Lessons in Marketing: a case study
It’s a truth universally acknowledged, there’s no magical formula for success. I tend to think, like with many tactics in the publishing industry, it’s a combination of luck and the right story at the right time. Sometimes you may have as polished a product as you can conceive (with much beta, editing & revisions), but for whatever reason, you don’t hit the market at the right time.
As I’ve spent much of the past year studying marketing trends and I’ve come to realize a few things about my Wylder Tales Series.
- No direction – I did zilch pre-marketing for the first book. After publishing a slightly re-branded re-write, I still didn’t know what kind of story I was trying to sell, besides “high fantasy Beauty and the Beast retelling.”
- Timing – Fairy-tale re-tellings have their ups and downs. While I thought the release of Disney’s live action Beauty and the Beast would help generate interest in my genre. I wasn’t counting on an overflow of other re-tellings to crowd market, especially by traditional authors with established followings.
- Cover art – I picked my covers based on what I felt fit the story, without polling or at least studying similar covers in my genre. While I love standing out from the crowd, there really is something to selling a product that people recognize from the get-go.
These are just a few big reasons Wylder Tales has struggled to get off the ground.
Clearly something had to change if I wanted to keep writing more Wylder Tales (aka- ROI).
I didn’t want to keep publishing books into the dark without a plan. I decided to experiment and create something of a case study. Here’s a few things I did in the attempt to change “Vynasha’s” fate.
With nothing to lose, I chose to go by my writing partner’s advice and put the first in series perma-free. A side note about this. On kindle boards I noticed many authors frustrations about trying to report lower pricing in other markets, which Amazon seemed to ignore. Well, apparently they changed their terms (again lol) and now they have a specific section you can access via your publishing platform. So, it was still easy-peasy. Once you notify them via your kdp dashboard, using other links to show price matching, they will adjust accordingly.
After putting Craving Beauty free, I spread the news on my social media. However, I wanted to help promote as much as possible, so I signed up with several different newsletters to help spread the word. These promo sites are all places I discovered thanks to info other authors provided via Kindle Boards.
- AskDavid – This supposedly has helped out quite a few authors. The site made me a bit skeptical, since it comes off at first as another “AskJeeves” (for all you old web surfers 😉) But the promo for your free books is legit and you get to create your own tweets to use via that page.
- Results – I did see a lot more traffic for my book, and quite a few more downloads. My favorite part of this is the fact you can word your own extra promo tweets, so it doesn’t all look like the uber spammy book tweets you often see.
- BKNights – I was the most skeptical of this service, because you purchase it via Fiverr and I have had zero experience with them. However, the moderator for BK is very helpful and polite and was easy to coordinate with.
- Results – Since I also signed up with an additional promo service I can’t tell for sure how much this impacted sales. Good news, more venues, bigger potential audience. 🙂
- Kindle Boards Blog – They feature your free book on their “Book Discovery Day” and you get a chance to be listed alongside some fantastic authors in a large audience.
- Results – I believe this feature brought in the most results, possibly because of it’s huge establishment in the community.
A year later, where is my series at?
Results of rebranding and recovering a perma-free Craving Beauty, combined with an expanded Scarred Beauty release gave me the boost I was looking for. I found a nice niche in the Gothic and Dark Fantasy categories and recently created a box set featuring Craving Beauty, Wolfsbane’s Daughter and Scarred Beauty. I recently took Craving Beauty off of permafree, because I want to try out other methods, while ramping up for Bound Beauty’s December release. I’ll keep y’all posted on what I learn 🙂
Before you dive into any of these services, keep a few things in mind.
First of all, what is your goal? Are you trying to expand your audience, reach new readers? Or are you just trying to sell books? Because the methods for one aren’t necessarily synonymous with the other. Building your platform, your author brand, will eventually draw in new readers, which will in turn, draw in more sales. But if you are looking for numbers, something like enrolling in KU and blasting newsletters about your discount days would be better.
There are plenty of other marketing methods you can try, like the usual online book tours or local indie store signings. Since I first placed Craving Beauty as permafree, I saw a jump in freebie-grabs, but not a very great read-through to Scarred Beauty. Now, this could very well be a book issue. I’m not hitting the right audience, etc. Or it could be, free lead-in’s just aren’t bringing in the return they once did. I’m still learning and I’m no expert. But I hope you can take something away from my experience.
Marketing trends are in-flux.
What’s popular one season, (i.e. virtual book tours and first free in series) may not be the best method for the next season (i.e. newsletter swaps.) At this point, from what I’ve studied/observed, while newsletters are still effective in building your audience, people’s e-mails are over-saturated. I know my inbox is. One thing to always keep in mind, is “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.” If you don’t like a full inbox, don’t bombard your subscribers. If you hate lots of tweets about “buy my FREE book!” then don’t tweet like that.
We want to sell books. We want to be visible and be heard. But writing is about the long-game. It’s about trial and error. Above all, keep reading, keep learning from the wisdom of others and keep writing. Lather, rinse, repeat: you must keep writing. If you don’t have a polished professional product, you won’t win readers. If you don’t write more books for your series, you never will see results.
Good luck! Feel free to share in the comments below what works best for you and your series’. Or if you have more questions, I promise to answer with as much authority as I am able.