Book Business

The Marketing Department: Giveaways and Sales (Part 4)

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The Marketing Department

Giveaways and Sales

If you opted to enroll your book in KDP Select, you are entitled to 7 days worth of giveaways or sales every quarter.

KDP Select Giveaways

Enrolling a book in KDP Select gives you the opportunity to run a Free Book Promotion, where readers worldwide can get your book free for a limited time.

Once upon a time, KDP Select giveaways had amazing benefits. If you made a title free on Amazon, the book would climb in rank. It had a good chance of making the Top 100 Free Lists (both genre lists and the overall Top 100 Free list).

But here’s what made it amazing: When the book returned to its normal price, its free rank and number of giveaways had a huge impact when its free rank transferred back to its sales rank. If the book was on a Top 100 Free List, it would likely transfer to a Best Sellers List! Therefore, the title automatically became much more visible to potential buyers. Sales would inevitably follow.

Sadly, the algorithm has changed. This is no longer the case.

Now, a KDP Select giveaway allows a book to climb the Top 100 Free lists (genre and overall), but when the title returns to its regular price, the rank basically reverts immediately to its previous level. Lots of titles may be given away, exposing new readers to your book, but there is no real boost to sales or rank once it returns to the regular store.

Giveaways can still be useful by exposing readers to new authors and series. But keep in mind that people will take for free something they would never, ever pay for. Some percentage of those who download a free book may never buy the second in the series.

At this moment, price-reduction sales seem to offer more benefits.

Running a Sale on Kindle

In lieu of or in combination with a giveaway, you can choose to participate in Kindle Countdown Deals, time-bound promotional discounting for your book while earning royalties.

You can offer one low price or raise it gradually over the course of the promotion.

Not only will you continue receiving royalties during your sale, but your book may also rise in sales rank charts. When it returns to its original price, the rank remains at its sale level, giving it a short bounce in visibility at the original price.

In my experience, running a Countdown Deal of one book boosts sales of all my titles. In addition, it boosts KENP (Kindle Edition Normalized Pages) Read of the reduced-price book during the time of the sale and after the sale ends. That means the price-reduction sale improved the book’s rank to the point where more readers were exposed to the title. Instead of purchasing the book, they borrowed the title through Kindle Unlimited or the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. That means the book can earn a bigger share from the Kindle Global Select Fund, which does not fluctuate based on the price of the book.

ProTip: Countdown Deals and Free Book Promotions can be scheduled in advance. Consider spacing promotions throughout the quarter or try running a mega sale of all titles at once. Keep good records so you know what works best for you.


Prize Giveaways and Social Media Contests

Another method of book promotion is to give away prizes (books and/or other items) on social media. In my experience, these sorts of contests have also become less effective over time. A contest that used to earn hundreds of entries now struggles to earn twenty.

It’s fun to give away free stuff, but the point of book-promotion-based contest is to expose potential buyers to your work and persuade them to purchase it! If you don’t earn sales as a result of your investment in prizes, then what’s the real benefit to you as a marketer?

Use caution when running a giveaway. Do the math. It’s easy to invest more money in prizes and shipping than you will earn on book sales as a result of the giveaway. This is when it’s important to know the break-even point: how many book sales will it take to earn back the money you spent on the giveaway? (Email list subscribers will have access to the free Break-even Point Spreadsheet, which will help you assess how many books it would take to offset production and promotional costs. So sign up below!)

MoneySaver: If you want to run a cost-effective giveaway or contest, consider making ebooks the prize. Ebooks require no outlay of new money to acquire. They can be delivered digitally for free to any place in the world. No postage or packaging required.

ProTip: Be sure to check each social media platform’s rules for running contests. Follow their guidelines to the letter.

Other Sales Venues

Running a Sale. If you opted not to make your book exclusive to Amazon, you can still run price-promotion sales. You’ll need to change the price of your book at each venue individually. You have less control over precise timing, but there is no time limit to a sale. They can last as long as you find the effective.

Making Your Book Free. BN, Kobo, and Smashwords all allow you to price your book free, and there’s no time limit. You can make it perma-free if you like. Keep in mind that most terms of service require you to keep the price of your book the same at all sales venues.

If you’re interested in getting the free Break-even Point Spreadsheet, sign up for the Book Business for Indie Publishers email list below!

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Spend a Year with Jane Austen

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I have two new Kindle options:

1. A Year with Jane Austen: Modern Austen Short Stories

Celebrate the holidays and special seasons of the year with a visit to all six of Jane Austen’s major novels.

This is a collection of all my modern Austen short stories originally found in Holidays with Jane. Includes “Infatuation and Independence,” A BRAND-NEW BONUS STORY from Pride and Prejudice! ($2.99)



But if you’ve already read all the Holidays with Jane books and just want access to “Infatuation and Independence,” the new short story from P&P, look here….

