How BookBub Made Me a Bestseller

Boy, I bet that headline got your attention now, didn’t it? I recently had a huge sale on my Donovan Circus boxed set (from $6.99 to $0.99) and bear with me on the lengthy post, but I wanted to share a little bit about how I ultimately surpassed my goals thanks to a layered marketing plan, and of course, a gigantic BookBub ad that was the motivating factor. Because you know what happened? I got that very special little orange flag on Amazon, along with #1 spots in several categories that snowballs into the algorithms of #61 spot in overall Kindle sales:

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So how did I do it? Let’s break it down by platform, price and overall results. And remember, because of the $0.99 price, I’m only making a 30% royalty. About 33 cents a book, give or take, so to make my money back, I HAD to sell hundreds and hundreds of copies. It was incredibly nerve-wracking the week leading up; trust me, I was up to my ears with anxiety, worried about everything: that it would fail, that I wouldn’t make money back, that it WOULD do well and then everyone would hate it, etc. (You can see where being an author is an exhausting process in more than simply writing the books.)

BOOKBUB – $574

This is obviously the biggest piece of the puzzle, and one that came at an unexpected time. I submit a suggested deal to them at least once a month, and I’ve only ever had one stick (Witch Hearts, 4 years ago when I put it up for free, and had over 20,000 downloads). So when I tossed out the Donovan Circus boxed set from $6.99 to $0.99, I was stunned when they accepted it. (After nearly falling off the couch, I literally ran to my computer to pay them before they could change their minds.) So, I had the BookBub deal going out on March 3. How would I capitalize off that to really build off this promotion? First off, I made absolutely sure the boxed set was $0.99 early – about a week and a half before the promotion. Because I don’t sell a lot of sets (most readers buy the individual books), it was no skin off my back to put the price down. In fact, by doing that, I sold several more copies ahead of time, thus helping my ranking.

The BookBub ad went out to emails on March 3. It resulted in 1,891 sets sold internationally. So it’s not just US readers, but the UK, Australia, Canada and more. (Totaling about $567 in Amazon sales in just that one day.) Here’s the screenshot from their website (also how great is their write up of the series?):

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Facebook – $120

I ran Facebook ads in the week leading up to the sale in hopes of building up my ranking to make it easier to climb once the sale officially hit. (Originally set it for $150, but cut it off a couple days before when costs were getting too high per click. You want to keep them low, below $0.50 if possible, so while it started out strong, $1.26 per click is too pricey for me.) This also includes a $20 boosted post on my FB page’s “day before” post, targeted towards my page fans and their friends. It gave me approximately 20 sales – doesn’t sound like much, but remember, it was all about getting the best ranking possible before the big day.

Fiverr – $10

EllaGibson, the user I’ve hired a few times for book blasting in promo groups, is a bargain and saves me tons of time. For $10, she posts your Kindle book deal in 77 FB Groups and Google communities of 1 million people. While this is a great way to hit promo groups with dedicated readers, honestly, it’s the time saver that I pay for here. I work full-time, so I can’t do all that during the work day. If she does, however, the word still gets out and quite frankly, it’s well worth the $10.

Bargain Booksy – $40

eBookHounds – $35

BookSends – $35

JustKindleBooks – $15

Kindle Book Review – $20

Hot Zippy – $0

Newsletter – $0

In addition to regular Facebook posts (both on my page and personal profile), I sent out a newsletter on March 1 to my 4,628 subscribers about the deal (again, did it early to build up momentum as well as offer a subscriber exclusive). I have 2 mailing lists, one is my regular author newsletter (extremely dedicated readers), and Instafreebie emails, who download a free book through random promotions I sign up for in order to build the newsletter (so, they are not dedicated to MY books specifically, but readers nonetheless who take chances on cheap reads – something to keep in mind when your clicks aren’t as high as you’d expect).

For the March 1 newsletter #1, 30% opened, with 208 clicks to the Amazon sales page, 17 to KOBO page, and 12 to iBooks page. On March 3, I resent to the unopens (2,166) which got me a 7% open rate, 14 clicks to Amazon, and 1 to B&N. On March 5, I sent a “Last Chance” email that got a 5% open rate, 20 clicks to Amazon, and 1 to Kobo. This tells me that, unsurprisingly, most of my readers are using Kindle and the first newsletter is always strongest.

Author Help – $0

I try not to ask for a lot of favors, and help out where I can for others when they have promo needs. This way, when I DO ask for a favor, my friends know it’s important. When I asked 18 author friends, all of them heavy hitters in their own genres with core reader groups, for help with the promo, 17 authors responded almost immediately to help. They used the HTML blog posts/social media posts/images I provided for them (I made it as easy as possible for them so they didn’t have to do a bunch of work, that’s key) and blasted it out to their folks.

