Quora: How Indie Authors Can Increase Views, Leads, Sales and Self-Confidence

The following is a guest post from bestselling author Michal Stawicki.

Introduction

I’m no big institute or Tim Ferris, I don’t have a load of resources or time to play with. My business is in the constant motion. So, this analysis is far from the scientific level of accuracy. A lot of other things happened before and during my first 36 days on Quora, thus estimating what had the actual impact on my book sales is all but impossible. Plus of course, it’s not that book sales are predictable anyway. The sales are volatile by their nature.

Having said that, I have over two years of experience of tracking my sales data and I can fairly easily discern what was a random accident and what an influence of Quora.

What happened “before Quora:”

On October 22nd I published “Know Yourself Like Your Success Depends on It.”

On 18th of November, I had a $0.99 promo of “The Art of Persistence” on Fussy Librarian.

Two big spikes in my sales at the end of November happened on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I dropped the prices of all of my books at those days.

Fig 1

Abbreviations:

  • KYLYS: “Know Yourself Like Your Success Depends on It”
  • TAOP: “The Art of Persistence”
  • BHAF: “Bulletproof Health and Fitness”
  • BB: Buck Books

On 7th of December, I started regularly publishing answers on Quora.

On 24th of December my latest book, “Bulletproof Health and Fitness,” was on the Buck Books promotion. Three days later, on 28th of December, the book really took off. The increase in sales of my other books is a natural consequence of such situation. I stacked several promos of that book from 28th of December to 6th of January.

On 26th I published a Quora answer which got over 4,000 views on the first day. It was my breakthrough on Quora and it supported the effect of “Bulletproof…” book launch.

OK, let’s go through my data.

Book sales analysis

Fig 2

In the case of this book, the Quora effect was quite convincing. Almost every mention of the book in answers was connected with the spike in sales. I see two possible reasons for that:

  • in the case of PMS book, I always put a direct link in the Quora answer
  • it permanently cost $0.99, so it’s easier to turn browsers into buyers in its case.

Fig 3

As you can see, The Art of Persistence is a mature book which usually (see period before 17th of November) sells 2-3 copies a day. All sales spikes before Quora era were correlated to $0.99 promos I did for that book. I’ve never provided a direct link to the book in my answers. I wrote a lot in Self-improvement category on Quora and in my bio for that category I provided this book’s title.

The shape of the curve indicates a clear correlation between my Quora breakthrough on 27th of December and sales. Unfortunately, the additional factor was my latest book, “Bulletproof Health and Fitness” launch, so the real reason behind the elevated level of sales is still a mystery.

On 8th of January the review of this book was published on Forbes, hence another sales spike.


Trickle Down Mindset chart

Trickle Down Mindset had the best launch among my books. In the first month, it sold over 1,100 copies. Nevertheless, after 90 days it all but disappeared from sales charts.

I can’t see any direct correlation between Quora answers mentioning the book and sales. In this case, I could almost argue that Quora had no effect on sales.


From Shy to Hi chart

This book is one of the clearest positive examples of Quora answers affecting book sales. As you can see on the chart, it usually doesn’t sell many copies. On Black Friday promo it sold 4, but on Cyber Monday none.

On 13th of December, I published two answers on Quora. One of them was my overcoming shyness plan at the end of which I mentioned the book. This answer got 2200 views on the first day and forever dominated a question with over 120 answers.

I put the name of the book in my bio answering another question on 26th of December. The same day I answered another question and that answer went viral. It was the beginning of my Quora breakthrough. I think a lot of people who visited my profile also noticed  my answer about shyness.


Learn to Read with Great Speed chart

This is my very short and permanently $0.99 book. It was practically dead before 15th of November when someone promoted it out of the blue. I don’t know if it was Amazon or (more probably) some promo site which needed one more book to fill all spots for a given day or some big blogger mentioning it in his post. After that promo, it sold several copies.

My sole answer about speed reading, which didn’t get many views appeared on Quora on 23rd of December, exactly before the new trickle of sales.


Fig 7

I’ve said I started on Quora on 7th of December. Technically I started earlier, on 29th of November. This day and the next I posted 3 unprepared short answers. One of them mentioned this book. On 26th of December, I published on Quora my breakthrough answer that was one of the stories from the book. I finished the answer stating exactly that and I provided a direct link to the book on Amazon. A steady trickle of sales happened afterwards. I published another story about 2 weeks later and it coincided (or it wasn’t a coincident) with another sale.

Conclusion

I spared you analysis on a couple more sales charts of my other books where the verdict if Quora affected my sales was ambiguous.

The conclusion is that although it was hard to pinpoint any particular cases, the overall “Quora effect” on my sales was positive. In the case of a couple of books, I could hardly find any correlation between my posts, views on Quora and sales. In one or two cases this correlation was downright negative, which doesn’t make sense at all. But when looking closely at the sales of five other titles, I could easily connote views on Quora and sales spikes.

Going down to numbers: my estimate is that 5,000 to 10,000 views on Quora converts to a single book sale. It may be conservative assumption (just yesterday I’ve got a message on my blog from a guy who bought five of my ebooks after reading my Quora answer), but I prefer to be on the safe side.

