Once you’ve written a book and published it as an eBook, how do you find readers? That is one of the key questions all authors ask. You’ve put all of this work into a story: Now what? There are a variety of tactics available to authors to help you spread the word about your book, from social media to paid advertising. The most common, and typically most effective, tactic is a price promotion.
What is a price promotion?
A price promotion is the act of putting concentrated marketing activity around a title for a short period of time while the title is free or priced under $3.99. There are three main goals that authors have in mind when deciding to run a price promotion:
- Gain new readers
- Generate reviews
- Spike revenue
While all three are interrelated, your primary goal will decide how you price your book, so it’s important to enter into a promotion with one in mind. Typically for independent authors gaining new readers is the primary goal. If you aren’t an award winning or best selling author yet, getting your book in the hands of new readers, who can then share it with their friends, talk about it on social media, and go on to buy your other books, is the most important outcome from a promotion.
Why should I run a price promotion?
There is a science behind why price promotions work. At face value, the goals listed above are highly valuable, but there are additional benefits of a successful price promotion.
To begin let’s state a fact: Amazon is the largest book & eBook retailer. This means that ensuring that your book sells well on Amazon is key to overall success. Amazon’s discoverability mechanisms are all run by algorithms, so influencing those algorithms is paramount when it comes to discoverability.
The first Amazon discoverability tool that you want to influence are the top charts. Spikes in sales and downloads cause your book to climb the ranks, both in your sub-genre, and in the overall Kindle store. Since readers are perusing these top charts daily to find the best books, getting into the top 100 greatly increases the number of readers who see your book. Amazon keeps free eBooks separate from priced eBooks, so which chart you climb will depend on the price of your book.
The second discoverability tool is the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” recommendation bar visible on every product page. As you promote your book and more readers download it, Amazon will have more data concerning where to recommend your book, so it can start showing up in these slots.
For how long should I run a price promotion?
As we reference above, the most important component of a price promotion is putting concentrated marketing activity around a title for a short period of time. We recommend focusing all this activity over a 48-72 hour period as that will give you both the time to effectively market the book and it plays to Amazon’s algorithmic preference toward recency.
Should I set my book to free, or a bargain price?
As hinted above, the answer to this question relies entirely on your goals. We wrote this nifty blog post last year, about how to price your book to maximize for either new readers or revenue, however, it doesn’t talk about free eBooks at all, so let’s do that here.
Setting your book to free is the best way to reach the maximum number of readers. When the cost is to the reader is zero, the highest number of people are going to download your book.
If your goal is to gain reviews through a price promotion, then free will, again, be your best option. Since a free promotion will get your book in the hands of the highest number of readers, and somewhere between 2-10% of readers will leave a review, maximizing for the highest number of new readers will also maximize your likelihood of generating reviews.
If you don’t want to go free, $0.99 promos are your second best bet to maximize new readers. The catch with $0.99 (and $1.99) promos is that Amazon’s royalty rate is only 35% on books priced below $2, so, in order to make the same about of money, you have to sell twice as many copies at $0.99 than you do to $2.99. However, if your primary goal is new readers, then revenue should be a secondary outcome.
If you are maximizing for revenue, then $2.99 is the best price point. At $2.99 you will still have enough demand to spike your sales while continuing to garner your 70% royalty.
How do I change my book’s price?
If you have used a distribution service like Smashwords, then you can log into their interface and input the change there. If you have uploaded your manuscripts to various retailers yourself, then you will need to log into your publishing portal for each retailer and manually change the price of your book. If your book is already permafree or priced at or under $3.99, then no price change is necessary.
How to change your book’s price on Amazon depends on whether or not you are enrolled in KDP Select. The cheat sheet below navigates you through your different options. You can also reference our step-by step guide on how to set your book free on Amazon KDP.
On Other Retailers
If your book is available on multiple retailers you will need to log in to in to each retailer in order to make sure that your price is changed for all readers. For Kobo, Nook, and Apple, simply log into their respective publisher portals. This will use the same login that you created when you first uploaded your book. After navigating to the list of your titles, changing the price is as simple as going in and editing the book information for the title you want to run a promotion for. You can set your price to be whatever you would like it to be, including Free.
More specific information for each retailer can be found in their FAQ sections:
My book is discounted, now what?
Once you have discounted your book, the next step is to let readers know. There are two groups of readers who you will want to promote your book to:
Your existing audience
Communicate with your fans if you have a promotion coming up. Send an email to your mailing list and post about it on social media. This way your fans can share your promotion with their friends and family who they believe will like your book. Word of mouth can be an effective book marketing tactic, so get your fans talking!
