Okay, Kindle Countdown on A Pair of Docks done, temporary bestseller status in my category achieved, powder skied, it must time for another blog post on marketing.
This week I am focusing on:
· Entering book competitions
These three options are where marketing can start to get more expensive than the previous options discussed, which have tended to be more time consuming than costly. Book competitions, giveaways and advertising can range from very expensive to moderately expensive and should be considered very carefully as a result.
Entering book competitions
There are a wide range of book competitions that indie authors can enter including the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, the Writer’s Digest Self Published Book Awards, the Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Award, and the Indie Reader Discovery Awards. See Kill Zone’s Book Contests for Indie Authors for a complete list with an analysis of each of the awards. Some of these awards are more prestigious than others with better prizes, while some are considered more vanity awards with a large number of categories in which apparently everybody wins. Some also include some side benefits, such as reviews, the judge’s score sheets and displays at book fairs. The Kill Zone offers a fairly good analysis of which awards are the best, while Writer Beware offers a rather scathing summary of the awards it believes to be the biggest scams.
While as an Indie author it might be tempting to enter all of these contests, aside from the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, they all have a fairly steep entry fee, ranging from $60 to $200, and often require you to submit hard copies of your novel, which will cost you not only for the hard copies, but also for the postage. Moreover, it is not clear whether wining an award actually translates into sales. You might be better off spending your money on advertising. I researched the past winners of the Readers Favorites Awards, considered to be one of the more vanity inclined awards (depending on your perspective), and found that the majority of the winning novels do not seem to be selling any better than my novel. Of course they might have had a sales bump around the time of the award, and the award stickers probably help, but it is not clear that they are worth the entry fee. Carrie Rubin offers a great rundown of her experience winning the Readers Favorite award. She is honest that it may not have resulted in any increase in sales, but it sounds like it was a truly positive experience for her. Let’s face it, we all want people to read our books, and winning one of these awards at least means your book was considered better than the other entries – and despite what some people claim about awards with so many categories, I am sure there were other entries.
Aside from the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, which is free to enter and has great prizes (and therefore is a no-brainer), I decided to enter the Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Award and I may enter one other contest this year – either Writer’s Digest or IPPY, but we will see how my marketing budget is going vis a vis my sales. I will keep you posted on the results of my contest entries.
Update: Well, I did not win the Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Award, but I did make it into the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. I will definitely enter that again given how painless it is.
Bottom Line: Enter the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and research the other awards. Consider entering one if you think your book has a chance, but understand that winning may not result in any additional sales, and that some contests have less cache than others.
So the biggest giveaway site of all is of course Goodreads. Goodreads at this point will only allow you to give away paper copies of your book and you must mail them to your winners. As a result, it is not free to do a Goodreads Giveaway. You will have to pay for the copies of your book and the shipping, which depending on where you live and which countries you allow entries from, can be expensive. Because I live in Canada, I had to spend $10/copy for shipping and all of my winners were in the US. It would have been more expensive if I had not limited my Giveaway to Canada, the UK, the US and Australia. I gave away three copies, so my total cost was $54.
Goodreads does a great job of advertising your giveaway and those entering are given the option of adding your book to their ‘to read’ shelf, which many of them will, which is why, despite the expense of the paper copies, I think it is the most effective giveaway around. Goodreads also claims that many of their winners will read your book and write reviews. I ran my giveaway for a month and had 1164 entrants, and 494 people added it to their ‘to read’ shelves. To date, one of my winners has reviewed my book (thank you!) and my book still sits on the to read shelves of 477 people. I believe it resulted in a couple of sales, and subsequent reviews, as well as some positive interactions on Goodreads.
Bottom Line: Goodreads Giveaways get people to add your book to their shelves and draw some attention to your book. They are probably worth the money, but be wary of the shipping costs.
There must be at least a hundred on-line advertising sites for ebooks – and they vary in terms of their effectiveness. If you have been around the Indie world for long, you will have heard of Book Bub, Pixel of Ink and EReader News Today (ENT), which are considered at this point in time to be the Holy Grail of book advertising sites. Book Bub and ENT both require 10 or more at least 4 star reviews on Amazon (note - subsequent to this original post, Book Bub dropped its requirement to 7 reviews and indicated that each book would be evaluated on its own merits). Pixel of Ink is not currently accepting advertising for books over 99 cents in price. Book Bub is quite expensive depending on your genre and the price is higher if your book is not free or under $1. For a contemporary romance, a Book Bub ad will cost you $280 for a free book, and $580 for a 99 cent book (fantasy, science fiction and middle-grade fiction are all cheaper but still a minimum of $120 for a 99 cent book and higher for a regularly priced book), so you have to move a lot of books to justify that cost, and they are picky about what books they take. Some people try and try again to get their book advertised on Book Bub to no avail. But it is believed that Book Bub does work. ENT advertises for a percentage of your royalties during your advertising period.
I only recently topped seven positive reviews on Amazon so I have yet to try any of these sites. I did however try Kindle Nation Daily. I purchased a eBook of the Week ad in their Kids Corner for $149.99. For that, I got an ad front and centre on their Kids Corner, an interview with a 5th grader and a bonus book report from another 5th grader to use for my promotional work. They were lovely and helpful and tweeted about my book as well. But did I move books? I would say I sold about 20 ebooks at $2.99 as a result of the promotion. Not enough to pay for the promotion, but enough to get me ranked in my category a few times.
More recently, I did a kindle countdown promotion where I sold my book for 99 cents for a week and Amazon notes on their site that it is a limited time sale (you can tier it so that it goes from 99 cents to 1.99 to your original price over the course of a week – I will blog more about this next week). I wanted to advertise during my sale so I looked for cheaper advertising options that do not require more than 6 reviews, which is what I had at the time.
I went with: PeopleReads for one day for 6.99, Bargain Book Hunter for two days for $22.50, Booktastik for one day for $10, kboards for one day for $20, and BookBlast (which now appears to be called Book Sends) for one day for $20. I had each ad run on a different day of the promo so I could evaluate which one worked the best. My promo overall was pretty successful. I did not move a tonne of books, but I did manage to jump to number one in one category getting the bestseller flag for 48 hours and number two in another category. Which advertiser worked the best in terms of moving the most books on their day? Hands down BookBlast, which moved more than quadruple the number of books than the next leading contender. Because my book was only 99 cents (but you maintain your 70% royalty with the countdown), I THINK I covered my advertising costs with my sales, but I can’t be sure until I get the final statement from Kindle Direct Publishing. Unfortunately after several heady days at the top of my categories, I am starting to fall again as the sales dropped off once the countdown ended.
Update: Subsequent to this post, I crossed the magic 10 review threshold for A Pair of Docks and applied to Book Bub for an ad. I was accepted on my first try, which was very exciting, and scheduled the ad to occur during another Kindle Countdown. Book Bub delivers, and I again achieved bestseller status in my category. But more importantly, I managed to hold on to my sales, and the number two spot in two of my categories for almost a week after the promotion. Here I am sitting next to Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time.
Bottom Line: Advertising moves books, and helps with your sales ranking. However some of the smaller advertisers do not move enough books to pay for the cost of the ad. But they do result in your book getting in to the hands of more readers, which could help with reviews. I have not yet figured out how to get momentum from the ads whereby the sales continue following the advertising period, but so far the best results have come from Book Bub.