Why Facebook Cannot Help You Sell Books

3 September 2015

From Digital Book World:

As an author, book marketer and social media specialist, I cannot think of a single more wasteful thing an author can do for book sales than to market on Facebook. Put simply, there is no evidence that Facebook can sell books, unless you’re a celebrity with a mass following. There is, however, plenty of evidence that Facebook is both a waste of time and money if you’re an unknown or midlist author.

To understand why Facebook is so demonstrably bad at selling books, you have to understand two key concepts that agents, publishers and marketing experts fail to mention whenever they encourage (and sometimes force) authors to build their “platforms:”

1. You Need at Least 20,000 Facebook Followers to Move Product

No, that’s not an official figure, but based on my experience and that of my clients, 20,000 followers seems to be the minimum amount you’d need to make any real headway. The average person, though, has just 338 friends. So let’s be practical: how on earth are you going to get to 20,000 “friends” or fans as an unknown or midlist author? What can you possibly post on a regular basis that would be so compelling, entertaining or informative that people would flock to “like” your page or become a friend? I hosted a TV show on HBO and England’s Channel Four. I’m well known in my niche market and after five years I have 5,000 Facebook followers. What nobody tells you is how extraordinarily difficult it is to establish and grow a fan base on Facebook. It is so difficult that even small companies outsource the job to experts.

2. Facebook Charges You to Reach Friends and Fans

This is always the biggest shock to most authors and even publishers: Facebook will not allow you to reach “friends” or the people who like your page unless you pay them. On average, Facebook allows less than 16 percent of your fan base to see your posts.

Let this sink in for a moment: whether you have 338 friends or 20,000 fans, Facebook allows only about 16 percent of them to see your posts. And if you want everyone to see them? Take out your wallet, because Facebook has a business to run. You wanna play? You gotta pay.

. . . .

I spent $60 marketing a popular book to 13,000 Facebook fans/like-minded people with a demonstrated interest in the subject matter and sold just three books.

But wait: maybe my post in the news feed wasn’t very effective? Well, look at the results in the above graphic: 188 post likes, 20 comments and 23 shares. The response was actually so good that Facebook sent me a message congratulating me on the fact that my campaign did better than 93 percent of others like it.

. . . .

1. People don’t “like” your page so they can be sold to. They signed up because they want free entertainment, gossip, information, advice and insight. You can only talk about your book so many times before you start sounding like an infomercial. This fact alone tells you how impractical Facebook is as a selling tool. Fans didn’t sign up to hear about your book, and now you’re going to sell them on it?

2. Facebook has a terrible click through-rate for posts. Remember my campaign that Facebook said outperformed 93 percent of others like it? I achieved a spectacular 3 percent click-through rate (the number of my fans who actually clicked on my post).

Three percent is spectacular? Yes. Facebook’s average click-through rate is less than two-tenths of 1 percent. So when Facebook advocates are telling you how useful the platform is for selling books, just remember that the average unknown-to-midlist author posting a pitch to fans is getting an average of two-tenths of 1 percent to click on it.

Here’s an even more depressing statistic: about 13 percent of fans who click on your post will actually buy the book. How do we know? Because experts believe that Amazon’s conversion rate is 13 percent. Just because a fan clicked on a post hawking your book, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to buy it. They’re interested enough to find out more about it, sure, but buy it? Only about 13 percent of the time.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World and thanks to Kristen for the tip.

How Engaged Are BookBub Readers in Your Genre?

3 September 2015

From BookBub:

Sales differ significantly across BookBub categories. But how much is that variation due to simple differences in subscriber counts vs. discrepancies in reader engagement?

We can start to answer this question by examining how average purchase rates — or the percentage of BookBub subscribers in a given genre who buy a title — vary by category. A higher purchase rate means that readers are generally more engaged, while a lower one suggests that subscribers in that category might buy fewer books on a per reader basis, even if the raw sales numbers are higher.

