I hit the USA Today bestseller list three times thanks to a whole lot of planning and focused marketing strategies built around price promotions. These included BookBub Featured Deals, promo-stacking with other vendors, newsletter sends, cross-promotion with other authors, and asking friends for help on social media.
Selling enough books in the seven-day bestseller list tracking time period is really hard, but with paid promo-stacking and other cost-free opportunities, a coordinated attack makes a big difference. In this post, I’ll share my to-do list for getting the word out about a sale or free book. I hope this helps to maximize your chances of hitting a bestseller list!
1. Select the right book to discount
As a reader, if I love a book, I’m always hoping for more books with the same characters, in the same world. I gobble them all up and eagerly anticipate the next one. As a writer, I try my best to give readers what they want — a multi-book series they can sink their teeth into. Financially, I’ve found it’s to my advantage to write a series (at least three books) because if a reader loves the first, they’ll (hopefully!) buy the rest.
The first books in two of my older series are permafree so I can continue to draw new readers to my backlist. Making them free offers no risk for new readers to try me out — and if they like one book, I have 40 more for them to buy! I’m not making any money on these first books, but I’m making money on the other books in the series when they read through. Using a BookBub promotion for one of my free books last year brought in over 50,000 downloads in 30 days. That’s a lot of people trying me out and potentially buying more of my books!
However, with my newer series, I wasn’t prepared to give the first book away for free. The sales are strong enough to keep the first book at its full price for a while longer, and run a temporary $0.99 discount instead. Bridgewater County is my latest series, and Book 1, Ride Me Dirty, is usually priced at $3.99. I wanted to reduce the price two weeks before the release of Hold Me Close (Book 4), anticipating that the additional readers who discovered Ride Me Dirty because of the discount would pass through to buy book 2, then 3, then 4.
2. Submit the book for a BookBub Featured Deal
When I submit a BookBub deal, I choose to run a US and International promotion. However, I don’t discount in India — I don’t have many sales there, and it’s not worth my effort to change the India price on the retailers to $0.99. My books are sold wide — on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google — and the BookBub promotion includes all the retailers. Even though only my US sales from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple counted toward the USA Today bestseller list tally, I want those new readers from all retailers! The growth in my non-Amazon sales is, in my opinion, my number one value-add to having a BookBub promotion.
I have found with each BookBub promotion (whether I hit a bestseller list or not), I gain a larger percentage of my monthly sales from Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Google. This means my visibility is greater and I am gaining more readership. During some months, my non-Amazon sales exceed my Amazon sales. This is why I submit to BookBub over and over — I want more visibility and readers at the non-Amazon retailers.
Once Ride Me Dirty was selected for a Featured Deal, I reduced the price to $0.99 just prior to the promotion, and prepared the rest of my marketing activities.
3. Send a newsletter to my subscribers
On the BookBub promotion date, I sent out an email to my mailing list announcing the sale of Ride Me Dirty. One of my goals for 2017 is to grow my mailing list. Since April when Ride Me Dirty was a new release, I have added ~9,000 subscribers to this list. Because they were new to the list, these readers may not have discovered Ride Me Dirty, and I wanted to ensure they knew about the sale and had the opportunity to start the series at a discount (again, hoping they’d love it and purchase the rest of the series).
I always start my emails with a personalized note about what’s going on in my life this month, such as warning everyone that my older child is getting his learner’s permit, or telling them about my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. For the Ride Me Dirty sale email, I shared a secret about my next book before I announced it anywhere else. In the email, I included a teaser graphic (with a one-liner), plus the book cover, buy links, and the book blurb. Here’s what this section looked like:
4. Ask author friends to promote the discount in their newsletters
Another opportunity for newsletter promotion was asking author friends to share the promotion graphic and links in their newsletters. This extended the reach of my sale to readers who may not know me (and lured them with the sale!). This is not a one-time thing; we cross-promote new releases and sales consistently. It is a free and easy way to get the word out!
Here’s an example graphic my author friends could include in their newsletters:
5. Stack other promotions
Once I had my date set for my BookBub promotion, I promo-stacked Ride Me Dirty at other vendors — companies with promo emails, websites, Facebook postings, etc. For the Ride Me Dirty sale, I had over 30 promos scheduled for my BookBub promotion date. Some were paid, some were free. I’ve been asked where I find these promo companies in the past. It involves a fair amount of legwork, but here are some suggestions:
- Ask around. Your other author friends may have suggestions. Join Facebook groups that talk about promotions. There’s a trove of hard-learned info in them.
