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 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 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 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 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?