The week of July 11th, 2016 marked the official book launch of Brains, Boobs, & Balls: Life Lessons Any Female Entrepreneur Can Follow.
Like all authors, the thought of selling enough books in the first week to make it to the Wall Street Journal Best Seller List (WSJ) was secretly exciting. I never even considered the New York Times Best Seller List (NYT) or any others. I spent 7 days refreshing the Amazon.com URL every hour on my computer tracking the rankings of my book like a mother hen counting her chicks. Amazon is the biggest source for book purchases that create these lists. I was careful, however, not to count my chicks before they officially hatched.
On Saturday, I woke up to Brains, Balls, & Boobs having the following ranking:
Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Business & Money
#1 in Books > Business & Money
#2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction
#12 Paid in Kindle Store overall
On Sunday (the last day of book sale counting for the Best Seller lists that week) I had screen grabs showing strong sales all week:
On Sunday, I had calls/emails/texts from my publisher, other online book stores managers, book #marketers and a couple of previous WSJ Best Selling #authors – all congratulating me early because they were certain I would land somewhere firmly on the #WSJ Best Seller List the following Thursday.
I did not. I failed as a self-publishing author to make the list that while has nothing to do with the content quality of any book is an enviable list to be on. Why?
If you’re a #nonfiction author, especially one that writes #business books, it means more #speaking gigs, higher #consulting rates, higher visibility, and an enhanced reputation.
I wasn’t crushed by the news that I didn’t make the WSJ List – or the New York Times List because I am a good competitor. I was one of many authors that week pushing my product out into the world. Besides, strong rumors indicate #bestseller lists are becoming obsolete. There are many books that, despite never making the pages of the @WSJ or #NYT, go on to sell thousands of copies, and have a great fan base. In the end, #content is King and word of mouth and book #reviews build the kingdom.
I’ve been a #product marketer in the #consumer space for more than 20 years and fully understand that you have to be in it for the long game. I didn’t write the book to be a best seller – I wrote it because #women in business have been asking me for years for advice on being an #fempreneur and juggling their personal life too. I want to share my #advice with them.
Here is where it got interesting for me and all product marketers
and entrepreneurs should pay attention.
I received an email from the person managing my email marketing campaign during this critical launch week. While I will not reveal this person by name I will share his emails with you.
On Thu, Jul 21, 2016 at 4:17 PM
“I have bad news. The list just refreshed and we did not make it.
We sold far more than the books at the bottom 5 on the list and probably should be #4 on the list. I’m contacting the WSJ for an explanation why.”
After a phone call with the Wall Street Journal we were informed why I had not made the list. #thisisagoodone
On Thu, Jul 21, 2016 at 4:31 PM
“They’re saying the title was too racy. Really?! Ugh! We were actually made it to #1 among all non-fiction ebooks on Saturday and #9 among all ebooks.”
I had no idea that a title could be too racy and get you excluded from the list despite actual sales. I thought it was like selling Girl Scout Cookies – your get the big badge for the actual of number of boxes sold. No, book selections are biased. Really? I asked him to please check again as that doesn’t make sense to me.
On Thu, Jul 21, 2016 at 7:10 PM
“From what we tracked, the book should have hit at around #4. It was in the top 10 non fiction for 4 days and #1 on some days. Other than a few books, the other top ten books were fleeting. They were titles that got a one day sales spike from Bookbub.com or eReadernews.com, etc and then disappeared from the top 10 the next day. The sales were undeniable.”
Let’s check again the # of sales we can verify independently. Perhaps other books did sell more than mine. Let’s be fair.
On Thu, Jul 21, 2016 at 1:06 PM
“Hello Charlie, We had more than enough sales numbers. It took approx 4,000 sales to make the list. We should have been in the top 5. The WSJ can arbitrarily pass on a book for title or cover. Feel free to contact them for an answer.”
I asked for more research still…
On Thu, Jul 21, 2016 at 8:48 PM
“The final sales numbers reported to the list come from Nielsen. The book was not removed from the list (Nielsen). The sales should have had it squarely in the top 5 for the week (on WSJ) but we were passed over.”
Really? My title is too racy? I was passed over even though I sold books in the thousands? Let me call my publishing/distribution partner and ask just how many books they report being sold.
On Fri, Jul 22, 2016 at 12:02 PM
“This is preliminary and this is what we got out of the system and the numbers will be finalized on the royalty statement. Month-to-date unit sales covering period 07/01/2016 to 07/20/2016. We do not get the data from all the online stores until the end of the month. Below is only amazon and does not include books sold on other sites like 800CeoReads, Hobo, or Barnes and Noble, those will come in the month end report.”
