Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Using Email Subscriptions Services for Promotion #marketing

Hi, I'm Pippa Jay, author of scifi and the supernatural with a romantic soul. The subject of promotion comes up a lot among the Brigade: How to do it successfully (and without spamming), what works and what doesn't. About the only consensus is 1. It's hard work, time consuming and never-ending, and 2. Different things work for different people (and also for different books and genres). Email subscription services have been a recent topic of discussion (and more than once) so I thought I'd share my latest experience with several of the services on offer (most of which I'm using for the first time).

Please note: At point of posting not all of my promotions have run as my discount went on over two months up to the end of 2015. I'll list the services I used, cost, experience, results where I have them, and my thoughts on the service provider. Those with a * are those I'd currently recommend based on my own experience. As a side note, for most of this I listed my title as Romance or Paranormal Romance where I was limited to one genre as the book is light on the SF elements, or as Scifi/Fantasy. Some allowed me to pick Romance with Scifi as the sub-genre. Also, most favour/only accept Amazon links, so sales figures are Amazon unless stated otherwise.

1. Sweet Free Reads (came recommended) $5 - books must be free or $0.99 unless a bundle, with at least five reviews rating a minimum of 3.5* (but they count the number of reviews right across all the Amazon sites so US, UK, CA etc combined. They will also consider others on an individual basis, such as a new author). You need to schedule at least a week in advance to be sure of getting your preferred date(s) - you can pick alternatives and I urge you to use this option. I'd already used them twice for free days on a couple of KDP Select books and found it doubled my download numbers compared to just using my own social media platforms and newsletter (yeah, I've tested this one out a bit!). I've also picked up several free and 99 cent books myself via their newsletter. I like their service and system very much - they acknowledge receipt, confirm your date when they invoice you, and their newsletter usually only has two to five books per day so it's not overwhelming to subscribers. It's nicely set out and professionally run, and I fully intend to keep using them. I didn't get the same amount of boost with the 99 cents book - maybe double my average daily sales - but by this stage my promo had been running a couple of weeks and it wasn't a free book this time around. I also released my sequel on the same day, further muddying the results. So, not a ROI money-wise, but I've picked up several books to read myself via their newsletter and I'm pleased with the exposure. *

2. Book Barbarian (came recommended) $15 - focuses on scifi and fantasy. They have fairly strict criteria, including the genre limitation, books must be less than $2.99 and the discount time sensitive, good quality cover, at least 10 reviews on Amazon US 3.5* and above, and standalones or book one only unless part of their new double feature promotion. Received an invoice stating my book had been accepted and would be featured on the day requested (they don't put the actual date on the invoice so be sure to note it beforehand!). I signed up for their discounted books newsletter and their advertisers newsletter. Nicely professional, and I love the focus on SFF. There was a bit of a glitch on the day, but fortunately resolved in good time and my book went out when stated. This gave me ten times my daily average, BUT it ran in conjunction with Books that Buzz so I can't take the figure as entirely down to them. It did put my book back in the top 100 category at Amazon. However, BB will list other sales links other than Amazon, and I got a big bump via D2D (B&N and iTunes) as well - the equivalent of a month's sales in one day. So would definitely use again. *

3. Betty Book Freak (came recommended) $8 - will only accept books priced $2.99 or less, with a minimum of ten reviews on Amazon US and an overall rating of at least 3.7* (there's also a new release feature that doesn't require the reviews but must be within 90 days of release, not on pre-order). Offers a choice of three dates to be featured, but must be at least seven days notice. Acknowledged receipt (including full details of my submission with my three elected options of feature dates), then acceptance of submission (including the date I'd actually be featured) along with the invoice. I also subscribed to their newsletter. Very professional, very impressed. I only got a small bump at Amazon (this was two weeks into my promo efforts) BUT they list other retailers and I got a bump at B&N and iTunes too. *

4. Ebooklister $0 - sent a receipt of submission that requires you to confirm your email before your listing is accepted. You then get a second confirmation saying your book has been added to the Approved queue (if approved) but there's no guarantee of being featured unless you opt for their paid promotions. They do give you the option to pick four dates to be featured (though you will only get one). I signed up for their newsletter. Can't say I loved their website but their communication was good (lack of communication is a real bug bear for me). I got no actual notification I'd be featured and to date I haven't seen my book listed (but the last date I selected was the 18th December, so I'll update then).

5. Awesome Gang (came not recommended) $0  - they acknowledged receipt of submission and acceptance, and that my book would be featured on my requested date (this was slightly confusing as the form asked for a date but says if you don't put a date it'll be within one week (but you CAN'T leave it blank). So I put it as the 20th (since the discount had already started) but the confirmation put it as the 'requested feature date'. Searching their site a couple of days later showed my book listed there, but I've no idea if it went out in the newsletter as I didn't see it despite being signed up. No noticeable jump in sales in the days between making my request and finding my book listed. $10 guarantees it plus two days on the website. They go slightly overboard with their email responses and require a double confirmation of subscriptions BUT they do have an author specific email and links to other helpful info for promotion (that I've yet to investigate) including a free author interview (at least they're enthusiastic and trying to offer a big range of additional benefits). They also link to a single form that will give you promo on several sites without having to apply to each separately (great time saver but even with a discount offered this was $65. All their other options are paid). I signed up for their newsletter which is somewhat long-winded as author bios and several links are included for each book as an attempt to help pitch each title. Not sure about that as a reader. No noticeable bump.

