Being an agile marketer is imperative to selling more books, as promotional channels quickly become oversaturated and ineffective. So how can anybody keep up with book marketing trends that are constantly evolving?
Self-published author Lee Strauss has some ideas. She quickly adapted her marketing tactics after she published Gingerbread Man, the first book in A Nursery Rhyme Suspense series. What she considered to be a rule of thumb marketing strategy one year produced insignificant results the next. By adapting her strategy, she was able to sell more books.
Lee is the internationally bestselling author of A Nursery Rhyme Suspense series (mystery sci-fi romantic suspense), The Perception series (young adult dystopian), and young adult historical fiction. She also writes younger YA fantasy as Elle Strauss. We interviewed Lee about her marketing for A Nursery Rhyme Suspense series. She was generous enough to share insights about the changes she made and the return on investment (ROI) they produced.
What were your goals for the launch of Gingerbread Man?
The trend in 2014 for many series writers was to write serials, i.e. shorter parts of the whole, like episodes on TV. Since I was starting out with a new genre, I thought this might be a good idea for me, too.
I originally wrote the first two books in the Nursery Rhyme Suspense series as a three-part episodical in 2014. Though this approach worked for some authors and may still work for them, the trend for the most part slid away in 2015. For one thing, you have to keep pumping out episodes to keep up the momentum, and also, many readers don’t like their books divided up that way.
What marketing did you implement prior to Gingerbread Man’s release?
Back in those days (publishing years are like dog years — so much change happens over such a short time), the rule of thumb was to book a blog tour, do a cover reveal, pimp teasers all over social media, and host Facebook parties. While it can still help to do those things, you won’t usually see significant sales as a result anymore.
My new rule of thumb is to focus on building my mailing list and to submit regularly for paid advertising, especially BookBub. You have a better chance at acceptance for paid ads anywhere if you have a great cover, a snappy blurb, and are building positive reviews. Don’t forget to make your sales page on your vendor sites appealing to buyers. Facebook ads are also on the new list, though they can be tricky to get right. There’s also an option now to advertise on Instagram and some authors are finding success with that. I still plan to engage my readers with teasers and giveaways.
Other 2016 tactics employed by many authors, myself included, are marketing specifically to mobile phone readers, and joining author co-ops. Authors are joining together to cross-promote their books in a variety of creative ways such as themed boxed sets and joint newsletter promotions and giveaways. There is a renewed emphasis on engaging readers via your own website (and not entirely on social media), and some are adding video clips for Facebook ads and YouTube.
How did you market your book on launch day?
Facebook party, newsletters, posting on my blog, and a giveaway, which always gains interest.
How did your Facebook party work?
Facebook parties work like this: You create an event and invite as many Facebook friends as possible. You need a great grand prize giveaway to entice people to come. For book parties, the hosting author invites other author friends to take a 30-minute to one-hour slot where that author also offers a prize and engages party attendees with questions and/or games. They also can promote their own work. They usually take responsibility for selecting winners and delivering their own prizes. Each author knows they are there to help promote your new book. At the end of the party you choose a winner from the attendees for the grand prize. It’s your responsibility to be present the whole time — usually five hours or more — to act as the host between author sets, to make sure everyone shows up, and to fill in if required. You also need to interact with the attendees and be present for each author’s set (and be available to the authors if they need help with something.)
So, while Facebook parties are fun and a great way to engage with Facebook friends and gain new readers, they can be a lot of work. And because they’ve been done often over the last year or so, their effectiveness in now in question. However, some authors are still having success hosting longer parties over several days, allowing flexibility for attendees to make an appearance and to spread the word.
You have to examine your ROI — for the time and effort you put in, will you get the sales jump you’re looking for? Or, maybe it’s not sales numbers you’re after, but just the opportunity to find new readers or build a list. That alone might make the work worth it for you. And they are fun, so you can’t go wrong with that. 🙂
How did you run the giveaway on launch day?
I used Rafflecopter to host the giveaway. In addition to giving away my own book, I also gave away a large number of mystery/thriller books written by writer friends of mine. It was a great cross-promotion strategy. I posted the giveaway link everywhere, and the authors in the giveaway also promoted the giveaway. This is something I’m going to do again.
How did you continue the momentum in the weeks following your book’s launch?