This is where eBook promotional services like Freebooksy (for when your book is free) and Bargain Booksy (for when your book is priced between 99c and $3.99) come in. Earlier in the post we discussed how finding new readers is the #1 goal for price promotions. At Written Word Media we dedicate our days to building email lists and engaging avid readers on social media. Getting your book in front of those audiences while it’s discounted is a sure fire way to gain new readers for your books, and build your loyal reader base.
What else can I do to make sure my promotion is successful?
The packaging of your book is a key factor in how many readers will download your book. There are three key factors that constitute the packaging that readers are responding to: Cover, Description and Reviews.
Your cover should be:
- Thematically appropriate
- Easy to read
Covers with these traits are going to intrigue readers and act as a hook, drawing their attention to your book. In many scenarios, from eBook newsletters to Amazon’s top charts, a thumbnail image of your cover is the primary promotional asset for your book. Having a professionally designed cover is always a worthwhile investment in your book, since a professional designer will be best equipped to know how to balance design elements so your cover looks good as both a thumbnail and a full sized cover.
2. Book Description
Your book description should be:
- Relate back to a best selling author or title. Ex:”Fans of ____ will also love this book!”
- Mention any accolades you and your book have earned
In your description introduce your characters, give a hint of the conflict, and leave readers aching to know more. Make sure that the abridged version of your story that you tell in the description is just as meticulously edited and captivating as the rest of your novel. Remember, readers will be reading this first. Are you a best selling author? Have an award winning series? Was this book enjoyed by an author your readers will recognize? Be sure to include those details where readers can see them. You can also leverage best selling authors and titles by relating your work to theirs, which will help the reader understand what category your book falls in to.
Reviews are are the final trait that readers look at to gauge the quality of your book. We have found that the number of reviews is more important than the average review score, as long as your average review score is above 3.5. Readers like to know that other readers have vetted the book (as indicated by many reviews) before they take a chance on the book. Readers are skeptical of books that have only a handful of reviews that are all perfect 5-star reviews (they think it may be the author’s friends reviewing the book). Ideally your book will have over 30 reviews with an average score of over 3.5.
If you don’t have any reviews yet, don’t be discouraged from running a promotion. As we mentioned above, one of the goals of your price promotion may be to get those initial reviews. Most book promotion services will not accept books with no reviews, however, Freebooksy and Bargain Booksy are notable exceptions as we support authors throughout the book marketing lifecycle, and that includes helping books get those first few reviews. A book that has fewer reviews will perform below competing titles that do have reviews, so different standards of performance should be considered when running a price promotion for reviewed and non-reviewed titles.
How do I measure the success of a price promotion?
Once your promotion has run it’s course, it’s time to evaluate its efficacy. When we consider the efficacy of a price promotion, we need to think back to our primary goal for the promotion:
Goal: Gain new readers
If your primary goal is to gain new readers, then you can determine the efficacy of a promotion immediately. Amazon has instant reporting for sales, free book downloads, and KENP pages read, so as your promotion progresses you can tally the number of new readers that have downloaded and read your book.
Goal: Generate reviews
Since readers need to finish the book before they can leave a review, it can take 30-60 days for reviews to start rolling in. This time frame can be shorter for shorter eBooks.
Goal: Spike revenue
As stated above, Amazon’s instant reporting will let you know what your sales are as the promotion runs its course, so once a promotion has reached it’s end it’s easy to get a snapshot of total earnings. However, there are two things that are important to note if your goal for a promotion was to spike revenue:
- Backlist Sales: A price promotion will have an impact on all the books in your catalog, not only the book you are promoting. When you run a successful price promotion, you will not only see a spike in sales on the day of your promotion, but you will also see backlist sales – sales of your other titles that trickle in as readers who purchased the book that you promoted finish it, and purchase more of your books.
- KU payouts: If your book is enrolled in KDP Select, then you won’t be able to measure revenue by the title on the day of promotion, but you should see a corresponding spike in KENP pages read, so your KU payout should be bigger than previous months’.
Revenue from buy-through and KU are difficult to calculate 24 hours after your promotion, so it’s useful to take another look at earnings at the end of the month in which you ran your promotion, as well as in the months that follow.
A successful price promotion will affect all three metrics positively, so no matter what your primary goal, it’s recommended to keep an eye on all three. By spacing out regular price promotions you can effectively lift your entire author catalogue, and start selling more books on a daily basis, not only on the day that you’re actively promoting.
Have any additional questions about price promotions and how they work? Ask us in the comments or tweet at us at @WrittenWordM.
Want Book Marketing Tips?
We send out monthly emails full of tips, resources and industry data!