Monday, December 30, 2013

Should An Author Host a Cyber Book Launch? by Lorilyn Roberts



Should An Author Host a Cyber Book Launch?

 by Lorilyn Roberts
 
 


Is it worth the financial cost, emotional energy, physical labor, and mental stress to host a cyber-book launch in today’s ever-changing, highly competitive book market world? If anyone were in a position to answer this question, I suppose it would be me. I lead a Christian book marketing network, the John 3:16 Marketing Network, and have been involved in many book launches over the past three years. In 2013, not counting the book launches I coordinated for other authors in the network, I hosted three book launches of my own:  One in March, one in August, and one in December.

For the most part, I conducted the launches using the same methodology with each, with one significant difference for the December launch which I will explain later. Some of this will be technical because I want to give hard facts and real data. If you want to be encouraged, inspired, or challenged, read another one of my blog posts. If you want the raw facts, keep reading.

What did I do that was similar for each launch?  First, for all three launches, I had at least twenty reviews of my book. Second, I advertised on similar sites, and I list some of those sites and point out the ones that were the most helpful below. Third, I was featured as a guest blogger on eight to twelve blogs for each launch. Fourth, I had a book trailer for each book. Fifth, I posted on Facebook and used Twitter extensively. My followers were roughly the same on both accounts for all three launches. I have over 11,000 twitter followers at @LorilynRoberts and 7,600 followers at @John316Network. I’m not sure how many fans I have on Facebook—the more accurate information would be the number of people who saw my posts, and that was proportional to the Facebook advertising I bought. I advertised at http://bit.ly/Lorilyn_Fan_Page  and http://bit.ly/John316FanPage. To be honest, the $800 I spent on Facebook advertising I could never correlate to a spike in sales on Amazon. (Please note the figures I am giving are for sales from Amazon U.S. Kindle).

I also used Rafflecopter to promote all three book launches.

The launches were all sponsored by the John 3:16 Marketing Network. Authors in the network sent out Facebook and twitter posts promoting the books. In each case, other books by authors were being launched at the same time as mine. The launches ran from the 1st of the month through the 16th. I am including figures for the whole month on each launch because some of the paid promotions I ran did not occur until after the 16th.. With the August launch, I will include the September figures because they were significant.

There are a lot of variables in terms of which books are more successful than others, not even based on content or quality. The books must meet certain criteria to be considered for a launch. Despite my experience and involvement in many launches, I realize now, painfully, that I can’t cookie cut a launch and tell an author, if you do A, B, and C, your launch will be successful. What works for one person may not work for someone else. In my case, all three launches yielded vastly different results. Let me give the figures, and then I will see if I can address some of the variables.

How many books did I sell with each book launch? I checked my KDP report from Amazon for the following figures.

The first book I launched in 2013 was a YA fantasy novel, Seventh Dimension – The Door. 
 
 
I sold 393 books for 99 cents in March. In April, one month after the launch, I sold 154 books. In May, I sold 104 books. In February, before my launch, I sold only 31 books. I did do some pre-launch promotions using KDP Select where I gave away several hundred Kindle copies of Seventh Dimension – The Door. Basically, as a result of my book launch, for 90 days following the launch I sold 651 books. Some of those books were priced at $2.99. I tend to raise the price after the launch to see if I can carry over the sales at a higher price point. Clearly, as a result of my March book launch, I was able to sell more copies of Seventh Dimension – The Door than I had previously.  Before February, my sales had been dismal, so I won’t go back and give you those paltry figures.

My sales of Seventh Dimension – The Door, continued to be around a hundred each month, until December. For December, I have only sold 34 copies. Actually, sales of all my books are down for December.

Let me go to the second book I launched, Children of Dreams, An Adoption Memoir.
 
I had given away about 20,000 copies on a couple of previous “free” promotions through KDP Select. But I had sold very few Kindle books at $2.99. I had never listed it at 99 cents. So for the August launch, I reduced the price to 99 cents. In August, using the same strategy I had used in March for Seventh Dimension – The Door, I sold 2,462 copies. In September I sold 1,694 copies, and in October I sold 856 copies.

This launch had one significant difference from my other launches. I was able to feature Children of Dreams on BookBub, but it wasn’t until after the official launch, so that meant the high number of copies I sold spilled over into October. The September 20th advertisement forced me to keep Children of Dreams at 99 cents through September. To increase my chances of BookBub featuring my book, I reduced the price of Children of Dreams on Smashwords to 99 cents. Their distribution system reduced it to that same price on other sites as well. After BookBub featured Children of Dreams, however, when I raised the price back to $2.99 on Smashwords, the websites they distributed to wouldn’t, despite Smashwords and I both contacting the noncompliant sites. I ended up having to unpublish Children of Dreams from Smashwords to get the price back to $2.99 on all sites. Amazon wouldn’t increase the price, insisting they wanted to price match it to everyone else’s. 

