Cozy Mystery Publishing

Paid Email Promotions for Cozy Mysteries

After I published the third book in my cozy mystery series, I decided it was time to start getting more serious about promoting and advertising my books. While I’ve been running Amazon ads for a while now (they work well for my paperback and large print editions, less so for my ebooks), participate in Kobo promotions (the results are okay, not stellar), and tried Facebook ads (dismal results), I hadn’t given much though to paid email promotions until recently.

Paid email promotions are pretty self-explanatory. You give someone money and they promote your book in their email. Of course, I’m not talking about slipping your little sister a five dollar bill and having her spam her friends’ inboxes with ‘Buy my sister’s book!’

What I’m referring to are those organizations who send out daily newsletters to avid readers highlighting free and/or bargain books. For a fee (and if you meet their selection criteria), they’ll include your book. And, in return, you (hopefully) get lots and lots of people downloading your book, loving it pieces, and rushing off to buy the rest in the series. At least, that’s the theory.

I decided to put this theory to the test. In July, I dropped the price of the first book in my series (Murder at the Marina) from $3.99 to 99c and scheduled five paid email promotions. I supplemented this with newsletter swaps with other cozy mystery authors and spread the work on social media. The experiment cost me $206. I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot of money. Just think of all of the Oreo cookies you could buy with that wad of cash!

So, I bet you’re dying to know whether I made my investment back. Stick around to the end and I’ll let you know.

Let’s get into some nitty-gritty about the promos I did. But a few things to note before we dive in:

  • I’m wide, meaning that I distribute my books on all retailers (Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and Google Play). I am not exclusive to Amazon and part of Kindle Unlimited. I was particularly interested in seeing if I could gain more traction on non-Amazon platforms through these promos.
  • To assess the effectiveness of each promo, I tallied up sales on the day of the promo and the day after (not everyone opens emails the day they receive them) and did some magic with my calculator to figure out cost per unit sold (cost of promo / number of sales). I was interested not just in the number of sales, but how much each sale cost me. Keep in mind you’re making peanuts for each sale at a 99c price point – between 35-45c depending on retailer.
  • I did apply for a BookBub, the Holy Grail of paid email promos, and was unsuccessful. No surprise there. They’re pretty hard to get.
  • These are just my results. Don’t take anything I say as gospel. Your mileage may vary.

Robin Reads

Robin Reads cost me $65. They only target Amazon and Barnes & Noble. This was my least effective promo and I probably wouldn’t use them again. I know other people have great success with them though.

Ereader News Today (ENT)

ENT cost me $55. They target all retailers and I did see some sales on non-Amazon storefronts. Not a lot, but some. I’m on the fence about whether I’d used them again given the cost.

Bargain Booksy

Bargain Booksy cost me $55. They target all retailers. This one was the best at getting non-Amazon sales, including quite a few Barnes & Noble sales which worked to my advantage (more on that below). I’d probably use them again.

Book Adrenaline

Book Adrenaline cost me $15. They target everyone except Google Play. This one worked well for Barnes & Noble. This was one of my effective promo (in terms of cost of sale) and I’d definitely use them again.

Fussy Librarian

Fussy Librarian cost me $16 (I believe their prices have gone up since I booked). They target all retailers. This was my most effective promo and I’d definitely use them again.

So, did you make any money?

Yes, I hear you. You want to know about the money. Should I have bought Oreo cookies instead?

The cold hard truth is that none of the promos paid for themselves based on sales the day of and sales the day after. To be honest, I didn’t expect them to. It’s all about the read-through, or so they say. When I looked at my sales numbers for July and into the first week of August to see if people went on to buy the next two books in the series (or bought the box set), I came out ahead. Barely, but I did come out ahead. But, keep in mind that I did newsletter swaps during this period, so some of my sales and read-through could be attributed to those, rather than my paid promos.

Something unexpected did happen as a result of my July promo month. Barnes & Noble contacted me and asked if I would be interested in participating in a 99c cozy mystery promo the following month. I think this only happened because I came onto their radar due to the number of sales I had on their platform that month, sales that I wouldn’t have had without the promos. I did relatively well during that cozy mystery promo in August, getting the bestseller tag on and off throughout the week which raised my visibility and in turn generated more sales.

All in all, it was a good experiment. I didn’t lost my shirt financially and my pants still fit because I didn’t eat $206 worth of Oreo cookies.

What about you? Readers – Do you subscribe to any paid email promo newsletters? Do you buy books that they advertise? Authors – Have you tried paid email promos? How did they work for you?

Aspring Cozy Mystery Author Interview, Cozy Mystery Author Interview

Aspiring Cozy Mystery Author: Lisa Leoni

Poisoned by the Pier Graphics(4)

This is part of my series of interviews with aspiring cozy mystery authors. I thought it would be interesting to hear from folks who are in the throes of writing their first cozy mystery and planning its publication. It takes me right back to the start of my own writer’s journey before I hit the scary “publish” button with my first cozy.

