Selling Feelings

20 November 2015

From Stratechery:

One of the more famous marketing frameworks is the Marketing Mix, also known as “The Four P’s.” According to the framework there are four key components to a marketing plan:

  • Product (what is actually sold)
  • Price (how much the product is sold for)
  • Promotion (how customers find out about the product)
  • Place (where the product can be found)

Of these four the most difficult and expensive — and thus, the greatest barrier to entry (i.e. the biggest moat) — was place. Actually getting your product in front of customers required relationships with wholesales and retailers, not to mention significant investments in logistics. Indeed, the companies who controlled distribution were often the most profitable of all.

Consider the media industry: broadcast networks had rights to the airwaves, cable networks needed to get carriage (which itself was offered by private companies, earning them tremendous profits), newspapers owned printing presses and delivery trucks, music companies printed albums and got them into stores, publishers did the same with books. From a business-model perspective all of these companies were similar: by controlling distribution they collected rents on what was actually distributed.

It’s not just media, though. Selling anything — clothes, shoes, pots and pans — depended on actually getting your product on the shelves, which meant dealing with wholesalers, retailers, shippers, etc., all of whom extracted their chunk of flesh. Your typical manufacturer would be lucky to get 40% of the retail price of an item, and often far less — and that is if said manufacturer could get their item in a store in the first place.

. . . .

In short, starting a new business in any industry was really, really hard: simply getting your foot in the door required not just a great product but also a massive investment in getting that product in front of customers, and we haven’t even gotten to promotion (much less a price that pays for it all).

This ultimately benefited the largest players: Proctor & Gamble, for example, could leverage its relationships with retailers who already sold Tide laundry detergent and Pampers diapers to get shelf space for a new product line. Big department store chains could demand exclusivity for new apparel or drive down the price. Media companies could pick and choose who to feature, and on their terms.

. . . .

This is what the “good old days” looked like: pre-existing businesses at best competed with a known set of peer companies, or as was often the case, dominated individual markets, limited only by their ability to scale. Of course things weren’t so good for the folks who couldn’t manage to get distribution: at best they could throw their product over the wall and hope for whatever crumbs got tossed back for their trouble, while customers had to settle for products that tended to serve the lowest common denominator.

. . . .

This context is why I tend to roll my eyes at, for example, complaints about the 30% commission charged by app stores. It used to be that publishing a piece of software was only partially about creating said software: just as important, if not more, was getting said software onto shelves where customers could actually pick them up, and a publisher was lucky to keep 30% of the retail cost for the privilege.

App stores changed everything: now anyone with a developer account could publish an app on the exact same terms as anyone else; Apple and Google could afford to do that because the Internet made shelf space effectively infinite. The wall was gone!

. . . .

What does it mean to be differentiated? There’s no question it has something to do with that first ‘P’, product. A differentiated product is “better” in some way, but all too often putting your finger on exactly what is better is a frustrating exercise. It just “feels” better, or, to switch that around, it’s about how it makes you feel. I’ve written extensively about the importance of the user experience and this gets at the same point: delivering an experience is less about features than it is the entirety of the experience, including approachability, usability, and even things like status or fitting in.

. . . .

I think the model is broadly applicable. I wrote two weeks ago about how the future of publishing will not be about monetizing pure words but rather about using words to gain fans that can be monetized through other harder-to-discover media. Time and attention remain precious commodities and earning trust in one area gives you the right to make money from it in another. Similarly, as I wrote last week, software generally should be seen as a lever to solutions that are much more meaningful to customers, and much more difficult to copy. After all, as noted above, software is infinitely copyable: better to use that quality to your advantage than to base your business model on fighting gravity.

. . . .

[N]ow that distribution is free the time and money saved must instead be invested in getting even closer to customers and more finely attuned to exactly why they are spending their money on you. Any sort of software — or writing, or music, or video, or clothing, or anything else — has never been purchased for its intrinsic value but rather because of what it did for the buyer — how it made them feel (informed, happy, relaxed, etc.).

Link to the rest at Stratechery

PG thinks one of the reasons that many indie authors are successful is that they stay very close to their readers.

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Amazon’s Pre-Order Quagmire

19 November 2015

From author Mindy Klasky:

About fifteen months ago, Amazon took a major step to level the playing field for self-published authors: it allowed us to offer books for pre-order to our readers.  Pre-orders provide several advantages to authors, including:

  • Fans can order not-yet-published books on an impulse after finishing and enjoying earlier books by an author;
  • Authors can guarantee a certain release date, rather than relying on the approximation of processing time for new books added to the system; and
  • Authors enjoy an increased likelihood of reaching a bestseller list due to their experiencing a release day “drop” of accumulated pre-orders.