The bottom line is I lost control of the price of my own book. I doubt that I will ever reduce the price of Children of Dreams to 99 cents again on Smashwords.  But I did sell about 1,500 books through Smashwords as a result of the BookBub promotion. On Amazon, during that three-month period, I sold 3,012 books (again, I’m not including Amazon sales through Canada, England, et cetera).

For December, however, I haven’t even sold a hundred copies of Children of Dreams, so whatever spike I had in August from the book launch and BookBub promotion has run its course.

Now, this brings me to my third book launch for 2013. I launched a children’s picture book, The Donkey and the King.

 

The launch ran from December 1 through December 16. A couple of my promotions ran after Thanksgiving, so I am including those numbers in the total. I am currently running a free promotion on this book that started the day after Christmas, so my official book launch numbers on The Donkey and the King run from about November 26 through December 25. I sold 74 books at 99 cents.

I also spent more money on the December launch. With it being a children’s book at Christmastime, I thought I would probably sell more books and recoup my costs.  In reality, my December launch was a big disappointment compared to my previous two launches.

Where have I advertised on my book launches?  I will give all the places I advertised for The Donkey and the King because I paid for more advertising with this book than with the previous two books:

 
















 http://tracker.kindlenationdaily.com/tracked-books (promotions at bookgorilla.com)

 
The Donkey and the King was featured on all the above sites. I submitted it to Ereader News Today and BookBub but both declined to advertise it. 

BookBub also declined to feature Seventh Dimension – The Door, but they did feature Children of Dreams. That significantly impacted my total book sales.

If you can advertise your book on BookBub I would recommend it.  While the fee was around $300, I made close to $2,000 in sales, so I covered my cost in advertising. The problem is BookBub is very selective about which books they choose. If they accept your book, you are almost guaranteed to sell a lot of books. You aren’t just buying exposure, which is what I tell myself when I spend money for advertising that produces no measurable sales.

Ereadernewstoday.com did advertise Children of Dreams and Seventh Dimension – The Door. They take 25 percent of the profits, so I am sure they keep track of those books that sell well and those that don’t. They aren’t going to feature a book if they don’t think they can make money off of it. In each case, I did sell some copies as a result of advertising with them, but I don’t know what those numbers were. I only know I sold copies because they sent me a bill for their 25 percent fee afterwards.

Which sites out of the ones I listed above do I recommend besides Ereader News Today and BookBub?  The site I recommend as the best is http://www.fkbooksandtips.com/for-authors/. I have advertised on this site with six different books in six different genres at different times of the year and have always seen a significant spike in sales that I can directly correlate to the advertisement. Which other sites would I recommend?  Based on my most recent experience, none.

The fact is, since I lead a network of authors that promote book launches, right now I am reluctant to direct any launches for others or host my own launch. If I can’t come close to guaranteeing that an author will hit best-seller status in his main subcategory, then I can’t in all fairness recommend a book launch, must less charge for it.  And while the charge is not high, any amount seems unethical.

Now, that brings up one more variable. We have used Rafflecopter for all the launches since April. Everyone had a free opportunity to win the grand prize (by law this is required), and all a participant had to do was give me his email. That way, I could contact the person who won. I also used the Rafflecopter to build my opt-in list. For full disclosure (also legally required), I used the business model of Rafflecopter so that people knew they were opting in for my very infrequent e-zine. For each launch until December, I picked up about a hundred new subscribers. I also included a few options, like follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and garnered a few more fans.  But if you bought the books being launched, you would get ten chances to win whatever prize we were offering, which varied. One month it was a Kindle Fire. Another month it was a $100 Amazon gift certificate. 

For December, however, the Rafflecopter was handled differently. We had seven books launched and offered a $200 Amazon gift e-card. We used a mommy blogger service that featured our Rafflecopter prize on 25 mommy bloggers, all of whom had to have at least 2,000 followers. We did not feature buying the books on the Rafflecotper as an option. The options were for people to follower the mommy bloggers on Facebook, twitter, and blogs, and in return, the mommy bloggers featured our books.



 

We had thousands of readers who saw our books on the mommy blogs. I had a few options I included for the network but I did not include any option as mandatory; e.g., that you had to sign up for my opt-in list.  My options were basically to follow the John 3:16 blog and my personal blog. And the coordinator for the mommy bloggers set up a link on Facebook so that prospective readers could follow us on Facebook.

