Powder Burn – Promoting an Indie Novel in 2013 by Mark Chisnell
In my March blog, I tackled the process of publishing a novel independently in the year of 2013 – and how it had differed from the first time I did it, way back at the dawn of the ebook age in 2009.
Powder Burn hit the virtual bookshelves on the 3rd April and I promised I’d come back and report on the launch and its associated promotion. There’s no comparison to 2009 this month, as I simply did not do any promotion four years ago...
But I did do a reasonable amount of promotion for Powder Burn, although what’s reasonable is hard to judge as I have no real idea of how much effort other people put in. It centred around three areas: point of sale presentation; social media and reviews; and price promotion. I’ll tackle these separately.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the most cost-effective way to sell an ebook at this point in time is by making it highly discoverable and attractive at the point of purchase. In arriving at this opinion, I’ve been heavily influenced by Michael Alvear’s Make a Killing on Kindle.
The book has been referenced on Authors Electric a few times and tells you that Facebook, blogs and twitter don't sell books - just by the fact that I'm still blogging here you will probably realise that I don’t completely buy into it. Nevertheless, I think it has some excellent advice on making books easier to find and reducing resistance to purchase by having a professional sales page for the book.
If you want the full explanation, I can recommend that you read Alvear’s book. The short version is that I spent a lot of time on the cover design, the blurb and the HTML presentation of the Powder Burn page on Amazon.
Social Media and Reviews
The value of customer reviews on Amazon and other websites cannot be underestimated – try as hard as you like to make the book’s page look slick and professional, if there are no decent reviews it’ll look like a ghost town and smell like turkey. It’s a major problem for new releases, so I put a lot of effort into trying to get some good reviews from day one.
To achieve that goal, I’d been working hard for months at building networks on three core social media channels – Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter. I probably spend about 45 minutes a day on these websites, and it’s something that I really enjoy. I’m a big convert to Goodreads and if you find the right groups and get involved as a reader (rather than pushing your books) it’s possible to learn a lot from loads of people who really love books.
I advertised for Beta readers on Goodreads and Facebook, and then gave out free copies to anyone that wanted to read it and provide feedback. I included their comments in the final rewrite, and then encouraged them to post a review when it was published. I also contacted a core group of book bloggers that have reviewed my books in the past, people that I now have an ongoing relationship with and supplied them with advance review copies.
The end result was six reviews on the publication day, and hopefully it will continue steadily as I work my way through review requests to some 200+ book review blogs.
A couple of the reviewers were book bloggers and also posted on their own sites, and I facebooked and tweeted links to these reviews through the publication week for good measure. I’m a long way from being able to mobilise the hundreds or thousands of fanatical readers that can be relied on by the likes of Seth Godin, but I figure it’s a start.
These efforts resulted in the sale of 43 books on publication day across the US and UK Amazon websites. It boosted the book to about 1500 on the overall UK chart, and a highpoint of #9 in the UK spy thriller chart. It was the best I’ve achieved without an advert on one of the major eBook websites. Unfortunately, this kind of social media promotion can’t be sustained for more than a few days without annoying people, and slowly over the next week Powder Burn slid back to three or four books a day - and so... enter Plan B.
I had deliberately held the book back from the other eBook publishing channels – Smashwords, B&N, Kobo – so that I could put Powder Burn into Kindle Select and use the oldest ebook promo trick in the book. Free. It’s been well documented that making books free on Amazon no longer works as well as it did a couple of years ago, but it worked well enough 12 months ago when a four day free period for TheFulcrum Files subsequently boosted it to #1 on Amazon.com Historical Mystery Chart.
The question was whether Amazon’s continued changes to its chart algorithms would have spoiled 'free' as an effective way of gathering further momentum. On the 9th April I decided to find out, I put Powder Burn into Kindle Select; programmed a three-day free promotion from the 17th April and then used ebookBooster.com to push it at all the websites that advertise free books to readers.
Initially, the results were great – it hit #15 on the overall US Kindle free chart, and was top five in all the major thriller charts, with over 10,000 downloads. It came off free on the morning of the 20th April and I’m writing this 24 hours later before posting ready for my AE slot on 22nd April. So far since going back to paid, Powder Burn has sold precisely 7 copies. It may pick up as a result of all those downloads, but right now... I might need a Plan C!