What we’ve found is that while BookBub readers are active across all our lists, average purchase rates vary quite a bit. In particular, many of our smaller categories — for example, LGBT and African-American Interest — have extremely engaged subscribers. This suggests that while these genres might attract a smaller base of total users, they also tend to be more targeted lists and consequently draw more active readers.

On the other hand, many of our largest categories have lower average engagement rates. This makes sense — in addition to fervent fans, there are likely many more casual readers of a genre like mysteries than there are of more niche categories. An even more extreme example of this is our Bestsellers list; people might broadly like bestselling books, but it’s more difficult for any one title to appeal to everyone’s interests. On the opposite side of the spectrum, many of our romance genres have been subdivided into more targeted categories, raising activity levels on a per subscriber basis.

. . . .

Many of you probably won’t be surprised to hear that Erotic Romance seems to buck all trends, being one of our older, larger categories and consistently one of our most engaged!

To continue our investigation, we also looked at the correlation between click-through rates and conversion rates. For example, it could be that readers in some categories click on fewer books in their daily email, but are generally more likely to buy a title once they reach its product page. Or the two trends could go hand in hand — less engaged subscribers might also be less likely to buy once they click on a book.

What we found was that many of the genres with lower overall activity actually have very high conversion rates. Mysteries, for instance, had one of the best averages, even though its purchase rate was on the lower end of the spectrum.

Link to the rest at BookBub

Cold Opening: The Publicity Campaign for “Watchman”

28 August 2015

From The Los Angeles Review of Books:

The July 14, 2015 publication of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, the sequel to Lee’s only other novel, the intensely beloved To Kill a Mockingbird, was the most anticipated publishing event since the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows almost exactly eight years before. The initial print run for the novel was two million copies. According to Nielsen BookScan,Watchman sold 761,000 print copies in its first week (dropping to 220,000 the following week).

It was a big deal, and HarperCollins, Watchman’s publisher, designed its prepublication campaign carefully. A bit of news about the book leaked out between February, when Watchman’s publication was announced, and July. Two newspapers — one in the United States, one in the United Kingdom — were granted rights to publish an excerpt from the novel before publication. HarperCollins secretly provided advance review copies to only a few outlets, major legacy publications with national and international reach, on the condition that their reviews would be embargoed until the official date of publication. All other publications were told that ARCs were not available to anyone.

The embargo didn’t hold, though. On July 10, New York Times chief book critic Michiko Kakutani reviewed the novel on the newspaper’s front page, mildly positively, and the Wall Street Journal published its review, along with an excerpt from the novel, the same day. This breached the dike. Soon after that, other publications — Time (July 11), the Los Angeles Times (July 11), The Washington Post (July 12 — by former US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey!), the Dallas Morning News (July 13), the London Guardian (July 13) — rushed out their own reviews in advance of the official publication date.

HarperCollins’ publicity machine declared itself disappointed that its embargo didn’t hold. “Am I angry at The New York Times? I’m not angry, but I’m not happy,” Newsweek quoted Tina Andreadis (senior VP and director of publicity) as saying. Andreadis called the Times’ move “a disservice” to customers, but it’s unclear quite what the disservice would be. More hype, more anticipation would seem to benefit Harper, not readers — for whom, presumably, reviews are written.

. . . .

The Times wouldn’t confirm whether it had indeed received an embargoed advance copy when Harper provided them to the press on July 10. But that didn’t matter: the Times reviewed its own bootleg copy. “Our policy is that we do not honor embargoes if we obtain a book independent of publishers’ official channels,” Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha stated. How theTimes got that copy is still a mystery.

After the Times and WSJ broke the embargo, it was a free-for-all.

. . . .

In the United States, only a few prominent publications were given access to advance review copies. The Times had one, presumably; the other major outlets who had been provided with ARCs, seeing that the Times had run a review, rushed their own out. But most publications — including major metropolitan newspapers with very vibrant book sections and web publications like this one — were denied ARCs.

