If you’re launching a sequel or companion to a previously published book, how can you carry your audience to the new book? And how might your marketing strategy differ if the newest book is self-published, and the prior books were traditionally published?
Beth Revis had to answer those questions for her newest title, The Body Electric. The book, a companion novel to her traditionally published Across the Universe series, was the first that she self-published. We interviewed Beth to discover how she was able to keep her existing readers engaged in her books’ universe — and expand her overall readership. She had many unique marketing strategies and ideas to share!
Beth Revis is a New York Times bestselling author with books available in more than 20 languages. She has also authored numerous short stories, along with the nonfiction Paper Hearts series, which aids aspiring writers. Her upcoming title, A World Without You, is a semi-autobiographical story blending the supernatural with mental illness.
What were your goals for the book launch of The Body Electric?
The Body Electric is a companion novel to my traditionally published Across the Universe trilogy, so my foremost goal was to make sure that my audience carried over from one book to another. I also had a baseline of first-day sales that I hoped to make: 350 copies.
Everyone talks about the long tail of marketing for self-publishing, and that’s very true. But I also knew that I was coming into self-publishing with an established audience, and I didn’t want to let this book die in the shadows; I wanted to come out strong and stay strong.
What marketing did you implement prior to this book’s release?
In the early days, it was about generating curiosity and interest. There were three big tactics I employed:
1. I ran a giveaway related to the book’s setting. My book is set in Malta, a small island in the Mediterranean. I did a week-long campaign and giveaway where I revealed clues about the setting and had people guess where the book was set. The giveaway lived on my blog here, and I used Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter to post a few extra clues and entice people to enter the main contest.
The giveaway actively engaged readers as they tried to solve the mystery, and sparked interest as I announced the book. It also gave me openings to discuss the book without being spammy; I could talk about how I went to Malta, what inspired me, what details made or didn’t make it into the book. In short, I generated conversation and information, not commercials.
2. I printed “limited edition” paperback copies. Young adult (YA) fiction tends to have a strong market in print, and a smaller market in ebook sales, but self-publishing in general has a stronger base in the ebook market. I knew I had to straddle the fence — attract both YA markets and ebook readers. So I printed copies through both CreateSpace and IngramSpark, but I’ve since moved to exclusively using CreateSpace.
In order to entice people of both sides, I offered the following deal: if people bought the paperback from my local independent bookstore, I’d include a coupon code for them to get a free ebook copy. I created the coupon code using Smashwords and printed business cards that had the code on them — they were easy to distribute, and I use the leftovers for additional contests and giveaways, or to give people electronic copies when I meet them at live events. This promotion definitely helped merge my target audiences into one sale. I also upped the ante by making that paperback sale a “limited edition” of the book. Each of the books sold through this deal were signed and numbered, had special additional content inside, and came with a packet of art prints of scenes and characters of the books, as well as printed maps.
This endeavor was pricey — I ended up making only about $1 profit per book sold once all was said and done. But it helped a ton with exposure and buzz about the book, and I did sell all 350 copies of the limited edition through my bookstore….which then helped give me a great relationship with the bookstore, which continues to sell copies of my all my books, self or traditionally published, every month.
3. I did social media marketing. I heavily used my social media presence. I developed quote images that I posted on Instagram in the weeks leading up to release, used graphics and targeted tweets, and maintained my Facebook presence. I’m also a huge fan of using giveaways to do the work for you, and offered prizes to people who helped spread the word about the book online.
How did you market your book on launch day?
Launch day was the culmination of all the campaigns I set into motion in the weeks before. The best quotes were posted on Instagram, the best giveaway wrapped up. I tweeted hidden details and Easter eggs about the book. Again: it’s about sparking interest without being spammy.
I also reached out to the people who run The Tumblr Book News, which is an official Tumblr book blog. The art prints I included with the limited editions of my book were commissioned through Tumblr artists, so I had a connection to the community and a story to tell in that medium. The Tumblr Book News site posted an article talking about the art, the books, and details about each art piece on the day of launch, which generated a lot of buzz.
Because the book was heavily influenced by sci-fi great Philip K. Dick, I wrote several articles about the inspiration behind the book, and used those as guest posts on other sites. I chose sites whose developers I respected, whose book tastes were similar to mine, and some of whom had reviewed my works in the past. This helped generate new traffic and develop new audiences.
How did you continue the momentum in the weeks following your book’s launch?
My newsletter has been invaluable in this way. Every month, my newsletter consists half of articles about my books and half of articles that people who like my books would find fun to read. This keeps my newsletter interesting and something people want to open, but also keeps the value for me by having my books featured. Additionally, I added a coupon code so all new subscribers can get the book at a discount. The email itself is long, but here is the section of the newsletter promoting the coupon code:
I continued to use social media. I find the key in social media isn’t to become a walking advertisement — no one wants spam — but instead to be a part of the community. When you’re a part of the community, the community wants to help you. So my social media usage is about being in the community, but occasionally bringing up the things I need: a louder voice about a release, more reviews, etc.
