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Ep 021: “Free Book Promotions & More”

Welcome to the 21st episode of The Author Hangout, a “Hangout on Air” designed to help authors, especially self-published and indie authors, with marketing their books and improving their author platform. Authors struggle with various aspects of marketing and we are here to help!

“We can promote all we want; if we don’t have a great book that readers want to read, it’s not going to work.”– Martin Crosbie

Free Book Promotions & More

One of the more polarizing aspects of book marketing is free promotions. Many authors have launched their careers from free promotions, and others wonder why authors want to give their books away for free? In this episode we dive into that, as well as other book promotion ideas.

We were joined by bestselling author, Martin Crosbie, who discussed free book promotions, how to handle negative reviews, the types of marketing that are currently working for him, and more.

The Author Hangout – Episode 21: “Free Book Promotions & More”

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Intro

Martin gave us some insight on how he first got started with self-publishing.

It is a great story, so be sure to listen to the interview to hear Martin tell his story.

What made you want to be a writer?

“I was the guy in high school, and probably even elementary school who wrote stories. I liked having my stories read in class, and I always had this urge to write. Then life kind of got in the way, and I verged off into a career that really had nothing to do with writing. I got into sales and marketing and I taught salespeople and sold product my whole professional life. But I always had the little voice saying “Maybe one day you could write a book.” When I hit my early 40s, I decided to start doing some things that I hadn’t been doing. I took some writing classes and learned more about writing, and I managed to put a novel together. I think as a writer, it’s always there. You can ignore it; you can ignore it for a long time, but if you’re a reader, it’s always going to be inside you somewhere.”

Why do authors hate the idea of free promotions?

Many times authors don’t like the idea of giving their book away for free. We asked Martin for his thoughts on this:

“You’d have to ask them. I don’t. I can tell you that we’ll always have that conversation. As long as we have the ability to give away our work for free, we’ll always have the conversation whether it’s advantageous to do it or not. As I said, I got on the KDP Select gravy train at the right time, and I gave away my book at a time when Amazon was awarding more credits for free downloads than they are now. So I gave away 50,000 copies, and my book got to #1 on the free charts, which a lot of authors have done. When that went back to paid, I sold a lot of books and connected with a lot of readers. So I’m a real believer in free. Now, having said that, in that blog post, I mentioned that free kind of stopped working for me. It was still a little bit effective, but not as effective as it had been. So I started doing different things in order to connect with readers. I didn’t run a free promotion for over a year. I recently did another one, and I was actually pleasantly surprised by the results. The results were very good.”

So, free is still effective?

“Free isn’t as effective as it was, and I went through a period where it totally wasn’t working for me at all, but now it seems to be. Having said that, with any of these promotions, I’ve found, whether it’s a free ppromotion or a Kindle Countdown promotion, it has to be backed up with an ad. You’ve got to have an ad somewhere. We all know the sites that are most effective, and we know what they cost. The more reach that the promotion site has, the more readers that you’re going to connect with. So you do need to pay a little bit of money to promote your book. And it’s kind of ironic; we’re giving books away for free, and we’re paying so that people know they can come and get our free books. But it does indeed work.”

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What are your thoughts on Kindle Unlimited?

Martin shared his thoughts on Kindle Unlimited. Don’t miss his key at the end of this quote:

“It’s been good for me. I can tell you that my borrow/KU units have gone through the roof since Kindle Unlimited was announced. And I know it hasn’t hurt my sales; my sales have gone up. Now, my sales have gone up because I spun the wheel and I hit the right promotions over the last 6 weeks, so my sales have gone up anyway. But my borrows have gone through the roof. There’s been days when my borrows have been ridiculously high, and some days they’ve been higher than my sales. The payout for the borrows or Kindle Unlimited units last month was $1.81. Hopefully that goes up even a little bit more. For $1.81 per unit, to have somebody exposed to my book, I think it’s a great deal for authors. So it’s been very good for me.”

What other promotion methods are you seeing working today?

“Kindle Countdown Deals have been good for me. Kindle Countdown Deal gives you the ability to give away your book for as low as 99 cents and still retain a 70% royalty rate. So although the free was good for me, I won’t do free on a consistent basis. I’ll do free with a book maybe twice a year. My five books, I’ll do free promotions twice a year. Kindle Countdown Deals, I’m doing pretty well once a month with my books. What I really need is more content so that I can do them more frequently. But I’m doing a Kindle Countdown Deal once a month; I’m promoting it on either BookBub, Ereader News Today, or Kindle Books and Tips. Those are the three sites that are working for me. Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other sites that work.”

How do you get reviews from your promotions?

“I do ask for reviews. I ask, ‘If you’d like to leave a review, please leave a review.’ All reviews, of course, help divert eyeballs toward almost any review, because it’s showing that there’s activity on our book. Hopefully, the majority of the reviews that we get are positive reviews, or else I have to go back and work at being a better writer, which I’m trying to do all the time, of course. But yeah, I do ask for reviews. I’ve found that Facebook is fantastic for connecting with readers, so if I have a reader contact me through Facebook, I say ‘if it’s not too much trouble, perhaps you could leave a review on Amazon.com.’ The 50 reviews that I got, I didn’t have any program or blitz out there to try and get more reviews; it just kind of happened. And I was really surprised that many have come in. And they’re still coming in.”