In the film business this is sometimes called a “cold opening” — critics are not allowed to see a film before the release date on the assumption that their savage reviews will depress the box office. Cold openings are designed to maximize sales before the bad news rolls in. Did HarperCollins fear pans of this novel (which was, as was widely reported even before publication, a rejected first draft of Mockingbird) and thus orchestrate a Hollywood-style cold opening? The intent isn’t clear. But those early reviews were decidedly mixed: they weren’t Transformers: Age of Extinction bad, but they certainly weren’t rapturous.

. . . .

Nonetheless, this selective allocation of ARCs caused some ill feelings. Books editor Tony Norman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — who was told repeatedly he couldn’t have a review copy until the date of publication — was “sad to see that [some] publications got special treatment.”

For these editors, HarperCollins’ caste system was ultimately counterproductive. “The Twin Cities has more than 50 independent bookstores and is consistently ranked at the top of the nation’s most literate cities,” Hertzel added.

The Star Tribune is in the top twenty in circulation in the country. We run book reviews three times a week — Mondays, Wednesdays, and two full pages on Sundays. All original, no wire. Our book reviews are widely read, widely shared online, and they often appear in other newspapers. There are more wonderful books out there than we can possibly review. The publishers need us more than we need them.

It didn’t help, either, that HarperCollins wasn’t honest about its ARC policy. Hertzel requested ARCs twice — in February and May — but both times was told by the HarperCollins publicity department that nobody would be receiving advance copies, so as to ensure a “level playing field,” in the words of HarperCollins’ Andreadis.

. . . .

The embargo and selective ARC provision aren’t the only distasteful things about the rollout of Go Set a Watchman. In their zeal to capitalize on what the Times’ Joe Nocera called a “phony literary event,” major media outlets seem to have lost their analytical faculties, and, with some notable exceptions (such as the Times, whose reporting on the Lee saga, Kakutani’s softball review aside, has been exemplary), served as publicity mouthpieces. On July 13 — the day before publication — PBS’s American Masters broadcast a short interview with Lee and Tonja Carter, Lee’s lawyer and the woman who brought Watchman to HarperCollins’ attention. Is PBS now working for HarperCollins’ publicity department?

The most important questions, though, are about the book itself. Why this version? Why now, after all these years? Harper Lee is aging — now 89 — and living in a nursing home. Her sister Alice Lee, a lawyer who looked after Harper for many years, passed away at the age of 103 on November 17, 2014. Almost immediately after that, Carter (who had worked in Alice Lee’s firm) brought the novel to HarperCollins’ attention. Carter stated that she had only discovered the existence of this manuscript in August 2014, but The New York Times reported that as early as 2011, Carter had been aware of — had in fact been present at an appraisal of — this very manuscript.

. . . .

Whether Harper Lee was fully capable of making these decisions is unknown. Alice, in a 2011 letter, said that her sister “can’t see and can’t hear and will sign anything put before her by anyone in whom she has confidence.” Carter is sticking by her story, and HarperCollins has stated that they believe her.

. . . .

[W]hen I worked in the early 1990s for Basic Books, then a prestige HarperCollins imprint (now independent), on at least two occasions our editor-in-chief received instructions from the top either to publish or scuttle books that would have directly impacted Murdoch’s business interests in China. Would HarperCollins skirt its ethical responsibilities when it comes to a sure blockbuster title from a potentially compromised author? Is there anything to suggest the company wouldn’t?

. . . .

[T]his event shows us the underside of the publishing business. With conglomeratization and consolidation, the major publishers look to the major legacy journalistic outlets as partners in the promotion of this book. Smaller, regional outlets with links to local bookstores and readers were shut out, as were web-based publications such as the Los Angeles Review of Books, which are increasingly the places where readers gather.

More concerning is the refusal of editors and reviewers at the favored few outlets to discuss the “event.” Both the books editor and the reviewer at theLos Angeles Times, for instance, refused to comment, and the books editor atThe Washington Post did not respond to a request for a statement. All of this suggests a newspaper world more concerned with its complex relationship to publishers, and perhaps more importantly their parent media conglomerates, than to the free flow of information that is its stated mission.

