To Promo or Not to Promo

Quick Note: Beggar Magic is free to download August 18th and 19th. You can click the link below to download. I'm going to be running a couple of promos to let people know about the sale, and while I'm doing so, I thought this would be a good time to talk about promotion sites in general.

Beggar Magic

If you don't promote you die. . .well, your book dies. . .and by die I means it doesn't sell. It just sort of sits there, with a bunch of other books on Amazon, not selling. Even if it is a great book, people need to know about it to buy it, and if you just upload and abandon, the chances of enough people seeing and buying it to make it worth your while are negligible. You have to let people know it is out there.

And a lot of marketing is free. You can talk with people in interest groups related to your book. You can make social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and others. You can blog, you can guest post, you can go to your local library and ask if they do author events. . .you have options.

However, all that takes time and doesn't always amount to sales. . .and then the sharks start circling. The sharks who tell you they'll tweet your book to their 2 BILLION Twitter followers for three low payments of $9.99. Who email you offering you a 100 new readers for a low fee of $50. Who have a premium package for $399 that will guarantee you a spot on next week's best seller list!

You can throw money at these sites all day, but will any of it come back by way of sales?

Here are a couple of questions to ask/things to do before you invest in a particular promo site:

  • Did they email you? If so, there's a good chance they aren't worth it. If they are still going email by email to drum up business they are either in the early stage (not really established) or they simply don't work. Especially telling is if they send you a form letter that claims to have read your book and to know it is a PERFECT match for their site. This always strikes me as deceptive, for one thing (you can google the contents of the letter sometimes to see if it is a form letter, or ask around your author groups. If they emailed you, chances are, they emailed someone else too). The good ones don't have to come to you.
  • Are they recommended? If you ask in an active author group (on Facebook, Kboards, etc) and no one has heard of them, chances are, they can't deliver what they say they can.
  • Google. It seems obvious, but some people skip this step. There are lots of articles out there about promo sites and which work and which don't. Someone may have done the legwork for you.
  • If they are recommended by another author, ask specific questions to that author. What genre of book did they advertise? Just because a site is good with Romance doesn't mean it will move Scifi. How much of a return did they get? Did they advertise a full priced book, a discounted book, or a free one?
  • If they are an email service, subscribe to their email and watch it for a few weeks. What sort of books are advertised there? Would your book do well beside them?
  • If you click on the books the promo site is currently running, what is their Amazon rank? Is it one you'd pay to get? 
  • How much can you budget for advertising? If you are new to promotions, it is okay to start small. There are several promo sites that are less than $20. Some promo sites are more depending on the popularity of your genre, so this is also something to consider. 
  • Don't give up if you get rejected by a promo site. It's always disappointing (I've been rejected by BookBub five or six times already), but these sites are in high demand because they work. Keep trying. They may not have room for you this week, but they may the next. If you are continually rejected, though, make sure your book looks like something they'd be proud to promote. These sites often have a reputation and won't promote books that look cheaply put together. Double check your cover and blurb, maybe even the pages that show up in your Amazon sample. 
Some other thoughts: 

Don't be afraid to discount:

A lot of writers are leery of discounting their books or making them free. They feel it devalues what they spent so much time producing. However, you have to look at this from a reader's point of view. Do you know how many books are out there for a reader to choose from? And as a reader, have you ever felt the disappointment of starting a book and finding out that it isn't very good? Most readers in the modern world have felt this disappointment before. They've been burned by bad books, and are more likely to be cautious with a new name. Chances are an author they know and love is coming out with a book at the same time you are. You're not the only writer out there, and a lot of them are just as good as you are, maybe better. Plus they may have a big marketing team behind them, which you don't. 
Think of free books as the Indie version of the library. You're giving people a taste so maybe they'll come back for more. Maybe they'll tell their friends. Maybe they'll leave reviews. . . this works especially well if you have more than one book available. Hook them with one and they'll come back for another . . .but free books do sell books (this is probably worth a whole other post). 

Make your cover and blurb appealing:

No matter how much promotion you do, if you have an ugly cover and a confusing or poorly written blurb, people won't click through and buy. 

Write something worth reading:

I'm sure we all think we are doing this, otherwise why would we bother? But seriously, if sales are down because your book has serious problems (you've gotten some bad reviews, for instance) consider fixing the book FIRST then advertising. A lot of times readers will just read the Amazon sample and not buy. They won't review. They won't let you know "I didn't buy this because the writing in the sample was poor." They just won't buy. Make sure you have a product that draws people in and holds their attention. 

Brace yourself, the reviews are coming:

When you draw in more readers, you are more likely to get reviews. This is good . . . and terrifying. Because no matter how good your book is, there is someone out there who won't like it. Don't believe me? Pull up a random best seller and read some of the one and two star reviews. It happens to everyone! But it is more likely to happen after you do a free promo. Why? Because the reader who doesn't usually like "this sort of book" is more likely to pick up a free one than a full priced one, or a 99 cent one for that matter. Here's my post on why this shouldn't bother you a ton. (though emotionally it probably will. Who are we kidding?) 

And finally, since I've gone on and on, here are some links to a few Promo Sites I personally think are worth it (I may expand on this list at a later date or in a later post. I try to experiment with new sites every so often, just in case I use up the audience for one).

Buck Books  (specializes in 99 cents books, hence the name. Free to advertise, but they have an affiliate system you'll want to sign up for. Can be competitive to get on. Sometimes booked for a few months in advance)
Ereader News Today (Pricing varies per genre and whether you run free or discounted. They do take both free and discounted books. Still decently competitive to get on, but less so than big players like BookBub and much more reasonably priced)
Bknights (Price $5 plus a small processing fee of like 50 cents, but they have add ons for $5 a piece. I wouldn't go with more than $10. In my experience this works best for free books, but some romance authors have told me they've done well with 99 cents)
The Midlist (As of when I am typing this, I haven't run a promo through them, but I have a few scheduled for August, and I'll get back to you . . .maybe editing this post . . . later. However, a lot of people have highly recommended this site, and it is FREE to use, so worth the risk. May take a few tries to get on, and you want to give them advance warning. Don't try to schedule them hoping to get on within the next week. Think three to four weeks in advance.)

If you are running a free or discount promotion, there are a number of sites that will let you list your book for free. I usually take an hour or so to go down lists of them and enter in my information. You can find some listed here. I wouldn't recommend depending on these sites because not all are particularly effective, but it can hurt since they are free.

Also, if you haven't gotten your copy of Beggar Magic yet, click below before the Free Days are over!

Beggar Magic