What I'm reading: Restless Heart, by Emma Lang
Writing is more than writing these days. Today's post is a frank overview of my experiences with a small facet of the marketing side of things.
Last week was "Read an e-Book Week." I participated, and the results were interesting.
First, I'm not a marketing person. Between this blog, Twitter and Facebook, plus a number of Yahoo Groups, I have what in the overall scheme of things, is a relatively small, 'niche' market. A good number of the people I reach, at least as far as I can tell, would fall into the 'writer' category, whether they're published, aspiring, or simply interested in the craft.
"Read an eBook Week" reached a much wider audience. I'd decided, based on what might have been faulty logic, to offer one of my novels for free for that week. This decision came because previous discounts hadn't garnered much interest. Most of my discounts, which had ranged from 25% off to free, had yielded fairly low sales numbers. I chose When Danger Calls, hoping that people would like it enough to get them interested in Where Danger Hides (a gamble because that book will be hard cover only, so it's like comparing apples to hamburgers, but I know there are readers who read a variety of formats, myself included). I also hoped that if they liked that book, they'd buy another of my books or stories.
To my surprise, When Danger Calls reached #3 in Romance on the Smashwords Best Seller list. By Saturday, I'd sold well over 200 copies. But I sold only one copy of my other book, and one short story on Smashwords. I had two or three sales at the Amazon store. None at All Romance eBooks.
For the first three days, I advertised and linked only to the When Danger Calls page on Smashwords. After that, I attempted to direct people to my author pages at the various selling sites, and let them choose. Still, the "sales" for When Danger Calls kept coming. But only When Danger Calls.
Should I have discounted it 25 or 50% instead of 100%? Would my "sales" have come close to the number of downloads of the free version? There's really no way to tell. In discussing this with other people who were also participating, I found there was no constant. Some offered discounts on all their books. Others offered a discount on the first in a series. Some went the free route, as I did.
Results varied. Some reported good sales across the board. Others said their sales were only slightly better than "normal." Some had excellent crossover. And, some, like me, "sold" only their free books. The crossover I got was for my other stories that were already free—a total of 189 "sales" of the three titles.
Marketing is tough, and having to do it as an author is something we're not prepared for when we start writing. Consensus seemed to be that people who were on the 'buying' end of this week's big e-book push were seeking the free stuff. Many admitted they'd probably downloaded more books than they'll be able to read. Most said they zeroed in on the free reads. (I confess to picking up a few myself)
Unfortunately, I can't roll back time and run the same promotion, to see how many sales I'd get at a smaller discount. Would I be better off selling 25 copies at 50% off, or 50 copies at 25% off, or should I be happy that When Danger Calls is waiting on over 200 e-readers? That some of these people will get around to reading it, like it, and look for more of my books?
However, given that these books and stories would otherwise be doing nothing but taking up space on my hard drive, I still believe that by publishing myself, they're staying alive.
I've got no answers. It's all part of the business, and not nearly as much fun as sitting down with my characters and seeing what happens next.
Speaking of next, don't forget: Tuesday is guest blog day, and my guest is Jane Bigelow. Her topic is travel—something everyone can enjoy.
And … I'm opening up the blog to guests for May, June & July. If you'd like to reserve a date, email me and I'll fill you in on the details. Feel free to tell your friends. There's virtually no restriction on topics. Variety is a good thing.