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Review of Books and thanks to Dave for the tip.

What are the Most Popular Title Trends in Your Genre?

27 August 2015

From Bookbub:

We created word clouds of the titles we’ve run in each of our categories to help you brainstorm titles for your next book. These word clouds represent the most-used words in each genre, not the highest-selling, and are intended to give you a good idea for what themes and choices are popular among your fellow authors.


Link to the rest at Bookbub

Why Smart Publishers Build Bad Websites

25 August 2015

From Digital Book World:

When you compare the online traffic of a news website against that of a publisher’s website, who do you think gets the most visitors? Think the New York Times or Fox News versus HarperCollins or Simon & Schuster. To almost no one’s surprise, it’s not even close: the news sites get much more traffic. Yet both groups create massive amounts of content that people enjoy reading. So why such a big difference? Put simply, one group understands the power of content.

Let’s face it: most readers never visit publishers’ sites. And if they do, they don’t find many good reasons to return. That’s because the typical publisher’s site is covered with dozens of images showing frontlist releases, current bestsellers, author listings and some lame ads to join a boring mailing list.

In other words, a publisher’s site feels like an inferior online store. Yet if it were in fact a good online store, the retailers would get upset. It’s a bit of a catch-22, which is why most publishers’ sites work against themselves.

Is there a better approach to take? Yes. Mimic the news sites and focus on offering compelling content rather than just selling product.

Publishers possess huge repositories of great content that people want to read. Too often, though, this wealth of content is left sitting in a publisher’s warehouse or on its servers. All this dormant content represents a vast amount of untapped selling power. Yet I rarely see publishers taking advantage of this great opportunity on their sites.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

How to Get Blurbs for Your Book & Use Them In Your Marketing

25 August 2015

From Bookbub:

Blurbs are quotes from fellow authors or review publications endorsing a book, which are sometimes used on a book cover or in a book’s marketing material (e.g. the description on retailer websites). They are often effective at catching readers’ attention, especially if the readers are familiar with the blurbing author or publication, and can help entice them to make that final purchasing decision. After all, if an author they trust loved a book, chances are they’ll love it, too!

. . . .

Blurbs help attract readers to your books, and our tests show that blurbs effectively make a book more appealing. At BookBub, we often run split A/B tests to see what book description copy resonates most with our subscribers. To do this, when sending our daily BookBub Featured Deals emails, we randomly send a slightly different version of the same promotion to two groups of our subscribers. We tested the effectiveness of blurb copy by sending Group A a version of the description with a blurb while sending Group B a version without a blurb. Everything else in the promotion remained exactly the same.

. . . .

Our tests showed that book descriptions including blurbs got an average of 22.6 percent higher click-through rates than those without blurbs.

. . . .

We also ran A/B tests comparing descriptions that included a blurb from an author versus a blurb from a publication, such as Publishers Weekly or The New York Times. Our tests revealed that you should quote authors rather than publications where possible. Descriptions that included a blurb from an author got an average 30.4 percent higher click-through rate than descriptions including a blurb from a publication.

Link to the rest at Bookbub

Do book tours sell books?

19 August 2015

From The Washington Post:

Years ago, when David Baldacci was setting out in the book-writing business, he received an invitation. A woman in Nebraska called and asked him to fly out and visit her book club. It had three members. “I said, ‘I’ll be there.’ She goes, ‘I’ll have pot roast for dinner.’ I said, ‘Terrific!’”

Baldacci told me his philosophy on book tours was pretty basic, back in the ’90s: “If anybody called up and said, ‘Would you come?’ I said yes.”

But what about now? I pressed him. When you can reach zillions of readers lounging around tweeting from your living room sofa? What’s the value of crisscrossing the country in person? We were at a packed event for Baldacci at Politics and Prose here in Washington, D.C.; I was one of the considerably-more-than-three people who turned up last autumn to hear him discuss his novel, “The Escape.”

