Discounts, Freebies, and Promotional Items
Calling attention to your book is essential for sales, and there are many ways you can accomplish this. Three strategies are discussed in this chapter: discounting the price of your book, giving it away for a brief period of time, and creating promotional items to hand out to prospective buyers.
Discounts and Freebies
Everyone loves a sale. Discounting your book periodically will draw in people who may not have been interested when the book was at its normal price. If they like it, you've gained a fan, and fans will consider buying your other books and help spread the word on what a great author you are. I once heard from a book club member that one of my books on sale at the time caught her eye, and from that I sold twenty-five books when she chose it for her club’s monthly read. You never know.
Some of you are probably asking why anyone would want to give away their books. Many authors feel it sends a message that they put little value on their book or that they’re desperate. Hear me out, there are reasons to give away books.
First, it gives you exposure you wouldn't otherwise receive, lots of exposure. During my most successful BookBub free-book promotion, I gave away over 76,000 e-books. This kind of exposure led to increased sales of the book being promoted in the days/weeks/months following the promotion, as well as in crossover sales for my other books. During the thirty days following this particular promotion, I sold substantially more than my usual monthly sales for all my books, resulting in a huge ROI.
Secondly, the more books you give away, the higher your Amazon ranking, and the higher your Amazon ranking, the better your ability to sell more books. Readers look at rankings, and so does Amazon. My books have shown up on the section of Amazon's buy page that says, "Customers who viewed this item also considered..." as well as on the opening page of some Kindle readers. This is exposure you can’t buy.
Third, some of the people who download your book will write a review—reviews that will help other readers make buying decisions. During the thirty days following my biggest promotion, I received 147 Amazon reviews averaging 4.4 stars. Good reviews sell books.
And last, giving away an e-book doesn't cost anything.
If your book is available on Kindle, you may want to consider their KDP Select program. It costs nothing to join. Their terms and conditions are lengthy, but in a nutshell, there are two major benefits: promotional opportunities and being included in Kindle’s lending library.
Two promotional opportunities are available if you join the KDP Select program. During each ninety-day enrollment period, you can make the Kindle version of your book available on Amazon for free up to five days in exchange for giving Amazon exclusivity on any digital version of the book. You can choose five one-day promotions, one five-day promotion, or any other combination you desire that adds up to five days. Or you can choose a Kindle Countdown Deal that involves limited-time discount promotions and a countdown clock showing how much time is left at the promotional price.
The second benefit of the KDP Select program is their Kindle Owners' Lending Library. If someone is an Amazon Prime member, they can borrow most Kindle books listed on Amazon (one per month) at no cost. The beauty of this is that the author earns a royalty based on pages read from the borrowed book. I earn the majority of my royalties from Prime members borrowing my books.
Why wouldn't you want to participate in the KDP Select program? If you elect to participate in KDP and you continue to sell e-books via channels other than Kindle, you will be violating the program rules, and if you breach the contract in this manner, you face forfeiting all royalties earned during the ninety days. So if you are successfully selling lots of e-books in other venues, KDP Select may not be for you. Where to Promote Discounted and Free Books Hundreds of sites exist where you can promote your discounted and free books—it’s an evolving list, as sites frequently drop off and are added. The largest, most effective, and most expensive one is BookBub, so let me begin by discussing it.
BookBub is a service (free to readers) that helps people discover books in their favorite genre that are either deeply discounted or free during a limited promotion period. Claiming more than 10 million avid reader-members interested in thirty different genres, BookBub has noted the following demographics (from April 2017) of their members:
85% prefer books in e-format
76% of their readers are female
40% are employed full-time, 36% are retired
74% are married
73% are empty-nesters
29% are 65+; 28% are age 55-64; 20% are 45-54; 14% are 35-44; 7% are 25-34; and 2% are under 25
30% prefer mysteries/thrillers; 13% prefer sci-fi/fantasy; 12% literary fiction; and 11% romance
BookBub used to be a self-publisher’s best friend, but things changed in 2016 when (based on my observation) most of the promotions they accepted were from traditionally published books. Before this, about one in five deals submitted to them were accepted. Today, it’s closer to one in ten. The cost has gone up as well—a deal (literary fiction) that cost me $220 in 2015 now costs $411. Other genres are even more expensive.
The way BookBub works is authors submit a title for consideration for a promotion spot with them. Their editorial team reviews the submission. Selection factors include the promotion price, reviews, awards, cover design, the number of retailers from which the book is available, and content (what they believe readers will enjoy).
If you are lucky enough to get your book accepted for a BookBub deal, they will promote it in one of their daily e-mails to readers who are interested in that particular genre and also put it on their website.
I haven’t been able to snag a BookBub deal since 2017, when I got a deal that cost me $317 and worked out to a more than 300 percent ROI on that title alone. I also had an increase in residual crossover sales for my other books. The most successful BookBub promotion cost me $180 in 2015 with a 2,016 percent ROI (no, that is not a typo). So, if you are lucky enough to get a deal from them, and you can afford the up-front cost, BookBub is a great way to get exposure and make a financial gain.
But for the vast majority of us who can’t secure a BookBub deal, there are other options for promoting our books—many are free of charge; some cost a few dollars a day; and some are more expensive. Many book-promotion sites have strict requirements (like number of four- and five-star reviews the book has) and some have no requirements. Here are the ones I’ve used that are associated with a cost to advertise.
With the exception of BookBub, I have never run a promotion using just one promotion site, so it’s hard to tell which ones have been the most successful for me. My strategy is to establish a budget (usually under $100), pick the site(s) that I think will give me the best exposure, and then submit to them, along with sites that don’t charge anything. I typically end up with twenty or so sites for each promotion. Here are the ones I’ve recently used that do not charge a fee to advertise the promotion.
I currently have seven novels published and typically run one free or discounted promotion per month. That works well with my KDP Select enrollment. With five promotion days allowed each ninety-day enrollment period, that means each of my books gets promoted twice a year.
Promotional products can be a good marketing tool—as effective as advertising and in some ways even more, as they are longer-lasting. Give people something practical, and they will think of you whenever they use it. Furthermore, promotional items send a message to people that you are serious about what you do.
I participate in as many book fairs as I can, and that’s where I get the most out of the promotional items I use. I always have an 8x10 poster of my latest book, business cards, and bookmarks on the table. I also created (on my own—no outside costs) a postcard-sized card for each of my books that includes the cover image, synopsis, and “where to buy” information. That way, visitors to my booth have something to take away with them for future reference.
Many promotional items are extremely affordable. Others will require an investment. The two must-haves are business cards and bookmarks. Other items to consider include:
· Tote bags
· Coffee cups
If your book calls for it, choose promotional items that reflect the theme. I know one author whose main character owned a tea store. She had tea bags made with the cover image and handed them out at book fairs. I know another author who wrote historical novels and had paper hand-fans made as a promotional item. Be creative. Have fun with it.