Amazon remains devoted to providing the best customer experience possible. Therefore, if an author misses a release date after accepting pre-orders, the author is banned from using pre-orders for a full year.

. . . .

Alas, in multiple instances Amazon’s pre-order system has been severely flawed, costing authors valuable goodwill and–sometimes–hard cash.

. . . .

A case in point:  the boxed set Mischief Under the Mistletoe, which contains my novella Fly Me to the Moon along with eighteen other hot holiday romances.  In order to provide the best experience for our readers and to maximize our sales of our limited edition boxed set, we decided to make the set available for pre-order. To achieve that status, we uploaded Amazon’s required placeholder text file ninety days prior to our release.  In our case, that placeholder consisted of one draft novella by one of our authors, repeated nineteen times to approximate the length and content of the not-yet-completed other novellas in the boxed set.  We uploaded the placeholder file and began to promote our set on August 25, 2015, with an eye toward a November 17 release.

Our pre-orders for the set steadily grew as we invested time, money, and effort in promoting Mischief. On November 2, 2015, well before Amazon’s ten-day deadline, we uploaded the final version of our text file. That final version contained nineteen novellas, each of which was proofread, formatted, and hyperlinked in a master table of contents. Amazon confirmed receipt of the final file.

On November 17, Mischief Under the Mistletoe went live.  Shortly after midnight, approximately 8100 pre-orders were fulfilled. Alas, Amazon mistakenly sent those customers the placeholder file instead of the final file. (New customers who placed orders after the book released, received and continue to receive the correct file.)

Forty-eight hours later, the situation remains unresolved. Nearly 40% of our reviews are one- or two-star reviews, commenting exclusively about the problems of the placeholder file (without comment on the substance of that one story or, obviously, the content of the missing eighteen novellas.) As a consequence, we have had several advertisers drop our pre-purchased advertisements, because we have not met the four-star threshold for those ads.  (We have been denied refunds on those ads.)

Amazon has admitted its error, confirming that we did upload the final file on a timely basis. They have admitted that pre-order customers incorrectly received the placeholder file.  They maintain they have “pushed” the correct file to pre-order customers; however, very few–if any–customers have received the pushed file.  In fact, some customers who have complained have been instructed to delete the faulty file, request a refund, wait for a week, and re-order the boxed set. Customers who have manually deleted the placeholder file and attempted to download the final file have generally found that their ereaders mistakenly re-load the placeholder file.

Most frustratingly, Amazon refuses to delete the one- and two-star reviews–even though those reviews patently have nothing to do with the quality of the product.

Link to the rest at Mindy Klasky

Here’s a link to Mindy Klasky’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Barnes & Noble Chairman Creates TV Ad With Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga

13 November 2015

From The Wall Street Journal:

Leonard Riggio, who built Barnes & Noble Inc. into the world’s largest bookstore chain, has been a relatively low-key presence in recent years. He hasn’t been chief executive for over a decade, and has reduced his ownership stake.

But now the 74-year-old is swinging into action to help the retailer attempt an image makeover for the high-stakes holiday season.

Mr. Riggio created the company’s upcoming holiday TV commercial that features singers Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga and will debut Monday during the national morning talk shows. He conceived and wrote the spot himself, and recruited the talent.

In the commercial, Mr. Bennett and Lady Gaga separately walk the aisles of a fictitious Barnes & Noble store while looking for a gift for each other. As they browse, viewers hear them singing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

The ad is part of an effort to tap into an emotional connection between the bookstore chain and consumers.

“I’d been thinking about physical books, digital books, future store concepts, and the essence of what is it about us that makes us who we are,” says Mr. Riggio, who remains chairman of the company and is the largest shareholder, “The idea of the meeting place, the piazza, is so much of what we’ve become across the country.”

. . . .

The company needs a boost. Retail revenue declined 1.7% in the fiscal first quarter while digital content sales, once considered a vital benchmark, fell 28%. Still, Barnes & Noble is optimistic. The bookseller forecasts core comparable sales at its 647 stores will increase 1% in fiscal 2016, up from a 0.5% gain in the fiscal year ended May 2. In August the company spun off its college bookstore group.

Traffic at the Barnes & Noble website was smaller in September than in September 2013, according to comScore Inc. With the National Retail Federation expecting 46% of holiday browsing and buying to be done online this year, that will pose a major challenge for Barnes & Noble and put more pressure on its physical stores to do well.

. . . .