2. Infatuation and Independence: A Modern Austen Short Story

Lifelong follower Kitty Bennet thinks a summer of solitude in the mountains will help her decide what she wants from life. After a chance roadside encounter with good-looking contractor Josh Parrish, Kitty begins to rethink her choice to be completely alone. Josh immediately likes Kitty and only wants her to agree to one date. Will Kitty yield to the advice of her overbearing mother or follow her heart? ($0.99)

This story is brand new!

Book Business

The Marketing Department: How to Build an Email List (Part 3)

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The Marketing Department

How (and Why) to Build an Email List

One of a writer’s greatest pleasures is sharing her book with readers. But how does one reach those elusive readers?

Well, social media, of course.

Unfortunately, social media has limitations. Even though people opt in to your pages and feeds, it’s still not the most pinpointed approach. You’re putting information out there and hoping the social media algorithm will help it reach people who opted in.

Sadly, only a small percentage of those who opted in see your posts. So you still may not be reaching a large percentage of your readership. Not only do social media algorithms limit your potential reach, but lots of readers don’t engage in social media at all. Non-social-media users compose a certain percentage of your readership, and even though they don’t tweet, they can still be excited about keeping up with new releases.

Is there a way to skip the algorithm and keep everyone informed of new releases and other exciting events?

You bet. Even if readers aren’t active on social media, almost everyone these days has an email account. So….

Build an Email List

I’m all about finding the most efficient way to do a given task, but I’d also like it to be cost effective (read: free). Enter MailChimp. (Other mail services are available, but this is the one I’m familiar with.) Mailchimp is a service that helps you build a database of email addresses, design interesting forms and letters, and automate your emails. Mailchimp offers the option of tracking each campaign, so you can find out how many recipients opened the message and clicked your link. This service keeps your database, makes content creation easy, and keeps track of the results for you!

Free Plan.  You can create or important a list of up to 2,000 subscribers and send as many as 12,000 emails each month and pay nothing.

If your list grows larger, there are other plan options available for a fee. Their business plan is $10 a month and their ultimate plan costs for high-volume senders is $199 per month.

Money Saver: You can generate and maintain your own email list using Google Docs and a spreadsheet.

Using MailChimp, you can create a cool sign-up form like this: (I need to update this with my new covers! Project!)

Or you can use a sleeker embedded option in the sidebar of your blog:

You can also import existing lists of readers who have opted in previously.

The Takeaway

  •  If you use MailChimp, you must only send emails to subscribers who voluntarily opt in. You must have their permission to add them to the list. Plus, it’s just rude to add every person who has ever emailed you to your subscriber list. If they wanted to get your newsletter, they would have signed up for it. It’s presumptuous and unethical.
  •  Make every email count. Say something useful in each letter. If you yammer on in a weekly letter, the important stuff can easily be lost or your domain might be relegated to the junk mail folder.
  •  Tell readers the purpose of your list and how often you intend to email. Some people want to hear from you every week or month, but others simply want to know when the next book in your series is available. Let them know what to expect and give it to them.

The purpose of my main email list is to send book launch announcements. I don’t use it for anything else. Am I using the list effectively? Some would say no. But when my next book comes out, I will be able to email the people who specifically asked to be notified, and in the meantime, I haven’t made a nuisance of myself. As a result, my click-through rates are high, as are my link clicks. I get very few unsubscribes after each email.

Start building your email list today, and you could have a large built-in audience that is ready to snap up your book the moment it comes out. And since we’re talking about email lists….

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Making the Most of Amazon Prime: Prime Reading

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You guys, I am so behind!

I’ve had Amazon Prime for years, but I used it primarily (pun, sorry) for the free shipping, video streaming, Kindle Lending, and Prime Day sales.

But I was totally missing out!

Did you know about Prime Reading? You probably do. As I said, I’m behind. I recently went camping and wanted to load up my Kindle with things to read by the fire. While I was browsing, I came across this new-to-me-but maybe-not-to-the-rest-of-the-world feature and about danced a jig.

Tons of free things to read! I loaded up and took my devices to the mountains. There’s nothing like relaxing by a fire in total darkness with a nice book to read.

The fire where actual Prime Reading took place.

Okay, now back to Prime Reading itself. If you’re already a member of the Amazon Prime program, it’s included at no additional charge (unlike the Kindle Unlimited program). You don’t even have to own a Kindle. All you need is a device of your choosing and the free reading apps.

Boom! You get access to tons of books and magazines. And they are actually items you’d want to read! Seriously, go look. You’ll find something to enjoy or mock (whatever suits you).

Here’s how it works:

  1. Choose your books or magazines from the Prime Reading selection.
  2. Click “borrow for free.”
  3. The item is sent directly to the device you choose. (Again, you don’t have to own a Kindle. You can just download the free Kindle app and use whatever you have.)
  4. Read and enjoy.
  5. When you’re done, return the item.
  6. Choose more!

You can check out 10 items at a time! TEN!

Even if you hate the book, you’re not losing any money. It’s risk-free reading from your couch. No trip to the library needed.

With the price of Prime going up this year, it only makes sense make yourself aware of everything the program entails. And that’s:

I didn’t know about Prime Reading, but it makes me much more willing to pay the new, higher price. And it makes me wonder what else I’m missing out on.