The episodic plan itself created an opportunity to keep talking about the series. Getting people interested and invested in your characters is the main thing.
What did you find was the most effective way to garner new reviews?
I actually didn’t do a very good job with this last year. I have a much better plan now, with the third book releasing soon. I now offer the first book, Gingerbread Man, for free in exchange for an email address. You can check out my website www.leestraussbooks.com to see how I do this.
I also sent an email inviting subscribers to be part of my Review and Launch Team. I told them they would get free copies in exchange for a review, and would get to read the new release early. I also mention that all the reviewers will be entered to win a prize — in this case, signed print copies of all three books. You’d be surprised how many people responded! I replied to interested subscribers by telling them to send me a link to their review of the first book and I’d send them the second book, and so on. My reviews jumped by over 50% in just a couple weeks after implementing this process.
Which marketing tactic do you think had the biggest impact on book sales?
Paid advertising, and building an email list with readers who are fans of my books.
For paid advertising, it’s no secret in the author world that BookBub is the very best service out there, bar none. You can’t get a Featured Deal for a new release, but with a series, if you can get one for the first book around the same time you’re launching a subsequent book, then you’re gold!
You talk a lot about newsletters and building your email list. How do you get subscribers?
The best real estate to gain newsletter subscribers is in the front and back matter of your own books. I have a trilogy that attracts a similar audience to A Nursery Rhyme Suspense where I put an image of Gingerbread Man, along with the blurb and a link that opens directly to my mail service provider, in the front and back matter. I use Bookfunnel to deliver the free copies of Gingerbread Man, so it’s super easy for people to claim their copy. I also include a direct link to my website.
Sometimes readers get the free book just through browsing the vendor sites like Amazon, or from a recommendation, so I put a special giveaway opportunity in Gingerbread Man for the second book, Life is But a Dream. I also always include a link to my website in the front and back matter of all my books.
(Side note: It may seem like I’m giving away a lot of my books, but the purpose here is to gain fans who will go on to buy the subsequent books in the series and who will tell their friends. It’s long-tail planning for building a career.)
How do you engage with your new subscribers?
I have a five-email autoresponder:
- The first email welcomes the new subscriber to my readers list with the link to the free book.
- Two days later I introduce them to the main characters of A Nursery Rhyme Suspense, Marlow and Sage (with photos), and give them part one of Life is But a Dream. I also invite them to follow me on BookBub.
- A week later they get part two of Life is But a Dream, and a week after that part three. The reason for this is to get them used to getting email from me, and to get them in the habit of opening. It also reminds them to put Gingerbread Man on the top of their TBR (to be read) pile.
- Email five is there to promote Hickory Dickory Dock, the third book in the series, with a link to preorder on iBooks. I also offer an exclusive look at the first chapter. Soon I will use this space to tell my readers about the fourth book, Twinkle Little Star.
Once the new subscriber makes it through the automation, they’ll only get an email when there is a new book or sale — not only my books, but other author deals, too. I try to send a newsletter once a month on average.
Which marketing tactic had the least impact?
Recruiting “likes” on my author Facebook page. Facebook makes it nearly impossible to reach everyone who likes a page. Even when you boost an ad, only a small percentage sees it.
How did you measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts?
ROI — return on investment. With paid ads like BookBub, it’s easy to see a corresponding jump in sales and the ongoing sales days afterward. If you make more than you spent, the marketing is effective.
How did your marketing strategy for Gingerbread Man change when you launched the second book in the series, Life is But a Dream?
I launched those as a serial back in the spring of 2015, so the real change is happening now with the third book, Hickory Dickory Dock, releasing February 23rd. While I continue to engage in social media, my main focus is on building my email list. I’ll still do fun things for my readers like a Facebook event and a giveaway on launch. Also, a series is always easier to market and promote once you get to the third and fourth books. Readers are attached to the characters and just want to hang out with them again. There will be two more books in the Nursery Rhyme Suspense series this year.
Do you plan to use BookBub’s New Release Alerts to promote your next book? If so, how do you plan on getting more BookBub followers?
Yes, of course! I’m already spreading the word by providing a link to my BookBub Author profile in my newsletter template. And with the release of Hickory Dickory Dock, following me on BookBub will be an entry option in the contest giveaway.
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