Everybody Loves a Bargain—I Think
Revised 8/29 after receiving royalty statemet data.
I organized a coordinated e-book promotion this past Mother’s Day—because motherhood is a big piece of my contemporary novel, Appetite—for the first time. I had read several e-marketing blogs and attended a webinar on the subject. The experts were uniformly enthusiastic about how much good a multi-day promotion can do. So I gave it a shot.
First my publisher temporarily reduced the e-book price to 99 cents. Then I secured slots with three different discount services. Just before Mother’s Day, E-reader News Today sent the promotional offer to its list of readers interested in contemporary and women’s fiction (150,000+ people) on Wednesday. Bargain Booksy sent the offer to its list on Thursday (100,000 people), and Early Bird Books sent the offer on Friday. (Early Bird is a new service from an outfit that has 800,000 subscribers.) I bought a Facebook ad that started targeting an audience on Saturday.
The ads cost a total of $200. With royalty at 44 cents/discounted e-book, I needed to sell 454 books to break even. I won’t find out how many I actually sold until my royalty statement arrives in August, but I did track sales rankings in real time. You want to be the #1 seller, of course, among the millions. Kindle will tell you where you rank (in Kindle sales, not global) with 16-hour resolution. Just before the promotion, two years after release, Appetite had languished at around 500,000th overall. For the three days of promotion, it soared up to 20,000th and #501 in women’s literary fiction. I’m not sure if that’s really good, but I know it isn’t bad.
Of the four promotions, only Facebook disappointed me. Sales rank slipped to 55,000, and the number of people reached seemed small. But maybe I’m just not good at telling Facebook how to select an audience, something you don’t have to do with the other services. Some authors say that Facebook ads produce sales in satisfying numbers. I suspect Facebook ad success depends on both the kind of book you’re pitching as well as on your skill.
During the promotion, I looked at rankings for several novels by colleagues that debuted around the same time as mine. The book that had a great success in paperback (it was recognized by national media) ranked around 800,000 in Kindle. A mystery that is in three times as many libraries as my novel ranked worse than mine. The former novel has 26 four-star reviews on Amazon and an audiobook version. Appetite has 53 four-star reviews, for which I am extremely grateful, but in the two years I’ve been speaking at libraries, bookstores, and book clubs, only one person ever mentioned them.
When I finally received a royalty statement (three months after Mother’s Day) with the actual sales numbers….not even close to goal! Why didn’t the promotion perform as well as last year’s? Wrong holiday? Wrong lists? Bad luck? There are too many variables to say anything definitive. I have to conclude that although I don’t know how to evaluate the multi-day promotion in the larger scheme of things—and it wasn’t profitable—it was worth trying. Armed with all this data, I expect to make more strategic promotional decisions for my next novel, The Contract, which will be released in Fall 2019. Stay tuned.