“I don’t have to be here on a Saturday night,” he replied, eyeing me sternly. “I’ve sold all the books I ever have to sell. But…it’s far better to go out on book tour than it is to sit and tweet. I lament the fact that publishers don’t send out novelists as much as they used to. It’s expensive, but it’s money well worth it.”

Days after our exchange, “The Escape” hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list, so let’s assume the guy is on to something. The book tour ain’t dead yet.

I had an ulterior motive in quizzing Baldacci. My second novel was about to be released, and I needed ammo to persuade my own publisher to send me on tour. The campaign worked. I’ve spent the last few months delivering book talks from Atlanta to Seattle to Damariscotta, Maine. Some of the travel has been on Simon & Schuster’s dime; some has been on mine. Has it been worth it? In short, do book tours sell books? Well, yes and no. Yes, I’ve sold books to people who wouldn’t otherwise have bought them. No, I almost certainly haven’t sold enough to recoup the plane and hotel bills.

. . . .

1. Don’t read aloud from your book.

It may be called a book reading, but people do not want to spend an evening listening to you stumble through prose they’re perfectly capable of reading for themselves. Instead, tell the story of how you found your agent. (Everyone secretly wants an agent.) Tell the funniest story you heard this week, book-related or no. If you absolutely must read, pick a provocative bit. I favor a seduction scene from late in “The Bullet.” My protagonist — sheathed in tight jeans, lips painted ruby red — is whispering to a man about car engines and guns. She leans against a pickup truck, talking fast, letting his eyes trace her curves. “Keep reading,” moaned a man in the back at my San Francisco reading. “Please don’t stop.” He bought three hardcover copies.

2. Give your event a killer title.

If you can work in the words “wine,” “coffee” or “doughnuts,” so much the better. A Texas friend hosts signings with fellow female writers under the banner, “Wine, Women and Mystery.” Count me in. Or, take KramerBooks in Dupont Circle, which recently invited customers to crime-fiction readings headlined “Noir at the Bar” and—more alluring still—“Dames at Dusk.” They could very well have titled this last event, “Seven Women Read Excerpts from Their Books.” Which one would you make time for?

. . . .

6. Don’t say yes to every invitation.

Another writer once forwarded me this headline from the Onion: “Author Promoting Book Gives It Her All Whether It’s Just 3 People Or A Crowd Of 9 People.” I giggled. It’s a funny article, right up until the moment it becomes your life. For me that moment came in the city where I now live. I have friends here, dammit. I had promoted the hell out of the event on social media. Five people showed, one of whom I am married to. Why? Sometimes there is no why. But in my case, the signing in question was my fourth in D.C., and that might have been one too many. Fans and friends—even really good friends—get tired. So pick and choose wisely. And should it happen to you: Take a deep breath, deliver a storming book talk and then let your spouse steer you to the nearest bar for a double martini.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post

39 Stellar Examples of Author Facebook Cover Photo Designs

18 August 2015

From Bookbub Partners:

Social media is an important element of any author’s online platform. According to a survey of 6,000 readers by Marie Force, 69% of readers use Facebook to find information about their favorite author, and 88% of readers follow their favorite author on Facebook. Whether you have a page, public profile, or group, you can brand your Facebook presence with a unique cover photo design.

Your online platform should always look polished and professional, and make it easy for readers to connect you with your books. Also, whenever someone likes your page, follows your profile, friends you, or joins your group, your cover photo will appear on her News Feed for her friends to see (a percentage of which is determined by Facebook’s algorithm, but regardless, some people will see it). Your cover photo will also appear on fans’ News Feeds whenever you update it.

. . . .

If you don’t have a professional designer at your disposal, here are some quick tips for spinning up a great Facebook cover photo:

  • The full dimensions of the cover photo are 851px wide by 315px tall.
  • To ensure your design isn’t cut off on mobile, on people’s news feeds, or upon their first visit to your page, try to fit your most important design elements within the bottom 150px and middle 563px. Still confused? This guide to Facebook’s dimensions should help.


