Free ebooks and workshops have been fairly common for some time, but over recent months the popularity of free anything appears to have exploded.
I used to resist offering one of my books for free, mainly because my first Casey Holland mystery, The Opposite of Dark was traditionally published a decade ago, at a time when advanced review copies were the only freebies my publisher offered and self-publishing was just starting to ramp up. Things have changed a great deal, including my mindset, and I now offer the book free for anyone who signs up to my newsletter.
I also offered the book free during a BookBub promo event in late 2019, which garnered enough sales of the other books to make this event profitable. Based on a recent blog post from author and marketing guru David Gaughran, 2021 is the year for free, and he recommends offering at least one of your books for free more than ever before. You can read more HERE.
I was recently told that there are now over 2 million books published worldwide, and over one million in the U.S. alone, each year. A staggering number when you think about it. With the collapse of in-person book selling opportunities in 2020, more authors turned to online selling through book promo sites, for example. To compete with all the others, many of them have offered at least one book, if not a whole boxset, for free.
I’ve taken part in a number of cool free workshops lately, one on marketing and others related to fantasy writing. The information’s good and the presenters knowledgeable, but there’s a lot of upsell with links to purchasing software, courses, and other things, which seems fair enough, as long as they’re not bombarding me everyday. But it really does feel like free is king these days, which is okay is you have a series, but not so much if you only have one published title.
Self-isolation and uncertainty is tough for many of us, but I’ve found that taking workshops is a good use of time. Once things go back to normal (whatever that might look like) I doubt I’ll be inclined to spend as much time at home in front of the computer. Who knows, maybe all the free courses will disappear too. It’ll be interesting to see what bookselling looks like a year from now, and if David will still recommend free for 2022.
Last week’s blog about promotion sites generated few responses and those who did respond weren’t familiar with the sites I listed. However, I did come across something helpful while catching up on the many blogs I subscribe to.
Author and marketing guru David Gaughran posts a lot of helpful and interesting information about marketing that includes ads, Amazon algorithms, and many other things. The day after I posted my blog I came across his piece on the Best Book Promotion Sites, which you can find HERE.
Those who’ve been following my blog for a while know that I’ve already taken part in a BookBub promo back on Dec. 31. In June, I also promoted my books on Bargain Booksy and Book Adrenaline, offering the first book in my series, The Opposite of Dark, at the discounted price of $.99. Results showed a small profit, but nothing significant. Next month, I’m trying the same discount with The Fussy Librarian.
I’ve chosen not to do three or four promos at a time because I want to track the amount of sales for each event to figure out which are the most financially viable investments. With six books in my Casey Holland series, sales can trickle in for two or three months (longer for BookBub) after an event, which I also want to track.
Meanwhile, a colleague also planned a promotion event in June, offering the first book in her series for free. As with my books, hers are available at sites other than Amazon, however when she asked Amazon to price match the book for free, Amazon declined. That didn’t happen to me back in January, so I’m wondering if this has happened to any of you, or if you’ve heard of this happening to other authors? So far, I’ve had no difficulty asking Amazon to price match books I’ve discounted for $.99 this summer, but who knows what will happen in future?
If you’re an author, you’ve probably received numerous emails from people who want to sell their services for social media blasts, blog tours, press releases, and other things. Reviewers, jacket designers, and proofreaders have also invited me to purchase their services for a wide range of prices.
These aren’t all scams, but it does take some digging to determine which ones are legitimate and/or useful and which are not. The Writers Beware website is helpful, but it doesn’t cover everything, so I often do my own research.
Lately, I’ve been inundated with emails inviting me to list my books on promotion sites. Some of these offers are free listings while others come with a price tag. A few sites give you an option for free or paid listings, depending on how much visibility you want.
Here’s what I’ve found with a quick search. All of the sites below want me to set up an account, which I’m not prepared to do right now. The emails I’ve received suggest that these are the best book promotion sites in 2020, which is likely subject to opinion. I have started a basic search and most of these sites list featured, standard, or basic listings, likely dependent on the price.
Giobooks.com – offers different levels of visibility, so assuming it provides both free and paid
Bmibooks.com – has a startup fee starting at $10.00
Olto.App – has a free and paid options
BookswiFi.com – again offers a varying price range.
Bestreads.app – invites you to share your amazon purchase link for free
Reactbooks.com – little info is given about this site without registering
Wordlikes – charges $15.00 for one year
I’m sure that several of you have also received similar emails. Have any of you tried these book promotion sites or do you think it’s a waste of time? Do you use any specific sites for your books? Honestly, you could join a new site every day for a month and still not have covered them all. If I get enough responses, I’ll share them with you, plus other searches I plan to do over the next couple of weeks.
