I’ve suddenly started to sell on Amazon after a several month stall. I’m not usually into sharing sales numbers, but I’ll say I was selling maybe 20 a month on Amazon since Dec 2011 and the numbers suddenly hopped up to 158 (not counting the 21 returns) in two weeks. “Why?”, you ask. What amazing sales tactic did I come up with?
I simply have the good fortune (or misfortune) of having a book whose title is similar to another. 50 Shades of Grey, the new “indy-to-traditional” sensation that was originally written as a twilight fan-fic, is being haled as “mommy-porn” and is selling like mad. Much of it’s media coverage stresses the Twilight angle, so a would-be-reader could assume it has vampires in it – only it doesn’t. So the poor, misguided souls who go to Amazon and search for “Shades of Gray vampires” find me (in slot 1 or 2 depending on how they spelled grey/gray), instead. (Side note: If you do a search for simply “Shades of Gray”, you won’t find me until page two. This illustrates the importance of tags).
On one hand, this is good. It’s 158 sales, 30 of which went on to buy book two, and 21 of which went on to buy book three. However it’s also BAD because, of those 158 people, most – if not all – were NOT looking for that book, which means it did not meet their expected criteria (hence 21 returns). And though it hasn’t netted a bad review yet (or a good one, for that matter), it can.
Why? When customers are confused or don’t get what they expect, they strike back by leaving angry reviews. For instance, I have a freebie called 101 Tips For Traveling with a Vampire. The description clearly says “this is a list of 101 tips, nothing more.” However, because there used to be a three page intro, people STILL expected it to be a “real” book with a story, plot, etc. When it wasn’t, they left one star reviews and the complaint, “this is not a book! It’s a list!”. True, if someone takes the time to read the description AND the review they might think “Duh, it SAYS it’s a list” and discount the review, but few people do all of that work. They glance at the star ratings and if they’re are low, they skip off the page without giving your work a chance. In an effort to correct that problem, I reissued a “revamped” version that has a very short intro which basically says “This is who i am. this is why i have this list. yes, this is a list. it is not a book and the series it is attached to is not for teenagers.” Sure, it’s not as fun as the old intro was, and not as long, but hopefully it will fix the confusion.
As for Shades of Gray, I’m not going to do anything. I had the title first, so I’m not going to change it, and I’m not going to add a note in the description that says “This is not the BDSM book you are looking for. You will probably be disappointed”. Yes, I will probably end up with some bad reviews out of it, but that’s life.
So what is the lesson here? No matter how much you double check your titles BEFORE you publish, someone may come along and use them anyway. When I published Shades of Gray only three hits came up on Amazon at the time and none of them involved vampires OR romance (two are Civil War dramas). Now, I’m on page two and most of those above me are not only romance, but also vampires. I guess it proves vampires and grayness go together ;)
Have you had a similar experience? Did you find books with the same title as your after you published? If so, did having a similar title as someone else effect your sales/reviews?