Naturally, amid all the writing and querying, I am also self promoting, self publishing and self marketing. For most of you, this is nothing new. That you are reading this now is likely because you are a member of VBT or some other writers group and by being here, you are presently engaged in this very practices.
So my topic today is more of a question, which I will pose after sharing this observation with you. It is something I have noticed this past year having participated in the monthly rotation of hosting and being hosted on the "Writers on the Move Virtual Book Tour." There seems to be two equally interesting facets to the typical format that participating members employ when featured on the tour.
First is the self promoting format. I love this type. Except for the newest members to the VBT community, I have stopped by all your blogs and met (I think) everyone in the group. The diversity amazes me. The wealth of talent assembled within this micro community inspires and encourages me to plow ahead whenever I feel deflated by the infinite dead ends I hit in my efforts to further a career still in-waiting. So to all of you I say thanks. Your good-fellowship is priceless and heart warming.
The second format that I see employed in these tours is the academic side. Though I love the self promoting facet, I especially appreciate the brass tacks, tactile, take it and run advice that some of you offer when your turn comes up in rotation. I am talking about the helpful hints and pointers offered as a means to further one's career, to move one beyond the rut that we all sometimes find ourselves in. Stephen Tremp does this well, so does Marvin Wilson, the Old Silly. Last week I hosted Mayra Calvani who also shared with us her tips on helping us dig out of our ruts by cultivating the right mood for the type of writing we are trying to express. Karen, Lea, Maggie; you too work the ropes expertly. Truth is that many of you thoughtfully share tips with us of things that have worked for you.
It is in that spirit that I attempt to share with you something that has recently worked for me in gaining exposure as an author, and by extension, sales of my books. My suspicion is that this may not, in fact, be news for some of you, but hopefully it will be for others.
What is this cool marketing tool? Perhaps not so surprisingly, it is the oldest marketing tool in business, used by corporations large and small, by emerging young enterprises, pushcart street vendors and even (though I don't condone it) by illegal drug dealers. I am talking about the Free Sample, the Buy-One-Get-One and the outright Free-No-Questions-Asked promotions.
Like many of you, I am self published and have listed electronic versions of my books on, among other places, Smashwords. I applaud their concept: read half free, buy the rest if you like it. It is not original. I know that. Frankly I have used that same marketing strategy on my on website for years. But I have recently taken that construct to another level. Instead of letting a prospective buyer read only some of the manuscript (book), I let them read all of it. Better still, I let them read a second one as well, absolutely free. The hook is the same. If they like it, they will buy more. What I have found, however, is that if they like an entire book (or two) they are far more likely to buy additional books from you than they are if given only half. Trust me on this. I have really followed this closely.
To be clear, again we are talking about ebooks only now. Naturally, print copies are out of the question. That said, I can tell you that sales of my ebooks on Smashwords have been fair, especially compared to e-versions at Lulu. In the first few months on Smashwords, where nine of my books are listed, I averaged one thousand sample downloads, resulting in six books actually sold. A little over a month ago I made available the first two books of my Detective Marcella Paranormal Mysteries series totally free. This resulted in a virtual flood of ebook downloads (nearly 8000 in six weeks), which translated into one hundred and seventy eight sold copies of my other books!
Of course, this does not work well if you only have one book, but it does if you have two or more, which many of you have. Now I know that no author relishes giving away her hard work for free, but the exposure to a mass audience is something I am willing to compromise on. The sales this month of my ebooks on Smashwords by far eclipses the sale of those same books on Lulu in the past ten years. Does that mean it is right for you? Maybe not, but I thought I would share my thoughts on the matter just the same.
So now my question. What practice do you employ to bolster sales of your books, and how well is it working?
Dana E. Donovan,
author of the Detective Marcella Paranormal Mysteries series
Resurrection, Abandoned, Skinny and more.