Books written by Ray Sullivan

Sunday, 30 December 2012

The Three Click Rule

Back in the day when I spent a lifetime implementing software solutions for industry there was a lot of focus on how many clicks should be used to reach a given software goal.  It is commonly believed to be a fact that website users will navigate away if they can't find what they are searching for within three clicks of the mouse.

In fact, while the concept is intuitively attractive, compelling even, there isn't any analytical evidence to support it.  The most relevant research suggests that the success of a search is more relevant - if after your three clicks you cannot see yourself getting anywhere near where you wanted to go then you will start to get disillusioned.

Anyway, regardless that the rule has no basis in fact, it has become a bit of a holy grail for some webpage designers.  While that may seem like a good thing, it does mean that some searches have to be unnecessarily blunt.

I mention this here because I've just read a message from Smashwords' CEO, Mark Coker.  He's excitedly reporting that since the 25th of this month - don't know if the date is relevant - there's been a massive uptick in sales of Smashword titles in the Apple iBookstore.  In fact sales are up by 76% on a week earlier, already much improved by 65% on the same week in 2011.  In fact, sales of Smashwords titles have rocketed from diddly-squat a couple of years ago to pretty impressive numbers.  It's probably not a surprise that Apple have taken to promoting Smashword originated titles in recent months.

In fact, the infamous top 100 sales lists and targeted promotions are probably the driving force behind these sales because, as I've mentioned in earlier blogs, it's devilishly difficult to look for books on any site, Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble et al.  If you have a whim to browse for a book, three clicks to find what you want is not only fantastic, it's virtually unthinkable.

But if Apple are making it easier for you by pushing lists of books that have shown promise or by featuring books they think may be good to read then that's got to help.  Amazon are at it too - I've mentioned their 'Deal of the Day' for Kindle books before.  It started off promising, then slid downhill for a while before picking up again.  In the last month they've been featuring at least three books a day in their daily email, often on a theme.  They featured ten in one mailing recently.  From what I read on the Kindle forums, the authors don't know they're going to feature or that their books are going to be discounted - it's probably in our terms and conditions next to the bit about our first-born, just ahead of the option to hand our soul over.

Anyway, apart from some tedious novels I've ended up wading through recently - perhaps it's just me that thinks listing every tool in a van in minute detail is a bit thorough when the author just wanted to let the reader know that the hero had some ad-hoc weapons to hand - I've ended up with some cracking reads for £0.99 - a Barry Eisler novel - 'The Detachment', 'Red Flags' by Juris Jurjevics and for the princely sum of £0.20, 'Zero Day' by David Baldacci.  All of these are currently selling on the UK Amazon kindle store for between £3 and £5.

Like the Apple books suggested to their customers, these books were suggested to me by Amazon.  As well as ticking my box for good quality but low price eBooks they saved me trawling through page after page of books on Amazon or Smashwords.  But it does mean I do miss out on the many good books that probably will never be listed as an Amazon deal of the day - my own books won't appear there at present as they are all priced at $0.99 or the Pound Sterling/Euro equivalent at all the eBook stores (apart from The Journeymen, the Sci-Fi thriller I'm giving away for free until New Years Day on Smashwords - see this link for details) as Amazon don't usually discount the 0.99 priced books.

But, as Mark Coker also mentions often, it's discoverabilty that drives eBook sales.  That's important for authors like me - you've found this blog entry and can now make a rational decision to look at my books or move on - but it's also important for readers, again like me.  Sure I want people to buy my books but also I want to find and buy other author's work as well.  Writing is one part of my enjoyment of books; reading is what rewards the most, though.  But trawling through page after page of books, dipping into blurb if a title or cover sparks an interest (what a terrible way to choose something to read) is a time-consuming and ultimately unrewarding way to search for books.

So I'm going to suggest something radical - the three click rule.  When you find a book worth reading at a price worth paying then choose three friends from your email list and send them links, a click apiece.  If we all do this on a regular basis then the better books will be discovered.


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