The word ‘test’ inspires horror in many people and may even cause some to break down in a quiet corner of the room. But the word ‘test’ is a marketer’s best friend and whether you like it or not, the time has come where you need to swap your creative brain for an analytical one. Because if you want to make money, if you want to do this for a living, you need to be looking for every inch you can get, every little detail must be honed to absolute perfection so that you have a well oiled, reader catching machine.
In some ways this requires you to be extra creative, because in this step I want you to do at least two of everything. That’s right, two; I want your creative mind to be so drunk it’s seeing double, triple, quadruple! The drunker it is the better. You want to make sure that the synopsis you have, the headlines you use to advertise, and the title of your book is going to entice the most number of readers. However, if you only have one synopsis, one headline, one price, one title, you will never know that if you had just changed the word ‘sultry’ to ‘seductive’ you would have sold an extra 10,000 copies. It is what is known in the marking world as split testing, and no, they are no practising gymnastics, it is how they make their money.
So how could split testing be applied to an e-book? Though I have not checked this with Smashwords founder Mark Coker, my first suggestion would be to come up with two different titles for your novel and upload one under your full name and the other under a shortened version of your name, for example a nick name. Now you have two titles that you can test. I would not recommend any more than two, because later when it comes time to pick the novel which converts the most readers (your ‘superbook’ as it were), you want it to be able to easily send people looking for your different test versions to your super book. It may be that Smashwords only ever lets you upload one version of your work (if anyone has thought of this and asked Mark about it, please let me know) then I suggest you do your title testing before hand. If you already have friends on social media, a blog or a writers group, come up with five or six headings and then find out which one appeals to your test dummies more. Then use this one for your novel upload. All these steps can be done with a single novel; it will just take a little longer to find your superbook combination.
One rule that you must follow before all else is to only ever change one thing at a time. Because if you change more than one you are going to have a hard time figuring out which one made your new readers download happy. It’s similar to only wearing one pair of underwear a day, if you change it 3 or 4 times you’re going to have a large laundry hamper to sort through. So, you have your two novels. Each should have the same synopsis, the same ads, the same keywords, the same pricing as the other. Now in your social media, your blog, while participating in forum boards etc alternate the URL you attach to each post, to each Tweet, to each status update. Do this for a month or two and see if one sells better.
Next determine whether giving your novel away gets you more readers than giving away a 100 page sample of your work. Do the same thing; test it for a couple of months to see what happens to each. Then test pricing, how many people buy it at 99 cents in comparison to $1.99? In comparison to $2.99. Remember only change the pricing of one book at a time. Are there less people buying the book at $2.99 but are you getting more money? There are some fantastic discussions on J.A. Konrath’s blog about pricing, have a look through those, and decide on a step by step testing process for your two novel versions.
Next have three or four different versions of your synopsis. After you have decided on an optimum price set both books at that price and then see which synopsis entices the reader more. Try two at once, then the one that performs the least you replace with another synopsis to test against the stronger one and so on. If you are advertising, look at changing the wording of your ads and see if one ad brings more traffic to your page then others. Always refine your keywords, see what words people are using in their forum posts, their Tweets, and keep adding to your keyword list, your ‘tags’ all the time.
The best way for this testing to succeed is to make sure that your novel is available on as many platforms as possible. The more places you are available, the more chance you have of being seen. As well as adding the word ‘test’ to your must list, you should also at the word ‘free’.
TOMORROW: To be free, or not to be free? That is the question. Oh, and a little something on POD.
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