- Google it. “Free book promo sites” is a great place to start.
- Determine the value. Evaluate each site for worthiness to your genre, and even subgenre. Join the mailing list. See what they send you. Rule them in or out based on YOUR needs.
- Compile a spreadsheet. Yes, the dreaded spreadsheet. Track after the promotion which ones are good for you — or not.
It’s hard work, and requires constant feeding and upkeep! But combining these great resources with BookBub works.
6. Run social media promotions
Social media offers so many opportunities to get the word out about a sale (or new release) — some paid, some free. I didn’t do any more paid promotions for the Ride Me Dirty discount, such as Facebook and Twitter ads, BookBub Ads, and Thunderclaps. These will be great additions for a future sale I promote, but since I was on a budget, I chose instead to run free social media promotions.
Social media campaigns are effective, but time consuming. I posted an eye-catching graphic and buy links to Ride Me Dirty on my Facebook personal page, my author page, my private author group, as well as other groups I belong to (I’m in over 50 — all focused on romance, steamy romance, erotic romance, and even ménage). I auto-posted tweets using Social Jukebox and am in several retweet groups on Facebook where my sale tweets were shared with tens of thousands of people through a retweet network.
7. Ask friends for signal boosts on social media
Remember your friends! Author friends, Facebook friends, Twitter followers, etc. If you’ve been a big supporter of their work, most likely they will be supportive of yours. As I mentioned above, ask your author friends to send the promotion to their mailing list. Asking your Facebook friends to share your sale promo post and asking for retweets on Twitter goes a long way! Join retweet groups, Facebook groups, author groups, etc. Network, even from behind your computer. It’s a great, friendly community!
8. Cross-promote another book in the back matter
To help ensure follow-on sales, I have two different kinds of cross-promotion in the back of all my books.
- The latest list of all Vanessa Vale books with direct retailer links. Each book on each retailer has its own set of back matter links (since I want Apple users to go to the product page on Apple, not on Amazon, etc.), therefore I have five different versions of my book file and upload each one to the appropriate retailer. Yes, it’s crazy — but worth it!
- An excerpt with direct retailer links. I include the first chapter of the next book in a series directly after “The End” with a special “Get it now!” link that goes straight to the product page for that book on that specific retailer. This “Get it now!” hyperlink is different from the book list links so I can track click-throughs separately and see how many spontaneous purchases it drives.
This image shows the 679 click-throughs of the “Get it now!” button to buy Claim Me Hard (the second book in the series) in the back matter of Ride Me Dirty.
9. Measure the results
Amazon US sales of Ride Me Dirty increased on the BookBub promotion day — also the first day of promo-stacking — from 100+ to ~3,000. The second day, sales were ~1,000. An increase in sales continued throughout the USA Today tracking week and the remainder of the $0.99 sale. While the graph makes it appear as if the days leading up to the promotion yielded no book sales, it clearly shows the impressive quantity of sales on the BookBub promotion day.
Again, a major perk of having a BookBub promotion on first-in-series is the increase in sales across the other books in the series. There was substantial uptick in sales on book 2 and 3, as well as a stronger ranking for book 4’s launch. The charts below show continued increases in Amazon and Apple sales for Claim Me Hard (book 2) from before the BookBub promotion and during the two weeks that follow.
Obviously, I’m thrilled with the results! A gain in sales like this means more readers, and I hope they become die-hard fans. The BookBub Featured Deal and promo-stacking efforts definitely helped with exposure. Concentrating my marketing at one time appears to have paid off. None of this was done with the intention of hitting a list, especially since my promotions all began on a Friday (USA Today tracks sales from Monday through Sunday). While I’m thrilled with the USA Today recognition, my goal was to grow readership, a.k.a. sales. I’ve been more of the turtle instead of the hare in the writing race, focusing on the long term. But this specific instance shows that a hare’s pace can bring about powerful (and lucrative) results.
Whether your goal is to hit a list or to grow your sales, promo-stacking a price reduction (including a BookBub promotion) is a great way to grow your readership, your exposure on several sales platforms, and to increase your monthly income.
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