Looking at numbers, part 2


Part 1 is here and it talks about the numbers without giving specifics, but this post will.

No, not sales numbers. Clicks. And not clicks for something I’m trying to sell. This is a situation where “click” = “something people already paid for.”

Obviously, I’m talking about Kickstarter backers getting copies of my new book, plus.

Some background:

Because I had to get ebooks to almost 1200 people, I couldn’t send a flood of emails, especially ones with attachments over 5 or 10MB. That would have gotten me blacklisted by a bunch of ISPs (don’t ask me how I know that).

So I set up a newsletter program that would automate the emails, spreading them out over many hours. I also uploaded the ebooks to a folder on my website so I could send download links instead of attachments.

Finally, I did my best to make things as simple as possible. The email subject line was “The Great Way ebooks are here!” to be totally unambiguous. The list of books included cover pics. The download links were alone in their own section with a single line of text for each of the links. This is what it looked like (behind the cut) for people who backed at $25 or above. Backers at $12 had two fewer covers.

I’m sure there are marketing/design professionals who could have done better, but that’s the best I could do.

So how many people clicked through?

The first email, which contained two stretch goal books and the first novel in the trilogy, went to 82 people on Wednesday. (That’s how many backers I had at the $12 level.) As of the writing of this email, on Saturday night,

23 (28%) people have opened the email without clicking on the links.
34 (41.5%) have opened the email and clicked a link inside.
25 (30.5%) have not opened the email at all.

I’m a little stymied by the 23 people who opened the email but didn’t bother to download their books. Didn’t like the covers, maybe?

A second email went out afterwards: this one contained five books, the whole trilogy and two stretch goal novels. That image above is what people received. It went to 1080 backers.

261 (24.2%) opened the email but didn’t click a link
584 (54.1%) opened the email and clicked a link
235 (21.8%) never opened the email

I guess I understand the people who didn’t open the email. Maybe they gave Kickstarter an address they don’t check much. Maybe I was caught in spam traps. I do know that I had to fill out one of Earthlink’s ridiculous white list forms. I didn’t hear from that backer again; I hope she got her books. Maybe, after a year and two months, they just didn’t care anymore?

Of all 1162 emails, three came back as undeliverable, which I assume gets lumped in with the non-openers. Only three bounces is pretty good, but MailPoet doesn’t break them out from people who have not opened the email. (How could it?)

If this were marketing, I’d be pretty happy about those percentages. Unfortunately, it’s not. It’s fans of mine who are owed something, and I can’t even get their attention to accept it.

Case in point: along with the stretch goals in this email, there was another that I released last July. It was a short fiction collection, and it included a Twenty Palaces novelette.

You know what people are always asking for? More Twenty Palaces. The first review for The Way Into Chaos on Amazon slammed it for not being Twenty Palaces. Readers like Ray, they like the mysterious setting, they like the dark and desperate tone, they like the noirish sensibility without the trench coat pastiche, and they’re always asking for more. So I created it and sent them the link to the collection through Kickstarter messages.

But with this system I had no way to know if people downloaded the file. So, when I sent out the address survey (KS allows only one survey per project), I asked people: “Did you go to [site] to download your copy of this this short fic collection? Yes, I have/No, and I don’t want to/No, but I will now.


0.5% Didn’t want a short fiction collection with a Twenty Palaces story in it.
51% Had already downloaded the collection
48% hadn’t downloaded it before but said they would now.

These numbers aren’t perfect, because it’s only people who responded to the survey, so there are a bunch of answers I couldn’t get. Let’s assume those non-responders would lean heavily toward the segment that hadn’t picked up the book.

Still, even ignoring them, 502 people wanted the collection with the 20P story in it but didn’t have it yet, despite the fact that I’d messaged them about it, blogged about it several times, pushed it on Twitter, Facebook, G+, Tumblr, LiveJournal, and Dreamwidth, and it had been on sale for weeks at online ebook vendors everywhere.

More Twenty Palaces is what people tell me, over and over, that they want, but I hardly get them to take it, even when they’ve already paid.

Let’s be honest here: Obscurity is the enemy. It’s not piracy, not censorship, not new technology, and it’s certainly not “gatekeepers” of any kind. It’s extraordinarily difficult to catch the attention even of people who want to give it.

I operate in an attention economy, and I won’t become one of the attention upper class with terrible marketing stunts. I need books that people want to recommend to each other with great enthusiasm, and if/once I have that, I need the lucky twist that will make my books break wide.

Until then, I’m still struggling to get the attention of my own fans.

PS: I have a new book out that you would like. You should buy a copy.