As you might already know thanks to my relentless blogging about it, I couldn’t find a traditional publishing home for Mousetrapped because, on paper, its inherent weirdness (or ‘originality’, as I like to call it!) translated into a tiny potential readership. For a publishing house, pouring the efforts of its editorial, design and marketing staff into producing a polished book – not to mention coughing up the cost of manufacturing a few thousand copies of it – would be a commercial decision that was reckless at best. I fully understood this – heck, I even agreed with them. Based on its subject matter, there were only a small number of people who’d even be interested in reading my book and there was no guarantee that all of them – or any of them – would be interested enough to buy it. Still, I was up for the challenge of hunting them down. Almost six months after publication, how can I find out if it is indeed this little group who are buying Mousetrapped? How can I find out who my readers are?
If your book is listed on Amazon and you’re prepared to do a little detective work, you can find out in only a few minutes. All you have to do is take a good look at Amazon’s ‘Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…’ feature as it appears on your book’s Amazon page. There is so much information you can glean from it that you’d be a fool not to. Read on to find out how much I learned from mine…
Why I Know For a Fact That Twitter Sells Books
I can’t say enough good things about how Twitter can help writers. Even though I wasn’t even using my Twitter account when I made the decision to self-publish, I soon got tweeting and credit Twitter with at least half of my sales to date, nearly all of my promotional opportunities and getting me an agent. I know Twitter sold my books, and I can prove it.
Up until a month ago, my ‘Customers Also Bought…’ on Amazon.co.uk consistently included:
- Like Bees to Honey by Caroline Smailes
- Della Says: OMG! by Keris Stainton
- Wasted by Nicola Morgan
- The Dating Detox by Gemma Burgess
- Not So Perfect by Nik Perring.
Now at first glance, this may seem like a random collection: two teen fiction, two adult fiction – one funny, one sad – and one collection of short stories. But they’re not random at all – these are all writers who are on Twitter and who happen to be in my little Twitter swarm, i.e. I follow them, they follow me and we all follow and interact with a lot of the same people. Therefore, Detective Catherine concluded that many UK customers were buying Mousetrapped because they had come into contact with me via Twitter, as they had with the others writers on the list above.
Disney Fans and Astronutters: Mousetrapped’s Target Readership
- People who worked or work abroad, working travelers, gap year students, seasonal overseas workers, J-1 (student visa) workers, or people who were interested in doing such things.
- As no.1, but specifically those who had participated in Walt Disney World’s International and College Programs, or who had participated in the American Cultural Resort program through Yummy Jobs of London (as I did), or who were interested in doing them.
- Disney fans
- NASA fans
- Travel fans
- People interested in ‘unusual job’ memoirs or memoirs about working for famous companies, or even just memoirs in general.
That’s who I thought was going to buy it, if anyone did. After about five months on sale, here are some of the books currently listed on Mousetrapped’s various Amazon listings under ‘Customers Also Bought’:
- Walt Disney by Neil Gabler (Disney fans – check!)
- The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger (Disney World fans – check!)
- Mousecatraz: The Walt Disney World College Program by Welsey Jones (WDW program participants – check!)
- The Truth About Cruise Ships by Jay Herring (seasonal workers and working travelers – check!)
- First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstong by James Hansen (NASA fans – check!)
- Mortuary Confidential by Todd Harra (weird jobs – check!)
- Girlbomb: A Halfway Homeless Memoir by Janice Erlbaum (memoirs – check!)
- I’ll Never Be French: Living in a Small Village in Brittany by Mark Greenside (travel – check!).
What does this mean? It means that I can relax a bit, because Mousetrapped is clearly finding its way into the hands of the people I want to find it. Woo-hoo!
Using This Information to Sell More Books
So now that you know who is buying your book, you need to do something about it. (Otherwise, why did you bother?! There’s no advantage to just being nosy!) Look at the titles and see if you can tailor your future promotional efforts to accommodate it. What’s lacking? Who is the book not getting to? If I was to do this with my ‘Also Bought’, I’d come up with these:
- Of all the listings, only one ‘Also Bought’ is about NASA or space. While Mousetrapped isn’t a space book – only 2 of the 16 chapters are about space, one about the Apollo 8 mission/Kennedy Space Center and one about seeing a Space Shuttle launch – I think there are a few more space fans that would enjoy it. Maybe I could write more space-related blog posts to draw NASA fans to my blog and therefore my book, or participate in some Apollo book-related discussions.
- While I think working travelers – especially those connected with Disney – are buying the book, I don’t think any prospective working travelers are. If they were, I would expect to see a title like Working Your Way Around the World by Susan Griffin or gap year guides. A mention in something like Transitions Abroad or a similar publication would help that.
- The Disney books on the Amazon.com listing are varied: guidebooks, biographies, theme park histories, Disney fiction and even Disney movies and DVDs. This means Disney fans are buying it. But on the UK site, it’s almost exclusively Disney guidebooks. This means Disney holidaymakers are buying it. While this is great, I want to let UK Disney fans know about Mousetrapped too. Perhaps target UK-based Disney Twitter users, blogs and podcasts to help spread the word.
- Where are my Celebration fans? A few years I was desperate to find out more about the town but all that was on offer was two books: Celebration U.S.A and The Celebration Chronicles, both written by journalists who had moved to the town in its first year. Mousetrapped offers an updated visit but yet no Celebration-related books appear anywhere on my ‘Also Bought’ lists. A while back I contacted a Celebration-based blog, but got no reply and it hasn’t been updated in forever, so I must assume the author has abandoned it. Searching for newer ones should be on my To Do list.
If Your Book Isn’t Out Yet
Maybe you haven’t self-published yet but are thinking about it. How can this feature help you prepare to sell books? Find a book that’s similar to yours and check it’s ‘Also Bought’ list. If I had done this in advance, I’d have noticed that the vast majority of ‘Also Bought’ books are Disney-related and I’d have tailored my Amazon listing (the sub-title, the product description, the about the author, the editorial reviews and the search tags) to maximize the Disney aspect of my book. Likewise if I’d found that most people were buying ‘weird job memoirs’ I’d have emphasized that aspect instead. Or if I’d found an author via Twitter and then say that most of his or her ‘Also Bought’ books were by authors who were on Twitter with him/her, I’d have instantly recognized that my promotional laser beam needed to be focused on that.
So what are your readers also buying? Does the information help you sell more books? And isn’t being this nosy fun?!
Side note: On Amazon.com, my ‘Also Bought’ includes Series 6 of LOST on DVD and the LOST Encyclopedia. Damn, my readers have some good taste!