6. Reading Deals $0 - the free option doesn't guarantee a feature (there are paid options that do) and requires a minimum of five reviews on Amazon with at least a 4* rating. You can't set a promo date, only list the start and end of the discount, but they note they will try to feature you as close to the start date as possible. They acknowledged receipt of submission which required confirmation. Nice newsletter, but they require you to set up an account on their site to adjust your genre preferences (otherwise you get a full range of genres). I don't like that, not when other sites only need your email (but the newsletter is nicely set out and concise, and I did pick up a book from the first one I received). I also signed up to the author newsletter as part of the submission process. I only got confirmation that I had a spot on the actual day I was featuring (in the newsletter and on their site) a few hours before it was due to go live (maybe because the promo had already started when I applied) but I was happy to get notified, plus an email when it went live on their site. This one resulted in five times my average daily sales and put my book in a top 100 category. *
Update: they also emailed me to say when my book was eligible to be featured again since they have a time limit on how soon they will accept you again. Nice touch.

7. Choosy Bookworm (came recommended) $0 -  also features any book priced under $3.99. You're only sent a confirmation if they decide to feature you (however, this acceptance still doesn't guarantee you'll be featured unless using the paid options. If they then decide your book isn't a good fit for their audience, the money is refunded). You can't pick promotion dates, only a start and end date for discounts, you have to submit at least seven days before any promotion, and books are reviewed on Sundays for possible inclusion. I did get a response to signing up for their newsletter, with a bit about the owner, a list of free ebooks, and details about their read & review service (not investigated) pitched as a reader's benefit (not as an author - details are on the site if you're looking for more reviews for your work. These are offered as being in accordance with Amazon's TOS). The owner is enthusiastic and offers a range of additional features. Didn't see my book featured.

8. Read Freely (did not come recommended) $0 - nice simple form. Free but priority is given to authors who link back to their website (I didn't - I already link back to several sites and I refuse to put any more on unless they've proved of value, otherwise it starts to look really messy). Absolutely no acknowledgement that your submission has been received, let alone featured, and you can't pick a date, only list what day the discount begins and ends. I've used them once before and didn't get featured to my knowledge, but I definitely did this time (the day after Betty Book Freak) and got a small bump at Amazon, so would probably use again as they're free. Subscribed to their newsletter. *

8. Books on the Knob $0 - slightly confusing Google form, but you are directed to a Read This First section which you SHOULD READ (reviews are also an option. Likes SF, especially post-apoc and military, and reads romance. Not sure about the two combined...). No acknowledgement other than the standard Google form confirmation, although the Read This First section says you may receive an email if you're featured. You can't pick specific dates, only list when the discount begins and ends. Books are featured on the blog rather than sent out as an email. No idea if I got featured.

9. Books that Buzz $0 (Book Brag $25) - will feature any book under $5 even if it isn't a special discount or promotion (although it won't feature permafree). A simple form that allows you to request promo dates (as many as you want though you will only get one of those days), but no acknowledgement of submission receipt or confirmation of acceptance. Signed up to their newsletter (which lets you pick the genres at confirmation). This blog apparently has a dual identity as I signed up via Books that Buzz but the newsletter I got and that I was featured in was Book Brag (which costs $25 to add your book). Confused? I was. They featured me on the 1st December (unfortunately the same day as Book Barbarian so I can't judge individual performance), but I got no prior confirmation or notification (not complaining - I still got featured!). Nice newsletter that isn't overwhelming, but not limited to the genres I selected. Would use again. *

10. Read Cheaply (came recommended) $0 - the book must have a professional cover and editing, good reviews and positive acclaim, and be a full length work. It must be free or discounted by at least 50% (preferably under $2.99). Very simple form submission to assess your book's suitability with an acknowledgement that you've submitted. I received another email two days later saying my submission had been approved and confirming what day it would run. Somehow I missed the email my book was included in but got a noticeable bump following the day it was due to be featured (about double my daily average sales). Which is totally worth it when it didn't cost me anything but not if I'd had to pay for it ($15 or $25 depending on your genre). *

In conclusion - sometimes you get what you pay for. The free ones are probably worth trying if you're happy to devote the time to them and want as wide a distribution as possible (perhaps especially if you're a new author looking for exposure), and they helped boost the paid features to give a better ROI. Also, as stated above, different things work for different people and different books. Personally I'll probably stick to the handful I liked and/or gave the best results because I don't have limitless amounts of time to fill out endless forms. Like all promotion, it's something that takes time and/or money, depending how much of each you're willing to spend on it. Two thoughts - I would probably have got a bigger bump if the book was free, but I'd have been less likely to use the paid options. If you're aiming to get high on Amazon Top 100 categories, you might be best trying to set them all for the same day or close as. I wanted a slow, steady, long-winded promotion, and I wanted to see what gave the biggest bump.

