Most authors agree that they need to promote their books to actually sell books. But trying to decide if ebook promotions are working for you can be a challenge. The bottom-line question is: is promotion worth it?
The answer is that there are poor decisions you can make when dipping your toes into advertising, but if you're using a legitimate site, the exposure you get will absolutely benefit your book in the long run. It is also true that you may need to do several promotions over several months to see higher levels in your overall sales. Advertising is NEVER a one-time fix. But it's good to take a real look at what the promotion is buying you.
Will readers buy?
One important note before we move on is that ebook promoters can bring people to your book, but the final decision to click buy depends on your cover, your blurb, and your writing sample. But that's good news because you can also tweak and update and test if you feel something might be off about your product page. Price is another huge factor for readers who are not familiar with your work. Note that when you offer your book for FREE versus 99 cents or above, you will always, always see greater downloads and sequels sales and a greater immediate return (immediate meaning from 1-10 days). That is just the nature of promotion and why loss leaders work in every single business.
Now back to promotion. So let's say you believe the promotion site you choose is working hard to connect you with readers, and your cover is good, your blurb catchy. What if you still don't break even with the cost? That's when you need to look closely at the actual value of the promotion. Sales are not the only meter of a promotion, although those are nice too. There is real value—the long-term value—in getting your book in front of new readers. But keep in mind that the average person needs to see an ad seven times before they purchase a product. That means you have a little footwork to do.
Let’s say you discount your ebook to $0.99 and pay $15 for a promotion. Amazon will give you 35% royalties, so that means you get about $0.35 for each ebook sold. You’d have to sell at least 43 copies of your ebook during the promotion to “break even." But let’s say for whatever reason you didn’t break even—let’s say you sold 40 (or 30 or whatever) copies of your ebook. (Note: if you are exclusive to Amazon and running a Kindle Countdown, then you'd get roughly $0.69 minus any potential delivery fees and need to sell 22 copies to break even.)
Keep in mind that our hypothetical 40 readers want your book. For instance, if you promote with Book Cave, the readers who buy your book will be those who want the same genre and content rating that your book falls into. They trust our recommendation. That means those readers are more likely to love your book, talk about your book, and buy more of your books.
So. What can those 40 readers do for your books?
New readers will leave reviews
Of all those new readers you receive, several will go on to write a review. Those reviews will encourage others to buy your book. At Book Cave, we like to see at least 10 to 20 reviews, because we’ve found that is a good minimum number where readers will choose to download a book by an author they’ve never heard of. But even 5 reviews is significantly better than no reviews. Making a nice plea for reviews at the end of your book can additionally encourage some of those 40 readers to leave a review. Even a few reviews are helpful to an author's overall marketing plan.
Better yet, the reviews these readers leave, if you promote with Book Cave, will usually be good. Why? Because the readers who receive your book through Book Cave like books of the same genre and content rating as yours, and we only send out quality books. Your book is what they’re looking for.
However, don’t expect new reviews for at least a week after your ebook promotion.
New readers will tell other readers about your book
Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool. Those readers who really enjoyed your book will mention it to their book-loving friends. Let’s say each of your 40 new readers tells just 2 people about your book. That’s 80 more readers! Slowly, you will build more readers and more exposure.
Keep in mind that readers need at least a few weeks to let others know about your book—after all, they need to read it first!
New readers will go on to buy your other books
If the 40 new readers love your book, they’re going to look for more books written by you. It’s hard enough to find really good books on the Internet, so when a reader reads a book they love, they’re going to want more. If you’ve sold them the first book in a series, they’ll certainly buy the next one (as long as it’s not way more expensive than the first book). Many authors use a graduated price system: the first book may be $0.99, the second $2.99, the third $3.99, and the fourth $4.99. Or have all the sequels at $3.99. We do not suggest going above $5.00, unless your series is selling very well.
Your book will rise in Amazon’s lists
Even 40 readers will help your book rise in Amazon’s lists. Keep in mind though, that those readers are likely to share the book with other readers, who will then share it with even more readers. This spider-web effect will help your book rise in Amazon’s rank system.
Generally you will sell enough of your book just during the ebook promotion period to show a significant ranking change.
Amazon will recommend your book to even more readers
When those readers buy and review your book, and your book rises in rank, Amazon is more likely to recommend it to other buyers, and it is more likely to show up higher on a search, meaning more new readers will see your book.
If you are in the Kindle Select program (exclusive to Amazon), after a promotion many readers will choose to "borrow" your book instead of reading it. That translates into more readers and higher ranking, but will not show up as sales or money until the end of the pay period. We have had many authors email us to say this is working for them after a 99-cent promotion.
If your book is wide
If your book is available on all retailers, you won't get the Amazon page reads benefits, but you will see a gradual increase of readers on other platforms. It generally takes a year of steady marketing to start gaining a foothold on Nook, iTunes, Kobo, and Google.
A few other notes about ebook promotions
Keep in mind that we’re talking about a temporary promotion. You can choose to temporarily drop your book to $0.99, then raise it after the promotion and still see all these great results. Then to continue building your audience, you need to keep marketing efforts, even if they are minimal.
Again, we would like to point out that you also receive all these great benefits with a temporarily free book, but you’ll get far more downloads during the promotion period (which means more reviews, more recommendations, more series sales, and higher ranking). Deciding whether to drop your book to free or $0.99 is a decision that needs to be based on how many books you have, and whether or not your have several series. We always prefer it when authors discount the first book in a series to free because the sequel sales and exposure are always worth it.
How have you seen book sales increase with an ebook promotion on one of your $0.99 books? What about free? Comment below if you have any questions or tips. If you'd like to learn more about what Book Cave can do for you, please enter your email below and click the "Learn More" button.