In the ad, the two performers eventually bump into each other and exchange gifts, a jazz book for him, a fashion title for her. Before the commercial ends, viewers hear the tagline Barnes & Noble is hoping will strike a chord with book buyers: You never know who you’ll meet at Barnes & Noble.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

A long time ago, PG worked for a large advertising agency. Whenever the CEO of a client suggested an idea for a commercial, eyes rolled all across the agency.

You couldn’t just brush it off. You probably had to make the commercial, spending a big chunk of the ad budget in the process. Everyone was worried about showing up for a presentation with a good commercial that only tangentially resembled the CEO’s idea, so you had to hold your nose and shoot a bad commercial that faithfully followed what had popped into the CEO’s head.

Friendship aside, it cost a ton of money to hire Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, money that’s no longer available for effective BN advertising and promotion, so there’s a double hit.

Perhaps, at age 74, Mr. Riggio has discovered his inner advertising genius, but PG wouldn’t bet on that.

PG wonders if nursing homes are the only place where people still watch television without a fast forward button.

New Release Notifications

13 November 2015

From Draft2Digital:

Building a mailing list is one of the most important things a self-published author can do to turn her successes into a real career. Discovery is the biggest challenge for any writer, but once you’ve been discovered, it’s critical to keep that new fan engaged.

Mailing lists are the industry’s most commonly recommended method for securing that relationship. At every opportunity, ask your fans to sign up for your list so you can contact them directly when you have important news for them. It’s the cheapest method with the lowest barrier to entry for keeping a reader you’ve already engaged.

. . . .

Many authors recommend mailing-list services like Mailchimp or Aweber to handle this task. You can sign up for an account and send some newsletters out for free, until you reach a certain number of subscribers or mailings.

. . . .

You’ll also need to prepare promotional copy for a signup page in the end-matter of your books (encouraging readers to visit your webpage, where they can sign up), then a landing page on your website to capture those addresses, and (for best results) some sort of sign-up incentives and regular, engaging content to send your subscribers in between book releases.

We…can’t help you with all of that. Not yet. And we do recommend all of that as the industry’s best practice. But not every author has the time or technical skills or money required to do it all while they’re also managing social media, marketing initiatives, accounting, and, you know, writing the next book.

As usual, that’s where Draft2Digital comes in. While we can’t help you with a full newsletter, we can offer you a next-best alternative that costs no money and only enough time to check a box on our website.

. . . .

Starting now, you’ll see a new option on the Layout page whenever you edit a book at Draft2Digital. Not only will we provide you with easy, one-click store-specific Also By pages, teasers, and About the Author pages, but we will also embed a New Release Notifications sign-up page in the back of your book if you ask for one.

Readers who click the link on that page will end up at a new landing page on our reader-facing service, They’ll have the option of choosing their favorite bookstore, and we’ll record their email address for future use.

What use? New release notifications, of course! Since this service is integrated directly with your Draft2Digital account, the next time you schedule a pre-order or release a new book, we will automatically send an announcement email to everyone who opted in to your list. Not only that, but we will send store-specific announcements to everyone who told us their preference, and we’ll make sure we send the notice as soon as the book is live on that particular store (and not a moment sooner)!

Link to the rest at Draft2Digital

Can You Promote a Book without Making Yourself Miserable?

10 November 2015

From Ed Cyzewski via Jane Friedman:

“I’ve never seen an author work as hard as you,” my publicist wrote after a book release.

I wanted to print out that email so that I could either frame it on my wall or burn it in the alley behind our house. I couldn’t decide which I wanted to do more.

I love to write books, but I don’t love book releases, even if my publicist praised my effort.

Almost every author I know jumps into book marketing with very mixed feelings. Authors are committed to the long, slow process of writing, so the fast-paced, socially awkward, time-sensitive demands of promotion prove difficult and draining for many authors. Even worse than that, many new authors know next to nothing about marketing and feel slimy when jumping into it, but we’re still tempted to measure our personal worth and the value of our books based on our sales numbers.

. . . .

Very few authors believe they have sold enough books. Don’t seek personal validation for your career through book sales.

Commit to your writing as a mission or calling to serve a particular audience, and let the feedback from your audience determine whether you have been successful. The results of marketing campaigns are difficult to predict, so don’t let sales numbers determine whether you have served your readers effectively or whether you should keep writing. However, don’t ignore your sales numbers completely, since they may indicate that you need to try something else in order to reach your audience.

. . . .

During a meeting with one author, she shared with me how much she loved helping a friend with a podcast, but blogging was an absolute chore for her. However, she persisted in blogging because “That’s what you do to get noticed by publishers.”

I’ve been there, and it’s true that many of my contacts with publishers have come about because of my blog. For many authors today a thriving blog is all but assumed.

