Authors Need Analytics for Ebooks

Yesterday, I was looking at my Kindle sales, which reliably sell the the same amount every day (which is not a huge amount, I’m no Konrath) and I was wondering why I couldn’t break through with more sales.  Am I getting the exact same traffic to my Amazon page every day?  How much of that traffic leads to a sale? In Google Analytics, the info for the week for this site looks like this:

It would be enormously important to see Bounce Rate: how many people are coming to the page and leaving without making a purchase. What about Returning Visitors: people who have bought the book the second or third time they came to the page. More importantly would be seeing where that traffic came from.  Are you getting traffic from a certain page – a tag, another book, a review, an interview, social networking – that are leading to more sales?  It will tell authors where to focus their efforts. Imagine if you found out that you’re getting a lot of sales from one particular book or author.  One idea would be to have a dual promotion with that author to help increase that visibility. Twitter could be your goldmine – any number of things.

Traffic doesn’t mean everything: you may get little traffic from the blog review itself, but that doesn’t mean the review is useless.  A reader could go to Amazon five days later and look you up.  So this does not necessarily tell you everything: but it certainly tells you a lot more than the very little authors have at their disposal today.

SEO would be nothing without analytics – you need to test how keywords, links, and content are working to generate traffic and referrals.  And books are just another form of content, so it’s slightly crazy that authors don’t have access to this type of information. Forbes asks the same question: Amazon should give self-publishers more data:

If we are to approach self-publishing as a business proposition, we need to understand not just the market for ebooks but also the performance of our own works within that market. Just as a web publisher needs to understand traffic stats, so ebook publishers need to understand ebook stats. Except Amazon’s Kindle store gives ebook publishers only the barest minimum of information.

This effectively means that there’s no way to compare the success of your promotional campaigns, or spot interesting routes of discovery. The stats you might be used to seeing for your web properties simply don’t exist for ebook sales…

Amazon must have this data somewhere. I have no doubt that they gather it for their own use so that they can improve their own sales. Packaging it up in a meaningful way and providing it to self-publishers would be a smart move: It would allow self-publishers to refine their promotional strategies which would in turn result in more sales and a higher income for Amazon.

Smashwords at least offers analytics about page views vs. downloads on specific days, as well as sample downloads – but it doesn’t say where the traffic is coming from, which is the most important metric. Currently, there’s no information that this is in the pipeline at Amazon, though there are stirrings of analytics being offered on the corporate level –  because there’s money in it. There’s also money in providing data to authors so they can sell more books. So this most certainly seems like it should be in the pipeline in the future.

  • Henry, see how this truth (which I see as the first truth of marketing) factors into your quest for data:

    Every buying decision is mutually exclusive of every other buying decision.

  • This is interesting, Henry. I like to know about these things even if I’m not terribly focused on overnight fame or fortune.

    I’m wondering about one thing, though. It’s in your question: “Are you getting traffic from a certain page – a tag, another book, a review, an interview, social networking – that are leading to more sales?”

    Are there privacy issues involved here? I’d ordinarily side with the privacy advocates on this.

    I believe every human on the planet has the right to visit a website anonymously and not fear discovery that she/he did so.

    But if you’re talking about the demographics of one’s visitors and buyers, and not their particular identities — about which nothing can be known — I readily agree with you that Amazon, Smashwords, and all the others should provide that information, in both their interests as well as ours.

    • Well, it would be no different than web analytics – so it logs traffic source, location, etc. but not a person’s identity.

      Author Central already tells you where in the country print books or sold – so I’m not sure why they can’t at least let people know that about Kindle sales.

      • You’ve won me over.

        • Henry, what would you do with information about where ebooks sell? You can’t send a rep to that area to gin up more business, because you don’t distribute or sell ebooks there. (Amazon, etc. do, and they don’t bother with geography beyond whole countries and regions’) And you can’t afford to.

          You might benefit from knowing what sites send traffic your way, so you can maybe beef up your social networking or adverttising a bit. But most people would work on the sites that send the most people even though the real opportunity to grow traffic is on the sites somewhat lower down the list. (I say this because having data and knowing what to do with ain’t the same.)

          The single biggest thing you can do to sell more ebooks is to write more ebooks. If a reader likes one of your books, he’ll look for more books by you, and buy them.