So are you already using Prime Reading? If so, what should I check out next? Or are you just as behind as me?

Book Business

The Marketing Department: Action-Movie Marketing (Part 2)

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The Marketing Department: Action-Movie Marketing

Every author’s goal is to make their books visible to the widest audience possible, but the simple fact is that not every reader will be interested in every book. Therefore, some level of marketing focus is needed.

Stop Pray-and-Spray Marketing

Have you ever watched an action movie from the 1980s? The hero usually has a massive automatic weapon that never seems to need reloading. To make it even less realistic, the shooter never actually takes aim at the target before pulling the trigger and launching a single, well-aimed bullet. Instead, he sprays 10,000 bullets in the general direction of the bad guy. Take this scene from Predator for example:

Certainly, the goal of marketing is to get your book in front of as many people as possible. But if you aren’t making it visible to the right people, then you’re wasting a ton of time and money. It doesn’t matter how many times a person sees your book if they dislike the genre. They’re never going to purchase or read it.

So don’t market like an action film, throwing out a thousand ads indiscriminately and hoping to hit the right person eventually. Instead, pause, take aim, and use the minimum amount of ammo possible. Market more often to people who you know are already interested in your books–or in books very similar to yours. Don’t just pray and spray.

Take Aim: Define Your Target Audience

Describe your average reader. Having a general understanding of who reads your books will help you tailor ads to appeal to them.

  • Are they predominately male or female? Or are they a mix of both?
  • How old are they?
  • Where do they live?
  • What other books do they enjoy?
  • What other media do they consume? TV shows, movies, music?
  • What other authors do they enjoy?
  • What social media outlets to they use? (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, etc?)
  • What devices do they read on?
  • Where do they purchase their books? Which stores?

Use your answers to help guide your targeted ads. Narrow your audience so that you have the most chance of connecting with people who are already interested in the type of book you have written. Then, tailor each ad to suit the viewer and the venue. Don’t run the same thing on every platform. A Tweet should look different than a Pin. But all of them should be designed to appeal to your audience.

Conserve Your Ammo: Make Each Ad Count

Not all your marketing should be a call to action or a push to purchase.  Marketing really comes down to relationship building (aka making friends). Sometimes just having a pleasant conversation on Twitter can be better marketing than a major ad campaign.

When you do run an ad, make it count. Design it specifically with your friends (aka readers) in mind. Would your readers be more likely be on Instagram or Snapchat? What sort of pictures or videos would appeal to them? What hashtags will reach other demographics who share an interest in your genre?

ProTip: Keep records of your results and experiment to determine the best ads to run.

Advertise free items, not just those you have available for purchase. Free items might not make you a dollar right now, but they can offer you a great deal down the road. For example, you could offer the first book in a series free for a limited time. If readers enjoy the free intro to your series, they will be likely to purchase the subsequent books. Or you could offer a free short story to people who opt in to your email list.

Opt-ins: Social Media and Email Lists

Social media and email lists represent two different sorts of opt-ins, and they require different styles of marketing. While both types are voluntary–readers choose to see your content–people expect different things and will be put off if you do not behave appropriately for each venue.

 Social Media Opt-ins. People choose to view your posts on Facebook (whether as a fan page or group), Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat. Or they may search your subject out on their own using search features and hashtags. Either way, you are not broadcasting to the whole world. You are speaking to individuals who have chosen to follow you or are interested in the subject matter you discuss. Yes, your audience will expecting some amount of book-sales style posts. However, this is social media. They also expect you to be interact like a normal human, not like a commercial set to repeat. Nothing is more off-putting than following an author only to find that their entire feed looks like a giant, non-stop ad.

ProTip: use the 80/20 rule for marketing here. Spend 80 percent of your time making friends, sharing photos, or posting funny memes. Use only 20 percent of your social media time on advertising. 

 Email List Opt-ins. An email list is the ultimate marketing tool. Why? Because there’s no guesswork. You know these people are already interested specifically in you and your books. They chose to join your email list, and that means more than following you on social media. They invited you to send your content directly to their personal realm: their inbox.

Use this privilege wisely.

The people on your email list are your friends and biggest supporters. They have purchased your books in the past, and unless something goes wrong, they will continue to do so in the future. Find ways to thank them. You could offer discounts and coupons or exclusive free content, like short stories or deleted scenes.

No bait and switch! When you set up your email list, tell people what you intend to send them, and then send only that. If you plan a chatty weekly newsletter, let them know. If you’re going to recommend other writers (aka essentially run ads for other books), tell them ahead of time. If you only intend to send book launch announcements, let them know that too. No matter what you plan to send, make sure your readers know what to expect and when to expect it. Then respect them enough to give it to them.

That’s really what marketing is about. Making friends and then respecting them enough to sell only when appropriate. But knowing when to sell and when not to can be tricky. In the following posts in the Marketing Department, we’ll talk more about how to build an email list.

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