Some Marketing News

My full round-up of sales and marketing will come at the end of the month, but since I did my first 3rd party promotion this week (and my first ever use of the email book recommendation industry), I thought I’d do a mini-update this weekend.

Why do a promotion? Well, it’s the anniversary of the launch of the Bite Back series and the book that launched it, Sleight of Hand, was selling a little slowly. Hidden Trump had picked up a couple of zero sales days. It was time to do something. But what?

There’s an industry which has sprung up around Amazon. Companies develop email lists of readers and then get authors to promote through them. A win-win-win idea. The readers get a daily or weekly list of books that are being discounted for promotion. The writers get their book cover and blurb in front of readers. The company gets income if the readers click on the link and go to Amazon to purchase. But there are quite a few of these, which should I use?

I decided to use BookGorilla. No, that’s not quite true. I decided to use BookBub, but they’re starting to sound like agents – “your book is undoubtedly excellent, but it’s not a good fit for us at this time”. And, anyway, BookGorilla (http://www.bookgorilla.com/) is run by a guy with the wonderful name of Windwalker, and they got my business.

I had to reserve a place a few weeks in advance and promise to drop the price for the promotion.

I’m against playing with book prices for a variety of reasons. It feels like I’m rewarding people who come late to read my books. The mechanism itself is fiddly and requires two operations on Amazon (if your blurb is set up like mine). And surely, surely, there aren’t people out there sitting on the fence wondering about the difference between $2.99 and $3.99 for a book.

Even if there are, how would they ever notice that I’d changed the price?

Well, there are and they do. And I decided to go the whole hog and drop the price to $0.99 for a week.

Now, SoH was booked in for the email that went out on 14th August. Once I’d chosen the offer price, I had to ensure that it was set in Amazon before that, otherwise the book would be excluded from the email and I wouldn’t get my money back. Amazon won’t commit to a specific time before a price change is reflected, so I needed to do this about half a day before.

But hold on. Changing the price is a marketing ploy in itself. So I decided to drop the price on the 12th August, and see what effect that had.

Okay… daily sales for SoH in the run up to changing the price … 5,4,2,2,2
On the day I changed the price : 69
On the 13th : 26
On the day of the promotion : 64
On the days after : 29,11

Very interesting. The effect from changing the price was as big as having it emailed to lots of people!

How does that work? The only mechanism I can think of is that readers have SoH in their wish lists on Amazon, and they filter their wish list by price drops, so something like this goes to the top of their list.

Does anyone out there have a better idea?

It costs about $50 to get an entry on a BookGorilla email. The emails are sent to people who have indicated an interest in the genre, and they have thousands of subscribers in total.

There are others that I’ll try out, such as
BookTastic (http://booktastik.com/) … and …
The Fussy Librarian (http://www.thefussylibrarian.com/)

Return on Investment…well, not sure, not yet. Naturally, I am hoping that readers of SoH will go on to read the rest of the series, but there’s no way to directly measure this. I’ll be keeping an eye of average daily sales of HT and WC and I’ll tell you if something happens.

Does anyone out there use email recommendations, either as a writer or reader?

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About Mark Henwick

I was born in Africa and left out in the sun too often. An early interest in philosophy and psychology was adequately exorcised by tending bars. And while trying to enroll in a class to read Science Fiction full time, I ended up taking an engineering degree which splendidly qualified me to move into marketing. That in turn spawned a late onset career in creative writing. When not working, I get high by the slightly less conventional means of a small light aircraft. My first book, 'Sleight of Hand' is available on Amazon at http://amzn.to/Sa0D3n

17 responses to “Some Marketing News”

  1. Micke says :

    i use the fussy liberian gotten quite a few books from them dont buy everthing they send but its an easy way to get recommendations.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks Micke. I get a whole selection of recommendation emails. I couldn’t take all of them! One of the interesting things is seeing which books turn up in different lists.

  2. Jon.Gray says :

    What category is Book Gorilla putting SoH in? They don’t have an “Urban Fantasy” on their list; neither does Book Bub.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      You absolutely hit it, Jon. It goes in fantasy, along with LotR, GoT and some Steven King. This is the problem bookshops had 10 years ago. They didn’t know whether to put UF in horror or fantasy. Even Amazon didn’t have a UF section until last year. It’s *dumb* for online systems not to be able to identify UF which is a very distinct flavor of fantasy/horror. I guess the reason the promotional companies don’t split it up is that it will make their reader lists smaller and therefore less marketable.