However, I suggested to my friend that many of the most successful bloggers I know live and breathe blogging. In addition, I personally can’t stop thinking of ideas I want to blog about. In her case, she had untapped artistic and audio talents that she had overlooked. I was also able to share how I had unintentionally copied the way another author uses Twitter because I thought successful authors need to use Twitter just like him. However, I made myself miserable in the process and ultimately struggled to make progress in my career by copying him.

Don’t lose your personality, quirks, and passions by trying to imitate the success of another author. In fact, you may not find your voice or tap into your greatest talents if you try to duplicate what made a fellow author successful. One of the most successful bloggers I personally know told me that she has reached more readers through her podcast than her blog.

. . . .

Having worked with several publishers over the years, I’ve noticed how different publicity departments can be from each other. While one publisher emphasizes Twitter followers, another looks at your email list, and yet another wants connections at magazines, conferences, and bookstores. There are certain trends that appear more common than others, but if a particular publicity practice strikes you as draining or ineffective for your book, there are plenty of options out there to consider, and there’s a chance you can find an expert who can walk you through it.

That also means that authors should consider whether a publisher’s marketing team is a good fit for reaching their particular audiences. Most publishers have a standard marketing plan that is the basis of what they do, and it may be wise to find out how your network and viability as an author match up with your publisher’s marketing preferences.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

Publishing a Sequel: 8 Book Marketing Tips You Need to Know

6 November 2015

From BookBub:

Whether you’re publishing the next book in a duology, trilogy, or a longer series, launching a new sequel is a huge opportunity to capitalize on the success of the previous books while capturing new readers.

You’ll already have a built-in fan base eager for more, but you need to make sure they’re aware a sequel is getting published. To make sure you gain as much momentum as possible for your latest installment in a series, implement these effective book marketing tactics.

1. Include an excerpt at the end of the previous book

The previous book’s back matter will be prime (and free!) real-estate for promoting the sequel. If the book is a great read or if it ends in a suspenseful cliffhanger, readers will be eager for more when they reach the last page. This is where you can include the first chapter of the next installment to give readers a taste of what comes next. Bookend this excerpt with links to purchase the sequel, and make sure the link works on every reading device.

. . . .

2. Publish an excerpt before the sequel’s release

While you should update the back matter of your previous books with an excerpt or link to the new sequel as soon as possible, there may be readers who’ve already read your older books and won’t see the updated back matter. Build up the buzz by publishing an excerpt of the first 1–3 chapters of the new release. On the last page of the excerpt, link to a page where readers can pre-order the new release.

Once you publish the excerpt on your website, share the link with your mailing list and social media followers. This will get fans of the previous book excited for what is coming in the next installment, and increase awareness of the fact that you are publishing a sequel.

Link to the rest at BookBub

Amazon removed thousands of books from their site yesterday

6 November 2015

From The Bad Luck Detective:

Books were removed because of three keywords located in the title’s information page in the keywords section: Free, Bestseller and Kindle. It didn’t matter if your book was free, an Amazon bestseller, or a Kindle eBook; Amazon pulled the plug.

Approximately two weeks ago, authors received notices from Amazon giving them five days to comply with Amazon’s Terms of Service (TOS). If you’ve ever looked at Amazon’s TOS you might understand why the biggest problem was identifying words that Amazon now claims are a no no. Many authors missed “Kindle” in the long boring diatribe known as TOS and suffered the consequences.

. . . .

Authors suffered overwhelmingly and relived the tragedy online in many writer’s groups. I don’t have the exact numbers but I’m sure many were hospitalized or even died as a result of having their books removed and their sales plummet. When I have a casualty list, I’ll update this post. Please send me a death certificate to accompany all claims of heart attack, stroke, or choking resulting in death so I’m not accused of exaggeration.

I have decided to take a stress-free approach at least as far as Suzie Ivy is concerned. Bad Luck Cadet & Officer, The Forever Team and The Forever Delinquent are no longer for sale on Amazon. You heard me… nope, nada, zilch, nanny nanny poo poo.

Link to the rest at The Bad Luck Detective and thanks to Guy for the tip.

15 Authors Running Fantastic Book Promotions on Instagram

3 November 2015

From Bookbub:

If you don’t already have a presence on Instagram, maybe you should — as of September 2015, Instagram hit 400 million monthly active users, more than Twitter’s 316 million monthly active users. Also, according to Socialbakers, the top brands on Instagram have a 50x higher average post engagement rate than on Twitter.

That being said, not every author will have a relevant audience using Instagram. 90% of Instagram users are younger than 35, so some genre authors might have a harder time building a fanbase on Instagram than a Young Adult or New Adult author. So just because a lot of people are using a particular social network doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worth your time.

