Archive for Strategy

Print Books: Eric Makes His Case

There is a raging debate in the world of independent authordom, (and sometimes even in our house), about the value of print books in an independent author’s marketing plan. While there is no clear winner in my opinion (and it depends heavily on your long term goals), I do believe that getting your books in print and working very hard to get them in and keep them in brick and mortar stores (and everywhere else you can) has real value.

In the short run, I believe an author has a better chance of scraping out a positive return by NOT doing print books at all. If you are an indie with little visibility and your sole venture into the print book world is Amazon with expanded distribution, I think you have little chance of ever recovering your formatting, book cover and initial fees. And you get to enjoy the pleasure of seeing that poor thing ranked #4,342,334 with very little you can do about it.

There are many indie authors who add print books to their portfolio simply for romantic reasons. They love the smell and feel of a print book. They want to put one in the hands of their mother who will never get a Nook or iPad, or maybe in the hands of that naysayer that told them they would never make it (the book) happen. In today’s world of low cost print-on-demand, those are often reasons enough. However, I personally believe print books can play a much larger role.

First, though, the cases in which is does not make sense to do print:

  1. You have a very limited budget and want to focus whatever money you have on one format.
  2. You are not comfortable with amount of “putting yourself out there” necessary to market your book to stores, conduct books signings, and do interviews. There is no shame in this. It is a very difficult thing to do, and do well.
  3. You have only written one book and you’re not sure if you plan to write another.
  4. You are allergic to paper.

Now the reasons why, if you can do print well, you should.

Your book cover is your calling card, your trade mark, your brand. Print books have a long life. They can be passed around by friends, sold to discount books stores and resold, and donated to libraries. All of these things lead to the possibility that someone will read it, love it and tell others about it. For an author, marketing is the business of generating fans who love your book so much they will pay for your NEXT book. You don’t generate fans by telling people on Twitter that your book is really good. You generate fans by having them read and love your book. Therefore you must make your books as accessible as possible.

If you have an issue with giving away your books, get over it. You need to do it, a lot. Now, as best as you can try to attach a string to the gift (like requesting a review in trade for the free book); however, expect a very low percentage actually will. If you have the funds, buy your book in bulk through Lightning Source to get volume discounts that make these giveaways less painful, and make your direct sales at speeches and appearances more lucrative.

Probably the most often asked question of us at SkipJack is, “How did you get Pamela’s books in Barnes and Nobles and will you do that for me, too”? There is no recipe to follow, no simple answer that results in that Nirvana. Pamela is the hardest working person you will ever meet, and she has a team that believes in her and together they put in an incredible amount of effort. And it still is an every day battle to keep them on the shelves. I will not go into it all here, if you want to learn what she did, read LOSER. Suffice to stay it takes blood sweat tears luck and money.

Has it paid for itself yet? In pure balance sheet figures, heck no. HOWEVER, many wonderful things have happened for Pamela since we started down this path. Interviews, radio shows, invitations to speak on Panels with NYT-bestselling authors, newspaper articles and Book Signing events that set store records. Most of these, if not all, were the direct result of having print books. And while all this stuff was going on, she sold and incredible number of eBooks. Would she have sold all those eBooks if it weren’t for the events that I mentioned? Who knows? But I doubt it.

Statistics show that on average people do not purchase an item until they have seen that particular item at least five times. So even if you manage to crack Amazon’s secret algorithm code and your eBook flashes in front of a potential reader, it is unlikely that they will buy it that first time (or the second). But maybe if that see it a couple of times in a coffee shop first, in the arms of one of your readers who is carrying it around, and then in an advertisement about your booksigning, maybe, if you are lucky, they will click “add to cart.”

We have had Hastings and Barnes and Noble managers tell us directly that people come into the stores with their Kindles, Nooks and iPads fired up. They troll the shelves flipping through books ‘til they identify ones they like . . . and then buy the eBook on their devices! (Bookstores, I feel your pain).

Those of you that have been at this a while know that having “life changing” success as an author is a long shot with odds roughly equivalent of winning the lottery. The “success” of your book is dependent on that random chance of it being photographed in the hands of a celebrity, read by a producer, or “discovered” by some media heavyweight. Every book on the shelf in a store, in a library or left on a table at a coffee shop is a lottery ticket. If your book is great and you believe in it, why not buy every lottery ticket you can?

Eric

Eric R. Hutchins is the owner of SkipJack Publishing

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Proud to be a member of the Club.

When I first ran across Author Marketing Club, I resisted. I mean, come on, free stuff is good, but I’m getting nickel-and-dimed all over the place for paid services that will help me sell my books.

But Author Marketing Club didn’t promise to help me sell my books. Instead, they offered me services to make doing what I already knew I needed to do easier. Whether or not the book sold would still be up to me.

The services sounded good. Their review grabber. Their Enhanced Description HTML Generator for a jazzed up Kindle page on Amazon. Free Book Cover Art. They sounded really, really good. I read their free download, Sell More Books With Awesome Amazon Descriptions. It was amazing.

I’ll cut to the chase: I caved and joined. $105. The question was, would it be down the tubes or money well spent?

I tried the Enhanced Description HTML Generator First. I wish I had taken before and after shots of my description, but check out a comparison of a normal Kindle description versus my new AMC-amped up description.

Normal:

 

AMC-amped:

OH.MY.GOD.

Using their HTML, I was able to update my CreateSpace pages too. I’m thrilled with the impact.

