Discoverability: Draft2Digital

3 January 2019

From Draft2Digital:

For sure, 2018 had a few bumps in the road. Amazon shook up the industry first by a shift to favoring paid advertising over organic search results, then with policy changes that led to decreased revenue and even canceled accounts, with effectively no recourse for affected authors.

Other interesting turns included dubious trademark claims, leading to the addition of terms like Cockygate being added to every indie author’s lexicon. Some authors attempted to trademark generic cover layouts and common words to (allegedly) protect their intellectual property. In general, it was a year filled with questionable practices on the IP front.

On a more positive front, Draft2Digital’s 2018 was a year of empowering authors in all-new and pretty exciting ways, with all new sales and distribution options, updates to existing tools, and a whole shelf full of new and exciting resources that make it that much easier to stop worrying about everything else and just write.

. . . .

We spend a lot of our time thinking of new ways to help authors take things to the next level. But for 2018, there was one challenge we were eager to take on: Discoverability.

Finding new ways to help readers discover you and your books was our priority for 2018.

. . . .

D2D Author Pages are your home away from homepage. This is a single platform online, where readers find more about you and find all of your books, all in one place. They’re beautifully crafted—we even updated them with all new features before the year was up! More on that in a minute.

These powerful pages include:

  • Your author bio, and an optional author photo
  • Links to your social media accounts
  • Customizable page elements to help promote your books to readers
  • A button that invites users to follow you, either through D2D’s New Release Notifications or by joining your mailing list, pointing them to your signup tool of choice
  • Carousels of your books and series
  • A “hero” book with optional promotional elements, so you can push a new release, first in series, free book, and more

These pages are perfect if you don’t have a website and either can’t afford one or don’t know how to create one. They’re also great as the “My Books” page of your existing site.

. . . .

D2D Book Tabs are a lot like a product page for your book, but they’re so much more! This is where your book lives and breathes online. D2D Book Tabs give your readers a beautiful and convenient place to find out everything they need to know to make the decision to buy and read your book.

Built on the back of our (very popular) Universal Book Links (UBLs), D2D Book Tabs are entirely independent of any single eBook retailer. Readers can click the Buy Now button and find your book anywhere it’s sold online.

Some key features include:

  • Your book and series titles
  • Your name as the author, with a link for readers to find more books by you
  • The cover image of your book
  • A customizable book description
  • Customizable page elements to help promote your book to readers
  • Your author photo and bio

Both your D2D Author Page and your D2D Book Tabs are designed with a smooth and enticing user experience in mind. They’re a perfect balance of form and function, encouraging readers to click through, to buy your books, and to come back for more. They’re a sleek, attractive, and easy way to promote you and your work and to increase your discoverability online.

. . . .

In 2017 we announced our partnership with Findaway Voices—a new way for you to turn your book into an audiobook and distribute it worldwide, even to Audible and Apple Books.

We saw some pretty amazing things come out of this partnership—

  • More than 4,300 authors produced audiobooks
  • More than 6,000 hours of audio was produced and distributed worldwide
  • More than 1,000 new narrators were added to Findaway’s database

. . . .

We’ve had a blast working with Findaway Voices, and based on feedback from our authors, we know you feel the same. Their recent announcement that they’re offering direct distribution to Apple Books, as well as a new 45% royalty (versus the previous 25%), is only going to make them all the more fun to work with.

. . . .

For months there were rumors, and then in September the bag was opened, and cats just ran everywhere. Kobo had struck a deal with Walmart for not only eBook distribution on, but also through select physical storefronts. Not only could readers buy a Kobo device off of Walmart shelves, they could also pick up a hanging placard that allowed them to purchase an eBook right from Walmart’s registers.

Now you could get your oil changed, buy your groceries, pick up fish food, and load up your Kobo reader all from the world’s biggest retailer*.

*We’re never sure if Walmart or Amazon deserves this title, but we’re inclined to give the win to Walmart on this one.

So what does that mean for D2D authors?

Since we have such a great relationship with Kobo, as one of our top sales channels, it means that D2D authors can have their books distributed to as well! In fact, if Kobo happens to be one of your sales channels, you’re already on Walmart’s virtual shelves.

Link to the rest at Draft2Digital

Disclosure: PG drafted the first Terms of Service for D2D for the initial roll-out of their service and has paid attention to their progress as they’ve grown.

PG has always liked the people running D2D and their attitude toward authors, including their royalty rates. When Mrs. PG read the OP, she told PG that she was going to try out some of their new promotional tools. (She’s had books on D2D since the company started.)

PG was particularly interested in the announcement.

