this is another reason to rag on B&N :). Thanks for the share.

      • Finally checked back. Guess we all have plenty of reasons to rag!

    • Wow. To think that this is an online company in the 21st century.

      • Bryan

        I know, right?