My (First) Experiment with 3rd Party Author Promotional Sites

To help promote my debut novel Pathfinders, I enlisted the help of a number of promotional sites back in June.

The big daddy of them all, BookBub was my first choice, despite the significant fee they charge to feature your book (for my genre and price point I would have paid $600).

Bookbub has a huge audience of subscribers and a powerful presence on social feeds which is why many first time authors and those that haven’t broken through into the mainstream consciousness (99.9%), make it their preferred option. Because of that fact, rejection is common place, and standards to be featured are extremely high especially for new entrants.

Alas, my fall back was a list of other third party websites, diminished in size and a little hit and miss according to other authors, I had read about on Kindle Boards.

For aspiring authors considering the route of combining a promotion with a discounted book, here are the results for my first attempt where I priced my book at 99 cents for the Kindle Countdown deal.

JUNE 23rd – 29th

  • DAY 1
  • DAY 2
  • DAY 3
    • No sites used
    • Sold – 2 books – $4
    • Net Gain – $4
  • DAY 4
    • Sites used – Booksends, FKBT
    • Cost – 25+25=$50
    • Sold – 19 books – $38
    • Net Loss –$12
  • DAY 5
    • No sites used
    • Sold – 7 books – $14
    • Net Gain – $14
  • DAY 6
  • DAY 7
    • No sites used
    • Sold – 3 books – $6
    • Net Gain – $6

TOTAL COST – $350
SOLD – 78 books – $156
NET LOSS$194

pathfinders purchases aidan j reid
Digital Purchases of Pathfinders

 

Notes

  • I did a Kindle Countdown for seven days, reducing my book to 99 cents from the original retail value of $2.99. Commission is calculated at 70% of original retail for the countdown period.
  • I purposely used multiple parties because of the small window of opportunity to promote my book through the Amazon Kindle program and to maximise the scope and selling potential of my offer. For this reason, it’s hard to pin which sales resulted from which promotion. Not every subscriber will necessarily act on an email about a book promotion on the day it is sent (if in fact even at all).
  • While there are dozens of such companies offering promotional campaigns, I deliberately chose those which were higher ranked (Alexa), with a social presence (leveraging that network, doubling up on the emails), while also looking at testimonials.
  • I also dismissed agencies whose forte wasn’t thriller/science fiction, noting the titles which had performed well in the past, to ensure the best possible splash for my type of book.
  • There were a couple of sites which rejected my approach because of a lack of reviews accrued on Amazon. No ill feeling. I actually like the fact they did, because they’re clearly picky about what books will feature. I’ll approach those agencies again in the near future.
  • It’s impossible to gauge if any of these book sales will lead to future sales of other books. There have been a couple of reviews since this promotion ended, thankfully positive, so the value of that can’t be dismissed.

Observations

I had low expectations going into this experiment, and fully expected to make a loss. I wanted to test the waters and see what difference, if any, a promotion could make in tandem with agencies.

Truth be told, I’m open to all avenues when it comes to promoting my books. See this post and local media (1,2) for more.

The loss for this experiment was pretty substantial, not least on the last day when I used Books Butterfly, the most expensive of the promotion sites. With a guarantee on their site of at least 50 books sold for the Silver 50 deal, I had high hopes that I’d finish on a bang.

It didn’t quite work out that way, and to give the team their fair dues, they responded to my email and confirmed they would issue store credit to the amount of $64 which I rolled into the next campaign for Sigil which ran in July.

The Sigil campaign was executed a little better. I managed to reach #1 spot for several subgenres and you can read about it here. It was offered as a free download and I managed to deliver over 3,700 unique kindle downloads during that 5 day blitz.

Conclusion

The hard truth is that most authors will need to spend money to get noticed. Every sale counts, therefore 78 sales in a seven-day stretch is very good for an unknown author. By having a newsletter signup, ‘Call-to-Action’ or even a second book to entice those buyers following the completion of your discounted book, it can propel you to a wider audience or create a second sale.

I don’t consider this venture to have been a waste of time. It’s probably not a bad thing that the KDP Select cycles every 90 days or else it would leave a lot of indie authors out of pocket!

As for whether third-party sites are the way to go…

Clearly they can be a great vehicle to promote your books to a wider audience. There is no secret sauce. If you have the money, a good cover, a few strong reviews against your book, then you can sell dozens in a short period of time, if you have the budget.

But to send your book into the stratosphere and make mega bucks….I wish I had the answer.

Have any other authors tried using third party sites? What has been your reaction?

You can read more about Pathfinders and sample the opening chapters in the book page found here.

spectrum sci fi short story

image attribution – Brick101 via CC

54 thoughts on “My (First) Experiment with 3rd Party Author Promotional Sites

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