How Long Is Long Enough?
I’m the first to admit it, I’m on too many mailing lists.
Many of those are free or discounted books sites. It happens. You submit a book and then
agree to be on their mailing list. As a publisher, this has the benefit of letting you know when your promotion goes out. As a reader, it’s a little overwhelming. I hardly order anything.
Here's what I do instead. When I see a book on sale that I think I’d like to try, I save that day’s offers. I keep it in my inbox and plan to come back to it.
Then the day gets away from me. The next morning, I'll check to see if it’s still available. If it is, I’ll order it.
I don't always make spot decisions. That’s why I’m trying out longer promotions. I already wrote about doing four days instead of three for free promotions. Now I’m trying out 99 cents for a week, or two weeks or even a month.
Basing a marketing strategy on what I do when there are so many excellent studies on the psychology of consumer behavior is simplistic at best. And yet. It makes sense.
Now we’ll have to see if it works.
Who’s Better at Promoting - Author of Publisher?
It’s a debate I see often. IMHO, no one can promote a book as well as the author.
Case in point. I posted on the Bacon Press Books FB page about a book we have on sale for 99 cents for a week - The Man Who Built Boxes. That little box that keeps track of such things usually told me I'd “reached” six people.. Then the author, Frank Tavares, shared the post and people reached climbed to 146.
Authors - 1; Publishers - 0
The Big Launch vs The Slow Build
Book Launch Marketing and Common Sense
Ever find yourself supporting both sides of an argument?
That’s where I am right now when it comes to book launches.
On the one hand . . .
Yes, it’s a big deal. The book is out. Or in the case of pre-orders, the book will be out soon and you want everyone to get a copy. Now.
According to the subculture that claims Amazon has an algorithm for just about everything, getting a lot of pre-orders and first week sales means Amazon will take note and promote your book for you. Or rank it higher.
Getting a lot of buzz creates momentum and that's important because no one wants yesterday’s books.
Or do they?
My own experience tells me that I may not pick up a book until it’s been around awhile. The people I know are very well-read, but no one insists we talk about the latest book the week it’s out. We all have physical books piled up on our nightstands waiting to be read. We have dozens of ebooks on our tablets, some half-finished and others not yet started. There’s no real urgency to add one more to either pile.
Back in the day, when books were mostly available through bookstores [note: younger people reading this, please ask someone older to explain], shelf space was at a premium. New books would be featured anywhere from 3-6 weeks. If they were featured at all.
Early buzz was essential.
And if you were lucky enough to get reviews, those reviews came out in the first few weeks.
Skip ahead a few dream scenarios to now. Bookstores? Shelf space? Actual book reviews?
Any of those things for first-time authors?
In other words, what’s the rush?
It may take months for a new book from a new author to find an audience. Or it may take three or four books from that author before readers pay attention.
That’s why we like the long launch approach. Three months to build exposure. Maybe six. Some books need time to be discovered.
Launching our next book
We’re about to launch The Lost Town: Bringing Back Trochenbrod by Avrom Bendavid-Val.
This nonfiction book for Young Adults tells the fascinating story of the only completely Jewish town that once existed in Eastern Europe. The more than 5,000 residents were murdered by the Nazis and the town itself - the buildings, farms, and homes, even the paving stones in the street - all disappeared.
Trochenbrod has been given new life by Avrom Bendavid-Val. He went searching for the place where his father was born and raised. The Lost Town also tells the story of how Avrom found the town that no one knew about.
It’s an important book that will appeal to all ages.
We’re giving it all the time it needs to find readers and hoping they’ll help us spread the word.
Our Next Title - The Lost Town: Bringing Back Trochenbrod by Avrom Bendavid-Val
Summer is never long enough to catch up on everything you meant to read. Halfway through you start thinking maybe you’ll tackle Infinite Jest next year and you look for something shorter.
Here you go.
Two short story collections and novella. Perfect escapes. Or save them for
a rainy Sunday.
Each is 99 cents.