The numbers were mindboggling on the social networking sites. Basically, we doubled our numbers on both blogs. I wished I had written down the exact figures before and after, but I didn’t think the result would be so dramatic. The followers on my blog at http://LorilynRoberts.blogspot.com were about 180 before the launch and they are now at 399.  On the John 3:16 blog at http://John316mn.blogspot.com, we have 500 followers. We had about 250 before the launch, and we picked up about 500 fans on Facebook. We also had more than 21,000 entries on the Rafflecopter, four times higher than the next highest number of entries on a previous launch.

I paid $100 for the coordinator’s fee. Based on the fans and followers we picked up, the cost was well worth it.  But how many books did we sell with all that exposure?  Well, I don’t know.  But my sales were dismal and only one author out of seven reached best-seller status. Her book was for young adults, and I can’t make the correlation that her success was tied to the mommy bloggers. I have a feeling her boost came from the promotion I sent out to my opt-in list on the last day when she reached best-seller status. My readership includes a lot of YA readers since I write in that genre also, but it’s hard to say. I am thankful that for all the work put into the launch by myself, Joseph Young—who handles the landing page—and the many authors in the network who contributed their time and effort into hosting and tweeting the December multi-author book launch, that one author reached her goal.

Who is the coordinator for the mommy bloggers that can work magic with social networking, even if all that tweeting and Facebooking doesn’t translate into book sales?  She is Bobby Anne. You can find her at www.BlogWithMom.com
and www.AdvertiseWithBloggers.com

I have asked myself many times, what can we do to make the launches more successful?  How can we guarantee success?  After all, that’s what the John 3:16 Marketing Network does. We launch Christian books.



We already have certain criteria in place after three years’ experience hosting book launches. An author has to have ten good reviews for starters. He has to have a good book cover and a well-edited book. I also make sure an author is ready to launch—does he have his book categorized properly on Amazon? Did she include relevant search words when she uploaded her Kindle book on Amazon? Is the Author Central page filled out with a bio, twitter feed, blog feed, and book trailer? Does the author even have a book trailer?  Hosting a launch is intense and requires a lot of preparation.

After my experience with the December book launch, I can’t guarantee even with a great book, advertising on professional websites, being hosted on many blogs by John 3:16 members, lowering the book price to 99 cents, having fifteen or more rave reviews, being featured on multiple blogs with large followers, and tweeting to thousands of twitter and Facebook users, that an author can sell enough books to cover his cost. And no businessman worth his reputation would recommend someone spend money on something with doubtful profits. Is it worth it?  The way the book market is now, I don’t think so. I know others will disagree with me, but I don’t come to this conclusion in a mindless vacuum. I have data to support it.

Today I can’t tell you how to have a successful book launch at a price most of us can afford. So I am not coordinating any launches until I do know. That means members in the John 3:16 Marketing Network can host their own launch if they are risk takers, try different approaches, and see what works for them.  I do recommend this:  You must individualize your launch.  I don’t think you can use a “one size fits all” style launch anymore.  I get emails in my inbox all the time, listen to how this author sold thousands of books and if you do what he did, you can, too, and you pay some exorbitant price to see how X author sold 10,000 copies of some obscure book of which I’ve never heard.

To be honest, sometimes I am tempted. Maybe they know something I don’t know. Hopefully I have become wiser—wise enough to know that whatever they did most likely won’t work for me, and there are no shortcuts or magic formulas to make my book fly off the shelf. If they sold so many books and made so much money, why do they want to charge for the information anyway? The reality is, I think the best way to sell a lot of books is to write a lot of books. And when I say a lot, I mean like twenty or more. And that means I need to write more and market less, and quit worrying about launching books. If I couldn’t achieve best-seller status on one of my books, how can I help anyone else anyway?

In the meantime, book marketing is changing every week. What works today may not work tomorrow. Advertising sites come and go. They are a dime a dozen now, it seems, and even if they aren’t expensive individually, you can spend a lot of nickels. I never set out to spend $800 on Facebook advertising. You get caught up in the moment, hoping that this time something magical will happen and those dollars will produce sales. While I can say I have never gone into debt advertising or selling books, I do regret some of my foolish choices and hope by being transparent and open, I can save you a few bucks by not repeating some of my mistakes.

My intent has never been to make money off marketing. I am not a marketing guru, but I do care about Christian authors. My goal with the John 3:16 Marketing Network has always been to provide an environment for authors to help each other—by being informed and sharing what works and what doesn’t. My advice right now is to save your marketing dollars and focus on writing.

I also don’t think it’s sufficient to be featured on a blog to promote your book. You need to be featured on a blog with followers interested in your type of book. And that takes research—a lot of research. If the blogger writes books, you might need to read one of his books before approaching him to host you on his blog. It has gotten that competitive.