I sold 6093 books on #Amazon alone in one week? I think that’s kind of AWESOME! I guess enough people are interested in the content behind the racy cover – LOL! But the fact remains, I did FAIL at becoming a Best Selling Author the week of July 17th and because of my VERY RACY title and cover I may never grace the Best Seller list for WSJ, NYT, or others.
Many on my staff who helped launch the book were outraged. My outside book marketing team was frustrated. And the few colleagues and friends I shared the news with were astonished. My husband started laughing.
“That’s so cool that your book is too racy for a newspaper’s best seller list. There has to be some honor in NOT making the list because of that reason. What was too racy? The fact that you said Boobs? Balls? Or that they were in the same sentence as Brains?”
We both had a good chuckle because honestly we can’t figure out which word was too racy – maybe it is up to the person making the decision at the WSJ. If it was a woman did she disapprove of boobs or balls? If it was a man, did he disapprove of balls being listed after boobs? Or was it the use of slang to describe the anatomy women need to rely on in business and I should have titled the book: Gray Matter, Soft Tissue, and Testicles!
If you are one of the 6000+ people who have not purchased the book, in the first 13 days it has been available, let me assure you the content inside has merit.
There is a chapter in which I all but lecture women to master Excel spreadsheets so they can better forecast their business, cash flow, and stay calm during financial crisis.
Another chapter talks about how successful female entrepreneurs must acknowledge they are self sabotaging their own business because they don’t trust their own intelligence enough.
Several chapters talk about self care as being a major key to succeeding in business and at home. I cover the importance of having a wide access network. There is a major discussion about when a woman should consider bankruptcy or better yet how she can avoid it all together. I lay out specific strategies for making a women a more powerful presenter in the board room so she can close deals faster and for more money.
The book covers decision making, how to birth new ideas in business, and why women should ignore the glass ceiling and stop blaming men for the inequality in the workplace. The racy part, I guess, is that that women should not to give up being passionate just to build successful business – this includes how they treat their partners and themselves outside the office.
I closed out the week as a Hot New Release squarely between the new Harry Potter and the Clinton book: Crisis of Character. That’s not too shabby for my first time authorness. Clearly, our nation has a wide variety in taste when it comes to what is important to them. It makes me wonder: 50 Shades of Grey made all the Best Seller lists and the inside of that book is certainly racy if not out right pornographic. If I could go back in time should I have re-titled my business book something more coy like: 50 Shades of Business Strategy?
So what have I learned about FAILING as a Best Selling Author that I can share with my business clients, product marketers, aspiring entrepreneurs, inventors, and students of business?
Here is my Top 5 List:
1. BOOKS ARE JUDGED BY THEIR COVER! If you’re trying to sell a product these days (#book, #supplement, #skincare, #kitchen #gadget, etc) you MUST consider the #packaging and the name of the product very carefully. It is not good enough that the name of your product is available as a .com, or that it gives your product standout qualities, or that it fits your overall #brand. Nor is it good enough to just put together packaging without consideration for how it will be viewed – not only by the mass consumer – but by the retail buyers, list compilers, and/or specialty retailers that you hope will sell the product. I’ll use my book Brains, Boobs, & Balls as an example. If the name and packaging of the book is so offensive to a #niche #newspaper like the WSJ, do I have a prayer that a #specialty retailer like Barnes & Noble, Inc. would dare carry it in their #store on an actual shelf? The potential scandal!!!! Consider your product – will the name and packaging be equally liked by Amazon #customers as by in-store #shoppers at a place like Bed Bath & Beyond?