Blues for Beginners and Other Obsessions by Judith Podell - 99 cents July 19-30
"Blues for Beginners covers a lot of themes - sex, death, drugs, cancer, shoes, law school, the National Rifle Association, Monopoly (the game), cats, dogs, shopping, New York City, psychoanalysis, adultery, panties, bad boyfriends, Atlantic City, bad roommates, bad jobs, cigarettes, group therapy, capitalism and, of course, the Blues. Judith Podell juggles them all with a wondrous comic dexterity and a sensibility that embraces both the absurdity and the tragedy that define our lives."
Man from the Sky by Danny Wynn - 99 cents July 25- August 3
"Immediately, each story pulls you in so that you lose track that you are even reading. You are brought into Paris and Mallorca, experiencing each place with your eyes, feeling the impact of the weather, and hearing their unique sounds, and then you're further transported into the inner lives of the characters through the delicate wandering of their minds. Though I finished the book nearly 6 weeks ago, the characters and scenes continue to float through my days."
The Man Who Built Boxes and other stories by Frank Tavares 99 cents
July 29 - August 3
"Our lives are multi-layered, a mix of joy and sadness, of clarity and complexity, of pride and shame. There are gains and there are losses; losses that are evident and then those that are ambiguous. Frank Tavares has generously given us stories that we know well, narratives that could be our own. So please accept my invitation to discover why Sally Quantico walked away from her job at noon, why Newt Snyder took to assassinating Christmas lawn figures, how Ron-Allen Tucker knew his wife had decided to kill him, and why Jimmy Mendoza hated The Late Tomale Jones."
Stock photo © kzenon
Note: Again, I’m using a range instead of exact numbers. I think you’ll get the idea. (see Part One)
For our latest book, You Won’t Remember This by Kate Blackwell, I thought we’d try something a little different.
But let me backtrack. The first few times we did free promotions, we followed all the good advice we could find. We planned a month in advance. Figured out which three days of the week were best. Filled out more than 70 forms. Got up at 5 a.m. to add more sites. Then set the book back to the original price immediately.
It all felt a little frantic.
This time, You Won’t Remember This had 10 excellent reviews. So first up, we tried BookBub. And yes! We got a slot. A month sooner than we had asked for, but that’s because we didn’t know you couldn’t schedule more than a month out.
The last time we were lucky enough to get BookBub, we made the mistake of having it on the last day of our 3-day free promotion. Because of the time differences, the book was no longer free when people on the West Coast wanted to download it. This is frowned upon.
So we knew whatever day BookBub agreed to, we’d add another.
They gave us a Sunday. Was this a good or bad? Do people download books on a summer Sunday? We had no idea. Just to be safe, we set the promotion for four days starting on a Saturday.
We had less than a week to pull together any other sites we wanted to use. We would have added BookGorilla but it turns out they’re filled months in advance. So, once again we went back to eBookBooster for their 45-plus sites; Genre Pulse, because we like it; EReader News Today; Masquerade Crew; EBookHounds; and a few others. As with the last time we used eBookBooster, it’s hard to tell how many of the sites are going to pick up the post if they don’t notify you. Outside of the cost of BookBub, the other sites were in the $10-$40 range.
As long as we were experimenting, we decided to keep the book at 99 cents for two weeks following the free promotion. This worked before and seemed to make sense. We set some of the promotions for those 99 cent days - The Fussy Librarian, Bargain Booksy. We could have done more but we were trying to save time and money.
Bottom line. Between 37,000 - 38,000 downloads and between 220-240 sales. Along with thousands of pages read.
Even though in the past I’ve questioned how many thousands of giveaways is enough, this was definitely a kick. A great, well-written book that deserved to be in the hands of serious readers was reaching some of them. A lot of them. Maybe short story collections are more popular than we thought.
Until we know how the new payment policy for borrowed books is going to play out, it’s hard to tell how much revenue this new strategy generated.
But we do know the reviews are starting to come in.
