Among the most effective types of promotion are flash-sale sites and email lists for free and reduced-price books. With these, you offer one book at a bargain price in hopes that readers find and enjoy the book and continue on to the next in the series.
BookBub is the most effective of these–and among the hardest to land. Many others have requirements for number of reviews or average review rating but are much easier to get into, though less effective.
Whether any particular list is good for you depends on: 1) the list, 2) your genre, 3) your price point of your next book, and 4) the quality and presentation of your book.
If you find that lists that work well for other people in your genre aren’t working well for you, determine first if you’re getting fewer downloads than other people. In that case, your book isn’t appealing to people who look at it, which means that it’s time to revisit your blurb, title, and cover.
If you’re getting the same number of downloads but a lower sell-through number compared to other people, this means that people aren’t liking your book, regardless of your reviews. Self-examination and honesty are critical to success, so if there’s a problem, don’t imagine that you or your book are a special exception–address the issue!
If you’re getting the same sell-through but your next book is priced so low that you can’t cover your advertising costs, then raise the price. $2.99 or above is the best price for a second in the series. Two low-priced books in a row are a monster of a barrier to get over if you’re trying to advertise to get new readers and also not lose your shirt.
When you use promotions, you’ll find that your sell-through rate plummets as compared to organic downloads regardless of how good your book is. A lot of the people on the “freebie” lists stock up on so many free books that they never read yours. I’ve found that my list-type sell-through hovers around 10%, whereas my organic sell-through is 20-30%. (My “recommended by a friend” sell-through is 50% and up!)
Knowing this, I’m generally happy with paying up to $10 per 100 free downloads with the next in the series at $2.99 because I know I’ll get an eventual 200% return on my investment with just the first book (just over $20). If my second book were $.99, I could only hope to make $3.50 on the sell-through from the first. In that case, most of these paid promotions wouldn’t work!
I’ve tried using various methods of using sites less influential than BookBub, and I’ve found (as many others have) that clustering promotions gives the best boost to visibility after the lists end. That’s because Amazon’s algorithms in particular have adjusted to BookBub, and they put a big delay on rank rise and force down books that rise too fast with equal velocity on the down side.
So I first use a site in isolation, to find out how well it works for me or if it’s worth my money. Then, once I confirm the value, I cluster my sales together so that I get the biggest kick that I possibly can, grabbing not only the email list downloaders but also casual browsers. With luck, that can kick up my second book high enough that it starts being recommended to people, too.
In general, it takes at least three days of major promotions to kick a book up. How many good lists you have access to depends on the genre. My Romance Reads is romance-exclusive, and I Love Vampire Novels only takes paranormal romance and urban fantasy as well as an occasional paranormal thriller or horror. So if your book fits in either of those categories, you might be able to get two different clusters of sites together. If you don’t, you might have to settle for just one cluster.
Never promote the same book to the same list more than once every 90 days, or you dramatically reduce its effectiveness in boosting your rank and getting those natural downloads. I’m now switching to a 180 day per book schedule, as I believe I make more money that way in the long run. So I have two clusters of promotional flash-sale sites twice a year for a total of four per year per series. (Many sites also won’t promote the same author more than once every 30 days or one book every 90 days, anyway.) This means my pattern will eventually look like this:
- January: Series 1, Promo 1
- February: Series 2, Promo 2
- March: Series 3, Promo 1
- April: Series 1, Promo 2
- May: Series 2, Promo 1
- June: Series 3, Promo 2
- July: Series 1, Promo 1
- August: Series 2, Promo 2
- September: Series 3, Promo 1
- October: Series 1, Promo 2
- November: Series 2, Promo 1
- December: Series 3, Promo 2
This way, I’m promoting an individual book to an individual site no more than once every six months, while I’m promoting myself on an individual site roughly once every two months. This usually gives me plenty of space to work with within a site’s rules.
To keep track of this, I have a yearly planner with weekly views. I record my promotions on the monthly view pages, and I turn the weekly pages into individual book promotion pages, where I use four big sticky notes to track the promotions I’ve scheduled during the year for that book.
I only ever make the first book free. (I made one brief exception to that, trying to revive a series that I mis-published, which worked pretty well.) And I only ever run sales on the second book. So I only promote the first and second books to the cheap-and-free lists, and usually only the first.