When launching a new book in a series, is it best to focus all your marketing efforts on that one book? Or can you increase sales even more by actively marketing the previous books in the series, too?
Megg Jensen successfully boosted sales by promoting her entire series when launching a subsequent series book. When she launched the fifth book in her Dragonlands series, Reckoning, she used box sets and clever cross-promotion strategies to keep existing readers engaged while garnering brand new series readers.
A two-time USA Today bestselling author of epic fantasy, Megg Jensen is all sorts of strange things: medieval history buff, Ren Faire goer, fairy garden builder, swing dancer, and lover of movies everyone else hates. We interviewed Megg to learn how she approached marketing her new series release.
What were your goals for the book launch of Reckoning?
Logic tells us a reader won’t purchase the final novel in a five-book series without reading the previous novels. To sell Reckoning, the final book in my Dragonlands series, I needed to sell the entire series. My goal was to sell as many copies of the earlier books as I could during that release week, and to notify current readers that the book was available.
What marketing did you implement prior to this book’s release?
I implemented multiple strategies to launch Reckoning months before the book was released.
1. Made Reckoning available for pre-order & promoted it in the back matter of the previous book.
I wrote and edited Desolation (book four in the Dragonlands series) before I released Retribution (book three) in November of 2014. When Retribution released, I put up a preorder for Desolation (book four) to catch readers when they were most excited about reading the next book in the series. I also put a link in the back of Retribution, directing the reader to the preorder page for Desolation on Amazon. (Although my books were available on multiple sales outlets, I only had access to preorders at Amazon then.)
I repeated the same process with Desolation leading into Reckoning. If a reader wanted to continue in the series, they simply preordered and waited for Amazon to automatically send the next book to their Kindle on release day.
I often update the back matter of my books. When the next book is available for preorder, I’ll say: “You can preorder [BOOK NAME] at [SALES OUTLET] through [RELEASE DAY].” Once the book is released, I will update the back matter to say: “Read the next book, [BOOK NAME], now at [SALES OUTLET].”
2. Included book one in a multi-author box set.
In the fall of 2014, Hidden (book one) was included in a multi-author epic fantasy box set, which served as another funnel into the series — again leading toward the goal of selling that final book in April of 2015.
Often, these sets are set up by authors and filled via networking. I was asked by the organizer to join this particular set after being recommended by another author. These box sets are a great way to find new readers. All of the authors in the box set market it to their reader base. It’s the ultimate cross-promotion strategy. It’s also good for readers because they are often able to pick up these box sets for $0.99, or sometimes for free!
3. Promoted my newsletter in my books.
I put a link to my newsletter in the front and back of each ebook, with incentives for signing up. If a reader is on my mailing list and they don’t want to preorder, I can simply let them know when the book is out via my newsletter. It’s important to consider every type of reader behavior in order to reach them on release day.
At that point, I had covered all of my current readers. But I wanted more. I needed new readers to breathe life into my sales and ranking.
4. Ran a BookBub Featured Deal for my box set!
I requested a BookBub Featured Deal for the Dragonlands: Books 1 – 3 box set for the same day as the launch of Reckoning. To my delight, BookBub accepted the request. My sell-through from BookBub promotions had been strong in the past. I hoped the same would prove true for my dragons.
How did you market your book on launch day?
On launch day, the BookBub deal ran, flinging the Dragonlands box set into the stratosphere. Reckoning immediately began to sell, along with its predecessor, Desolation.
I watched, dumbfounded, as my strategy of promoting the earlier books paid off.
I also sent out a newsletter blast to my subscribers, and promoted the sale and the new release on Facebook. Here is a screenshot of the newsletter:
How did you continue the momentum in the weeks following your book’s launch?
To keep the momentum going, I coordinated some smaller ads to support the Dragonlands: Books 1 – 3 box set, which peaked on Amazon at #20 and on Nook at #7. The smaller ads ran on BookSends, eReader News Today, Robin Reads, and Book Barbarian. The box set not only significantly bolstered the sales of Reckoning, it also managed to land on the USA Today bestseller list at #111.
I was very emotional about hitting the USA Today bestseller list for the first time, and I probably spoke about it on social media more than I’d ever spoken about anything. Discussing how I did it inadvertently led to more promotion that kept the books selling at elevated levels for months.
What did you find was the most effective way to garner new reviews?
I tend to do the complete opposite of most authors when it comes to reviews. Occasionally I will send out eARCs (electronic Advanced Reader/Reviewer Copies) to readers upon launch. When a reader signs up for an eARC, I ask them what format they read in. The two choices I offer are mobi (Kindle format) or epub (all other ereaders). I’m not a fan of sending PDFs because they can be problematic for some ereaders.
When the day comes to send out the eARCS, I simply email the file to reader, along with a message thanking them for participating. Kindle users also receive a link to my website, where I explain how they can send the mobi file to their Kindle. Much of this sideloading information was taught to me by Susan Kaye Quinn, a fantastic speculative fiction author, and used with her permission.
However, less than 75% of those eARC readers follow through. I prefer to let readers leave their own reviews on their own time, even though it inevitably means I have fewer reviews than other authors.
As a former bookseller at an independent bookstore, I know how reader opinions can vary wildly on the same book. Because of this, I choose to let reviews happen organically.
Which marketing tactic do you think had the biggest impact on book sales?
Running a sale on the 3-book box set had the largest impact on sales of Reckoning. Without that strategy, the release would have likely gone unnoticed except by those who were already invested in the series.
Which marketing tactic had the least impact?
Sending out eARCs to readers had little impact. By the final book, readers love the series and are dying to read it, regardless of advance reviews. I think that effort changes significantly if you’re promoting the first book in a series, so please don’t take that as a blanket statement on eARCs.
The ability to change tactics from one release to another is so important. For instance, the biggest marketing impact (marketing the entire series) obviously doesn’t work when you’re starting a new series.
How did you measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts?
I kept track of my daily sales, comparing them to past sales in the series. The links in the back of my books were created with smartURLs, which allowed me to see how many people were clicking on the links to purchase the latter books in the series.
SmartURL is a phenomenal free tool for writers. You can create a custom shortened link for any website. For example, http://smarturl.it/Megg leads directly to my website. If used for an Amazon link, it will automatically direct the person who clicks to their country’s Amazon site. I’ve created more than 50 smartURL links leading to my ebooks and audiobooks on various sales outlets.
Another advantage to smartURL is that you can change where the link directs. If I decided I wanted http://smarturl.it/Megg to lead to my BookBub Author Profile, all I have to do is change the link within in my smartURL account. The smartURL stays the same, but it would then point to my Author Profile.
SmartURL also shows me how many times a particular link has been clicked. Sometimes I create different links for different ads campaigns so I can cross-reference click rates. My most-clicked link is http://smarturl.it/DragonlandsOmni which leads to my Amazon product page for the USA Today bestselling Dragonlands Omnibus box set.
In addition to using SmartURL, landing on the USA Today bestseller list was a strong indication my marketing efforts were effective.
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?
I absolutely plan to use BookBub’s New Release Alerts as part of my marketing strategy for future books. I am thrilled to reach readers who have discovered my books through BookBub and followed my Author Profile. As an added bonus, BookBub’s New Release Alerts give the reader everything they need in a clean and concise email. I love them!
I have also encouraged my readers to follow me on BookBub to be notified of new releases, as well as sales. As authors, we do our best to reach our current readers via newsletters and social media. Sometimes these efforts go unnoticed — an email ends up in a promotions folder instead of the inbox, or Facebook simply doesn’t show a post to all of the people who like the page. BookBub’s New Release Alerts give readers another chance to learn about a new release they may have missed.
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