What we’ve learned from this and the last promotion is that it doesn’t have to be a frantic 3-day dash. You don’t have to do all 100 plus sites that promote free books. You can put together a promotion in less than a week. And. You don’t have to immediately jump back to the book’s original price.
Hope this adds something to the conversation.
Bacon Press Books is pleased to announce the publication of The Lost Town: Bringing Back Trochenbrod by Avrom Bendavid-Val coming later this summer.
A magical place, a lost history. Trochenbrod was a bustling commercial center of more than 5,000 people, all Jews, hidden deep in the forest in Northwest Ukraine. It thrived as a tiny Jewish kingdom unnoticed and unknown to most people, even though it was “the big city” for surrounding Ukrainian and Polish villages. The people of Trochenbrod vanished in the Holocaust, and soon nothing remained of this vibrant 130-year-old town but a mysterious double row of trees and bushes in a clearing in the forest.
The Lost Town follows the adventures and discoveries of a man trying to uncover the secrets of the lost place where his father was born and raised. An imagined Trochenbrod was the setting for Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel, Everything is Illuminated, and the movie by the same name.
More details coming soon.
Cover by Alan Pranke, amp13
First a note: Because I’m writing this as the publisher, not the author, I’m reluctant to
release exact numbers. Instead, I’ll give a range, which I hope will at least make this useful.
We had a really good book on our list - Landfall by Joseph Jablonski. As I’ve mentioned before, the author passed away suddenly a year ago. His wife Darlyn, and son Peter, worked with us on the publication, but promoting a book without the author is tricky. Sales were slow.
In addition to being a great read, we knew the book had a good cover (based on a painting by Peter; designed by Al Pranke at amp13) and good initial reader comments. But we were stuck at 7 reviews (see The Reader Review Plateau and Other Mysteries). I kept waiting for the book to hit the magic number 10 before going free. That wasn’t happening. Tried changing the book description. No luck. I finally decided to take a chance and do a free promotion, knowing we wouldn’t even approach Bookbub.
We did use BookGorilla, EReaderNewsToday, EBookBooster (which submits to more than 45 sites), Masquerade Crew, EBooks Habit, EBookHounds, and Genre Pulse (more on that later).
(There are many more sites, some very good, but I've promised not to drive myself crazy or spend too much money trying to reach them all.)
We set the book free for 3 days.
The more I learn about publishing, the more I learn there's an awful lot that depends on your expectations. It's all relative. Obvious and clichéd but still true. On the first morning when we got 25 downloads, we were all thrilled. The book had been stuck and suddenly there was some movement. It was getting in the hands of 25 readers!
I’ll cut to the end of day 3 - between 8,000 - 9,000 downloads. Without BookBub.
But the best part was the sales, borrows, and reviews started coming in.
No matter how much we try to avoid it, there is always a moment during these giveaways when we think: if only each person had paid a dollar or even a quarter. But Peter said his father was a dedicated writer, a real artist - he definitely wasn’t writing to make money. He would have been delighted to have reached so many readers.
Some suggest raising the price, others say to keep it low. This time we set the book at 99 cents. And while I still don’t know how it happens, books do pick up a certain momentum after a giveaway. Three weeks later, the book is still selling. Not in the hundreds, but more than before.
With the new system for Kindle lending, it’s harder to tell how many books have been borrowed but we’re seeing an awful lot of pages read.
In the past, we’ve seen reviews trickle in for months after a promotion. If we’re lucky and that happens here and they continue to be good, the book will find it’s way to even more readers.
And that, in the long run, is why it's still worth giving books away.
Just a note about Genre Pulse. Too long a story to explain how we found James Fraser and Genre Pulse. But we’re glad we did. It’s not the most far-reaching way to get the word out about a 99 cent or free book but it’s one of the most interesting. They provide you with a link so you can see how many people click through and in their words, you can “compare clicks with KDP results to measure ROI.” We’re not there yet in terms of data mining, but we do like that you can see where all those clicks are coming from. In this case, it was 25 different countries.
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