After the book had been out for several months, I also ran a BookBub Featured Deal. I knew BookBub’s reputation for reaching readers, but even so, I was still shocked by just how broad a reach it generated. On the week of my ad, sales skyrocketed. I thought my biggest sale day would be my launch — and thanks to my campaigns, that day was big. BookBub blew it away. And the effects of the ad were felt for a month or more after the ad day as reviews came in and more readers found the book.
I knew my biggest hurdle to continuing momentum was getting reviews. Reviews lead to credibility, credibility leads to exposure, exposure leads to sales, sales lead to more reviews. It’s a hard cycle to break into, but it’s necessary for a book’s survival.
What did you find was the most effective way to garner new reviews?
Two key things led to the most reviews: a review blog tour and a NetGalley co-op. The review blog tour differed from other blog tours because rather than providing the content to post, I provided review copies to a series of bloggers, who then posted the reviews. Many of them posted the reviews not only on their own websites, but also on Amazon and Goodreads, which was much needed as the book was doing well in sales but had almost no reviews. This boost absolutely helped raise the ranks of the book. And a key detail: this was not a blog tour that I organized, but one I hired out. I didn’t want to be the one hassling others for reviews or reminding them to crosspost. I feel it’s important for an author to maintain a distance from reviewers.
The NetGalley co-op was also key in getting more reviews. NetGalley is very expensive on its own, but a co-op is where a group of authors pool together to make an account and then parcel out different months for each author to feature a book. It’s a far cheaper option than making your own account, and NetGalley is focused on reviews, which means that many of my reviews were cross-posted onto retail sites.
And, of course, my BookBub campaign led to more reviews simply because it sold so many books and a portion of those readers review everything they read.
Beyond this, I would occasionally (perhaps once or twice a month) remind readers via social media of just how important reviews are. Readers want to see the books they love succeed. A friendly tweet like, “The most important thing you can do to help an author is review her book!” is neutral and reminds people that it’s key.
Which marketing tactic do you think had the biggest impact on book sales?
It was the most expensive and time-consuming task, but working with my local bookstore and artists to create and sell the limited edition of the book was something that generated so much buzz that I still have readers telling me about it a year later. I had thought that some of my giveaways would be the biggest marketing tactic, but in the end, while many of them generated a thousand or more social media shares, those shares didn’t lead to sales. But by giving the reader an incentive to purchase the book by a certain date, it became more valuable to them. This campaign meant that I launched the book strong.
In terms of instant sales and long-term exposure, BookBub is still the best. It was, by far, the easiest! All my launch campaigns took a lot of time and money and effort. BookBub was simple, and gained me well more than a thousand sales in a single day with no work on my part.
How did your marketing strategies differ between your self-published and traditionally published books?
This was a big learning curve for me. Some things stayed the same: social media, giveaways, newsletter. But because I can change the price of my book, develop coupons for it, and more, I have a lot more flexibility in how I advertise. Before, with my traditionally published books, I’d have to do campaigns based on the book itself — in other words, “pay attention to this book because it features X.” But with my self-published books, I can shift the campaigns to focus on money: “pay attention to this book because it’s on sale right now.” It makes campaigns and advertisements easier in many ways.
I also shift where I focus. My fiction is YA — which has traditionally had a great deal of success in schools and libraries. So my traditionally published YA campaigns have always included at least some form of targeting school and library markets. These markets tend not to work very much with self-published books — for several good reasons — so my marketing shifts for my self-published books. For my traditionally published books, I always have at least one campaign that’s focused on library markets; for self-published books, everything’s focused on the reader instead.
I’ve also noticed that there’s a pretty clear divide in “self-published readers” and “traditionally published readers.” When I look at my sales data, I can see that there is a group of readers who primarily purchase only traditionally published books and vice versa. I tapped into my readers for my traditionally published series, but it took BookBub and joining self-publishing forums (such as KBoards) to tap into the self-published audience.
For your traditionally published books, what was the most effective marketing tactic you and your publisher collaborated on?
Honestly, I don’t know. My publisher does so much for me behind the scenes, and I don’t have access to instant numbers like I do for my self-published books. My traditionally published books sell far better, and I know that’s because of my publisher’s efforts. My publisher has a far bigger reach than me, both in terms of marketing and distribution.
One thing that I worked with them on directly was video. We created a traditional book trailer for Across the Universe, and it definitely reached its market with more than 50K views. But when the books were rejacketed, I knew we needed to get the word out about the new look. I had the idea of launching these sci-fi books into space — and my publisher leapt at the idea. I don’t know how it directly affected sales, but it reached tens of thousands of viewers and generated a ton of buzz for the new book covers and the launch of the final book in the trilogy. This was something I could have done on my own… but it would have cost me a lot of money, and it wouldn’t have reached as wide an audience.
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?
Absolutely! I’ve been keeping a close eye on the way BookBub has been developing a reader base and new ways to help readers get the books they want.
I’m going to start on the community level — that’s where all marketing should start. People want to support people they know and like, so using social media to just inform my audiences that they can follow me on BookBub should help garner more followers. Then I’ll expand the circle by offering incentives (usually in the form of a giveaway) for people who tell others about the program. Everything builds.
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