Sometimes success comes to us through a combination of hard work, jumping onto opportunities when they arise and happy “accidents.”
As I write this, my book, Climate Basics: Nothing to Fear is entering its 13th week going into and out of the #1 Bestseller slot on Amazon’s Weather category. This was after having spent about 8 weeks in and out of the #1 slot in the Science & Math short reads category, where my book currently stands at #2.
Though this is not nearly as impressive as an overall “bestseller,” it’s no small achievement. I think Amazon was quite clever to use category bestsellers. That way, customers could home in on the topics that interest them most.
The book has garnered a couple of dozen comments with star ratings — mostly 4 and 5-star (out of 5 maximum), with a handful of 1-star ratings. Perhaps not surprisingly, all of the 1-stars do not have the “Verified Purchase” badge on my 99-cent book, but so far, all of the 4 and 5-star comments do. Which makes me wonder how my harshest critics ever read the book (if ever) in order to form their opinions.
Since reaching #1 Bestseller status, my 3 other climate books have enjoyed a boost in sales, bringing each of them into the top 100 in the Weather category — 2 of them even into the top 25.
For several years, I’d had only occasional book sales — between zero and say 5 or 6 in a month. This could prove disheartening to most writers, but if you love writing as much as I do, you continue regardless. The more you write, the more you learn.
After finishing the writing on Climate Basics, I designed a cover that I thought would be cleverly familiar and moderately attractive, all the while communicating the topic of the book’s contents. Every day, when I start my computer, I see the Microsoft logo emblazoned across my screen with its familiar 4 squares of color — dark orange, green, yellow and light blue. I found 4 climate pictures with these overall hues, posterized the images, and fit them into my cover.
Then, I started to market the book, promoting a free copy of it on Facebook and Twitter. Ironically, Amazon wouldn’t let me give away the book unless I agreed to their control over my prices, so I opted out of that aspect of their marketing. I set the price on Amazon at the lowest possible amount — 99-cents. I was also selling the book on Smashwords and they allowed me to give it away for free. So, I posted the Smashwords link with the notice of the free giveaway. I wanted to give away several hundred copies, just to get it out there. A great deal of personal passion backed up my need to do that. I had once been a Warming Alarmist and fan of Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth. Then, about 2012, I discovered that Al and I had been horribly wrong about climate. I dusted off my original education on climate science from the 1970s and early 1980s, re-grounding myself in the basics of climate science (thus the title). I was in no hurry to make money on the book, so I settled in for the long giveaway.
Then one day, while going through my email, and scanning through my weekly notice from the most popular climate website on the planet — Watts Up With That — I noticed my book cover. I blinked and shook my head, like some cartoon character who is suddenly bewildered by a surprise. And there it was. Climate Basics. One of the articles was about my book. In the article, which was basically my promotional text, it included a link for the free copy. Whoever had posted the article had only added the one line with the link.
For a little over a week, I had been promoting my free book and was able to give away perhaps a dozen or so copies. On the date of the article, over 800 were given away. Within 3 days, I had given away over 1,500. But that first day, 15 had been sold on Amazon — my single biggest count of book sales to that date. Again, that doesn’t sound like much, but it was a pleasant surprise to me. I decided to let the giveaway go for another 2–3 weeks so the readers of the article would have plenty of opportunity.
Over the next few weeks, I’d get 1 or 2 sales, most days, but then the sales started to increase. The zero days disappeared and it started nudging up to 10 per day, and then 15. Over a period of months, the numbers finally exceeded 20 per day, fairly regularly, with 44 one really good day, and a few other similar spikes.
If you’re feeling let down by those small numbers, don’t be. Getting onto the charts is no small accomplishment. Making this “accidental” discovery was a gift from heaven (Thank you Lord). Now, what am I going to do with this opportunity?
I’m sharing the details, for one thing. I hope others can make use of this strategy to help them gain greater sales. I’ll talk a bit more on the possibilities in a moment.
But having the “#1 Bestseller” badge is something that can be, and should be used in marketing. In early April, I posted a screen shot of my book with the #1 Bestseller banner and got the most impressions that month for any of my Tweets. And I’m not a big Twitter user. This isn’t exactly viral, but 7,741 impressions (views) for the month can only help. And by now, the one tweet has 12,422 impressions, nearly double the April amount. So, the item is still reaching new people.
For the first several years promoting my books on Amazon, I was lucky to get one check ($100 minimum threshold) per year. Suddenly, I was getting checks far more frequently and finally 1 per month. Still only 3 figures, but it’s a major breakthrough for me and my brand.
Expanding on the Opportunity
At every opportunity, I promote the book on Minds, Gab, Parler, Facebook and Twitter. I look for chances to add value to existing conversations about climate, climate change, the IPCC or similar topics. Recently, Democrat Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, posted a tweet about how bad it was that President Trump had pulled out of the Paris Accord on Climate Change. I used that as an education moment to spread the good cheer that there’s “nothing to fear.”
I also look for opportunities for other high-profile individuals posting on the topic — like President Trump — to find creative ways to weave the book into the conversation in hopes of something going viral. Not every post can take the full treatment. Sometimes I merely answer a question. Other times I suggest that someone reading my book could easily debunk the “Alarm.” And only occasionally do I include the link.
I noticed on Twitter that posting the link doesn’t automatically come with a picture of the book cover. But if you click on a Tweet to bring it up as large text, then respond directly to it there, the link generates a large picture of the book cover, making my tweet response far more visible, plus giving the book cover art greater recognition.
But how can I use my “accidental” good luck in the future, on other books?
Finding guest blog opportunities on popular websites is an obvious possibility. On the Watts Up With That (WUWT) website, I had already had two articles published, so I wasn’t a complete stranger there. If you’re at all familiar with this blog (and I hope to post far more often, now that I’ve tasted a small measure of success), you know that my interests are diverse — science, spirituality, climate, philosophy, writing, mathematics, computer programming, art, culture, politics, myth, history and more.
For my several books on religion and spirituality, I’ve already started to find guest blogging opportunities. Would such a freebie on Smashwords, with 99-cent sale on Amazon work for my older titles? I’m looking forward to trying it. Already, I’ve found more than a dozen Christian websites that accept guest blogs. I’ll also need to find some, more general, spiritual websites, too.
I also came out with a sequel to Climate Basics, called Deserts & Droughts, and tried to interest WUWT to promote it as a free book, but after a couple of attempts, it seemed clear they were not interested. Either the topic or the fact that they had already promoted one of my books recently made it a “no go.” It may also have helped my original breakthrough that the article was not originated by the author. Again, that article had been a complete surprise to me. But these suppositions are merely guesses and they could be wrong.
For my books on Atlantis, I need to find guest blogging websites on ancient myths and possibly history. This seems, so far, a harder nut to crack, but I’m still looking.
Once I find such websites, I plan to write 2 or more guest blogs, then offer one of my books for free for a limited time while holding the book at 99-cents on Amazon. If I can repeat these steps on enough books, I might get this technique to go viral on one of my titles.
In the meantime, I’ll keep writing and posting.
Do you have any questions? Do you have any suggestions on this or any other technique for gaining more traction in the writing market?