Next I used Review Grabber. Review Grabber goes out to the authors and books of your choice on Amazon and pulls the reviewers for whom there are email addresses and websites, so that you can contact them individually and ask them to consider reviewing your similar book. They even give you instructions and a sample letter. So I sent out 11 requests for reviews. Four of the reviewers said yes. As of the time of this blog, I have two new five-star reviews. One of the reviewers is a book blogger who decided to buy another of my books and feature both reviews on her website. Wowza!

I tried their Book Widget Generator. Here’s how it looks:

Nice, huh? Links to all my major sales websites, not just Amaon. And my Amazon Associates ID is built in. Much better than the Amazon Generated Widgets.

And it just keeps getting better. I was able to participate in Book Discovery Sundays,which emailed my book around to the membership. I will be in a Book Bundle promotion in December. I was featured as a new member to other members. Two Fridays in December AMC and the powerhouse World Literary Cafe will promote for free my sale of Saving Grace for 99 cents. That’s not even including the free book cover art, free webinars, and other features. I’ve used them all.

I am in love.  Is that because I’m selling more books? Well, yes, my sales did pick up in the week after I implemented some of the AMC features like the Description Enhancer. But the payoff for most of them awaits. I have the aforementioned sale of Saving Grace to relaunch Leaving Annalise in November, and with the exposure I hope to get through ads I am running in addition to the 99 cent Fridays promotion by AMC and WLC, more people will see my new reviews and new descriptions. My landing page is much higher impact, much more likely to generate sales.

Best $105 I ever spent.

Now, if I could just get BookBub to schedule Saving Grace during my November promotion . . .

Pamela Fagan Hutchins is an employment attorney and workplace investigator by day who writes award-winning and bestselling mysterious women’s fiction (Saving Grace) and humorous nonfiction (How to Screw Up Your Kids) by night. She is passionate about great writing and smart author-preneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

 

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Who wants to guest post on SkipJack?

We are looking for tales of learning, success, and failure to share with our readers on Skip the Jack, and we are looking to cross-pollinate. If you think you fit the bill, email info @ skipjackpublishing .  com to volunteer. We are seeking 300-800-word pieces or excerpts on publishing and promotion that address current topics relevant to writers outside of traditional publishing.

Eric, Owner

SkipJack Publishing

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BookBub: Read the Fine Print, and the Email

Last November I had a spectacular 99 cent promotion with BookBub for my novel Saving Grace, selling over 4300 of it in five days, plus a few hundred of my other books. It wasn’t all on Amazon either. Bookbub has incredible reach with Nook, iTunes, and Kobo, too. So great that I couldn’t wait to get my next novel, Leaving Annalise, on it. I decided to hold off, though, until the launch of the third book in the series, Finding Harmony. Bookbub would be the perfect way to get readers out to see the entire series and guarantee an effective launch.

Like most of you, I have a day job. This author gig will probably never replace the money I make as an attorney and business owner. I also have five kids, four dogs, and a husband, and I am President of the Houston Writers Guild. Suffice it to say, I lead your average hectic life.

A few days before my promotion, I got an email from BookBub. I was traveling for work at the time, and I read the first few lines on my iPhone. It reminded me to make sure I had my prices set correctly for promotion. I did. I felt virtuous. I marked the email to read later. It never occurred to me not to trust BookBub completely.

I got home late the night before the promotion. On the day of, I set to work catching up with my life while I kept an eye on sales. About 11:30, I got the daily promotions email from Bookbub. I’m signed up for mysteries and thrillers, which is the category my novels run in. There was Leaving Annalise. I felt a frisson of excitement.

By mid-afternoon, I noticed that sales weren’t picking up on Barnes and Noble Nook. Hmmm. With my first BookBub run, I had over 1000 Nook sales in the first 24 hours. I started to feel worried. About that time, my husband emailed me.

“My BookBub email only shows LA on Amazon.”

My stomach lurched. I checked my email. SHIT.

“Mine too,” I replied.

I checked the history of emails between BookBub and me. I had signed up for promotion on Kindle, Nook, iTunes, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords, and that BookBub had confirmed it. I opened the pricing reminder email I had previewed a few days before, and that’s when I saw it: the bottom of the email showed where BookBub had me slated for promotion. KINDLE ONLY. Between their confirmation email to me and this one, they had dropped off all the other sales sites. The email asked kindly that if there were any errors I let them know, as nothing could be done once their emails flew.

I sent off a frantic email to BookBub. I laid out the whole story.

They responded quickly and took 1/3 off my price, with apologies.

I answered basically as follows: 1/3 off $540 doesn’t get me back traction on Nook and iTunes, and you guys are the only game in town for effective Nook and iTunes promotion. I’ll lose $1000 at a minimum over what I would have netted on this promotion. And thank you for the 1/3 off.

Here’s where they were awesome. They couldn’t resend the email or re-include LA on the next day. What makes them rock stars is their two million subscribers, all of whom are a mouse click away from unsubscribing if BookBub annoys them or doesn’t deliver value. But their staff came up with a helpful partial solution. They would promote LA on their Facebook page, something they never do for paid books, and only do in groups for free books. While it wouldn’t fix things completely, it would help, and it was in tremendously good faith.

When they posted, the Nook sales started. They never skyrocketed, but they were respectable. All told, I cleared over $1500 above cost in the five days of the LA BookBub promotion.

$1500 obviously was a mere whimper compared to my previous promotion. To help clarify the problem, since I’m not exclusive to Amazon, I only net 35% on sales of 99 cent Kindles. If I’d have been in KDP Select, I could have retained 70% and made twice as much money. (Or, if BookBub had run my promotion correctly, I would have made twice as much money because of the sales on sites other than Amazon.) There’s synergy too once the buzz starts, and the ranking surge on one site has a trickle-over impact on the sales on other sites. Heck, I got up to #7 overall on Nook in November. This time, nada. Not only that, but this was this promotion that I had counted on to launch Finding Harmony, especially on Nook and iTunes. I didn’t have another method that would work. It wasn’t just about LA or about this five days. It was about sales of the whole series for weeks if not months.

