Running an ebook price promotion can be an effective way to drive a high volume of downloads, increase revenue, boost a book up a bestseller list, drive series sales, and more. But running a successful book marketing campaign requires more than just dropping the price and hoping you’ll catch readers’ attention.
So if you ran a price promotion for your ebook and it didn’t go as well as you’d hoped, don’t write off this sales tactic yet — you may be able to diagnose the problem and adjust your strategy for next time. Here are some of the reasons your price promotion may not have worked.
1. You chose the wrong price point
The price point you choose for your ebook discount should depend on what you’re trying to accomplish with your price promotion. For example, if you’re looking to get people hooked on your series, discounting the first book in the series to $2.99 might not be enticing enough for many readers to give the series a try. Instead, hook as many new fans as possible by making the first book in the series free — BookBub partners who make the first book in their series free see 8x higher sales of the other books in the series than partners who discount the first book to $0.99+ instead.
However, if you’re trying to drive revenue and you only have one book, making it free or $0.99 might not make sense. Without any other full-price standalones, sequels, or series in your backlist for readers to find next, you could just be losing revenue.
Learn more about how to determine the price for your next ebook promotion here.
2. You chose the wrong book to discount
The book you choose for your promotion can make or break its success. For example, if you’re trying to hit a bestseller list, discounting one of your less popular books with fewer reviews and accolades might not get you enough momentum to hit the list, whereas discounting your most popular book to $0.99 could.
Or if you’re trying to promote a series, discounting a later book in the series might not be as effective as discounting the first book. Dropping new readers into the middle or end of a series might confuse them if they’re not familiar with the plot and character development from book #1. On average, our partners have seen a five times higher increase in sales of the other books in a series when the first book is discounted vs. any other book in the series.
3. You didn’t advertise your price drop
Simply dropping the price of your ebook across retailers isn’t enough — it won’t generate the increase in sales volume you need to make the price promotion worthwhile. You need to advertise your price drop so potential readers are aware of the discount.
Targeting the ads for your ebook price promotion to fans of your genre is one of the most effective ways to reach relevant readers. That’s why BookBub partners’ Featured Deal campaigns are so successful — they target distinct category lists, reaching members who will be most interested in reading their book. BookBub partners report an average 196x increase in earnings during their price promotions, with an average discount of 74%.
You can also run targeted ads coordinated with your price drop on sites like Facebook and Twitter, which let you target ads to a fine-tuned audience based on preferences users have expressed on those social platforms. This lets you advertise the book to people interested in similar books, genres, or authors.
4. Your book is permafree, but only on one retailer
Making an ebook permafree can be a successful price promotion strategy, especially if you have a large backlist or if the book is the first in a series. Even if a book is permanently free, occasionally advertising the book via services like BookBub will garner a high volume of downloads. But we’ve found that there’s a huge difference in campaign results for partners with permafree books only available on one retailer versus permafree books available across multiple retailers. Partners with a permafree book available on multiple retailers see 27% more downloads than partners with a permafree book only available on one retailer.
The more retailers on which your book is available, the more users can potentially download your permafree book. If you choose to only make your permafree book available on one retailer, you’re automatically missing out on the large percentage of the market that uses other retailer sites to purchase and download ebooks. Additionally, by diversifying revenue streams from multiple retailers, you’re creating a stronger foundation for consistent, long-term downloads and sales.
5. You didn’t cross-promote your full-price books
The sales of your discounted book that you generate directly via your price promotion will only be part of your revenue spike (and if your book is free, downloads will only be part of your success story). More than 60% of bargain ebook buyers purchase other books from an author they discovered through a price promotion, so after they buy a discounted title they’ll often be willing to buy another of your books at full price. In fact, over 70% of BookBub partners reported increased sales for their other books after running a price promotion, so a cross-promotion strategy could be highly lucrative.
However, it’s up to you to make it easy for readers to find your other books! Prior to discounting a book, update the back matter to promote another book — the next book in your series, your new release, etc. — so it’s easy for your new readers to discover it. You can see ideas for promoting other books in your back matter here, and step-by-step instructions for adding links to your back matter here.
Forgetting this step is a huge missed opportunity. The moment readers finish your book is the moment you should be able to best convince them to spend more time with your writing.
6. You ran a price promotion before garnering enough reviews
Reader reviews and ratings help potential readers get a sense of how others have responded to your book and can influence them to purchase or not. Our data supports this — we often run split A/B tests to see what book description copy resonates most with our subscribers. To do this, we randomly send a slightly different version of the same Featured Deal to two groups of our subscribers. We often test the effect of mentioning reviews on engagement by sending Group A one version of a book description that mentions the number of reviews while sending Group B a version without mentioning the reviews. Everything else in the promotion remains exactly the same.
In these tests, we found that including high numbers of reviews in the blurb increases engagement. When a book has at least 150 five-star reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, including the number of five-star reviews in the copy increases clicks an average of 14.1%.
While you need reviews to gain credibility and sell your work, getting feedback from readers is difficult to do without selling copies in the first place. You can find tips on how to generate more reader reviews here.
7. Your cover design wasn’t up to snuff
Price isn’t the only factor that influences readers to purchase a book — they need to be intrigued by the cover of the book to even click through and check it out. Our testing has shown that a cover alone can account for a 30% difference in clicks on a BookBub listing, and other sources have reported similar results. Here are some questions to ask when trying to determine if a cover design needs a reboot:
- Does the cover include trends and tropes that perform well in your genre?
- Is the font face professional? Outdated fonts like Comic Sans should be avoided.
- Is the title visible and legible when viewing a thumbnail of the cover?
- If a blurb is included, is the text legible or does it make the cover look cluttered?
- Does the cover look professionally designed or amateurish?
Also make sure to get some objective feedback on your cover design. Using a tool like UsabilityHub would give your contacts and fans an anonymous way to provide feedback. You can either:
- Run a five-second test. Show a cover to users for five seconds. Afterward, have them try to describe what they think the book is about. If people are way off, your cover might need a redesign.
- Run a question test. Show users a cover for an unlimited amount of time, during which they’ll answer your specific questions.
- Run a preference test. Show users two different covers and see which one they prefer.
If you only want to show your test to your own testers, specify that you want zero responses from UsabilityHub. You’ll be able to invite as many testers as you like for free! After getting feedback, you might learn your cover needs a redesign, and an investment in a cover designer can be worth the cost. A polished cover from a professional designer can make a book much more appealing to readers scrolling through retailer sites or BookBub’s daily deals email.
8. You ran a price promotion before your new release launched
You can use a backlist book to hook new readers and build a fanbase that will be interested in your newer release. Readers are more inclined to try a book from an author they’ve never heard of if it’s offered at a lower price, like $0.99 or $1.99. However, they’re less likely to risk paying full-price before they’re fans of an author’s work. Since your newer release would (and should) be a higher price when you first release it, using a backlist book as a gateway to the newer book can work well.
However, running the price promotion before the new book has been released can prevent you from garnering sales from fans who want immediate gratification or want to at least see initial reviews on the retailer page first. If you link to the new release in the back matter and the book is only available for preorder, fans who would buy the book if it were already available for sale may be dissuaded from making the purchase.
As you can see, many factors go into a successful price promotion. Hopefully these tips will help you optimize your campaign so you can garner better results next time around.
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