Amazon Bestseller Day Giant Mailing Lists Are All that Matter––It's a Numbers Game! Part 6

31 Jan

Sandy Nathan, Award winning author of Numenon

Sandy Nathan, Award winning author of Numenon

“Mom, you’re scaring me,” my daughter said as I snapped at her. I was working on my “Amazon Party” round the clock.

Her words moved me, but didn’t slow me down. I was out of control, in hyper drive with no turning back. As the only one in the family who understood everything that had to be done before December 9th, my Amazon Party Day, I was in the hot seat. I WOULD get it all done. I’d DIE before I’d let something I’d committed to be a failure.

I’d finally grasped the truth: The only way for my Bestseller Day to succeed was for me to get the invitation in front of as many people as I could. Most people wouldn’t even look at it; I had to hook the 1% who’d open the emailed invitation into buying. That meant enlisting sponsors with huge mailing lists––40,000 and more––to join me and send out invitations to my Party. I looked around my world frantically, thinking of whom I could enlist.

Something else dawned on me: The easiest new customers are the ones I already had. I needed to tap into my own web presence and make my regular readers know what was happening.

I got into writing for the web in 1998, eons ago in web time. Our first website was for our horse ranch, Rancho Vilasa. We hired a young computer consultant to help us put it up. He taught me the fundamentals of Dreamweaver, that wonderful web page composition tool. I started Spurs Magazine, my ‘zine dedicated to almost everything, and was off. Now I run a family of more than 50 URLs, domains, all hosted from my beloved Dreamhost.

I got just under 29,000 requests for pages (which is the relevant measure of “hits”) in January 2009, and about 251,000 in 2008, from my four blogs and collections of web sites and ‘zines. When I began writing on the web, I had no plan. I wrote about what I was interested in. Apparently others were interested in the same stuff. Here are a few of my ‘zines:

SPURS MAGAZINE: I woke up one morning, looked at the news and said, “This is not OK with me.” Spurs Magazine is my answer. Has it helped? Judge for yourself. Does the world look better?
RANCHO VILASA Our horse ranch. Beautiful horse photos and info.
LITTLE INDIA IN ARTESIA CA Spotlights the second largest ethnic Indian community in the US. This article Googles #1.
YES, GOOD DOG About positive dog training, which we learned about when I adopted three INSANE little dogs when my daughters left home, leaving me with empty nest syndrome.
EQUINES & HEARTSTRINGS A ‘zine devoted to horses and humane horse training. Beautiful pictures and great stories.
AN ODE TO EBAY: Everything you wanted to know about eBay, including how addictive it is. The story of my recovery is in my book, Stepping Off the Edge.
LIVING SPIRITUAL PRACTICE: Your life is your spiritual path, it really is.
And the obvious:

Each of those has multiple pages, and may attach to other ‘zines. Check ’em out. I guarantee good reading. Persuasive reading. We once had a man read my stuff about horses on the ‘net and come all the way from Australia to see them. He bought three. He said, “I got started reading your web site and couldn’t stop …”

I had to let my existing readers know what about my Amazon Bestseller Day. That meant updating HUNDREDS of web pages. It was HORRIBLE. I found pages that had offers that had expired years before, fixed pages that looked like a kindergartner had done them, and spent hours putting information about the Amazon Day on each page and then loaded them. And checked them once up. Did the links work?  Arhghhh!!!!!

Thank God for psychopathology. Prayer really helps, but when assisted by the OC of OCD, it’s dynamite.

“Mom, you’re scaring me.” I was scary, I have to admit it.

Time was really short. I spent 14 hours days at my computer, ignoring my swelling ankle. What were my doctor’s orders and my recovery from surgery when I had work to do? Not only did I have to update my web sites, I had to do the social networking thing. Everyone agrees that social networking is where it is. Where was I?

In days, I signed up for all the major social sites, put up profiles, copied my blog, and announced my Amazon Bestseller Day when I could figure out how to do it. Oh, yeah––I tried to establish  relationships on threads of conversations I haven’t found since.

“You need a way to capture your buyers’ email addresses when they download their prizes,” said Irene Watson of ReaderViews. That word “capture” is another one of those marketing buzzwords that tick me off. Are people prey, in addition to objects to be driven? But it had to be done. I’d had ConstantContact for years, too intimidated to try to get it going. I had to now, though it scared me to death.