If I sound too negative, I don’t mean to be. I am excited about the future as I have several books rattling around in my head that I can’t wait to write.  And once I am ready to market them, there will be new ideas to embrace and fresh paths to discover. And that makes marketing exciting and new all over again. As a person who gets easily bored with the status quo, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

*~*~*~* 
 
 

Lorilyn Roberts is a multi-published author who leads the John 3:16 Marketing Network. For more information about joining, visit http://john316mn.blogspot.com/p/welcome-to-john-316-marketing-network.html.

To learn more about Lorilyn Roberts’ books, visit her website at http://LorilynRoberts.com

 


 
 


 

    This book is free and that is wonderful! I have not finished reading it yet but wanted to quickly say what a wonderful way to know how to make decisions on how to spend the Christmas money you received as gifts or to know how to spend that Amazon gift card! I am going to read each and every first chapter and make a "gotta have" list! Thank you John 3:16 for making this anthology! Loving it. – Carol A. Brown

 

 

 

 

11 comments:

  1. this is an excellent article. I have bookmarked it for future reference

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  2. This is a great post, full of very worthwhile guidance. Thank you for putting it all together. It is not negative at all - in fact, very positive. And may 2014 be a very positive year for writers.

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  3. I have authors asking what I've done to receive what success I've already achieved w/The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman: sending them to this article. Thank you, Lorilyn, for all you do for authors. I know you're not satisfied, but like you said, it's all a matter of timing w/lots of varibles. Great post.

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  4. Marketing and publishing is in flux. I think your idea about making connections and interconnections and working with each other to help each other out is still very valid. I admit I've been utterly impressed by your sales. Being an author not in control of my own work due to having it published by indie presses made it hard for me to adjust prices, but not to pay for advertising or get reviews or set up a blog tour, or join conversations. I sold 15 copies of the young reader book that launched in December, and none of the other book in the series. I had lots of guest spots, paid for advertising on one of the sites you suggested and had 14 really sweet reviews. My guest spots weren't all within the network, but most of them were, even though I know we cannot get stuck in a loop promoting only to each other. I was pretty disappointed not to have done better with the mommy bloggers. I checked in with many of the sites a few times a week, commented when I saw they were hosting us, but didn't often come upon their posts. I know the marketing is up to me but I honestly dislike doing it, so I really need pushers and movers and shakers like you to constantly prod me.

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    1. Lisa, you catch up my feelings and reactions to marketing exactly! I don't have one sales bone in my body and trying to push myself to do the marketing is really hard work. I just want to write and let my publisher take care of all that other stuff! But I guess the Lord wants us to be fully developed and that includes all sides of our personality rather than being a flat, one dimensional person--so He calls us to be writers knowing that we will have to step outside of our comfort zone and learn new things. Sigh. "Yes, Lord...but I need help!" So thankful for John 3:16 Network!

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  5. I think the best way to approach marketing is to take it in small chunks. I have found most authors only know a little bit about a few things. As soon as I can, I am going to get the small groups up and running. And the idea is to focus on one thing for a few months and get proficient with that one thing. Let the rest go. And I do think I personally need to focus more on writing. That will be my project for the next few months, and learning how to use Word better for the formatting. I spend too much time formatting stuff and it doesn't have to be difficult. I just need to learn how to be proficient with it..

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  6. Lorilyn,
    I only joined a few months ago. I have learned so much from you my head is spinning. Taking time to reflect how as a follower of Jesus I can use my time for His glory. You have made many good points. I do believe connection with others is the key. As we increase the size of the Christian web we also make impact on those who don't know Jesus.

    I too have books written and in my head that need to find outlets. Praying for help from Him Who is more than able to do so.

    Blessings and Happy New Year,
    Janis

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  7. Lorilyn,
    Thank you for this article. As confusing as the marketing journey becomes, writing is the real joy. I so appreciate the time you've taken to lay this out clearly for us. Contemplating my business plans for 2014 has made me realize the value of simplicity in marketing and writing with excellence. I'm social media weary and may take an entirely different road this year. More writing = more joy.

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    1. We are all unique in what we can tolerate (or enjoy) when it comes to marketing versus what our true passion is, and for me that is writing). I feel set free when I remember that the real burden is on God and that we only need to be available and willing. When doors don't open, that means we need to ask Him were to look next. And for me that means it's time to write and let the movers and shakers who love marketing figure it out. And hopefully in a few months, I will have my second book written and marketing will be a little more clear-cut than what it is right now. And Janis, I commend you for jumping in and learning. Many authors join and never get out of the gate. You are moving ahead and that's great. And Laurinda, you are right, writing is the real joy.

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  8. This is a wonderful post Lorilyn. I think you are so brave to admit that you don't have the magic formula for a successful book launch. I don't think anyone does. If anything you have demonstrated that success and effort go hand and hand. You have done an excellent job at being that model for younger authors like myself. Regardless of the numbers, I think you are successful. Thank you for your honesty!

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