I have a confession to make. With seven published full-length books and two novellas, I’ve never taken part in a blog tour. I have nothing against them as they seem like a good way to promote one’s book. But with two part-time jobs, family responsibilities, and several writing projects on the go, I never felt I had the time or energy to prepare a dozen or more blogs.
I have written guest blogs before and answered interview questions, but I can do this only half a dozen times before I run out of steam. Honestly, I’m not even sure how to come up with ideas for twenty or more blogs. I have maybe two topics in the works and one completed blog, but that won’t be enough.
I follow over seventy blogs and a number of them host guest authors who are on blog tours, but very few focus on crime fiction. I read some of the guest blogs, but not all of them. It depends on whether I know the author and what the topic is, and how much time I have for reading blogs on any given day.
So, I could use your advice. Are blog tours a good way to spend your time and energy?
If your answer is yes, then do you have tips on how to find guest blogging opportunities that would especially interest mystery readers? I know there are services that arrange blog tours for authors, but again I know little about them or their price range. So, any input would be appreciated!
I’d planned to end the year quietly and work on production for Casey Holland mystery #6, The Blade Man, but then I got inspired to do some tasks (thanks for your tips Jacqui Murray,). I then learned that BookBub will be featuring my first Casey Holland mystery, The Opposite of Dark, for free on December 31st.
Back on April 3rd’s blog, I pondered the pros and cons of investing a fair bit of money in their promotion site, and after weighing varying opinions, I decided to submit my book. Colleagues warned me that it’s very difficult to get in and would take a while but to keep trying. So, I applied every month only to face rejection. I stopped in September, as the fall was so busy that I forgot about submitting. I remembered again in early December and was shocked to find that I’d been accepted to be featured on Dec. 31st. I told the BookBub contact person that given that this was the last day of year, it should be interesting, and she responded that BookBub’s stats showed little difference between this or regular days. We’ll see.
I’ve extended the offer for an extra day on either side, to ensure the price change is in place by the 31st, so again, it’s a matter of waiting to see the results. I probably won’t know if this is a good investment or not for a while. If readers want to buy subsequent books in the series, it likely won’t happen the same day, but possibly throughout the month of January or even further on.
I also finally took the plunge and joined Instagram just before Christmas, and am currently following just a small number of people as I get a feel for the site. Instagram is different than I expected and I’m not sure how to make the most of it yet, but I’ll figure it out. Someone advised me to have a stash of hashtags ready to use, so I’m working on that. Meanwhile, I’m linking this blog to my account, so we’ll see what happens. If you have any great tips, I’d love to know what they are. You can find me HERE. If you send me your link, I’d be happy to follow you!
I think that’s enough busy-ness for the last week of 2019 and into 2020. Oh, and I have another big announcement, but this one will have to wait until the new year!! Meanwhile Happy New Year!
Following up with last week’s blog about the Left Coast Crime Conference, I want to say that it was amazing. I was too busy catching up with fellow writers and meeting mystery fans from the U.S. to take pictures, but others took photos which have popped up on social media. Anyway, I totally recommend this conference for mystery writers and fans. Next year’s event will be in San Diego.
Now to current business. For some time, I’ve subscribed to BookBub’s book notification service. It’s a free site where subscribers can sign up and learn about great deals on free or discounted books. Authors can also submit their books for consideration and create their own profile, which I did a while back.
I’ve heard mixed reviews from authors about paying to feature their ebooks on the site. The main complaint is that BookBub’s fees are high–several hundred dollars, in fact. The more you want to charge for your book (the maximum is $3.99), the higher the fee is.
The approval process is also daunting. BookBub accepts only a fraction of the 100-300 daily submissions it receives. If you’re turned down you must wait another month to reapply. Also, they prefer books that have already obtained lots of reviews, although I’m told there are exceptions.
Still, BookBub sends daily emails to millions of subscribers and featured books can sell thousands of copies in a couple of days. A mystery writing colleague I met at LCC tried it with great results. So, I took a look at BookBub’s submission requirements and realized I have some prep work to do before even submitting my first Casey Holland mystery, The Opposite of Dark.
I’ll have to write a shorter book blurb, double check all my links and find a couple more, as well as the original price for my ebook, which is listed in five different countries. I also should be adding Amazon links in the back pages of The Opposite of Dark . Hmm.
I’m overwhelmed with busyness right now and, given the high fee, I’m still pondering if this is a good investment. Not everyone makes their money back, so if any of you have used BookBub to promote your books, I’d love to hear about your experience. Do you think that paying to feature your book on this site is worth your time and money?