For further comparisons, you can check out a blog post by Aurora Springer HERE on free promotion/email subscription sites, or one by Greta van der Rol HERE on her own experiences with some email subscription services.

With thanks to SJ Pajonas, Bokerah Brumley, and the rest of the SFR Brigade. These views and opinions are solely my own and not the responsibility of the SFR Brigade.

About the Author:

A girl who writes scifi & the supernatural. Whovian, Scaper, & Sith-In-Training. Two times SFR Galaxy Award winner, 2015 EPIC eBook Awards finalist, & RWA LERA 2015 Rebecca finalist (2nd place). Member of the SFR Brigade, EPIC, & Broad Universe. You can find me at my website or my blog, but my favourite place to hang around & chat is on Twitter as @pippajaygreen

About the Book:
A Science Fiction Romance Novel
Goodreads | Available from... Amazon | All Romance eBooks
Kobo | iTunes | 
B&N Smashwords
Print available from... 
Amazon | B&N | CreateSpace | The Book Depository
Blurb:

A demon waiting to die...
An outcast reviled for his discolored skin and rumors of black magic, Keirlan de Corizi sees no hope for redemption. Imprisoned beneath the palace that was once his home, the legendary 'Blue Demon of Adalucien' waits for death to finally free him of his curse. But salvation comes in an unexpected guise.

A woman determined to save him.
Able to cross space and time with a wave of her hand, Tarquin Secker has spent eternity on a hopeless quest. Drawn by a compulsion she can't explain, she risks her apparent immortality to save Keir, and offers him sanctuary on her home-world, Lyagnius. But Quin has secrets of her own.

When Keir mistakenly unleashes the dormant alien powers within him and earns exile from Lyagnius, Quin chooses to stand by him. Can he master his newfound abilities in time to save Quin from the darkness that seeks to possess her?

Book One of the Redemption series and part of the Travellers Universe. Previously released by Lyrical Press Inc. 7th May 2012. On sale until the end of December! Book Two can be found HERE.

17 comments:

  1. Have you tried Book Bub? I've heard good things and I've been considering giving that a try on my next promo.

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    1. BookBub has been recommended but is out of my price range at the moment. There's been much discussion about how difficult Brigaders have found it to get accepted for a BB spot to boot!

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    2. BookBub really hit my radar this week when I saw a friend's book hit the top 30 on Amazon. When I messaged him to congratulate him (and bow down in awe), his response was telling: "BookBub is a magical thing."

      I'll see if I can get something set up with them for the end of January and report back.

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    3. Awesome, Cary, that would be interesting to know. It's been a hot and much debated topic in the Brigade Facebook group.

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    4. If you can get a Bookbub, do it, but many many many people cannot. I was just turned down for the 7th time and I fit all of their criteria. And you have to wait 30 days between submitting books so it could take a year or more to get featured.

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    5. I probably have slightly less of a chance, since I won't submit a request. lol

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    6. I know what you mean. It's pay to play, and the cost is just too high for a beginner. I am giving Books that Buzz a go. I'm after slow build as well. Have to wait for promo time to come round again to try some of the others.

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    7. Promotion requires time or money or both. If you don't have the money, spending time going for as many free options as possible is the only way. This is the first year out of three and a half in publishing that I've actually had a small budget available for promo, which is just as well because I certainly don't have much time any more!

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  2. Thanks for the detailed description and the nod to my post. One caveat - the sites change over time, so authors must check the requirements carefully.

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    1. Right, authors should ALWAYS check guidelines before hitting submit. What I've done is just try to include bare bones of current requirements.

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  3. I'm glad to see a lot of these worked for you!

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    1. Thanks Stephanie! And for pointing me in the right direction. ^_^

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  4. I had zero results from Choosy when I used them.

    I'm planning a free run in February for my first A'yen's Legacy novel, so this is VERY helpful! I've only recently heard of Sweet Free Reads, and was planning to check them out. Glad to hear it was successful!

    I don't ever plan to use Choosy Bookworm again. I unsubscribed from all those emails because he was getting super annoying about pushing the read and review service.

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    1. Yeah, I've been noting the majority of the read to review books in the email.
      I love Sweet Free Reads. Love how she runs her service, and even though I've mostly used it for free books so don't get a ROI in terms of sales, I know at least I'm getting much wider exposure than my own efforts there.

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  5. Your article was very timely. I had an empty day on my promo which I hope to fill with one the freebies. Then, knowing ERNT doesn't like to do me back to back months (I know this by rejections) I needed a fillin and BookGorrilla seems like a great option. So I sent that out as well tonight. They evidently are open for the year, instead of making you wait until a month before to apply. Some dates were already taken. So your blog was very timely. I have now added Book Gorilla (which actually came from your link to Greta's earlier post) and sweetfreebooks to my list of worthwhile promoters. Thanks so much

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    1. Glad to be of help! I don't think I had Book Gorilla on my list, so one I need to go look at.

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  6. This is super helpful. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

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