Moral of the story: BookBub is run by some really nice humans who are, well, human. If a mistake gets through, they can’t fix it because of the nature of their business. Those preview emails they send are more important than you will ever know. Read them thoroughly and in a timely fashion. Don’t trust; verify.

My game plan? To get my series back up on BookBub as soon as I can. They’ll only run a book once every six months (if then), so SG is eligible in June, and LA in August. I hadn’t planned to drop Finding Harmony’s price so soon, but I’ll submit it to BookBub here in the next few weeks. I am bummed that my LA promo fell apart, heartbroken really. But the BookBub folks were genuinely responsive and understanding, and I can work with people like that. They are also one of the most effective means around, at this time, to gain visibility and credibility, not to mention sales, rankings, and reviews, and practically the only means for non-Amazon-exclusive promotions (http://storyfinds.com is a distant second). BookBub status remains HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Pamela Fagan Hutchins

Pamela Fagan Hutchins is an employment attorney and workplace investigator by day who writes award-winning and bestselling romantic mysteries (Saving Graceand hilarious nonfiction (What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?) by night. She is passionate about great writing and smart author-preneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.


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Libraries Are a Girl’s Best Friend

First, a story that horrifies my mother: When I was a child living about two miles outside the town of Buffalo, Wyoming, the highlight of each week during the summer after 2nd grade was a visit to the town’s small library to pick up my next seven Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew books. That old, dark library was my favorite place on earth. It gave me chills to stand between the tall shelves, breathe in the faintly mildewed loamy smell of old pages, and it opened up a world of adventures that eventually became my life as a mystery writer.

One day I’d been pestering my mother to take me into town, until finally I said, “Can I walk there by myself?” Whether it was with her permission (my version) or behind her back (her version), I walked two miles into town along the highway, juggling seven hardback books in my arms sans bag, to trade in for seven beautiful new ones, then walked home again. I remember it was hot and the books were heavy and cumbersome. My feet hurt. The sun burned my eyes. And it was the best day of my life, up until that point. It’s no surprise my third grade teacher told my parents their girl would become a mystery novelist someday.

Libraries rock. Libraries matter. Libraries need us, our books and our ebooks, and our thirst to read them.

So on to today’s indie publishing topic: libraries. I believe in events to gain visibility and sales for books. Despite my initial resistance, I also gave into my husband’s belief in giveaways to accomplish the same goal; I’m a believer now. As an indie author, I have spent the last few years experimenting with what types of events and giveaways create the GREATEST visibility and sales. I haven’t exhausted all my options yet, but I’m ready to report on one in particular: libraries.

Smashwords, love ‘em or hate ‘em, had this to say about libraries:

1.  Libraries perform an important social function by making books accessible to all readers in their community.  By supporting libraries, you’re supporting a culture of books.  2.  Libraries are powerful discovery engines, and powerful platform builders.  As an author, obscurity is the biggest challenge you face.  Libraries help readers discover you.  3.  Library patrons purchase a lot of books.  Readers who discover your books at libraries are more likely to purchase your other titles.  If you’re not available at libraries, it means these patrons will discover someone else.

I agree.

Getting your books in libraries: Do libraries buy my books? Yes, usually when I know someone on the library staff, sometimes when readers request them. Either way requires a lot of effort to get to one purchase. And libraries–especially small community libraries–have miniscule budgets. Most of the books on their shelves are donated. DONATED. Sure, it may be different at a big city library, but out in the vast “wasteland” of the red states (where I live!) are small towns by the score in communities populated by good people who aren’t even trying to keep up with the Jones. And even in a big city library, most of the budget goes to books on bestseller and awards listed dominated by traditionally published books (don’t get me started on that topic, since the barriers to entry onto the lists and into the contests are jealously guarded by those that profit from their impact).

Is it easier to get ebooks into libraries than print? Well, it should be, if for no other reason that patrons are clamoring for them and big pub thinks library ebooks are a threat to more lucrative print book sales.

But even getting your ebook into the libraries as a gift/free, something that would cost you nothing, is a challenge. Many libraries source their ebooks through Overdrive, who your “publisher” would need to work with directly for you to have a chance of participating in those sales. You can sign up with an aggregator, like BookBaby or Smashwords, to make you eligible for Baker & Taylor’s Axis360, 3M Cloud Library, Library Direct, or other library aggregators who distributes ebooks to some libraries.

But don ‘t think that “if you build it, they will come,” necessarily. I’ve had my books FREE to libraries on Smashwords for nearly two years, and to my knowledge none of my books have “sold” to a library. Heck, libraries and Oyster/Scribd (“all you can read” subscription services) are the only reason I’m even on Smashwords, but yet there are NO sales? Fishy, if you ask me. I know that eight of my books sold in November on Oyster because I BOUGHT THEM, but still no royalties in sight. Ahem. And my books do sell quite well-on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, etc.–just not, apparently, on or through Smashwords. So, conceivably, a patron could ask for the ebook to my Saving Grace and a librarian could order it, because I’m on Smashwords. It’s just never happened. Anyway, I digress. Click to enlarge these photos of Smashwords’ take on libraries and pricing, and a screen shot of my participation in their various library aggregators. It’s interesting stuff.

I haven’t had any success just marching into a library and announcing I’d like to donate my ebook, either. They just don’t do ebooks onesie-twosie. This puts us right back to the aggregators (Overdrive, Axis360, 3M Cloud, Library Direct).