      • Jon.Gray says :

        I have asked both BG & BB to add UF to their list. Maybe if enough readers and authors do the same they will listen? I know, that’s living in a fantasy world.

  3. Sarah L says :

    I have only taken a big online interest in what I am reading in the last 6-12 months so am relatively new to following emails, Facebook etc but I started out with following a load of review blogs to get ideas but I have recently subscribed to eBookSoda which I have bought quite a few recommendations from. Although until reading your last post on this i did not realise they got a cut and have never followed the links, I always have Amazon open in my browser and type in the author myself! Does this affect anything for the author I wonder?

    • Mark Henwick says :

      I don’t think there’s anything in what you do that affects the author, Sarah. No email promotion service that I know of provides any cut for the author from the use of the links.
      Also, quite often the links are to Amazon.com and so buyers from other countries have to do what you’ve done anyway.
      eBookSoda is a new one to me. I wonder if there is overlap between these email lists that all these companies are setting up.

  4. Deborah Jay says :

    I did a $0.99 promo in June for my epic fantasy, spanning a range of advertising companies, and my best result by a long way was with ereader news today (ENT), selling 108 copies on the day of the ad, and 67 the day after. They don’t guarantee to take your book but well worth it if they do.

  5. Susan Illene says :

    Great update, Mark. Glad you were able to get results with Book Gorilla! I’ve got a promo coming up soon and just emailed you a list of all the advertisers I’m using (including Bookbub, lol). Like you, I wasn’t too hot on dropping the price but I do think some readers like to wait until a book is discounted to give it a try. We’ll see how it goes!

  6. Robert says :

    Although I admire your attitude about rewarding “late” readers, I have to say that if I am on the fence about a series – usually because the “sample” is either too small, or the quality of the sample is variable – then I will buy the first book if it’s only $0.99. (With SOH there was no doubt whatsoever!). That will often end up with me buying all the rest of the books of the series.

    As an aside, how is the length of the “sample” chapter Amazon sends out decided? Do you make that decision, or is it an exact 10% of the book (or whatever)? That is certainly something I’ve thought it might be interesting to fiddle with.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks Robert. Here’s hoping the $0.99 got me some series addicts!

      Amazon determines the exact length of the sample based around a notional 10 percent. Now, being from a computing background, I had a think as to how they could have implemented the algorithm to do it automatically, but came to the conclusion that it was one of the human interventions they did when the accepted the book.

      Amusingly, before SoH was printed, they estimated the length as 300 pages or thereabouts. When I queried them how they arrived at this figure, it’s based on the number of pages in the Kindle with the font size set to the smallest possible. Just for a laugh, try reading with that setting. My argument, which received no response, was to point out that their “10%” sample was nearer 50 pages – why the discrepancy?

      (These numbers are from memory)

  7. D Smith says :

    I have about 160 books in my Amazon wish list and I check it every couple of days looking to see what is cheaper and 90% of the books that I buy off my wish list are ones with price drops. I am not sure if others think in the same way but it would be interesting to see what a drop from $3.99 to $2.99 does as I think that it would have a bigger effect than you would think. It is not so much about sitting on the fence as giving people who have so many different books to choose from a reason to choose yours.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Interesting, Duncan, thank you. Yes, there’s a LOT of choice these days.

      I’ve put SoH back in at $2.99 for the moment, rather than $3.99 and I’ll leave it there for a while.

      I’ll rerun the marketing in October probably, and line up a dozen email recommendation companies (like Susan has).
      I’ll also drop the price a day before, as I did this time. It’ll be interesting to see if the price drop has the same effect.

  8. Sky says :

    Absolutely brilliant series. I strongly suggested it to a Brit friend but he balked at the pb price.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks for that, Sky.

      Alas, the paperback pricing is really difficult to control. The only feasible way for an indie like me to get into print is to use Print on Demand, and CreateSpace is the most convenient of these. They’re also in line in costs.

      Nominally, I set the price, but the majority of the payment goes to CreateSpace, who after all have to print the books. I make less from a paperback sale than I do from an ebook sale. CreateSpace then also do some discounting from time to time, but that’s out of my control.

      Can I not interest your friend in the ebook versions 🙂

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