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What types of marketing are working for you?

We love to know what successful authors see working for them currently:

“Blogging is helping me connect with lots of readers. I’ve cut back on the social networking that I do. I’m kind of a reluctant Twitterer; I do a little bit on LinkedIn. But Facebook is where I connect with readers. I have readers come and say hello on Facebook all the time. So I do put some work into Facebook, and I enjoy Facebook. I enjoy connecting with people that way. I don’t think I’m doing anything revolutionary. I wish I had the secret sauce to give you guys, but there really isn’t one. As you guys know, you write a great book. Because we can promote all we want; if we don’t have a great book that readers want to read, it’s not going to work.”

He further elaborated on how important this is:

“We’ve talked about all these other things, but it’s really important to remember that everything we do is contingent on writing a great book. So I need to continually try to become a better writer and get more content out there too.”

Can you tell us about your self-publishing book?

Martin wrote the book How I Sold 30,000 eBooks on Amazon’s Kindle… We asked him about his book:

“I wrote my self-Publishing guidebook and released it I guess towards the end of last year, and I was really happy with it because I felt I was giving information that wasn’t out there. As I said earlier, a lot of the festivals I would attend had companies selling authors services that I didn’t think were necessary. Some authors would want to purchase those services, and that’s great, but I wanted to show them how they could do a lot of these things by themselves and produce a professional product that would stand spine to virtual spine with any traditionally published book. So I released my book. I priced it as low as I could. It’s $4.99 for the eBook, and I got it out at the end of last year, and it did really well. It went to #1 in its categories and I sold quite a few books and I was very happy with it.”

Then what happened?

“Three months in, the world started changing. The self-publishing world started changing, and there were a number of different things that were going on. Kindle Countdown was introduced and a number of other things. So the content that I had in my book wasn’t current. The philosophy that I use in terms of running your career in an honest, ethical manner, that’ll never change. But some of the content became dated really quickly. So I revised it. I did a quick revision and made some changes. There’s a section in the back of my book that has helpful links, that has everything from where you can find free photos for your covers and blogs to promotional sites that you can use. Hundreds of different things that authors could find handy. And I updated that, too, because some new websites – or some new promo sites have come onto the situation that I wanted to tell authors about. So I did a revision, I contacted Amazon, and they said “As long as the information is integral to the work, we’ll let you change it.” So they let me change it, and I alerted readers and let them know. Readers were able to go back and get the revised edition at no cost.”

Martin’s book is definitely worth the $5 it costs, if only for the amazing list of resources! Get it here. Plus, he is updating it every year with new resources and tactics.

How do you respond to 1-star reviews?

Martin had a 1-star review on one of his books. The review said: “Come on, at least make some of them look like they’re real reviews.”, attacking the credibility of his reviews. Listen to how he responded:

“Usually I won’t respond. I responded to a couple, and I responded to that one in particular because it was an author who wrote competing books. He commented that he hadn’t even finished the books and he felt that my reviews were plants, and that’s one thing that I won’t stand for. He’s insulting my name. If he insulted the content or the writing, go at it. You pay the money, you can say whatever you like. And if there is a comment on the writing or the content, I’m going to read it and I’m going to see just how valid it is. But he hadn’t finished the book; he read the sample and read my reviews, and he felt that the reviews were false. So in my response to him, I suggested that he contact some of the authors that had written the reviews. The reviews were on my self-publishing guidebook, so I assume that he knew some of the authors that had written the reviews, so I said go ahead and contact the authors, and you’ll see that they are indeed valid and I was able to help some people. I also suggested that he read the whole book.”

Why are you only on Amazon? Why not spread your work everywhere?

“Amazon are the biggest, most innovative show in town. So I want to be a part of that, and the next time that a program comes along where you can connect with thousands of readers, I want to be there and I want to be part of it. So I’m hanging onto the Amazon train and doing whatever comes up with them. The Kindle Countdown Deals have worked very well. The free, as I said, is starting to work.”

What kinds of numbers do you track in your marketing?

“I don’t know. I’ve found that – I’ll give you an interesting little formula that I found. There are some authors that come out with a new book and they’ll run an initial promotion, and their book will settle into that 8,000 to 12,000 overall ranking level. Which is a great place to be. That’s 15 to 35 books a day. Then they go write another book. I’m not able to do that. My books need a little help. So I need to continually find ways to connect with readers and run promotions. But I’m helpful that one day I’ll write a book and it’ll either go right to the top and stay there, or it’ll find that little Amazon Bermuda Triangle where it just sticks there.”

If you started over today, what would you do differently?

He talked about searching for the ‘secret sauce’ in marketing:

“After my first book went crazy, I spent a lot of time promoting and looking for that secret sauce. And there isn’t one. The best thing that you can do to promote your books is write another great book, and I should’ve been focusing more on writing. I did get a lot of books out, but I think I could’ve got more out. I certainly had the time; I’d been able to quit my day job, so I had lots of time to write. I got three books out last year, which I was really proud of. But I think previous to that, I could’ve got a little bit more product out.”

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