All of this suggests that it may be pretty dang hard to get your indie published book into libraries without a lot of effort. I can’t completely dispel that notion for you, unfortunately, but I can give you a few tips on how to make it as easy and affordable as possible.

Method 1: Aggregate FREE for ebooks.

Yeah, yeah, I know I just said it’s not working for me. I should have added YET. It’s not working for me yet. I’m not giving up on my “free to libraries” strategy on Smashwords, as they continue to add library aggregators like Axis360, 3M Cloud, and Library Direct. Maybe I just need to double-down with BookBaby now that they’ve waived their registration fee and are competing head to head with Smash. (If you hadn’t heard that bit of news, you’re welcome for the tidbit. It was announced last week.)

Honestly, I know what’s hurting me on Smash. I don’t aggregate to Amazon, B&N, or Apple, the three biggest online ebook retailers. Thus my Smash numbers suck. When they sell collections to library curators through the aggregators, it is often based on Smash-compiled sales. They don’t care that my book is a bestseller on Amazon if they’re not getting their cut. Yeah, well, I’m still not giving up 15% of my three biggest sources of indie publishing income. Not yet. I just don’t see how giving up that 15% will help me. <= If someone wants to convince me otherwise, please do. I never turn down the chance to get smarter.

Method 2: Ask your print readers to donate.

If you’re an author, indie or otherwise, you should have an email list that you administer through Mailchimp or Constant Contact. You should have a blog with subscribers. You should be using social media like Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter for connections and communication. And you should consistently use all of them to encourage your readers to gift their books, once read, to libraries (or humans), unless they are very, very special to them as keepsakes. It’s the right thing for the environment and their favorite author, too.

Note: receipt of a donated book doesn’t guarantee it will end up on library shelves. Many libraries use donated books as inventory for Friends of the Library sales to generate money to buy other books. While this is not the optimal result you may have hoped for, a sale of your book still results in a book ending up with a human for reading. That’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharpened pencil.

Method 3: Donate print to libraries.

Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Donate your own copies of your books (and other authors’ books) to libraries. You can do this onesie-twosie, like when you’re in town for a book event and swing by the local library. Or you can do it on a grand scale, like my husband just did with my books.

Eric acquired a list of Texas and U.S. public libraries and ordered 1000 copies of Saving Grace and What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too? All told, our Ingram order was for 4500 books (for various purposes), so we got them for less than $3 apiece, including shipping. Then he spent evenings and weekends for a few weeks stuffing the two books and a letter in each package and mailing them to a hand-picked 1000-library list based on the communities where we thought I had the greatest visibility opportunities. He based the selection decision on where I had held book events or had contacts, as well as where I could conceivably support the libraries with speaking/teaching or sales events. He offered me as a FREE speaker in the letters, which went out with the packages in December of 2013.

Here’s the letter he included:

His goal was that the librarians read the books and recommend them to their patron. Librarian superfans and indie bookstore owner superfans are the two best possible kind to have, although superfans of any variety don’t suck. He hoped to stimulate sales of my other books with these two, and possibly orders by the libraries of the others as well.

KEY: this mail out wasn’t a business expense, it was a charitable deduction, which we can fully use on our taxes. That matters for us. We always look at a business expense as “1/3 off.” Well, a tax deduction is even better. How much? Hell, I don’t know. That’s what I pay my CPA the big bucks to figure out.

How did it work? Well, tax benefit aside, the results have been great so far. As of January 25th, the letters/emails/website comments from librarians are highly complementary of the books (Thank God). Some librarians immediately hand-placed the books with patrons they felt would enjoy them. Others contacted me to speak. Others put me in book club rotations (which resulted in immediate sales). Here’s my spring speaking schedule:

So let’s talk events for a moment:

Note that while I don’t get paid for these appearances, I sell my books and CONNECT WITH READERS (which sometimes helps in cultivating the superfans, again). Also note that I have not sought (nor will I seek) any bookstore appearances in 2014, as I experimented with stores in 2013, and I want to focus on libraries in 2014. As I mentioned earlier in this post, I am trying to figure out which events work best for me. In 2013, I wanted to see if great Nielsen BookScan numbers could get me mass distributed in chains (answer: nope — it’s a David and Goliath world, and I’m David, fighting alone and hampered by POD pricing). The events cost me far more than I ever made at them. Now I’m experimenting with direct sales at private event and public events, like at libraries.

Keep in mind, you don’t have to donate on the grand scale that we did. We’re just crazy that way. Do it simple and close to home and see what you can generate with your area libraries. Be sure to keep track of it for your taxes, too.

 

So, there you have it. Libraries. I love them. I want in them. I’m trying every which-a-way I can think of to get my books there.

How about you? Do you agree? Are your books in libraries? How are you getting them there?

Until next time,

Pamela

Pamela Fagan Hutchins is an employment attorney and workplace investigator by day who writes award-winning and bestselling romantic mysteries (Saving Grace) and hilarious nonfiction (What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?) by night. She is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

 

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What’s Working and What’s Not in Indie Publishing: The 2013-2014 List of Five

In our continuing SkipJack experiment in indie publishing, we try to keep you up to date on what’s working and what’s not. Here’s what we learned in 2013:

1. BookBub Works Best, Some Others Work Well, and Most Don’t Work at All

Want to read the skinny on BookBub? Check out the details here. In a nutshell, BookBub is THE way to move discounted ebooks, across many different sales platforms, with (if you write a quality book) lasting impact. They’re pricey and selective (you need sales, reviews, ratings, and awards help too), but worth it. Biggest surprise from them? The sales traction they’ve given my follow-up novel on Barnes and Noble Nook and Apple iTunes.