Verdict

It may seem disappointing, a lot of effort for a little reward, right? Well, for me this is awesome!

As a hellishly busy self-published author I’ve been trying for more than two years to find any marketing avenue available for me. I got to know a few really great tactics… but none worked for me.

Constant promotion and money from speaking gigs may be a great way to earn money for Hal Elrod, Stephen Guise or Kevin Kruse, who all live in the USA and do this full time.

Getting featured in big magazines worked for Kimanzi Constable and Jeff Goins, but didn’t work for me. It’s supposedly all about getting on the radar of editors and believe me, I tried. I got exactly zero feedback. Before you raise this argument, no, I don’t suck at getting on the radar. At least a few millionaires know who Michal Stawicki is. I was able to get on the phone with Aaron Walker, exchange tweets with Darren Hardy and emails with Pat Flynn and David Allen. I guess getting to editors is harder than getting to millionaires.

With zero feedback I couldn’t continue banging my head against the gates. Yes, the potential benefits are huge, but I don’t have time to waste!

SEO magic works great for Dave Chesson because he is an SEO wizard. He spent at least a couple of years learning this magic from 3 to 7 am in the morning. He tried to teach me this, but the learning curve was too steep for me.

Paid advertising didn’t work for me because it’s another tool you need to learn about before committing your money. I used some tips from other authors and got some results, but I have been bleeding money I didn’t have.

About the only thing that worked for my book sales in the past were promo sites and learning curve and money-bleeding were brutal in their case too. After spending close to $1,000 on their services, I finally know which of them do a decent job for my books.

Quora is a great alternative for me. I don’t need time to get on there. I don’t need money to do that. I don’t need to craft my pitches to perfection to bypass the gatekeepers. I don’t even have to write! I’ve written over 850,000 words since September 2013, I have plenty to share.

Quora did for me the same thing that big publications are doing for featured authors, I reached hundreds of thousands of readers, with exactly zero hassle. What is more, I could share my old content, a thing unthinkable for editors in big magazines.

And one more factor, I’m a jack of all trades. I can imagine becoming an authority on Quora in a specific niche very fast, but it’s not my cup of tea. My books are about my life experience and they tackle everything from changing your mindset, via health, fitness, self-analysis to speed reading. Quora has an audience for each of those in one place. I don’t need to chase my readers from one Facebook group to another. I can simply write, publish, repeat.

The last point: it really affects the sales! This is crucial. Amazon (and I’m sure other retailers who have at least an ounce of brain) promotes your stuff internally only when they notice, that your books are worth promoting. There is no better way to convince them about that, than bringing traffic and buyers to their site. Before I found Quora I could do it only in a very hectic manner, using the promo sites. Now I can provide a constant trickle of sales as long as I will be publishing more answers. Which I wholeheartedly love to do.

Why Quora is easy for writers.

1. There is a curious audience of beginners.

I experienced a lot of frustration trying to market my books online. You know the standard advice: “Be where your audience is.” It seemed like I couldn’t find my audience at all. My books are elementary. They rarely contain sophisticated methods or knowledge. I cover basics over and over again.

But people who need basics usually sit in front of their TV sets.

Quora is the place where people who just turned off TV and are looking for answers. Oh, I’m sure there are a lot of pros and advanced in their line of business or craft. But there is the whole crowd of beginners.

I don’t know how Quora attracts those people, I just know they are there and they are hungry for answers. They ask the same questions over and over again, even though they are prompted in the search bar.

2. There is zero learning curve involved.

Hey, I’m a writer, I produced about one million words since I decided to become one. I know how to write. I know how to tell the story. I know how to engage readers. All I need to do on Quora is to find the appropriate question to answer. The rest is pretty much automatic.

3. Quora loves wordiness.

There is a quirk in Quora algorithm many people complain about: if your answer is too short, it’s considered less significant. It may be a problem for a common mortal, but it’s a great news for professional writers. The only danger with that is that you can become lazy with editing. Usually, I try to be maximally concise in my writing. There is no sense in beating a dead horse, right? Well, writing for Quora may teach you, that indeed, there is some sense in wordiness and it can finish bad outside of Quora environment.

What is more, I have a LOT of ready material to share. I copied whole chapters of my books into Quora answers. If I had written about something in the past, usually I have more than 1000 words about the topic.

4. Self-publishers have an unfair advantage.

I spent last few years trying to stay afloat on a crowded Kindle market. I breathe and smell marketing. I instinctively understand a need to hook up readers in the first sentence, a usage of headlines, providing benefits, not features…

Not that I’m a great marketer. In fact, I’m hopeless. But I’m still better than at least 90% of writers on Quora.

Take bios for example. Consider this: Quora claims that answers with bio get three times more views than those without bios. It is displayed on every answer’s page that you answered, but didn’t provide your bio. Every. Single. One.

Yet, very few people take the pain to provide their bios. Can be something less obvious to do?!? Write about 100 characters and you will get three times more views!

More people, but still very few, bother to put some info in their profiles. If you have an even rudimentary understanding of marketing (as I), you are a winner.


This is a guest post from bestselling author Michal Stawicki.