At various times in the somewhat-distant and really-distant past, PG has attended a handful of business meetings with various Walmart executives. The attitude of managers when Sam Walton was still running the place (PG did say this goes back a long time) was much more receptive to new ideas from outside the company than the attitude of the managers after Mr. Sam left Bentonville to investigate potential store sites in an entirely different realm.

To be fair, Walmart is a huge company (2.3 million employees) and PG spoke to a small subset of their management team, so his attitude toward Walmart management has been based on an entirely insufficient sampling of people, most of whom may not be there anymore.

At any rate, PG has continued to watch Walmart from afar. After many years of so-so performance and getting totally beaten by Amazon online, over the past year or so, Walmart appears to have rediscovered some of its retailing mojo.

In particular, has finally become a decent website connected to a warehouse and delivery system that’s competitive with Amazon. For the first time ever, PG purchased a few items through during the latter part of 2018 because  Walmart was offering better prices and selection on those items than Amazon did.

That’s a long way of saying that PG will be interested to see if Walmart becomes a serious destination for book purchasers.

He just did a quick scan of Walmart’s online bookstore and while it’s a long way behind Amazon (for example, ebooks and printed books are sold in two different sections of the store), at least some of Walmart’s hardcopy bestsellers were beating Amazon’s prices by a 10-20% margin.

Pros at Cons

23 December 2018

From Alma Alexander:

At a SF/Fantasy convention several years ago I was on a a panel that explored what a professional (writer, artist, editor, agent…) actually DOES at a convention, how they might approach it differently from the reader, gamer or fan attendee.

For a couple of years when I first started out, I was a prolific con-goer, up to nine a year before sanity prevailed and I cut it down to a few. Having just returned from Orycon, the only convention I’ve allowed myself for a couple of years, I was musing about cons in general, why I go, what I get out of them…what is the attraction for a professional writer?

. . . .

Con goers get issued with a program which details the panels which will be available over the course of the convention weekend. There is a limited number of useful topics for such occasions, and some of the hoarier topics have been relentlessly trotted out at every con since God Created Convention.

This is where we come in, the pros you see seated behind the tables in the hotel conference rooms, facing the serried ranks of either depressingly empty or intimidatingly full chairs set out in rows before us.

You get to this point – you’re a professional. You’ve published books or stories, you’ve been PAID for that, or you’re a professional artist, or editor in the field, or simply an expert on some topic and were collared to take part in a panel discussing same. The panel of “Pros At Cons” looked at what was expected of the folk on THIS side of the table, the pontificators – whether we were really here as revered professionals or whether we were the hired entertainment, the performing seals, planted in our seats by the program planners to keep the masses happy..

There are many reasons one becomes a writer – and at least one of them involves a fundamental personality trait: writers are notorious for being loners. It’s a solitary profession where you retire to your office and face off with your computer, and it’s you in your own world surrounded by characters and creatures of your own making.

Some of us can shrug that off and at least put on a show of being gregarious at conventions, mingling and schmoozing and generally mixing with the crowds – and, to all intents and purposes, actually enjoy ourselves. For others, it isn’t so easy. Some folk are genuinely quiet and shy and not natural public speakers.

If you happen to run across me in a crowded party full of people I barely know, I’m likely to be the one cowering in a corner and hoping that someone might start a conversation because I sure as hell am not going to walk up to a stranger and stick out a hand and introduce myself.

However – put me on a panel where I am supposed to speak about writing, and I blossom into an articulate and eloquent speaker with active opinions which I am not at all shy about expounding on or defending. It touches my passion, and that changes everything. I am no longer just a writer, I am WRITER, hear me roar.

This is something that defines me. And I can conquer the tongue-tied shy little girl who often dominates my social interactions with strangers. When I am wrapped in that writer cloak, the things I have to say become meaningful given the writerly context in which they are uttered.

. . . .

People like me go to conventions because we have written books, and conventions are where our readers are. I have had several people come up to me in the hallways just to tell me, “I liked your books”. That, in itself, is a pearl beyond price.

We also go, and present ourselves at serried ranks of panels, because what we are really hoping to do is introduce ourselves, as writers, to a whole new slew of readers, people who may not have necessarily read us or even heard of us before but who might be motivated, given a good performance at a panel, to wander down to the Dealer’s Room and ask the booksellers if they happen to have any books with our name on them.

