One piece of advice I’ve always received is to include excerpts from my other books at the end of each of my e-books to make it possible (and easy) for readers who wish to download any of others to do so. This is a post in which I’ll show and tell what I’ve down, explain how it’s worked, and seek your input on what you do, whether it works, and your opinion on my strategy. So here goes nothing!
Generally speaking, I include excerpts for the next novel in a particular series, the first novel in other series, and the nonfiction. To see an example—downloadable free anywhere—you can browse the table of contents of my novel Saving Grace, if you want. I don’t do the same thing in print books for a couple of reasons. First, it drives the price of the book up. Secondly, I don’t usually have my next novel finalized by the time one comes out. If we release later editions, I can add it, but we haven’t done it yet. I do think it would be a good idea to include if an author has it ready or for me if we release later editions.
Anyway, directionally, my royalties are increasing. It’s hard to say exactly why, but here are the things we’ve done in the last year that we believe have really worked:
1. Releasing more than two novels in a series (my sales increase with each, and I’m releasing my sixth in August 2015)
2. Making my first in series e-book FREE
3. Promoting the first-in-series-free e-book on Bookbub and
4. Promoting that same book WEEKLY using the most effective online promotion services I can find—for me, these are Bookbub, ereaderIQ/Booksends, Kindle Nation Daily, FreeBooksy, Books Butterfly, Free Book Service, and OHFB
Other things are important, but they’re part of the ante-up, in my mind: writing your best book, not skimping on top notch editing, not skimping on your cover, entering (and hopefully placing well in) contests, pricing appropriately, and working hard to get reviews/ratings. I price to achieve maximum revenue, and the sweet spot I have found is $2.99 for my novels, although I’ve recently started offering pre-orders for 99 cents (a whole ‘nutha strategy discussion) and I still price my newest release at $3.99, although I’m not sure whether that does me any good. To the end of getting reviews, I give away a ton of books, I use Author Buzz/Shelf Awareness, and I seek exposure with book bloggers (guest posts, reviews, author or book profiles).
My royalties are highest in the few weeks after a Bookbub, and taper slowly until my next Bookbub, six months later, which is the time interval between which they’ll run a promotion for the same book. I usually run Bookbub on a discount for a paid book some time in that interim, but for purposes of this discussion, we’ll ignore those.
Something different happened a few months ago. My royalties started picking up between Bookbub promotions just when we expected them to be falling. While I had released a new novel, I had also dropped the price on my last novel from $3.99 to $2.99, we’d dropped five of my nonfiction books (all of them except What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?) to 99 cents, and we’d offered the new novel at the 99 cent pre-order and new release price. Those of you that are e-book pricing savvy know that on most sales sites, i.e., Amazon, you make a lower percentage royalty on sales under $2.99. Amazon pays a 70% royalty on books priced $2.99. It pays a 35% royalty on a 99 cent book. So you have to sell a whole lot more books at 99 cents to make the money that you do on books that are $2.99. A whole lot more.
Sure, we expected me to sell more books over time, but we thought that the price drops might mean a short term royalty drop. But that didn’t happen.
Anyway, we couldn’t put our finger on the reason(s) for the royalties increase. Could it just be that at some point sales grow exponentially? Or could it be that before I released the new novel, I’d added the linked excerpts to all the other books? Could it be the pricing? Or both? Or something else, or none of the above?
I don’t know. We don’t know. All we know is that the nonfiction increased but not enough to account for the phenomenon; the overall sales of the fiction did. We suspect it’s an all-of-the-above answer, but we’re just guessing.
On the heels of this unexpected uptick in my moola, and less than two weeks before I was to run another Bookbub promotion on my first-in-series-free Saving Grace, I received two messages two days apart:
I believe all feedback is a gift, and that you have to look for the learning even if you have to wade through some people being too soft and others not so much ;-). In the first, it was “feel good” feedback, and obviously the reader had discovered others of my books (non-fiction), and enjoyed them. In the second, the reader enjoyed a novel but hated the excerpts, and made sure she took a chunk out of me in how she chose to tell me. My best guess is she is referring to my narrative non-fiction, the same praised by the previous reader. I must say that I a) wrote the non-fiction as self-therapy b) wrote it before my novels became successful. Anyway, I’m human, so I (just barely) resisted sending her back a message as direct as hers. But, in the end, I am weighing these two messages against each other and looking for the learning, if there is any. It’s always possible these are just two totally different humans, and that I can’t please everybody all of them time and all of that yadda yadda.
Or maybe it’s not. And if there’s an important takeaway, well, then I need to move fast, because my next Saving Grace Bookbub promo is July 7. Today is June 27. Yeah, fast. If the inclusion of my non-fiction hurts my fiction sales, then it’s crazy to have those excerpts in there. Except both non-fiction and fiction sales are up. Fiction way, way up. But could it be up more???
Which brings me to my question for you guys (think of it as your payment for all the amazing free strategy info I just synthesized for you!): what is your opinion about excerpts for other books by the same author, at the end of one? If you downloaded Saving Grace (free) and browsed the book excerpts I put in it, what do you think about how I did it? Would you do it differently, i.e., remove the non-fiction? Leave it the same? Not do excerpts at all?
Personally, I always read the excerpts at the end of a book, and I am much more likely to buy more from that author if there’s a sampler platter available to taste from. I may not like what I taste (a la Ms. Shaw, above), or I may love it (the website commenter whose name I don’t know). I think the push toward me buying/finishing is much stronger when I’ve started an excerpt. But does the good outweigh the bad? I truly don’t know and welcome your thoughts.
In the meantime, I hope the above outline of my current strategy is helpful for you guys.
Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes award-winning and bestselling mysteries and hilarious nonfiction, chairs the board of the Houston Writers Guild, and dabbles in employment law and human resources investigations from time to time. She is passionate about great writing, smart authorpreneurship, and her two household hunks, husband Eric and one-eyed Boston terrier Petey. She blogs on writing, publishing and promotion at Skip the Jack and on her beleaguered family, and much-too-personal life at Road to Joy. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound (if she gets a good running start). Check out her USA Best Book Award winning novel, Going for Kona, her permafree mystery (and series lead), Saving Grace, her writing/publishing/promotion Bible, What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?, her newest mystery, Heaven to Betsy, and her Beat the Heat Writer’s Retreat in Nowheresville, TX August 7-9, 2015.