I’m writing this post using a Mac application called MarsEdit. The guy who makes it is Daniel Jalkut. Last week, he guested on Marco Arment’s Build and Analyze podcast, which is aimed at software developers but often contains insights that independent authors can learn from. Daniel’s a nice bloke. I know this because we had an email exchange a few months back about a feature I’d like to see in MarsEdit.
In the podcast, Daniel said something about incrementality that seemed apposite. When he took over the coding of MarsEdit (from Brent Simmons of NetNewsWire fame), he thought about the unit sales of the software. It sold on average three per day. This led to what New Worlders call ‘a fair chunk of change’, but it was somewhat less than the figure that Daniel could live on.
He thought back to the old software adage that, if one hundred people view your software, and three buy it, you’ve got yourself a decent conversion rate. Daniel thought about the product in terms of increasing that conversion rate. How well designed was the initial set-up? How did the software work for novice users? He tweaked the application and increased sales.
I’m not one who shies away from money-related talk when it comes to writing. If you don’t talk about it, there are plenty who will — particularly these days, when more and more writers are taking home non-trivial monthly royalties thanks to the success of e-publishing.
Bullshit Bingo aside, incrementing your conversion means looking at the product — a book, perhaps — and working to get that extra one-percent of readers to buy your book. If you see a typo, kill it, upload the new version. If it takes a reader too long to get to the first page of the story because you’ve front-loaded the book with review quotes, shorten it, upload it. What does the reader see when they land on your Amazon page? A bio that’s out of date? Get biblical on the arse of the text.
You see where I’m going. It’s an obvious point, perhaps, but changing your attitude from ‘I’ll fix it later’ to ‘I’ll fix it now’ won’t only improve your story. Readers notice these things. Just take a look at a few reviews for self-published books on Amazon: presentation is a theme.
As I say, it’s an interesting podcast, and well worth a listen.