Others that are worth their cost: Author Marketing Club (read my thoughts on AMC here), eReader News TodayKindle Books and Tips, and Bargain Book Hunter.

Declining impact for me lately: Digital Books Today, Kindle Nation Daily (except for Kindle Daily Deal), and everybody else.

What’s working and not working for you?

2. 99 Cents Was the New Free

In 2012, indie authors had great success with KDP Select free days. Amazon has changed its algorithms up and it just doesn’t pop like it used to. In 2013, 99 cent promotions worked better than free, especially when paired with BookBub. However, traditional publishers have had success with this strategy too which may mean more competition for indies in this space, and potential price decreases in traditionally-published ebooks.

What do you think will work in 2014?

3. Don’t Bother With Barnes and Noble

I did 60 book signings at Barnes and Nobles in 2013, as well as 40 other events (yes, I’m tired). My resolution for 2014? No more B&Ns. With some lovely exceptions, most of their stores’ managers make it far too hard for indies to hold events, and at the corporate level, the effort required to get indie books on B&N shelves eats up most of the possibility for a return on investment. The downside of sales outside the chains is that they rarely get logged so they don’t impact your Nielsen Bookscan numbers, but if you’re looking for readers and long term sales instead of just a potential future publishing deal, who the heck cares?

Thoughts?

4. Consolidate with Facebook and Goodreads

Promotion will take up 50% of your “book time,” so consolidate your efforts in the two places most online buyers go to source their next book: Facebook and Goodreads. Use autodelivery tools to feed your blog posts to these sites and others. Don’t forget to let readers connect with the real you, and don’t (just) be a shill: spice up your feed with real life and with promotion of others. AND NEVER ARGUE WITH PEOPLE ABOUT THEIR PERCEPTION OF THE QUALITY OF YOUR BOOKS!!!

What have I left out here?

5. KDP Select for Debut Only, Then Widen Your Availability

KDP Select works fabulously for debut books. Really, it does, especially  with Kindle Matchbook. But there are other sales platforms out there with significant market segment whose devotees don’t care if they can put a Kindle App on their phone or iPad: they want to shop on Nook or iTunes. Go broad, and don’t leave out these options: audio through ACX and Smashwords to plug you into some harder to crack platforms, like Kobo, Sony, and the all you can eat services like Oyster and Scribd. Then use BookBub to launch you outside Amazon.

Do you have great results with any other sales sites?

Here’s to a happy new year full of success for you!

Pamela

Pamela Fagan Hutchins is an employment attorney and workplace investigator by day who writes award-winning and bestselling mysterious women’s fiction (Saving Grace) and humorous nonfiction (How to Screw Up Your Kids) by night. She is passionate about great writing and smart author-preneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

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How to Sell a Ton of Books with BookBub: A Tale of Two Authors

This post is a follow-up to Holy Crapoly: You’re Going to Want to Hear This!

Recently two Amazon bestselling authors set out to promote their second novels. A lot had changed in the world of ebook promotion since each of their debuts, however. When Rodney Walther first released Broken Laces, he had great success with Amazon “tags.” When Pamela Fagan Hutchins released Saving Grace, she found free days with KDP Select on Amazon to be a boon to paid rankings (http://skipjackpublishing.com/10-tips-to-take-your-book-to-1-in-a-free-kdp-select-promo-beyond/)and thus to overall book sales. However, Amazon did away with tags a year ago and it has decreased the impact of free ebooks on paid book rankings (http://skipjackpublishing.com/holy-crapoly-youre-going-to-want-to-hear-about-this/). They needed to come up with something new.

In the last few months, BookBub (http://BookBub.com) has emerged as the “it” method for ebook promotion. BookBub has been known to generate very large sales for some authors, for free or sale-priced ebooks.  The benefits of BookBub are their exceptionally large and loyal subscription to their book recommendation emails, by genre, and that they have large numbers of readers favoring Kindle, Nook, and Apple, with readers loyal to other web sales channels as well, like Kobo and Smashwords. Rodney was able to promote to a women’s fiction list over 390,000 subscribers strong and Pamela to a mystery list of over 740,000 (plus the added reach of social media and favorable web page placement), with their BookBub days.

The downsides of BookBub are that it is a little pricey, very selective, and will only feature an author every 30 days. For a complete pricing breakdown, visit their pricing page (http://www.BookBub.com/advertise/pricing). Rodney paid $320.00 to promote his women’s fiction book and Pamela paid $500 to promote her mystery. Both of them were selected, but it was clear that the selection had to do with past strong sales of the books, awards they had won, and a large number of favorable reviews (Rodney had 78 5-star reviews on Amazon, and Pamela had 86 5-star reviews). BookBub is looking for books their readers will enjoy, and books that will succeed with the promotion. They actively promote the bestseller rankings, awards, and reviews in the email blast to their subscribership. BookBub will reject books it doesn’t feel are right for a particular list, or for their readership in general. They know their readers well. And they reject 75-90% of the submissions they receive. (No, that was not a typo.)

So, how did Rodney and Pamela do? Well, first it’s important to know that Rodney decided to remain in KDP Select with Amazon for his promotion, meaning his ebook was exclusive to Amazon. He benefited from a nifty new Amazon feature for KDP Select called Kindle Countdown. It allows the author to retain his 70% royalty on a 99 cent promotion, for up to one week, only after the book has been in KDP Select for 30+ days at a price higher than the promotion. Otherwise, 99 cent sales net only a 35% royalty on Amazon.