2. 3RD PARTY ENDORSEMENTS DO COUNT IN THE LONG RUN! Product reviews and word-of-mouth are great when it comes to #selling your product or service – keep collecting them. This is all great -but face the facts – consumers want ‘legitimate proof’ from a 3rd party that your product/service is worth it, right? Find out what 3rd party counts for your #campaign (AARP, JD Power, The Edison Award, Good Housekeeping Seal, Diabetic Foundation, ect.) Use press releases, a PR firm, a social media intern, or good old fashion “send them your product directly” tactics to target these 3rd parties. Find out what the criteria is and try and make it happen. Using my failure to make the WSJ Best Seller list as further example, I need to continue to try and get Best Seller recognition from other sources:
3. PRICING CAN SWAY CONSUMER WILLINGNESS TO TRY YOUR PRODUCT EVEN IF THEY ARE SKEPTICAL. For the week of July 11-17th I ran an introductory special on the #eBook version of my book – you could download it for only $0.99. For advice that took me 15 years and more than $20 million dollars to acquire, I was allowing people to #download it for less than a dollar. Why? Because book #readers don’t know me and whether they loved the title of the book, thought it was indecent, or were not even in the market for female #entrepreneurial advice, the #price was too good to pass up. Now, I have more than 6000 people in one week exposed to my brand. This means 6000 more people will know that I can take their consumer product #national using #TV, #Radio and #Online faster, more efficiently, and for less than they thought possible. At Synergixx, one of my clients is potentially worth $2-4M in gross annual billings. Imagine if only 2% of the people who purchased this book visited www.synergixx.com and of that 2% only 1% did business with me. That’s another $2-4M in gross annual billings to my bottom line. If I made the WSJ Best Seller list maybe I could charge more for my speaking engagements but not millions more. Is selling books more important than making the list or does making the list help to sell more books? You know the answer. Think about it! If the books that made the list when mine was “passed over” had priced their new book similarly in that week perhaps they would have been #1 or #2 and I would have legitimately NOT made the list. Price matters when attracting new customers into your pipeline for long term customer revenue. Should you sell your product/service for $0.99 as an introductory price – probably not! There is a magic formula – I specialize in it – and you need to consider it before your next #marketing campaign.
4. FIGURE OUT HOW YOUR COMPETITION IS DOING IT. When I take on a new client I spend weeks learning about their competition and the best practices in their category. This is invaluable in launching a successful campaign for my clients in this over-saturated environment. As an author, I totally missed the boat on this one. I didn’t research my competition before the official book launch on July 11th. I don’t mean that I should have searched out all the other women writing a book about how they failed their way to success over the course of 15 year or the women who used body parts in the title of their business book to bring home an important message. I’m referring to how are other UNKNOWN authors, like me, are making these lists. As I sat around Thursday night wondering what it would have been like to be a WSJ Best Seller, I started #Googling. I came across a #BLOG by Tim Grahl http://timgrahl.com/
THIS BLOG WOULD HAVE BEEN RIDICULOUSLY HELPFUL BEFORE I EMBARKED ON MY MARKETING CAMPAIGN TO MAKE THE BEST SELLER LIST! I LITERALLY SMACKED MYSELF IN THE FACE AFTER READING TIM’S BLOG.
Whether you are trying to sell a book, or launch a monthly #membership program, sell supplements on #autoship, or create a #lead flow for your law practice, you need to understand how your competition is doing it. This allows you to recreate their success by improving upon their systems and excluding dead weight. I do this all day long for my clients but forgot about it when it came to my own product. I was too close too it – as you probably are to your product.
5. START EARLIER & REPEAT- PEOPLE NEED TO BE REMINDED TO ACT NOW! When a client comes to me and says I want to launch a TV #infomercial with a #celebrity in the next 45 days to support my #retail #sales (in #Walmart, or #Walgreens, or #CVS) I say “we should have started 6 months ago!” Can I negotiate a celebrity contract, script and produce an infomercial, and get it on national TV in 45 days – YES and I do it often very successfully! Does it always have the direct impact on retail sales that my clients need in that short period of time – not always. Why? Frequency builds desire and audience awareness. People are very busy and the concept of ACT NOW is dwindling because consumers know they can get products anytime anywhere these days so why bother ACTING NOW? If a product marketer wants to sell their new vegetable slicer in Walmart and use an infomercial to support store sales they need to start airing that commercial six months or more prior to ever being on a store shelf. This allows consumers to start seeing the product sooner and repeatedly so that when they see the new vegetable slicer on the shelf at Walmart six months later their desire to BUY IT NOW is activated. The infomercial audience will pay the bills with direct sales until that day. And Walmart is more likely to carry your product if you are already on TV. This same model is true whether you are using video on #YouTube, #Facebook or #Instagram to drive sales to Amazon, direct or in stores. Don’t wait to start advertising your product before your big sales push. I should have been marketing Brains, Boobs, & Balls in January through all channels so that when I decided to make a large marketing push in one week my earlier efforts and the frequency of my message carried the day. Imagine if I had started talking about my book in a real way 6 months earlier, I could have sold 12K books in one week. I would still have failed to be on the Best Seller list because of the title and cover being so scandalous but…
In closing, female entrepreneurs (and guypreneurs too) should consider:
1. Is it possible to get your message out to the masses by cutting through the clutter and not alienating people?
2. Can you create more than one channel for your audience to connect with your product/service?
3. Make sure you have a sense of humor about what you’re doing because it makes interesting things like failing during your campaign while on the road to success – more fun!
For those of you who haven’t seen the racy book cover:
If you want to connect: leave a comment here or check out my new site: www.thatgirlcharlie.com