Buying Popularity

House Hunney recently created a Facebook page, and within five days, had 4,000 likes on it. I thought he’d do well switching to a page, because he had a large number of FB friends that continually engaged with his posts, and roughly 86% of those who liked it are “talking about it”, according to his Page Insights.

You can get a snapshot idea of the true popularity of a page by clicking on “Likes” under its header image. Here’s one of House Hunney’s from a day or two ago:

RealLikesInsights

I’ve mentioned an article I read a while back a couple of times, which said that while Facebook users may like hundreds of pages, most of them don’t bother to do more than that, meaning they don’t actually engage with those pages. They don’t comment or read posts, much less “like” posts.

But what I didn’t think of, though I was vaguely aware it occurred, were paid likes. Paid likes aren’t the same thing as using Facebook advertising, but are the result of “click farms” such as this article describes.

It’s pretty easy to figure out when a page owner has purchased likes by looking at the graph available once you click on their “Likes”. There’s usually a huge jump in likes, followed by a pretty steep decline, a plateau, and then another huge jump when they purchase more. Plus, you can compare the number of likes to the number of people “talking about” the page.

A page with thousands of likes, only a few people talking about it, and few people regularly commenting or liking posts is more than likely buying fake popularity in an attempt to build real popularity.

In the past, I’ve noticed several author Facebook pages with loads of likes, and since I was researching whether Facebook helped book sales or not, I’d check book rankings. For most of those I checked, having a lot of Facebook likes didn’t translate into having a lot of sales. A recheck of a few showed the signs of paid likes.

Fake likes aren’t going to spread word of mouth or even actually engage with your Facebook page. So really, I have to ask what’s the point of spending money to purchase fake Facebook popularity when it has no beneficial effect on book sales?

Beyond that, is buying fake social media popularity an ethical choice? Personally, I don’t think so.

What do you think, folks?

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Hitting Genre Top 100 Lists on Amazon UK

A lot of people spend time trying to figure out how Amazon’s algorithms work. Even between our own titles, we’ll see differences in rankings that make us go “Huh?” when one book has sold more copies than another yet consistently ranks lower.

Friday evening, Arcane Solutions debuted on two genre Top 100 lists on the Amazon UK site. Since I like to be open about my sales in order to let newbies know writing isn’t a get-rich-quick path, I’m going to give details of how it made it onto those lists.

Of course, the main detail would be why it suddenly began seeing somewhat frequent sales on the UK site.

I have no idea.

I haven’t done any marketing, it hasn’t received any new reviews—it has a total of five, 2 on the UK site, and 3 on the US site—and we haven’t found any other word-of-mouth via Google to account for it.

I released Arcane Solutions on Jan. 25, 2012.

Here’s the 2012 UK sales for it:

  • Jan – 2
  • Feb – 1
  • Mar – 0
  • Apr – 1
  • May – 1
  • June – 1
  • July –  0
  • Aug – 1
  • Sept – 1
  • Oct – 0
  • Nov – 0
  • Dec – 2

Total: 10

2013 UK sales looked to start out better, but I experienced my first “summer slump” (which I’ve heard so much about from other authors) and sales were hard to come by:

  • Jan – 4
  • Feb – 4
  • Mar – 5
  • Apr – 1
  • May – 1
  • June – 0
  • July – 2
  • Aug – 1
  • Sept – 15
  • Oct – 27
  • Nov – 24 (as of right now)

Total: 84

I didn’t start closely tracking Arcane’s sales until mid-September, when they noticeably picked up.

For September, the highest rank was #17,023 on the 29th.

In October, its highest rank was #11,210 on the 2nd. It had no sales on 13 days, and 1-2 sales per day the other 18 days.

November’s proven more interesting. Arcane Solutions broke the #10k ranking barrier on the UK site four times with a total of 24 sales so far:

Nov. 4th – #9,124

During an email convo with Tonya, I estimated that a rank around #5k was required to break into the UK genre Top 100 lists.

Nov. 7th – #9,860 then dropped to #14,296 before rising to #9,500.

Nov. 8th – The lowest rank it held was #18,940. It moved to #10,736 after 2 overnight sales (one was returned), and then after another sale to #9,415. Four sales were reported all at once (occurred in roughly 1 to 1.5 hour time period), and it hopped up to #5,304 in ranking and appeared on two genre Top 100 lists.

BestSeller

I wasn’t too far off in my estimate of required ranking for breaking into the genre Top 100 lists. Cool. :)

Roughly two hours later, the ranking dropped to #6,500 and Arcane fell off the Urban Fantasy list while dropping to #89 on the Paranormal one.

About two hours after that, it rose to #6,213 and #87 on the Paranormal list. No new sales reported during that time, so it may have been an adjustment for the last of those 4 sales.

It dropped to #7,158 and #97 on the Paranormal list a couple of hours later—the UK site doesn’t seem to update rankings hourly. Two more sales were reported in the early hours today, with a rise to #6,226 and #88 on the Paranormal list.

Last I checked before bed, Arcane’s ranking was #6,967 and #94 on the Paranormal list.

To my surprise, it’s still hanging on at #99 on the Paranormal list with a ranking of #7,763 as of this writing. With no new sales reported since those last two, I’m guessing it will drop off the list in the next half hour or so, when the rankings update again.

Neat while it lasted, and my thanks to everyone who purchased a copy of Arcane Solutions. You’re all awesome! :)

One more interesting note: My Amazon.com sales died back in September around the same time my Amazon UK sales started picking up. As in, there haven’t been any sales via Amazon.com AT ALL. None in October or as of yet for November.

That’s definitely an anomaly. Even during the super summer slump, I had 4-8 sales per month on Amazon.com. My last month with no sales at all on Amazon.com was in February 2008, my second full month as new indie.

Not sure what to think about that, and it appears I’m not the only author seeing it happen. Based on the slow slide down the rankings my titles have going on, it doesn’t look like there’s many sales happening on Amazon.com for anyone over #100k or so in rank. :(

Update 11:56 AM: Yep, the rankings update knocked it completely off the Paranormal list: Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #8,980 Paid in Kindle Store. Like I said, cool while it lasted! :)

And a final note, folks: I published my first ebook in late December 2007. My first sale occurred in January 2008, so I’ve been writing and self-publishing for nearly 6 years. The most copies I’ve sold in one year were 377 ($701 in royalties earned). Writing and self-publishing is no more a way to earn quick cash than any other job for about 99.9% of us. ;)

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