So grab yourself a beverage and a snack, settle in, and find out more about what Lisa Leoni has to say about writing, penguins, and cookies.

1 – What inspired / motivated you to write cozy mysteries?

Writing cozies is a pretty recent development for me. I’ve been writing romance since I stumbled upon my first romance novel, just out of college. Outside of loving romance, I binge all sorts of true crime and crime drama media. I remember being a kid and sneaking reads of serial killer encyclopedias in bookstores (but trying not to crack the spine!). So if I love romance and murder, wouldn’t I want to write romantic suspense? Logic would think so, but the ideas never came, and I focused on contemporary romance.

I can’t recall how I stumbled upon what a cozy was (I wish I did), but I IMMEDIATELY knew it’s what I wanted to write. Humor, murder, getting to research all sorts of different topics, and some romance. It’s the perfect combination of my interests!

2 – What’s your favorite thing about cozy mysteries?

They’re happy little murder stories. When I say that to people who don’t read them, I get some weird looks, believe me. But I’m sure fans of cozies understand what I mean. I’m drawn to cozies for many of the same reasons I love reading/writing romance. They’re fun, have great characters, show women kicking butt and being brilliant, and have happy endings.

There’s a cozy movie series that gets the closest I’ve encountered to having all of my favorite things in a cozy: the Mystery 101 series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Aside from those two being two of my favorite Hallmark actors, that series involves academia (I work in higher education), criminal psychology, writing fiction, and some romance, with the crime solving.

3 – What stage are you at in your writing and publishing journey?

After trying to finish a complete first draft of a novel for more than 10 years (a lot of false starts and a lot of ideas), I visited Scotland for the first time in 2015 and found my muse. I started writing Scotland-set contemporary romance and got into Pitch Wars in 2017 as a mentee. I then signed with an agent and we’re working toward selling my debut. I’m thrilled to be represented by an agent and working toward selling my debut. I’m actively writing cozy mysteries and contemporary romance and plan to publish in both genres.

4 – What are you most excited about in terms of publishing your first cozy? What are you nervous about?

I want to know which characters the readers love and be able to share the worlds in my head with other people. These days, I’m really leaning into the common advice that an author should write the book they want to read. That’s exactly what I’m doing and I can’t wait to meet the kind of people who love these same ideas and characters as I do.

In terms of cozies, the thing I’m most nervous about is the murderer and motivation being easily figured out early in the story. As a reader, I get disappointed when I figure everything out early so I feel a lot of pressure around that as an author. Even when I figure out who the murderer is, I love to be surprised by their motivation as that’s revealed over the course of a book.

5 – Tell us about the cozy mystery you’re currently working on. What’s your sleuth like? Where is it set? Do you have a hook?

I’m working on the first in a series that’s set in a small town in western Oregon. My sleuth is fun, lovingly snarky and has a love-hate relationship with her home town. She’s found herself back in her home town for the summer and it’s the longest she’s been there for more than a weekend since she left for college many years ago. It’s fun to watch her experience the town (and it’s quirky citizens) as an adult with more life experience. I’ve also woven in some nods to Scotland, which have me super excited.

6 – What’s your favorite cookie? If you don’t like cookies, what’s wrong with you? Oops, sorry, scratch that. My follow-up question was meant to be far more polite – “Why don’t you like cookies?”

I loooove cookies! Not as much as cake, but I like cookies more than ice cream, if I had to rank them. Mmmm cookies. Now I need to go bake some, BRB! Okay, I’m back with a plate of hot butterscotch oatmeal cookies. I love to microwave them so the chips are gooey. I also love frosted sugar cookies at Christmas (specifically using the recipe from my mom’s old Betty Crocker cookbook).

7 – A penguin walks through your front door wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why did he come visit you?

“I lost my passport coming back from Mexico. Can I use your computer to order a replacement?”

No one can escape government bureaucracy, not even penguins. He visited me because he saw my cats on Instagram and wanted to meet them.

8 – What else would you like people to know about you?

When I’m not writing, watching Hallmark movies or listening to true crime podcasts, I coach authors on social media and have my own podcast called Social Media Deconstructed. I’m also in early stages of launching a true crime podcast.

About Lisa

Lisa Leoni is a cozy mystery and contemporary romance writer who spends much of her time daydreaming about her next trip to Scotland and ways to murder people in her books. By day, she works in higher education and spends her evenings being herded by two ginger cats. She’s currently serving as president of her local Romance Writers of America chapter and was selected as a 2017 Pitch Wars mentee.

You can connect with Lisa on Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Podcast | Cat Instagram

Thank you so much for participating, Lisa! I love your cat’s Instagram account – so cute 🙂 And Betty Crocker is such a great cookbook. My go-to apple crisp recipe comes from there.