But also…After a while, after you’ve been to a few of these, you acquire a circle of friends who turn up at many of the same cons that you do – and it’s like a gathering of the family of the heart. And that’s part of it, too – at the end of a long day full of panels and readings and signings oh my, the pros retire to the coffee shop or the bar and congregate in giggling groups, trading war stories, tossing good news on the table to a reception of gleeful squees (any delight shared is doubled!) or laying some piece of bad news out like a tiny corpse and then having a wake for it with a glass of wine (or something stronger) in hand (any sorrow shared is, at least in theory, lightened…)

It’s companionship, camaraderie – this is my tribe, and I belong to it, and it accepts me, and it laughs at my jokes even if it’s heard them before and it has hugs and commiserations to provide in the wake of disasters, as well as perspective provided by sharing disasters of its own. It’s… coming home.

Link to the rest at Alma Alexander

PG is of two minds about conventions.

At good conventions, he’s learned a lot over the years and been exposed to people he might not have heard anywhere else. At ordinary conventions, he’s been bored stiff, left the convention hotel to check out whatever city in which the convention is located or to find somewhere that doesn’t have any convention attendees to go online.

For PG (as for many others), the key is good speakers. These are speakers who know something and know how to communicate what they know in an engaging way. Some speakers know a great deal about a particular subject, but, for one reason or another, are terrible at talking about their knowledge/opinions.

Speaking of opinions, PG thinks most (maybe all) good speakers have strong opinions about topics they’re discussing. If a speaker doesn’t care enough about a subject to have an opinion about some aspect of the subject, they’re likely to be terminally boring. In such cases, if the topic is important to you, buy the speaker’s book or look up some articles he/she has written online. You can read faster than the speaker can talk and not be bored.

If you’re a speaker, don’t be afraid to disagree with another speaker on the panel. Disagreements are more interesting than the verbal equivalent of everyone nodding their heads at whatever everyone else is saying. If you don’t personally disagree with the other speaker, you can frame disagreement as something like, “Many other people think just the opposite is true. They say you should eat all the different colors of Lifesavers instead of throwing away the ones that aren’t red.”

If you’re an introvert, conventions can be torture. PG suggests that you think about some topics you want to discuss with others ahead of time and do a bit of research. Plan some questions you would like to ask of one or two speakers on each panel ahead of time. Learn a little about the biographies of the speakers and (if the convention provides a list of attendees) some of the other attendees.

Maybe there are some people who live in the same city you do and you can make chit-chat about favorite places or mutual acquaintances. If there’s a lunch or dinner, when you first sit down at the table, introduce yourself to each of the people who are within conversational distance and ask them about themselves, why they chose to come to this convention, what they’ve learned, who their favorite speakers are, etc.

The Best BookBub Ads of 2018

18 December 2018

From BookBub:

In 2018, thousands of authors and book marketers used BookBub Ads, our self-serve display ads platform, to promote books to BookBub’s millions of readers. As the end of the year approaches, we wanted to share some of the most successful BookBub Ads campaigns of 2018!

There are many ways to define a “successful” ad campaign because there are many different things you can accomplish with display ads. The following campaigns represent a diversity of genres and strategies, but each stood out to us in its own way — some had a high click-through rate, some had a low cost-per-click. Some cost thousands of dollars, others cost $100. One campaign ran for over two years, another for just a few days. But every one of them demonstrates the core elements that make for effective advertising on any platform: targeting a relevant audience with engaging creative that will capture their interest.

. . . .

Leighann Dobbs, Dead Wrong

Leighann ran a series of 13 three-day long campaigns for this book in February and March testing different single-author targets. She reached readers on all regions and retailers, and overall she had an average 4.5% CTR and over 6,000 clicks across all the campaigns. Leighann used CPM bidding, but with her narrow targeting she was able to pay an average rate of only $0.09 per click across the entire series of campaigns. A free deal and a cover that clearly communicates the book’s genre (a title pun, a sassy illustrated heroine, and a cat definitely say “cozy mystery”!) can sometimes be all it takes to get readers to click.

. . . .

Melody Grace, Meant to Be

Melody set up four ads for this campaign, using each of the above images to target fans of a single romance author on two different retailers. The campaigns have been live with daily budgets for four months and counting, and so far, over 20,000 readers have clicked on one of these ads. Both images have performed equally well with the audience she’s targeting.

Link to the rest at BookBub

Where Did the Amazon Reviewers Go?

6 December 2018

From The Book Designer:

Two years ago, it was so easy to find the top reviewers and approach them and ask for reviews. There was software that let authors and publishers find the name and email addresses of the thousands of Amazon reviewers who had already written reviews of books in a similar vein.

I had written a self-help book for women about lowering stress, so it was easy to find the bestselling books on stress reduction and find the contact information on Amazon of those who had reviewed those bestselling books.

