When marketing an ebook series, you should take a different strategy than if you were marketing a standalone book. Noah Lukeman at Lukeman Literary Agency offers a unique book marketing perspective, and was an early adopter of ebook price promotions. He has learned a great deal about how to maximize sales of a series, and has great tips to share.
Below are 15 tips on how to increase sales of a series:
1. Make Your First Book Permafree
Make your first book free, and keep it that way — permanently. I’ve seen a huge difference in the number of downloads between a book priced at $0.99 and one at free. A permafree title will spark momentum and reader interest in your series, especially when you don’t have any merch. Consider it an investment in your future.
2. Write Shorter Books (If Possible)
See if there is any way you can keep your books shorter, while of course preserving the artistic integrity of the book. Try to plot the entire series that way before you embark, so you end up with eight 200-page books instead of four 400-page books, for example. If you’ve already written a 400 or 500-page book, try to see if there is any way that you can split it into two titles — thus giving you your first free book.
3. Extend Your Series
There seems to exist an unspoken etiquette that a series should not contain more than a few titles — any author who breaks this rule is immediately accused of “milking it” or “cashing in.” There is no reason why you have to subscribe to this. If your readers are still buying your books in strong numbers, then they still want more books in the series. And those fans won’t necessarily show up to your next series, so don’t be so quick to end what’s working.
4. Publish Often
I’ve found that series tend to sell better when the release time between books is shorter. Push yourself to write faster without, of course, sacrificing quality. In my experience, the optimal release time between books is approximately four weeks — the greater the time after that, the bigger the risk of your losing momentum and readers. Of course, four weeks is a near impossible feat for most writers, but do the best you can.
5. Unify Covers and Titles
You want your series as a whole to have an easily recognizable look. Not only will this make it easier for readers to find future and past books in the series, but it also ensures that it feels more connected, encouraging the reader to buy subsequent books. Additionally, make sure your titles, covers, and synopses clearly convey the order of your series. I recommend putting the series name and number right in the title itself, for maximum clarity, and then repeating it again in the first sentence of the synopsis.
6. Make Books Available on ALL Retailers
Most authors only make their books available on Amazon, Google, Apple, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble — and those do comprise the majority of sales. But there are many midsize and smaller retailers now, and if you reach dozens of them, it can add up and become significant. You might want to list on them individually or use a distributor, such as Smashwords, EpubDirect, or Overdrive (among others).
7. Promote Free Content
In addition to retailers that sell ebooks, many websites and apps exclusively offer free content. Make sure to list permafree titles on as many of these platforms as possible (at least the 10 top in search results), and include links in the back of your permafree titles to direct readers to buy subsequent books. Lastly, offer free excerpts of your other titles so that readers who might be hesitant to jump in can sample your work.
8. Optimize Your Front and Back Matter
Make sure your back pages are optimized so that, if the reader likes the book and is ready to buy #2 in the series, he can easily click or tap a link. Include a synopsis to #2, and an image of the jacket (linkable). You might even want to include the first chapter of #2. If you have audio editions, include links here.
Many authors optimize their back pages, but forget their front pages. Make sure you have prominent links to your other books and/or to your other series, in case a reader samples your book and wants to try something else (but not this book).
9. Promote Subsequent Books in Your Series
Often writers run promotions for the first book in a series, or make the first book permafree, and stop there. This is a mistake. You never know which book in a series will be a reader’s entry point. So run promotions and/or advertise subsequent books in the series, and make them free for a limited time as you do so.
10. Make Your Books Available for Pre-Order
On the retailers that allow them, get as many of your future titles up for pre-order as soon as possible. In fact, it is ideal to release a new book and already have the jacket, title and synopsis of the next book embedded at the end of the new release, with a link for the pre-order page, which should already be live.
11. Embrace DRM-Free and Piracy
There is a lot of controversy over this issue, but I personally feel that it’s better to err on the side of gaining readers than it is worrying about piracy. And I feel that to maximize sales, all books should be DRM-free. This will lead to greater piracy, but I think that may actually be a good thing! Millions of people browse for books on piracy sites; why turn away millions of potential readers? If your first book is free anyway, put it on all the piracy sites yourself. Let people read it, and then fight illegal downloads on the remaining books in your series through one of the services that will look for your pirated titles and take them down for a small fee.
12. Make Your Books Available in Multiple Formats
Hiring translators is expensive and difficult, but if you have the spare cash to try it, translate your books into all the major languages. Use a service, like ACX, to hire narrators and produce audio editions. Create bundles that include a few books from your series, perhaps at lower prices. And work with a service like CreateSpace or Lightning Source to produce print on demand editions.
Test each of these formats on the first book in your series and see how it goes. Each could become one more stream of income. Plus, there are some readers who ONLY read in a certain format — and having these editions might make the difference between gaining certain fans or not.
13. Be Generous to Your Fans
Stay in constant touch with your fans and shower them with free books. Ask them to review your books, and let them know that they are free to write whatever they wish — positive or negative. Most fans who seek you out will want to help support your work and will be happy to post reviews.
14. Constantly Experiment
Don’t ever sit back on your heels and think you’ve figured it all out — even if your books become bestsellers. The industry is constantly evolving, and the beauty of ebooks is that you have the freedom to instantly make changes and experiment. Sometimes a tweak to the jacket, the title, the synopsis, the price point — or, of course, the writing — can make all the difference. Maybe your experiments will fail 99 times, and on the 100th time you’ll accidentally stumble across something that changes your sales from 10 books a month to 10,000.
15. Promote on BookBub
I’ve found BookBub to be the single most effective tool for driving ebook sales, especially if you make your book free for the promotion and especially if it is first in a series. Advertise for all books in the series, too. It is a great service and well worth the money.
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