Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Every business wants to know if it’s getting satisfied, repeat customers. And every business has a different measurement.
In a small town café, for instance, the owner and employees can simply keep an eye on who’s coming in and how often. That can be more effective than other considerably more complicated techniques, such as tracking credit card sales or use of reward cards.
No system is perfect. A friend of mine used to go to the same coffee house for his morning brew every day without fail, and was on a first-name basis with the owner and all the employees. Then he got a new girlfriend and moved 30 miles away. A thing like that can wreak havoc on a man’s coffee habits. Neither personal observation nor electronic monitoring will explain a situation like that. It takes a face-to-face conversation.
The Author’s Dilemma
Book authors also want to know if people like their work, but figuring that out isn’t easy. You can look at sales numbers, but those don’t tell you how many people actually read the book, and, if they did, what they thought of it.
On Amazon, you can look at the reviews, but, again, those aren’t terribly helpful. If one out of a hundred readers bothers to write a review, an author is doing well. When the reviews reach a certain number, you can kinda sorta assume they’re representative of the sentiments of readers at large. But it’s still pretty squishy.
Amazon doesn’t provide authors with a whole lot of information about who’s buying the books, but it’s possible to read between the lines of the information and draw some conclusions.
My Quill Gordon mystery series is now three books strong, with book four due out next year. Having a few books out there does allow me to make some deductions.
A Loyal Fan Base
For starters, Amazon tells authors what other books your customers have bought, and for each of mine, the other two in the series figure prominently. That certainly suggests a growing base of support for the series as a whole. And I recently noticed that they’re now offering customers a chance to buy all three books with one click. I like that.
It’s also possible to get a handle on things in a smaller market, where connections are more obvious. For instance, in late July, I sold a copy of my first book, The McHenry Inheritance, in Spain. It was the first sale ever in that country, where the book is available only in English.
In early September, I sold a copy each of books two and three in Spain in a two-hour time frame. Considering how few sales there are in that country, it’s unlikely that two separate customers each bought one book in that slender a time frame. Far more likely that the July customer liked the first book and decided to buy the others.
In the USA, which is my primary market, I also assume that most people who are giving my books a try for the first time will buy either the first and original or the third and most recent, then buy the others if they like what they thought.
Assuming I’m right about that, sales of the second book, Wash Her Guilt Away, should be a good indicator of repeat customers, and that book has been selling well.
Few authors get rich, but most of us, I think, want to feel that people are reading our books and enjoying them. Faith in that is enough to give us the resolve to keep on writing, and based on my reading of the tea leaves, I want to write some more.