Then, I put together a BULK email using MailChimp and emailed THOUSANDS of reviewers all in one afternoon.

It. Was. Awesome.

Then, for some reason, in March of 2018, Amazon made a decision to hide the email addresses of reviewers on their profiles. Speculation was they did this because of the new GDPR rules and regulations but no one really knows why. This completely stopped authors from being able to email potential reviewers–even if the reviewers didn’t mind being contacted with their information public on their profile.

Does this mean it’s the end of finding targeted reviewers for books? Absolutely NOT! But it is a lot harder than it used to be.

Amazon is REALLY working hard to hide the contact information of book reviewers, and GoodReads only lets you message a few readers every day before shutting you down for the day. HOW, then, can you reach the reviewers and readers who write reviews?

. . . .

Debbie [Drum] has a program called Book Review Targeter that pulls data on readers and reviewers of specific books. I LOVE the idea of using software to find readers and reviewers of books written by authors in my community. There are authors out there who have already written books that appeal to MY readers. Finding readers and getting them to consider my book is SO much easier when I start by knowing my fellow authors and reach out to THEIR readers.

With this idea firmly in place, and knowing that it is no longer “cool” to mass email folks. HOW CAN I REACH THEM?

. . . .

Amy: Debbie, is there any way in today’s world, to email readers in a way that does not “spam” them?

Debbie: The good news is YES.

When researching comparable authors to find books that have a lot of reviews online, look for bestselling books to start. When a bestselling author releases a book and they have done “everything right” – meaning

  • they have done the market research,
  • their cover is beyond professional,
  • their description is spot on and convincing,
  • and their content is killer,

then that author will probably have a lot more reviews and you will get better review response results from mass cold emails.

I would say first test out in a small segment to see if mass emailing will work for you. If it doesn’t, don’t give up. There are certainly other ways to get the reviews you need to sell more books.

Amy: So what other options do we have? That’s the next question.

Debbie: Social Media is also a great place to find reviewers. When looking for book reviewers, and influencers that can share and promote a book, I like to start with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest.

All of these amazing platforms have direct messaging and commenting components to them.

What’s so great about this? A lot of these social media platforms are listed on an Amazon reviewer’s bio page.

. . . .

Amy: What is the best way to connect with readers in this new world?

Debbie: There are only four rules to follow when it comes to contacting reviewers.

Here they are:

#1 – Be Brief

This is the most important that’s why it’s FIRST. Don’t write paragraph after paragraph after paragraph. This is a HUGE mistake. In a couple of sentences you can explain what your book is about, why you are contacting them, what they will get out of it (more about this in #3) and what to do next.

People will tune you out if you go on and on.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

Balkan Echo

4 December 2018

When Mrs. PG spends a lot of extra time at her computer, PG wonders.

  • Has Mrs. PG found a pen pal? (or whatever an email version of a pen pal is called when no actual pen is involved)
  • Has PG done something that has sent Mrs. PG to a distant divorce lawyer who needs a lot of information?
    • Dirty socks on the floor?
    • Forgot to floss?
    • Was there an anniversary last week?
    • Neglected to feed the dog? (Wait, we don’t have a dog.)
  • Has Mrs. PG become addicted to Super Smash Bros?
  • New book?

PG is happy (and thankful) to announce that Mrs. PG has just released Balkan Echo, a romantic suspense novel.

What is Balkan Echo about?

PG is a parser by nature.


According to The Encyclopedia Britannica:

Balkans, also called Balkan Peninsula, easternmost of Europe’s three great southern peninsulas. There is not universal agreement on the region’s components.

. . . .

Some define the region in cultural and historical terms and others geographically, though there are even different interpretations among historians and geographers.

. . . .

Moreover, for some observers, the term “Balkans” is freighted with negative connotations associated with the region’s history of ethnic divisiveness and political upheaval.

Moving forward, PG searched for wise sayings about Balkans.

~ I love the combination of the words ‘spies’ and ‘Balkans.’ It’s like meat and potatoes.  – Alan Furst

~ There a lot of occasions when Albanians cause trouble, but then we are also very nice people. People sometimes forget that there are good people from the Balkans as well.  – Granit Xhaka

~ I will always fight for peace. But, unfortunately, it is war that drives us forward. It is war that makes the major turns. It makes Wall Street function; it makes all the bastards in the Balkans function. – Emir Kusturica

~ My father, a Russian translator, wanted to distinguish me by calling me Misha, the Russian diminutive of his name, Michael. My name and work as a writer specialising in the Balkans has created a myth that I have Slavic connections, but actually I am British.  – Misha Glenny

So there you have it! Everybody understands about Balkan!