Pamela elected to go as broad as possible for sales channels for her books. That meant she was not in KDP Select and offered her ebooks on Barnes and Noble’s Nook, Apple’s iBooks (and iTunes), Smashwords, Sony, and many other locations. Thus, her 99 cent promotion netted only a 35% royalty on Amazon, but she was able to recoup 40% for sales on Nook and 60% for sales on iBooks.

 

First, here’s what Pamela had to say:

“If at first you don’t succeed with BookBub, try-try again. I’d don tons of research on BookBub when writing USA Best Book Award Winner What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too? (http://www.amazon.com/What-Loser-Indie-Publishes-ebook/dp/B00EGF69PA/). I knew I wanted to try BookBub when the time was right.

When BookBub didn’t selectSaving Grace (Book 1 in the Katie & Annalise romantic mystery series) (http://www.amazon.com/Saving-Grace-Annalise-Series-ebook/dp/B009FZPMFO/) on my first submission (http://skipjackpublishing.com/holy-crapoly-youre-going-to-want-to-hear-about-this/), we emailed them and reiterated my three literary awards and 85 5-star and 31 4-star ratings on Amazon, with bestseller status in women sleuth mysteries and women’s fiction in 2012. They immediately slotted me for one week later, which was fantastic! I wanted to promote Saving Grace at 99 cents not only for its sales and paid rankings but to help launch Leaving Annalise, Book 2 in the Katie & Annalise series (http://www.amazon.com/Leaving-Annalise-Katie-Pamela-Hutchins-ebook/dp/B00DPBNP2Q/).

I was SO NERVOUS for my BookBub day. Unfortunately, I did not have adequate advance notice to book additional promotion to help sustain or increase any bump I got from my BookBub day for the next four days of my five-day promo. If I had, I would have used eReader News Today (http://ereadernewstoday.com/), Pixel of Ink (http://pixelofink.com/), Kindle Nation Daily (http://kindlenationdaily.com/), and World Literary Cafe (http://worldliterarycafe.com), at a minimum.

Here are my first 24-hours:

 Book Sold:

Money Generated:

Note that my numbers only include the 1st 12 hours for Apple, and do not include sites to which I am aggregated by Smashwords. They also do not include sales of audiobooks generated by BookBub, which I learned occurred, after the fact. Saving Grace has a $1.99 audiobook add-on with Audible through ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange, http://acx.com), and sales of the audiobook shot up during BookBub.

Also note I break out sales of Saving Grace (SG) at $0.99 and its follow-up Leaving Annalise (LA) at $3.99. Watch how the BookBub promo impacts LA sales over the promotion period.

So, day one: over 3000 SG ebooks sold. 28 LA sold. The big surprise, besides how many I sold? Nook! 1034 on Nook versus 1750 on Kindle. I expected Nook to be only half that number. I grossed $1245.69, and, after payment of my BookBub fee, I profited $745.70 on day one. SG peaked at #34 on Kindle and my author rank went up to #127. Even more surprising? SG peaked at #7 overall on Nook! Of course, that means it did great in its categories on both sites: 1st or 2nd in mystery and romance on both sites and on iBooks, where SG peaked at #49.

Whoa.

The average number of mystery books sold over a BookBub promotion is 1,510 with a range of 200 to 4,240 (http://www.BookBub.com/advertise/pricing). SG did over 3000 in one day. I was so excited!

Let’s look at additional days (where no promotion was done except for a small not-very-effective ad on day three) and the final totals:

Day two:

 Books:

Money:

Day three:

Books:

Money:

 Day four:

Books:

Money:

 Day five:

Books:

 Money:

Five-day totals:

Number of books sold, with ACX added in (other = Smashword aggregates like Sony; I won’t know their sales totals for months):

Money:

 4,312 SG sold, y’all! By my calculations, that means I beat the range ;-)

And, 157 LA in five days!!

Total $ profit on the five-day promo: $1562.99!

I never dreamed I would make $1569.99 in five days with a BookBub promo. Never. I worried whether I would cover my $500 BookBub fee!!

Sales and rankings, by the way, remain up for SG and LA 10 days post-promotion, and I have three new 5-star reviews and one 4-star review on SG on Amazon, with three new 5-star reviews on LA. How cool is that?? And I finally, FINALLY have traction on Nook, something I never had before. BookBub made no Smashwords impact for me, that I can tell, but I am very pleased with Kindle and Nook.

Here are numbers for the seven days after the five-day BookBub promo:

Books:

Money:

Just as a point of comparison, here are my numbers for the 7 days prior to BookBub, when I was in a sales slump partly of my own making through some strategic errors (http://skipjackpublishing.com/interesting-and-not-in-a-good-way/ and http://skipjackpublishing.com/holy-crapoly-youre-going-to-want-to-hear-about-this/):

Books:

Money:

Takeaway: I made nearly four times as much money in my week post BookBub promo as in the week prior. That’s pretty telling.

My BookBub verdict: A huge success overall and shockingly good on Nook. I will be running LA on BookBub in February 2014 to promote the release of the third book in the series, and I can’t wait.

Interesting and important side note:While the monetary impact of the 99 cent BookBub promotion of SG was not quite as spectacular for Kindle as its KDP Select free days were in the 4th quarter 2012, I  believe that I lost some potential Kindle readers of SG for my BookBub promo because of the 33,000+ downloads of SG during its 2012 KDP Select free days period, and the associated sales and KOLL lends generated in its wake. And, KDP Select free days do not have the same paid ranking and post-promo sales/lends impacts  that they did then, either. So I don’t believe I could replicate the run SG had in 2012 with KDP Select, were I releasing the book now and following all the same steps I did then. For a comparison of “then” versus “now,” read http://skipjackpublishing.com/10-tips-to-take-your-book-to-1-in-a-free-kdp-select-promo-beyond/.”