Not only was my psychopathology flaming at this point, my spirituality was aroused, too. My book Stepping Off the Edge is about spiritual practice––yes, prayer, meditation, worship, giving to good causes, keeping a clean mind and blissful soul.  Stepping Off the Edge is about all the usual types of spiritual practice, in addition to the spiritual trials of today: eBay addiction, infatuation with rock stars, and facing evil as it appears in daily life.

Most of my life has been devoted to finding and cleaning up my soul. When I wrote Stepping, I had spent thirty some years in very active spiritual practice, some of it in ashrams, most at home. I had attended more than sixty meditation retreats, in addition to retreats of other denominations, including The Gathering, the Native American retreat where some of Stepping Off the Edge takes place.

Although I get sidetracked and miss the mark, my life is devoted spirituality and the cultivation of the spirit. I realized, as my family cruised by my permanent seat at the computer looking worried about me, that I was in a danger area. A “red light” area, in Weight Watcher’s parlance.

Compulsive achievement and ambition are my weaknesses. I come from Silicon Valley, what do you expect? I was squarely in the heart of my personal darkness.

I snagged some big names as sponsors. People with really large mailing lists. Famous people in the book and publicity trade. Lookin’ good.

The pages showing the gifts were up and looked gorgeous. And somehow, all the family members who’d seemed to desert me gathered round in the last few days. I got expert help figuring out Constant Contact. My daughter didn’t get my book video done, but she did mount an exquisite slide show of The Gathering, the spiritual retreat that inspired Stepping Off the Edge. Here it is!

The web page invitation was up and gorgeous. I was handling giving out the gifts to people who either didn’t have their own web sites or couldn’t get their web teams going to do the necessary pages. The web work needed to setup downloadable gifts was done.

I sent Irene Watson the information she needed to fill out the ReaderViews pages and invitation. Unfortunately, I got it in at 5PM California time rather than 8 AM her time, as she wanted. (She got up at 5 AM the next day to post my prizes.)

But I’d done it! On the eve of the event, I’d pulled together a miracle.

I wasn’t happy, mostly because I still had to assemble and update my own email list and write a sample email to all my sponsors for them to send with their emailed invitations.

As I worked into the night, something came to me. One of those glimmerings that we get when we’re in real trouble. I was reminded of something that happened years ago.

Back in the 1970s, I found myself a doctoral student at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. At that time, I thought education was the salvation of the world. If everyone just got educated enough, we’d stop killing each other and destroying the planet.

I thought that people with PhDs behind their names were God. Not like God, God. Being in a PhD program, I got up close and personal with a lot of PhDs. I saw many things that opened my eyes, pretty horrific mangling of other human beings by my educated idols. I learned that smart people, educated people, people with PhDs are just people. Some are beatific and wonderful; some are as toxic as the poisons we pour into our rivers and ourselves.

In those days, I viewed people as collections of achievements. It was like people were pieces of paper walking around, resumes. Collections of awards and trophies. I was scared stiff of them, seeing only lists of accomplishments.

I didn’t see my fellow human beings in all their depth and complexity, I saw lists. I walked away from that world and found one much more valuable. The world of flesh and blood, spirit and value. Love and family. I learned and got better.

How I Felt on the Eve of my Amazon Bestseller Day

How I Felt on the Eve of my Amazon Bestseller Day

As I prepared for my Amazon night, I realized that I’d reverted to that earlier Sandy. I saw people now, not as collections of academic and professional achievements, but as possessors of mailing lists.

I’d made a bad trade. I had settled for a cheaper goal.

That’s it,


Next time, we’ll look at what happened. How many books did I sell? How much did I make? How high did Stepping Off the Edge climb? How long did it stay there?

Would I do it again?

The photo above is the winner of an “It’s not my Job!” contest in Arizona. I felt like that opossum must have felt. And I had done my job.

Amazon Bestseller Day 1–Bestseller or Bust
Amazon Bestseller Day 2–Forget Your Own Marketing Ideas
Amazon Bestseller Day 3–Get Top Sponsors!
Amazon Bestseller Day 4–Recap of 1-3 + Do Your Homework
Amazon Bestseller Day 5–How Many Books Will You Sell/Dealing with Amazon
Amazon Bestseller Day 6–It’s a Numbers Game: Have a Giant Mailing List
Amazon Bestseller Day 7–Blow by Blow of THE DAY
Amazon Bestseller Day 8–Was it worth it? Post-game Recap

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