Once upon a time, backlist titles that were no longer stocked by bookstores didn’t get much marketing love, since they weren’t readily available to readers. Publishers’ publicity and marketing departments focused their efforts on launching new releases, as they still do.
Bookstores have limited shelf space. Some big backlist books can stay on the shelves for years, continuously generating revenue. But now that everything’s available online, a wider variety of backlist books can continue to sell, since all backlist and frontlist books sit side-by-side in the infinite virtual expanse of the web. And readers looking for entertainment don’t care how long ago your book was published.
But the question remains: How can you get your book in front of those readers and continue to sell copies once the new-release buzz has died down?
Here are a few tips for promoting your backlist books:
1. Write more books
Publishing new books is likely to impact sales of backlist books. If readers fall in love with your work, they’ll seek out other books you’ve written. We see this all the time when readers discover new books via BookBub’s daily emails – 60% of readers purchase other books from an author they discovered via a price promotion. Just like running a price promotion for a backlist book is a great way to gain exposure for a new release, publishing a new release boosts backlist book sales. Frontlist sells backlist, and vice-versa.
Authors often struggle with the balance between writing new books and promoting existing ones. But gaining a fan from one book means that fan is likely to purchase another, and the more books you can produce, the more chances you have to gain fans.
2. Run a price promotion and feature it with BookBub
Price promotions help you get more eyeballs on your backlist books. Readers are more apt to spend between $0.99–$2.99 on a book or author they’ve never heard of if the premise of the book sounds interesting. But they’re less likely to risk spending full-price until they know they’re a fan of that author’s work.
By discounting your ebook, you’ll be eligible to promote your book through services like BookBub. BookBub sends a daily email of Featured Deals to millions of members who’ve specified which genres they like to read. This way authors and publishers can reach readers they know are likely to be interested in their price drop.
Authors who run Featured Deals see massive impacts to sales:
- During the promotion: Hundreds of BookBub partners reported an average 196x increase in earnings from their books at an average 74% lower price than in the same timespan prior to dropping the price. The increased volume in sales gets many authors enough momentum to hit the bestseller lists, garnering even more exposure.
- After the promotion: Over 70% of BookBub partners report that after running a price promotion, sales increased for other books on their backlist. Also, more than half of BookBub subscribers reported that they went on to purchase other books by an author they discovered on BookBub. Bargain ebook buyers become loyal fans who are willing to buy full-price ebooks when it comes to authors they already know and like.
3. Choose one book to be a perma-free “gateway” title
When you make your ebook perma-free, it’s either permanently free or free for an extended period of time. If the book is free, readers aren’t risking anything but space on their e-readers. Since the risk is lower, downloads are often 10x higher than a $0.99 promotion.
Perma-free ebooks are also eligible for BookBub Featured Deals. This means you’ll benefit from the momentum of the sheer volume of downloads you’ll get. By making one book in your roster perma-free, you can build up your base of long-term fans who will spend money on your full-price backlist books.
4. Discount the first book in a series, or make it perma-free
If you have a series in your backlist, offering the first book in the series for free or at a deeply discounted price is a great way to hook new readers who will likely buy other books from that series. Authors we surveyed who promoted an ebook that was part of a series via BookBub saw a five times higher average percentage increase in sales than authors who promoted a standalone ebook.
5. Capitalize on current events
Strike when the trends are hot. Depending on the subject of any one of your backlist books, you can strategically promote your book during specific seasons, an annual event, or when something pops in the media.
If your book takes place during the holidays, promote it before the holidays.
- If your book is a romance, promote it on Valentine’s day.
- If your book is a funny chick lit, promote it as a fun summer beach read.
- If your book is a Tudor historical fiction, compare it to a hit new Tudor-related TV show and target fans of that show.
- If your book features athletes overcoming great obstacles, promote it during the Olympics or a relevant sporting event.
Publishers can also run a big promotion with multiple books that align with a current season or event. For example, they can create a bundle of summer reads and coordinate price promotions of each book in the bundle.
Obviously, you should be sensitive about current events and tragedies that shouldn’t be capitalized on. But use your best judgement and take advantage of what’s trending. Even if your book was published years ago, the subject matter is probably still culturally relevant.
6. Redesign your book cover and re-launch the book
Redesigning your book cover is a great way to reinvigorate book sales, since it gives you the opportunity to “re-launch” your book according to the ever-evolving tastes of genre readers. This gives you the chance to test new cover designs against each other to see which resonates best with readers. You can even run a book cover design contest to generate some buzz, and run an A/B test on the two designs you like best.
Romance author JS Taylor benefited from redesigning the covers in her Spotlight series. Prior to the redesign, her books sold around 400 books a day. After the redesign, her sales doubled to between 800 and 1000 daily. Her chart position climbed to number 5 and 6 in adult romance, and after just one month she sold 10,000 more copies of her $3 books.
Self-published author Joanna Penn redesigned the cover of her novel Pentacost to feature a female character before running her second BookBub Featured Deal for the book. Her first Featured Deal, which she ran prior to the redesign, resulted in 20K downloads, while the second deal post-redesign generated more than 30K downloads. While other factors may have played a role in the increase, the new cover certainly didn’t hurt.
7. Cross-promote your books in your back matter
The moment readers finish your book is the perfect time to sell them more of your books. If your ending is satisfying, or if there’s a cliffhanger to the next book in your series, the reader will be eager for more. So the ending of your book is prime marketing real estate.
Use this opportunity to promote your other books via the back matter of your ebook — the pages that come after your story has been completed. You can include the first chapter of the next book in your series, cover art from other backlist books, or a list of all your titles.
8. Have an engaging online platform
Keep your author website up-to-date with all of your latest books. Also, stay engaged with fans by blogging, sharing fresh content on Facebook and Twitter, video blogging on YouTube, or any other methods you prefer for reaching your audience and expressing your personality. Don’t use these channels to spam links to your books. Instead, share fun and interesting content, provide a behind-the-scenes look into your writing, and have conversations with your fans. Offer to guest blog on other blogs, and agree to participate in interviews and Q&As. The more you engage, the more fans will share your content with their friends and widen your reach.
What other strategies have you found effective for increasing sales of your backlist books? Let us know in the comments below!
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Click to tweet: 8 Ways to Sell More Books In Your Backlist – http://bit.ly/1EvPmYP #bookmarketing #pubtip Great tips here!