 

Next, here’s what Rodney had to say:

“With the November launch of my second novel (the emotional family drama Space in the Heart (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00G1JLNDC)), I decided to use my first novel as a way to reach more readers. Broken Laces (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004DNWIEG) has certainly had good “legs” since its debut three years ago, but now that I’ve included preview chapters of Space in the Heart in its Kindle version, I wanted to give it a bump before Christmas season.

First thing I did is contact BookBub and lay out the reasons why they should feature Broken Laces: 140+ 4-star and 5-star reviews, past bestseller rankings (Amazon Top-150), and my six literary awards. They only accept 10-25% of submissions, so I was thrilled to get the nod.

Since my books are in the KDP Select program, I took advantage of a new Amazon program feature called “Kindle Countdown Deals”. It allowed me to temporarily lower the price from $3.99 to $0.99 — and I was still able to earn a 70% royalty! I also scrambled to adjust my categories, knowing that if BookBub worked like I hoped, I’d get a chance to hit the Top-100 list in some big categories.

On November 11th, BookBub blasted my promotion to 390,000 folks who had previously signed up to be notified of bargains in Women’s Fiction. It was a nerve-wracking day, as I tracked the Kindle sales (refresh.. refresh). Twelve hours later, I had great news: Broken Laces was now in the Amazon Kindle Top-100 (that’s all Kindle e-books, not just a specific category). I topped out at #83 on the Amazon Kindle store! Of course, I took screenshots of my book being in the Top-50 of *all* Literature & Fiction and being ranked higher than Fifty Shades of Grey #3, Dan Brown’s Inferno, etc.

What did I learn? Promoting your book needs to be intentional, with a specific audience that is open to your message. In my case, the $320 cost paid off, as I not only earned back my advertising fee but also earned Top-100 status on Amazon and sold a heckuva lot of books. Now I’m hopeful to see how many of those readers will translate into new buyers of Space in the Heart. And yes, I

 

Conclusion:

So, is 99 cents on BookBub the new “free?” Pamela and Rodney would say yes. Again and again. Their advice? Write your best book, enter contests, and work hard to get great reviews. These things (and a great cover and editor) will help you sell books and position your book for BookBub selection and success, success which can be game-changing for your book.

And now we ask you: Have you done BookBub? How were your sales? What else has worked for you in ebook promotion?

Note: both Rodney and Pamela still believe KDP Select free days are great for generating reviews and readership (just not paid book sales rankings), and thus are quite effective for debut authors.

 

Pamela

 Pamela Fagan Hutchins is an employment attorney and workplace investigator by day who writes award-winning and bestselling romantic mysteries (Saving Grace) and humorous nonfiction (What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?) by night. She is passionate about great writing and smart author-preneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

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Holy Crapoly! You’re Going to Want to Hear About This.

Well, give us 10 days to collect all the data and we’ll have quite an indie publishing story to share with you.

What, you ask? What story? What happened?

Well, I finally, after six applications and five rejections, got a BookBub day. I got it for the book I wanted, too: Saving Grace, the lead novel in my Katie & Annalise romantic mystery series. I had just released Book 2, Leaving Annalise, it is almost time for holiday buying, and Book 3, Finding Harmony (pre-order Nook, Apple, or paperback), comes out February 1st. Plus Saving Grace had 125 reviews and a 4.5-star rating on Amazon/Kindle, 12 ratings for a 4.9 on Barnes and Noble/Nook, 11 for a 4.9 on Apple/iBooks, and 2 reviews for a 5-rating on Smashwords (I used to have a ton of reviews on Smashwords, but I unpublished while I was on KDP and lost them all; sigh. Whether to ever unpublish — the topic of a future blog; short answer, “NO.”). Coupled with the three contest wins for the series it seemed like Saving Grace had a good shot at a successful BookBub mystery run across those four platforms.

Even though BookBub costs $500 for a mystery, I wanted access to those 740,000 mystery readers.

Unfortunately, I had, two weeks before, separately run promos for Saving Grace on most of the other sites I was interested in using and could get on with short notice. And I had very short notice with BookBub, less than a week. I would be running a November 19th-23rd promo, relying only on BookBub on day one. Optimally I could have backed that up on days 2-5 with eReader News Today, Pixel of Ink, Kindle Nation Daily, and a few other possibilities.

Still, it was BookBub, and I had heard so many raves about BookBub and 99 cent deals being “the new KDP Select Free.” Yes was the only answer to give, and I did.

Note: I did KDP Select Free for Saving Grace in October 2012, and that was the start of a great year for it. I don’t believe in KDP Select for my novels anymore (read What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?) although I do believe in it big time for my specialty books, like the planned April release of the Katie & Annalise mystery series bundle, and the planned March release of the How to Screw Up Everyone in Your Life humor bundle.

A writer colleague of mine did BookBub in November, too, for his first novel in the wake of the release of his second, like me. However, he was in KDP Select during his BookBub day. That allowed him to drop his price to 99 cents as a limited-time promotion and keep 70% in royalties. I, on the other hand, would get 35% on Kindle, 40% on Nook, 60% on Apple, and 85% on Smashwords (60% on any of the sites to which they had aggregated the book).

In my next post, after Thanksgiving, I’m going to give you details on how it went for both of us: our strategies, what we learned, how we ranked, how we rated, how we were reviewed, and what we sold/made. Day by day, dollar by dollar, site by site.

You aren’t going to want to miss this.