. . . .

1. Maggie Stiefvater – Young Adult


9. Rainbow Rowell – Young Adult


Link to the rest at Bookbub

How One Man and His Twitter Army Stormed the Bestseller List

25 October 2015

From Wired:

Shea Serrano’s Twitter bio reads thusly: “staff writer for grantland. i also wrote a book. there’s a bunch of cool stuff in it. buy it cuz i’m real nervous no one will buy it.”

Serrano shouldn’t be too nervous anymore. The Rap Year Book sold out on Amazon and Barnes & Noble within two days of its release on October 13—and while you won’t see it mentioned in the New York Times Book Review this morning, it’ll be there next week, perched snugly on the best-seller list.

How did a little-known author sell 20,000 copies—the entire first round of printing—before his book even came out? With 36 packs of Yo! MTV Raps Cards and a perfect storm of tweets.

. . . .

With his first book, 2013’s Bun B’s Rapper Coloring and Activity Book, Serrano used conventional advertising methods: he and his publisher reached out to news outlets for coverage, and the book sold consistently. Two years later, Serrano wrote The Rap Year Book, a nonfiction graphic novel framed as a series of essays about the best rap song of each year from 1979 to 2014, with drawings by Arturo Torres and a foreword by Ice-T. This time out, though, he decided to try a more homegrown publicity approach. “I figured I’d reach out to people, do some straight hand-to-hand transactions—like some old-school, sell-your rap-album-out-of-the-trunk-of-your-car-type-thing,” he says.

When Amazon first listed The Rap Year Book, several months before its release, Serrano tweeted the link to his followers (of which he currently has around 43,000). Then he put his phone away for a few hours. (“We were on a family trip down to Corpus Christi, and my wife doesn’t like me to check the phone while driving,” he explains.) By the time he checked it later that afternoon, it had risen from zero books sold to #1 best-seller in Amazon’s “rap book” category. So Serrano decided to see if he could get a couple more people to preorder it.

Link to the rest at Wired and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

Do Free Book Promotions Work (Part II)

25 October 2015

From author Andrew Updegrove:

Two and a half weeks ago, I posted a report on the initial results of a free copy promotion I ran, using four of the more effective book newsletter services. That campaign was successful in the near term, resulting in 4,360 copies of my second book being downloaded. In the conclusions, I noted:

I’ll need to collect further data before I can report back on whether a trial of this scale, duration and impact had the desired effect. The real test will be whether a week from now my base line of sales and page reads steps up from the base line before the sale.

And the answer is?… [drum roll]…No on sales, yes on reads.

. . . .

For a free promotion, an author may want to achieve one, or more likely all, of the following:

  • achieve more visibility and buzz for the promoted book
  • get a large number of people to read the book
  • get more reviews for the book, especially at Amazon
  • boost the sales momentum for the book
  • sell additional books, often in the same series, to the readers that download a free copy

The types of data you would use to measure success is rather obvious, although an author’s real-time access to the information they need may be limited, depending on their platform:

  • Daily sales, and the sales trend, of the promoted book following the sale
  • Daily sales of other books by the author, especially if they have been promoted in the back matter of the promoted book
  • Kindle page reads, if the book is enrolled in the Kindle Library and/or Amazon Prime programs

If your books are enrolled only in Amazon Select, then your monitoring will be quite simple. The best measure will be your Kindle Author Dashboard report, which provides charts and figures for the number of copies you’ve sold and the number of pages that have been read as they are read. Strangely, the Kindle dashboard also updates much more quickly and more often than your books’ Amazon ranks are calculated and posted (the lag seems to be at least six hours). That said, it still takes some hours between the time that a copy of your book is sold or a page is read before the results show up in your dashboard

If your books are in other distribution channels as well, then you will only be able to assemble your comprehensive results as they become available, either site by site, if you have uploaded them yourself (e.g., at Apple iTunes, Google Play, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and so on) or in a single dashboard, if you’ve used a distributor, like SmashWords or Draft2Digital. The speed at which sales figures make their way to these distributors will vary, as will their own times and frequency of updating your account.

. . . .

Either way, one take away from this chart is that running a sale (or a discount) on Wednesday – Friday, rather than during the weekend itself, is a good idea. That way your book will be top of the mind when the opportunity to settle in with a good read arises. Another reason to do so is that I was informed by one of the best services that downloads are lower on Saturdays and Sundays, presumably because people are otherwise occupied, and less likely to be on-line then.

Link to the rest at Andrew Updegrove

Here’s a link to Andrew Updegrove’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

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