Twitter, Sales in February, and the Shortage of Reviewers

What I think of Twitter now that I’ve had an account for 5 weeks:

If you follow around 10 or so new people a day, and only pick folks who have a 50% follower-to-following ratio or better, you’ll very quickly have 100+ followers.  At that point, you should get 3-4 people following you every day. That means audience growth, and you can push that along a little. But I find it very interesting that just about everyone following me – and just about everyone I follow – is an erotica writer who’s trying to use Twitter to publicize their books.

It doesn’t take a degree in economics to notice that most erotica authors’ follower lists look like a convention of salesmen getting together, thinking that they’re going to sell to each other. I don’t think I need to go into the fact that although writers do read too, that’s not your core market unless your book is “how to sell erotica” (BTW, the guys who ARE writing that?  They’re cleaning up, and they’ve found their core market!). Anyway, generally most authors on Twitter aren’t there to buy erotica; they’re there to sell it. That’s also why YOU’RE there, right? You can safely figure that most writers are like you.

Anyway, I figure that on Twitter, any post that you spend more than a few seconds on, is a waste. Unless you’re a celebrity and you have an amazingly catchy tagline, your post is going to be ignored because everyone following a few hundred authors is seeing a cacophony of spam coming across their screens. So what you really treasure are the actual readers who just follow 100-200 people. I’ve started getting a few of those, and it makes me really happy. But most of my screen is authors.

I think hash tags are probably the key to getting your stuff seen by people other than your followers.  Tweet something catchy with a hash tag that’s trending upwards, and maybe you’ll get some notice outside of your ordinary circles.

BTW, don’t bother expecting anyone to retweet you, at least when you’re new.  It’s just not going to happen until you’re big and famous AND people are trying to get you to follow them.

Anyway, the isolated “all alone in a room full of people” nature of Twitter means that authors crave any kind of human interaction they can get, whether it’s from a reader or not. Perhaps it’s a function of “you are what you write”, but erotica authors tend to be a
ribald bunch, and I see a lot of authors trying to toss out something sexy that’s just sort of awkward.  Sometimes it’s tempting to heckle it, hoping for a good natured laugh out of the other person.  Try to resist the temptation to do so though, as it’s pissing on their attempt at social media and they might not have a great sense of humor about it.  As a reader, knock yourself out if you want to heckle authors, but if an author makes it onto another author’s shit list, you might perhaps start seeing them heckle your books in the future.  I’ve avoided this, but have seen it in action a little.  If you interact with other authors, try to be positive or just don’t interact.

Automated Twitter Spamming

There are services and apps out there to log into Twitter and make scheduled posts for you. I’m not sure they’re a bad idea given how short-lived all the tweets on twitter are. For any post, it seems you see it for 10 sec and it’s gone. So if you have a program that’s chattering out something once every few hours, that’s probably ok. However, there are also authors which seem to be posting their advertisements and spamming them out every few minutes. I’m not sure if it works or not, but I view it as kind of dickish personally.

The Shortage of Reviewers (because everyone’s an author)

On an unrelated note, there are so many writers now that reviewers are at a huge premium.  If you want to read stuff and are willing to write a couple paragraphs about everything you read, you will never ever have to pay for any reading material in your life again.  Just write to an author and ask if they’d like a review posted, and you will literally be showered with free books.  More than you can read.  If you don’t believe me, find a review site which takes erotica and isn’t at least a few months backlogged (most of them are just flat out not accepting new submissions anymore).  It’s severe enough that writers are exchanging reviews with each other (“you review my book and I’ll review yours”), and that creates a perception of cheapening the review process.  I’ve read rumblings that Amazon may ban authors from writing reviews due to this kind of thing.

About Sales in February

Speaking of sales, Feb has been a horrible, horrible slump for sales. I’m not talking actual exact revenue figures, but my sales for Feb are half of what they were in Dec/Nov.

There’ve been a couple of days this month without a single sale the whole day. It’s not that I’ve offended all my reader base or pissed everyone off with something from Twitter, of course. Looking at my author ranking on Amazon, I’m about where I was. I’ve fallen a little from the glory days when I was around 500th place as an erotica author, but nowadays I’m around 1000th place, and every time I get a sale it jumps up a few hundred. That tells me the market has gotten REALLY soft. If I’d had a day without a single sale in November I’d have gone from 500th place to over a thousand in one day. Right now if I don’t sell one, I fall 200 points, but I rise well above it as soon as I sell ONE copy.  So that tells me that everyone’s sales are really sucking this month.  We did have a spike in purchasing around V-day; there were two days which felt like November for me, but then it tapered back off quickly.  I’m sure that the impending US tax season has something to do with it, as does Valentine’s day.  I have this hunch that erotica sales will pick back up in April.

Of course, the popular alternate theory is “The sky is falling, no one reads eBooks anymore, they’re going back to paper or they’ve forgotten how to read!”  Well, guess what? People are still going to read their Kindles; it’s just that a few times out of the year, they figure out better things to do than have their noses in a book.  Given that I’m an erotica author, I of course will presume that every day I’m not selling any books, it’s because my readers are getting laid instead.  So I’m happy for them.  🙂

2 thoughts on “Twitter, Sales in February, and the Shortage of Reviewers

  1. Welcome to the wonderful world of indiepub!

    Don’t listen to anybody who tells you that this isn’t a seasonal, cyclical, unbelievably inconsistent bidness. ‘Cause it is.

    Everybody got Amazon gift cards for the holidays and it takes a month or so to burn them off and then there’s a lag while they read what they got and deal with postwinter blahs and then things turn up and then they go down again and we go round and round in the Circle Game.

    If you haven’t read Dean Wesley Smith’s blog on publishing, I recommend it highly. This kind of thing gets discussed all the time.

    I hear you on the reviewers, man. I’ve had TWO pro-level reviews on my books and I’ve been at this almost two years. Most of my books are lucky to have one review from a reader (although they’re all good so I don’t complain) despite the fact that they’ve sold quite a few copies. That’s just how it is. Alas.

  2. Very good point – while I’d thought of ‘new Kindle’ as driving sales, I hadn’t thought of the effect of having gift cards.

    I think that the reviewer situation is an interesting conundrum… lots of reviewers get something but never write about it, but then there’s plenty who do. I kind of think we authors should do more to make prospective reviewers aware of sites like manicreaders.com ( http://manicreaders.com/index.cfm?disp=reviewerInfo ) where they can get free books to review as long as they actually write reviews.

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