Pamela

 Pamela Fagan Hutchins is an employment attorney and workplace investigator by day who writes award-winning and bestselling mysterious women’s fiction (Saving Grace) and humorous nonfiction (How to Screw Up Your Kids) by night. She is passionate about great writing and smart author-preneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

 

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What’s good for the goose is NOT good for the gander, on Amazon.

I LOVE Amazon. Please understand, as an indie author, I make the bulk of my $$$$$ on Amazon. In many ways, they single-handedly caused the leveling of the traditional publishing playing field so that indies have a chance to publish on their terms.

I don’t love EVERYTHING about Amazon, however, because I’m not a robot. I don’t love their e-book gifting policy, for example, as I’ve written about before. I also do not love the whole pre-order favoritism BS they still perpetuate.

Case in point: I cannot put my ebooks on Amazon for pre-order. Traditionally published authors can. Note: I can pre-sell my ebooks on Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and Smashwords. Hmmm.

Add to this that my ebook sales only count when a customer pays for them (as with the gifting policy), and then take a gander at what happened to me this week:

I had an extremely successful 99 cent ebook sale this week of Saving Grace, the 1st book in my Katie & Annalise romantic mystery series. The bulk of my sales, of course, were on Amazon. This sale was important to me because I had re-categorized the series as romantic mysteries/cozy mysteries from women’s sleuth mysteries/women’s fiction, and that, amongst other missteps, had a temporarily catastrophic impact in my Amazon sales.

My peak ranking was #3 in romantic mysteries, and #692 overall. Since I got turned down by BookBub (six times, even though this book has a 124 review 4.5-star rating and three major awards! But they’ve accepted the next novel in the series for Nov. 19th!), I went with eReader News Today, Kindle Books and Tips, and Bargain Book Hunter instead. Well, them and my beloved Author Marketing Club, who partnered with World Literary Cafe on a Friday announcement that I think did wonders for my sales.

In spots #1 and #2 ahead of me was Janet Evanovich, the writer I am most-often compared to. Not unexpected. And had I not noticed one tiny little detail about her book in the #1 spot, I would have been completely satisfied with this showing.

The book in the #1 spot was an e-book for pre-order.

Not only that, but you and I both know that pre-orders are not paid sales. Credit cards aren’t charged until the book is sent. This is a critical point, as one of the primary benefits of pre-orders is that all pre-orders land as sales on the date of release/shipment of the ebooks, causing a huge spike in first day rankings for the lucky author.

But this is having your cake and eating it too, isn’t it? If Janet is going to get credit for all those pre-orders on November 19th when they ship, why is she getting credit for them now as paid sales when they haven’t been paid for yet?

This is a double whammy for an self-pubbed or small press author, both indie in my book, and a group which includes me. On Amazon, I can’t offer Kindle pre-orders, and only my paid sales count. Janet will thus always win. And she (and others) wins, one might surmise, b/c of the money changing hands and the deals made between the seller, Amazon, and the publisher(s). That’s just business. It’s also unfair.

If this unfairness hadn’t been part of the system on the day I hit #692 overall and #3 in romantic mystery, how many places higher in the rankings would my book have landed? If we tossed all the pre-order ebooks out, at a minimum I would have been #2 in my category. At a minimum.

Rankings mean sales, people. Any unfairness in the ranking system decreases the sales to those treated unfairly.

What about you? Have you been impacted by how Amazon handles pre-orders, paid sales, and rankings?

Now, all that being said, I am HAPPY I hit 692/3. I won’t be ditching the Amazon ship any time soon. But I won’t sail along with it with a gag in my mouth either.

Pamela

Pamela Fagan Hutchins is an employment attorney and workplace investigator by day who writes award-winning and bestselling mysterious women’s fiction (Saving Grace) and humorous nonfiction (How to Screw Up Your Kids) by night. She is passionate about great writing and smart author-preneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

 

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WEBINAR: What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?

Indie Publishing Webinar: What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?

$50 for 2 hours and 15 minutes from the bestselling author of What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?





NOTE: You will receive an email with access/login information to the webinar and be able to take it after that time. Please email info@skipjackpublishing.com if you have not received this information within 24 hours of payment. Access the webinar at:
https://hwg.adobeconnect.com/p59bqil7r4c/

 

Bonus: download How to Help An Author article and the Author Army spreadsheet, free.

 

About the class: Who knew indie publishing could be this much fun? Pamela Fagan Hutchins makes an overwhelming field manageable by presenting tried and true how-tos and a myriad of resources, including the marketing plan that got her debut novel national distribution – all with her tongue firmly planted in her cheek. Click here to download or read an excerpt from the book on which the class is based.

 

Don’t forget to leave a review for What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too? after you take the class!

 

What people are saying about What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?

“Sharp, practical, and a pleasure to read, this is an indispensable tool for indie writers. Hutchins maps the shortest distance between you and your readers. You need this book!” – Mark Moore, writer and editor

“Sassy, brassy, can-do voice. It’s very inspiring.” – Martin Turnbull, author of The Garden of Allah novels

“Fabulous! Dozens and dozens of great suggestions and resources. Indie writers are going to LOVE this book, not only for its insights, but for Pamela’s witty personality.” – Jennifer Meils, writer, editor, and journalism teacher

“Loser is so packed full of useful, important information, it will become the Bible of indie publishing. As always, Pamela’s wit and humor shines throughout. Definitely a must-have for any author.” – Rhonda Erb, writer and editor

“Awesome information; very well written.” – Fernanda Brady, writer and English teacher

Pamela Fagan Hutchins is an employment attorney and workplace investigator by day who writes award-winning and bestselling mysterious women’s fiction (Saving Grace) and humorous nonfiction (How to Screw Up Your Kids) by night. She is passionate about great writing and smart author-preneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

 

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