Social Media Postings – $0

This one’s a no-brainer, but let’s not overlook it. All it took was time on my part to create a couple key images to use (and share with friends). In addition to Facebook and Instagram, I also sent out tweets throughout the days using key hashtags and accompanying links.

Uh, excuse me, I sold next to Harry Potter? Pardon me while I take a moment to rock in the corner in disbelief. I’ve often said I don’t write for the money, which is true, so when little moments like this one happen, that is such a huge win for me.

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Now, here’s the business you came here for:

Total Investment: $849
Total sales on Amazon from 3/2-3/6: 2,724 (roughly $1,001)
Total sales on D2D (combo of B&N, iBooks and Kobo) from 3/2-3/6: 845  (roughly $534)
Results as of 3/6 (last day of sale): 3,569 ebooks sold
Overall total sales for the month of March (as of 3/6): $1,535

Which equals to a rough estimate of: +$686 (i.e. made money=surpassed goal of breaking even)

And of course, this is only the first week of March. Technically, the sale is still on today, so I might have a few extras in there by midnight. Of course I expect sales to tailor off for the next few weeks, but knowing that I’ve made my money back is terrific, because it means everything else is a bonus. I can rest easy and refocus on other things (and in fact did, as over the weekend I even took a nap on Saturday afternoon!). It all funnels right back into my book business, and motivates me to get the 5th book done ASAP to hang onto those DC readers.

The BIG takeaway here, however, is the brand awareness and name recognition. Because when I woke up Saturday to 35 FB notifications and 5 text messages, THIS screenshot from my friend Kelly Martin was waiting for me:

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I mean, are you kidding me? For however brief a time, I was ranked right alongside NEIL EFFING GAIMAN!! Excuse me while I pinch myself a few times to make sure I’m awake. In addition to the sales, I’ve had a boost of website traffic (hi, new readers!), sales across the rest of my bookshelf, new followers on social media and now hopefully my name will be a little more recognizable in the book world. (Much of that last part is speculation, I know, but the optimistic side of me stands by it.)

So. It appears I owe a lot of people a lot of thank yous, because there’s no doubt that while the marketing helped, it was also all of the posts, shares and excitement from my author and reader friends. I can’t wait to see where the rest of the year takes me – and in the meantime, uh, hey Bookbub, y’all got any more of those ad spaces available? Cause I’d like to buy one every month, please.

Facebook Fan Pages: Break These Rules + Get Shut Down

This article was written on March 21, 2013. As of August 27, 2013, these Facebook contest rules have changed – for the better. Please follow this link to read more.

When it comes to your Facebook fan pages, I bet there’s a good chance you dove right in without reading the rules of the game. And that, my friends, is a dangerous way to play – if Facebook catches your page as a wrongdoer, your fan page (and all the hard work, time, and advertisement money you’ve put into it) can get shut down without so much as a warning email. Deleted. Poof. Sayonara. Goodbye to your hundreds or thousands of fans and say hello to starting from scratch all over again.

Luckily, I know a few of those rules thanks to my job as a social media editor. Here are a few tips to help you out when it comes to contests and cover images versus the Facebook terms and conditions.

Contests and Offers

Contests are obviously a huge deal for authors (and small businesses) as we use contests and giveaways as a marketing tool to promote ourselves and appreciate our fans. More often than not, pages I like and respect are breaking the Facebook rules by hosting contests through their status updates and encouraging fans to “Like” the update, counting it as a vote, and then choosing a name at random as their winner. How are they breaking these rules, you ask?

Here’s what Facebook says:

  • You must not use Facebook features or functionality as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism. For example, the act of liking a Page or checking in to a Place cannot automatically register or enter a promotion participant.
  • You must not use Facebook features or functionality, such as the Like button, as a voting mechanism for a promotion.
  • You must not notify winners through Facebook, such as through Facebook messages, chat, or posts on profiles (timelines) or Pages.

This means that contests must be administered through a third party page app. This means that we, as authors and small businesses, cannot use Facebook itself as a means to run contests. I use Woobox for my company, which is a third-party application that helps run my contests and keeps me organized – and keeps me well within the Facebook rules and guidelines. And make sure that wherever you’re running a contest (even on your blog), if you’re using Facebook in any way, to add this into your Rules of Entry section (hey it never hurts to cover all your bases): This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. 

