If you have a large book backlist, running a price promotion is a great way to increase exposure, boost sales, and build an author’s brand. Choosing a book for a price promotion is often about timing. Do you have any new or upcoming releases to cross-promote? Do you have any books that align with seasonal trends? Are there relevant current events that make one of your books more appealing?
Alexandra Nicolajsen, Associate Director of Social Media & Digital Sales at Kensington Publishing Corp., has been running BookBub Featured Deals for years. She’s agreed to share some insights around how Kensington chooses which book to run a price promotion for next and what timing factors influence Kensington’s marketing decisions. This information is valuable for book marketers at publishing houses and self-published authors alike!
Could you tell us a bit about your role at Kensington?
I oversee Kensington’s digital publishing and marketing, including social media. I also oversee our digital-first imprint, Lyrical Press, from acquisitions to cover art. It makes every day exciting — especially as all the trends shift and change in terms of genre popularity and marketing vehicles.
When and why did Kensington start experimenting with pricing and price promotions?
We began experimenting with pricing promotions and flexible digital list pricing prior to the real explosion of ebook sales — so as early as 2008. Because there is so much more flexibility to try new pricing on the digital side — there’s no printed pricing on the books! — it seemed natural to try different methods to draw attention to authors and series. When we first tried experimenting with free ebooks, it was really a good time in the marketplace for discoverability — and a free book always led to a big sales increase for all titles by an author or in a series.
Have you found price promotions to be an effective marketing tool? How do you measure each promotion’s success?
There is always a marketing plan around the author and book as a whole, and in many cases some sort of ebook discounting is a piece of that puzzle. We continue to find price promotions to be an effective marketing tool. They do so much to break out from the huge variety of titles available that consumers can choose from. There are many ways we view the success of a price promotion — from how many copies are sold at a discount to how many copies are sold of other books by an author or in a genre. The key is really to build an author’s name and brand and allow that increased visibility to drive sales for the long-term.
How do you decide which book to choose for your next price promotion?
Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer here. It really depends on the author and the genre, how large an author’s backlist is, and looking at trade and consumer reviews, sales history, and the marketing plan as a whole.
Once you’ve decided on a book, how do you decide when to discount the book?
Generally, we watch trends, sales numbers, upcoming releases, and previous release performance, and that helps us determine timing. But like everything online, the pieces are always shifting and the strategy is often changing.
Have you ever experimented with timing a discount around different seasons, holidays, weekdays vs. weekends, or any other timing factors? How have these timings impacted your results?
We often discount to tie into larger promotions or holidays so that there’s another hook that we can use for promotion. This is especially effective in the social media space, and helps increase visibility and sales.
Could you tell us about one of Kensington’s recent BookBub Featured Deals? Why did you decide to run a Featured Deal for this book? Would you be willing to share any of your results?
We’ve recently had several titles across genres (Mysteries, Thrillers, Women’s Fiction) that have been discounted between $0.99 and $2.99 that have benefitted from discounting in concert with retailer promotion and BookBub — and ultimately hit major bestseller lists including the New York Times and USA Today lists. In some cases, they remained on the lists two or more weeks.
Titles were selected based on the criteria discussed above — timing of new releases, as well as maintaining rate of movement on other recently released books and increasing visibility to drive further buzz and conversation around the books.
How do your selection and timing strategies differ for standalone books vs. a series?
Again, it depends on the genre, book, and author, but reviews and sales history always play a large role, as well as timing of an upcoming or recently published book by an author we’re looking at for discount.
Do you see a difference in results for standalone vs. series price promotions? How does the promotion impact sales for each after the book has returned to full price?
Many genres are very series-driven on the digital side, but we’ve seen success for standalones as well, often determined by things as obvious as cover art and selling copy. There isn’t always a correlation between series, standalone, and success of a discount promotion. Some of our most successful promotions have been for stand-alone titles, which also led to big boosts on frontlist, non-discounted titles.
Increasing the visibility via price promotion also has the effect of increasing sales once it has returned to full price. Hitting retailer bestseller lists increases the title’s ranking in search results, as well as affording it additional online placements in many cases, and that continues to be a driver of sales regardless of price.
What other advice would you give to book marketers and authors about running price promotions, or marketing in the digital landscape in general?
Always watch trends. See what authors and titles are working… but never fail to experiment and try new things. Usually the thing that gets the most attention online is the thing that’s fresh, new, and exciting. Something people haven’t seen before. But, of course, people always love what they know — and then they want more of it. And that’s why there’s no simple formula for making a bestseller!
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