Panelists suggested having a pricing strategy before you launch the book. You can start with a higher price, then cut it when you reach certain goals or milestones. Drive demand with limited-time sales. Think about if you want to offer the book for free, and when. Do you want to sign up for KDP Select (which allows you to offer the book for free for five days during the 90-day period when the book is exclusive to Amazon.com) or not?
While the e-book market is very price sensitive, other factors within the author’s control can impact sales. Your title and cover influence sales. The more frequently you publish, the better your sales are likely to be. Authors reported the best sales results with series, especially if you drop the price on the first book in the series, or make that first book free.
Offering a book for free has been a popular strategy for promoting e-books, but the impact of this varies.
While the panelists agreed offering the first book in a series for free is good, going free with a single title can be iffier.
This led to a discussion of when to offer the book for free in order to have the most impact. Weekends and holidays, when people are home and looking for something to read, generate more downloads. One author gave the example of offering a book for free on a Monday holiday and giving away 11,000 copies, with strong follow-up sales.
One author said she’d had more success with a longer free campaigns–one month vs. one day.
The discussion turned to what authors can do to attract more attention from book retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Many of the special promotions that garner attention and increase sales are editorial-driven. Amazon or Barnes & Noble chooses which books to include for daily deals or to highlight on the home page.
Industry representatives advised adding as much information as possible to your author page on the retailer’s website and adding book extras on Shelfari. On Amazon in particular, participating in the Search Inside This Book feature and KDP Select can attract more attention to your book.
When it comes to getting picked up for special attention, Amazon uses a complex and ever-changing algorithm.
Factors that influence the algorithm include demand for a particular title, sales volume, browsing history, the number of titles you have out and comparison to other books in your category. The number of reviews also helps–and they don’t have to be good reviews. Amazon’s algorithm places greater weight on the volume of reviews. More reviews get people to spend more time on your page.
The panelists briefly discussed packaging multiple books together and selling them for one price as boxed sets. Some authors reported very good results doing this, while others had less success. One author packaged the first book in each of two different series together, in hopes of creating interest in both series, but most authors packaged volumes in a series together. If the set is priced for more than $9.99, you get a lower royalty rate on Amazon, so some authors wouldn’t sell the sets on Amazon.
As far as other marketing techniques that worked well, most people cited using social media to connect with readers and build interest in books. One author spoke about her success in building anticipation for a book’s release by posting about her writing process, research, choosing a cover, etc, so that by the time the book came out, people felt invested in the book and were eagerly waiting for it.
One industry guest noted that her company had had good results with making targeted social media posts at key times during the day: 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., lunch time on the east and west coasts, and late at night.
Doing this provoked a spike in sales.
All the panelists agreed that while much of what you can do to promote your books is free, all of it takes time. You have to budget your time as well as your money.
When it comes to marketing, what works for one book may not work for the next. If something isn’t working for you, take advantage of the flexibility the digital market offers and change your approach.