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Link to the rest at Bookbub Partners

The World of Publishing: 1991 vs. 2014

17 August 2015

From PowellsBooks Blog:

The Diamond Lane, published in May 1991, was my second novel, and what is most striking about the difference between the publishing process 23 years ago and now is not that the book was written on a Kaypro, Xeroxed at Kinko’s, and sent overnight in a FedEx box to G. P. Putnam’s Sons, but that after the manuscript was accepted and given a pub date, I asked my esteemed editor, “What should I do now?” and she said, “Just write the next one.”

. . . .

That said, in 1991, the main job of a writer was to just write the next one. Publicity-wise, you were expected to be able to show up to a reading (arranged by your more charming publicist) and read from your own work in a manner that didn’t put people to sleep. You were expected to be socially awkward, possibly unkempt, and a little wild-eyed — bonus points awarded for not being falling down drunk. After your book tour, whether large or small, you were expected to disappear into your scribe-cave.

. . . .

My literary brother, the inestimable Tom Spanbauer (our first and second books were published by the same editor at Putnam’s in the ’90s, and we’ve each had a title reissued by Hawthorne Books Rediscovery Series), once said, “A writer is someone who wasn’t invited to the party.”

He means, of course, that writers are outsiders, and usually not by their own choosing. It’s whythey’re writers. If they didn’t feel alienated from human experience, they wouldn’t feel so drawn to writing to make sense of their lives. It’s not the outsider’s facility for language that makes her a writer — many a student body president or homecoming queen can turn a phrase — but her ability to howl at the moon, on the page.

. . . .

In 2014, the landscape of a writer’s life is so different as to be unrecognizable. Every writer, whether legacy or self-published, is expected to be capable of launching a sophisticated, far-ranging, full-throttle, buzz-generating, platform-building, unending branding extravaganza. To do this, you must be charismatic, witty, attractive, selfiegenic, while also possessing the marketing chops of the team who rolled out the iPod, thus saving Apple from impending bankruptcy.

That the time-consuming, solitary indwelling required to build a world in your head and put it on paper and the zippity-do-dah extroverted glad-handing required to be a successful promoter of, well, anything rarely exist inside the same human being is immaterial. Publishers have always wanted to sell books, but historically they’ve tended to acquire books they believed they could sell; now we’ve entered an age where they acquire books which they believe the writer can sell.

Link to the rest at PowellsBooks Blog and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Ultimate Guide to Self-Publishing & Book Distribution Tools

14 August 2015

From BookBub:

If you’re self-publishing your books, formatting the finished versions and distributing them to retailers can be a complicated process. To make this complex process simpler, several services are available to help authors distribute their books. And since the universe is perpetually on a mission to make your brain explode, all of the service providers are different: They partner with different retailers, offer different royalty rates, have different upfront costs, do or don’t offer formatting services, etc.

We don’t like it when brains explode, so to save our partners from this headache, we wanted to create the most comprehensive guide to choosing a self-publishing tool that is right for your publishing goals. Note that there is no single correct choice or combination of platforms you should use; it really depends on your personal publishing needs and preferences. We simply wanted to provide information about the most popular distribution services in one place for authors unsure of where to find this info.

. . . .

Before diving into the comparisons, let’s cut to the chase. At minimum, you want your book to be on Amazon Kindle & Barnes & Noble Nook, since they comprise 70%–80% of all US ebook sales, followed by Apple iBooks, Google Play, Kobo (especially for Canada), and Flipkart (for India). You should make your books available on as many retailers as possible to cater to the majority of readers. Next, if you want to see your book in print, you should get a print on demand (POD) distributor to make sure your print book is available for purchase on the major online retailers.

Here is a combination of distributors we often see authors use:

  • Work directly with Amazon KDP (but not KDP Select) to get your book on Amazon.
  • Use Smashwords to get your ebook on all other major retailers.
  • Use Createspace to distribute POD on Amazon.
  • Use IngramSpark to distribute POD on all other major retailers for worldwide distribution.

. . . .


a bookbub-distributor-comparison-chart


Link to the rest at BookBub and thanks to Stephen for the tip.

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