Ebook price promotions are a powerful tool for any author or publisher (chances are if you’re reading this article, you already knew that). As readers become more comfortable and fluent with all of the digital reading options available, promotions specifically keyed to ebooks have become significantly more important. In the realm of fiction, ebook promotions are known quantities — and particularly in scenarios where an author has a series or sequel in the works, offering the first volume for free or at a low price point makes all the sense in the world.
But what happens when you have a nonfiction ebook to promote? Often, these titles are one-off standalones that span the gamut from narrative nonfiction (such as memoirs, historical accounts, business exposés) to complex illustrated titles (like cookbooks, design guides, and lifestyle books). The ebook price promotion instinctively seems less effective in these instances — and if you’re an author or a publisher of nonfiction, you may understandably be hesitant to dip your toe in the ebook price promotion pool.
The good news is that ebook price promotions can be every bit as effective for nonfiction books as they are for genre fiction titles. They can catapult an unknown author onto a bestseller list, increase revenue, and, in rare instances, boost visibility in a way that invigorates sales across the digital-print format barrier. Like any price promotion, the first step should always be to consider your end-goals. Here are three example goals and ways to achieve those goals in the nonfiction ebook space.
Goal: Boost revenue from a deep backlist title
Example: Tab Hunter Confidential by Tab Hunter with Eddie Muller
- Timing. In this particular example, timing wasn’t of the essence — this was a backlist title from 2006, which once had strong sales but had since quietly faded in sales rank and volume. But sometimes we’ll run a price promotion for a backlist book relevant to a current event. If there are newsworthy hooks that relate to your title — say, a nonfiction book about gay marriage and wedding planning timed to a major Supreme Court decision — this can be a natural trigger for considering discounting an ebook.
- Strong Content. While timing is flexible, the promotional rules regarding content certainly apply. In this example — a 1950s movie star’s tell-all memoir — content drove the promotion. With 4½ star rating averages on Amazon and Goodreads, great editorial reviews, and a former Hollywood heartthrob as the main subject, Tab Hunter Confidential was a great candidate for a temporary price promotion.
- Pricing and Duration. Because this is a memoir and a quick beach-style read, lower promotional pricing was key at $1.99. By keeping the price low, less revenue was made per unit, but the increase in units was more than enough to offset the difference. The promotional price was offered for a full month, allowing more users to find the title at $1.99 after the BookBub promotion was complete.
The price promotion of Tab Hunter Confidential not only boosted the title’s sales ranking, but also unit and dollar sales. And, following the BookBub promotion of the memoir, it also ended up on the New York Times bestseller list for nonfiction ebooks.
Goal: Invigorate sales across formats
Example: The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart
- Gift-type content. For an ebook promotion to transcend the format barrier between digital and print is nigh unheard of — we’ve only seen a handful of successes over the course of numerous attempts. One key factor in transcending format may be the type of book being price-promoted. In the case of The Drunken Botanist — partly a natural history of plants and the alcoholic drinks made from them, partly a drink recipe book — the giftable nature of the physical book may have been directly responsible for the boost in print book sales during and following the ebook promotion.
- Timing, Pricing, and Duration. This particular promotion was set at a price of $1.99 for the month of December — strategically timed to the holidays, when indulgences like cocktails and gifting are common.
- Clean metadata. An often overlooked part of any price promotion (or publication of any title in any format) is other metadata. In the case of an ebook with a related print product, making sure that those ISBNs are tied together in the title’s supply chain is vital to boosting visibility of the title across all of its formats. Optimizing keywords, BISAC codes, and book descriptions helps, too.
Using these tactics, The Drunken Botanist saw double- and triple-digit percentage increases in print and ebook sales over the holiday season.
Goal: Launch a slow-starting frontlist title
Example: The Nurses by Alexandra Robbins
- Timing. The Nurses was published on April 14, timed to build buzz right before National Nurses Week (May 6-12). Working in tandem with print sales, marketing, and publicity, The Nurses was downpriced to $1.99 for 24 hours on National Nurses Day (May 6), with support on BookBub and select major ebook retailers.
- Social media. The author and publisher supported the sale by announcing it on social media platforms (especially Facebook and Twitter), encouraging readers to purchase the book at a discount for a limited time and celebrate National Nurses Week.
- Gradual price increase. Following the 24-hour promotion, gradual price increases from $1.99 to full price over the next two weeks maintained the ebook’s visibility and sales on retailer sites.
With these steps, The Nurses landed on the New York Times bestseller list for ebook nonfiction and stayed on the list for several weeks.
These goals and strategies are by no means exhaustive, nor do they apply for every book — but they are good case studies in how you can bolster the success of your nonfiction titles in ebook format, and bring them to the attention of an ever-growing ereading audience!
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