Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Magic of Cross-Promotion

Dear readers,

The following blog post is entirely about the back end of publishing and marketing. If that's not your bag, take a pass on this one. If you do publish or you're considering publishing in the future, then you might find this interesting.

Still here? Ok. You've been warned. Let's do this!

Since the release of Traitor's Hope in October I have averaged (between page reads in Kindle Unlimited and actual unit sales) just over one sale per day across both books (Blade's Edge & Traitor's Hope). This is, if you are keeping tabs on this kind of thing, NOT how you get rich. However, that is such a massive improvement to how sales were prior to publishing Traitor's Hope, that I have been extremely happy with it.

Yet, as I saw my page reads and sales both start to dwindle around February, and I began to hear more and more of my fellow authors complain that Amazon was culling their page reads, or stripping their rank, or doing some other confounding thing that made the rest of us all cringe, I decided it was time to take my books out of the Amazon-only scheme and publish them through as many retailers as would have me.

'Tis a risky business.

Why, you ask? Well, only because even when one is spread out through the entire ocean, Amazon is still the biggest fish out there. Most authors are unlikely to sell more through any single other retailer, and some not even with all other retailers combined. And Amazon has quite intentionally set things up to give preferential treatment to the books that are listed exclusively with them.

I was not surprised therefore when, the moment that I took my books out of the program that readers know as Kindle Unlimited and publishers know as Kindle Select, my sales plummeted. Not just my pages read (which only makes sense because the book is no longer in the program that provides pages read) but my normal sales as well. I don't think this is necessarily anything underhanded on Amazon's part. They simply give added visibility to the titles that are in KU and once you take a title out that visibility drops away, so unless you are generating your own visibility (which I wasn't really) ranking slips, and consequently organic sales slip. Fair enough. I was sad to see the drop happen but, as I mentioned earlier, not entirely surprised.

Now, if you read my last blog post, in which I squee like a small child who just got a pony as a present, you'll know that Blade's Edge was recently accepted for a BookBub Featured Deal. (If you have no idea what that is, but would like some context for the rest of this post, go ahead and click on that link and read the aforementioned post.) Having Blade's Edge selected for a BookBub alleviated many of my fears about going wide. Indeed, it made the sudden drop in sales seem almost inconsequential (despite the fact that I'd gone from one sale per day to one sale in two weeks).

Yet, everything I'd read told me that BookBubs are most effective when you support them with additional promotions. The theory (posited by far more experienced authors than I) is that Amazon's ranking algorithms respond best to a steady rise in sales (instead of a sudden spike) and that the higher your rank is before said spike, the higher the spike will take it. So, in preparation for my BookBub Featured Deal (henceforth to be known as BookBub, or even just BB) I have been trying to line up whatever additional promos I can find for Blade's Edge's.

I have therefore agreed to over twenty different cross-promotions with fellow indie authors for the weeks leading up to and away from the BookBub (which is on June 4th). The idea of promotions after the BookBub is that they help to keep up the BookBub's momentum, which will again please the algorithms (we hope) of the mighty Zon.

And the cross-promotion has been going quite well.

Indeed, through the power of newsletter swaps* and group promotions** alone, in the nine days since the cross-promotions have started, I've sold twenty-nine copies of Blade's Edge without spending a single dime on advertising. So, for that short period of time we're talking an average of three units per day, which sure beats the zero units per day I was averaging for the rest of May. Again, none of this is making bank (indeed, since the book is currently discounted to 0.99 in all regions I'm barely making any money at all) but it's a nice gentle slope out of the complete flat line in sales and ranking that had been achieved after going wide, and as it hasn't cost me anything more than time and agreeing to promote other indie authors' works with my readers, I am VERY pleased with the results.

(Some terminology help here: *Newsletter swaps are, as the name suggests, when you send an email to your own mailing list promoting another author's work and in return they send an e-mail to their own list promoting your work. **Group Promotions are, as the name suggests, when a group of authors set a specific time frame to discount their books and then during that time period all promote the discounted books (usually contained on a single sales page on someone's website) to all of their various social media and newsletters.)

So, if you are reading this, and you are an author yourself (indie or not), you are probably wondering where you can find all of these delightful free resources that will help you sell your books.

The answer lies with you. This is all about collaboration. Make author friends (I recommend sites like KBoards or some of the Goodreads author support groups) and then cross promote with them. You can find cross-promotion groups on Facebook too. But always remember that cross-promotion is a two way street. You must be prepared to share other authors' work with your own readers. If you don't have your own readers yet, there are many folks who are willing to help out if you ask (we all started from zero readers and worked our way up, after all), but don't expect people to help you out for nothing. Also, if you don't have a mailing list of your own, then group promotions like Patty Jansen's and other group promos are a great idea (see more examples below), as long as you have some social media accounts you can use to promote with.

I am curious to see how much momentum I can build with newsletter swaps and group promos alone before the BookBub. After the BookBub there will be more NL swaps, but I also managed to snag an ENT spot (that's another e-mail promotion like BookBub only much smaller) for June 7th to help with the tail. I will start a whole thread on KBoards to talk about the stats from before, during, and after the promo, and I may do a recap blog post here. But at any rate, you now know 110% of what I know about cross promotion. Go forth, and sell books!

Below are some examples of group promos I've used for Blade's Edge recently (warning--some of the promos are expired so the books may be over 0.99 now):

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