Note: you CAN ask people to be fans in order to be entered into a contest (meaning that your contest is only open to your current fans, a great way to interact and encourage your established community to talk you up. Woobox has the capability to install a “Fan Gate” which means one must like your page before seeing any of your content, be it a contest, discount, exclusive content, etc.) 

If you’re using these methods as a way to run contests, your page won’t be around for long. Avoid these:

  • “Like” our comment to win
  • First 10 people who comment will win
  • Tag yourself in this photo to enter
  • Mention our page in your status
  • Upload a photo to our wall to enter
  • Comment on a status to enter

You must also notify your winner via email or phone. At least, you need to notify them before posting anything on Facebook. FB doesn’t technically say that we cannot announce our winners on our wall, so I don’t think you’re breaking the rules if you choose to throw confetti and tell fans what Susie Q won in yesterday’s contest. However, there’s a distinct difference between “Notify” and “Announce” and because of time stamps in email or otherwise, you may be asked to prove you contacted the winner before putting it on Facebook. Just make sure to notify your winners with an email or call before you announce it. Get it?

This also means you can’t just select a fan to give away something. If a fan is considered to be winning something, that means it’s a contest, which means you have to abide by the FB guidelines. So for those of you who pick a random fan for the hell of it to give them a book or whatever, you’re still rule-breaking.

And for those of you wondering if you can promote your contest on your blog through Facebook, the answer is yes. Just don’t encourage fans to do any liking or sharing through Facebook – make sure to send them to the link on your blog where they can win there – so for those book review bloggers out there using Rafflecopter on their blogs and promoting it on Facebook – you’re safe. Whew!

Cover Photos

Cover photos are a great way to show off images to fans. However, there are several rules that apply here. Let’s state the obvious no-no: You must use images only you have copyright images too. Don’t plagiarize. Sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many people break this rule. Facebook WILL eventually find them! Facebook recently removed their rule about no calls to action, URLs, and promotion of the brand. They say in their updated page:

“Use a unique image that represents your Page. This might be a photo of a popular menu item, album artwork or a picture of people using your product. Be creative and experiment with images your audience responds well to…You may not encourage people to upload your cover photo to their personal timelines.”

By Facebook guidelines, you cannot:

  • Refer to Facebook as a way to promote- you can’t ask for Likes, Shares, or any other Facebook feature.
  • Encourage people to use your cover images to their personal timelines (this is not to say we can’t encourage sharing our page with friends in a call to action on the cover photo, however!)
  • Have a cover image with more than 20% text (keep it simple by using your logo in your profile picture, keep text to a minimum, and use photos that are of real people and things)

What other ways do you know of breaking the rules on Facebook? These are just a couple ways, but if you know more or have questions, I’m happy to hear them. When it comes to my Facebook fan pages and all the work I’ve put into them, regardless of how crazy I find their rules…The Dude Abides.

Why All Writers Need an Author Page

This week, the YA Author Club sponsors will share with you everything you ever wanted to know about the all important author page.

Here’s the deal – how the heck do you expect anyone to give two hoots about you if you don’t tell them you who are?

Author pages are more important than some people realize. I understand that readers are just that – readers who want to devour your book. However, readers (and other people) will often google for your website to see your other work and that eventually leads them to…wondering who you are and maybe even the why’s behind things. (Why do you write? Why this particular story? What makes you an expert in that department?)

This is your chance to showcase YOU. On your website, you should have separate sections for your works, but you should have a specific “About Me” page. Let the readers get to know you – if they’ve read your work, you might gain a lifelong reader, and if they haven’t, you might gain a new one. This is not a throwaway page to update once and never touch again. (If you’re listing links, keep them updated as you go to prevent a nightmarish 5 hour project later. Ain’t nobody got time for that!)

In my case, my website is geared first and foremost to my readers who are interested in my books. However, I also want to provide social media and marketing advice to other writers. In order for people to understand why I do that or what makes me qualified, this is where my author page comes in. I can list my experience (a laidback resume, so to speak), explain why I do what I do, and reveal more of my personality to show readers who I am and what they can expect from me. You want to be personable (show your headshot/photo instead of book covers – save those for the main site or another page), but you should also keep it professional (this isn’t Facebook – there’s a chance potential employers or family might read it). This is where people come to learn about you and we should put our best attitude on when making new friends, right?

As I just redid my author page last night, there’s still work that needs to be done. I’m taking new photos in 2 weeks, so I plan to replace the current image. But in my “About Me” readers are able to glean a little information about me – what I do for a living, (therefore why my knowledge is power), a bit of my personality and writing style, and how I want to help others in my fields. I’d love for you to check it out and perhaps get some ideas for how to create your best author page.

Liz Long’s Author Page