(PG has to admit that he loves the name, Granit Xhaka, but he digresses.)


PG was inclined to be a bit more peremptory about Echo, but since it is half of the title of Mrs. PG’s book, he will not give it short shrift or even medium shrift.

When PG was young, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy were old (maybe dead), but PG was struck when he heard a duet they sang together on one of the three channels then available on television. It sounded to him as if they were trying to mimic echos as they called back and forth to each other.

Now, of course, in PG’s mind, these were echos topped with more than a little artistic license, because no one would expect an echo of Jeannette would sound like Nelson and vice versa.

As a grown sophisticate, PG would never mistake a call and response musical structure for an echo and besides, Mrs. PG didn’t write “Balkan Call and Response,” so he will splash some additional artistic license on Indian Love Song in order to explicate the second word in the title of her book – Echo.



There you are. PG hopes you now have a clear mental image about the topic and attractions of Mrs. PG’s book, Balkan Echo — Jeanette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy with Kalashnikovs.

Both of the PG’s would be pleased if you would consider buying a copy of Mrs. PG’s latest creation.


Try Not to Laugh: 7 Hilarious Ways to Use Humor in Your Emails

3 December 2018

Since most indie authors build and use email lists of readers and prospective readers, PG is including a couple of email marketing posts today.

From Sleeknote:

People like to think that the decisions they make are based on data and analyses of possible alternatives. But, in reality, our emotions greatly influence and, in most cases, determine our decisions.

And that’s one of the reasons humor in email marketing is highly effective.

In fact, 50% of European and American consumers prefer humor in marketing over any other messaging theme.

Everyone loves to laugh. It’s not only good for you (strengthens your immune system), it also makes you more positive towards the sender of the message.

Humor can also give consumers an extra reason to open your emails.

Subscribers may not be interested in your offers, but if they expect a good laugh from your emails, more of your emails get opened and read (and hopefully convince readers to take action).

. . . .

This article is quite in-depth. To make life easier, I’ve broken each type of humor down in more detail.

. . . .

1. Witty Wordplay
2. Visual Humor
3. Farcical Humor
4. Stereotypical Humor
5. Swearing
6. Dark Humor
7. Aggressive Humor

. . . .

Email Etiquette: Do Consumers Like Humor in Emails?

Incorporating humor into your email marketing can really set you apart from the competition.

But, beware!

Humor isn’t for everyone, and it’s important you know exactly who you’re writing for if you want to experiment with humor in your email campaigns (or any campaigns for that matter).

Your buyer personas are (or should be) the foundation for all your marketing efforts.

Your audience might not appreciate your humor just because you think it’s funny. (I remember a few times I’ve cracked a joke, and no one laughed… [sad face])

Another important thing to consider is your existing language style.

Can you incorporate humor as a natural extension of your existing language? Or do you need to redefine your communication style to include humor?

If you agree with the latter, you might want to rethink whether humor is the way to go for your brand. It could be effective, but it could also have the opposite effect and distance you from your audience.

With that said, humor can be a great asset to help captivate your audience and make your brand stand out.

So, below, I’ll guide you through seven types of humor you can use in your email marketing, and give you examples of brands who have succeeded with humorous email campaigns.

. . . .

1. Witty Wordplay

Wit has many definitions, but in this article, we’ll define it as:

“A natural aptitude for using words and ideas in a quick and inventive way to create humor.”

If you want to stand out in your recipient’s inbox, you need a well-crafted subject line.

But sometimes, it’s not the subject line with the best benefit or the greatest discount that gets opened…

…it’s the weird subject line that doesn’t make much sense.


Because it’s not what readers expect.

Witty wordplay evokes a feeling of joy in the reader, enticing them to open your email.

Plus, it captures their attention.

Here’s an example from Barkbox:


There are three things that make this subject line great.

First, the subject line stands out because it’s in all caps. Now, typically I would refrain from using all caps as it gives the impression you’re yelling at the reader.

But in this case it works, because it’s a reference to a popular and well-known song that is indeed “yelled out” when sung.

Second, both the subject line and the song are relevant to the brand because Barkbox sells to dog owners.

Third, the subject line is relevant to the message in the email. They’ve used the word hula instead of who let which sounds the same when you read it aloud. The clever part lies in the fact that the content of the email is a new product line for dogs with a Hawaiian theme.

. . . .

When using witty wordplay, consider the following:

  • Will everyone in your audience understand your wordplay?
  • Does your wordplay reference your product or brand? Don’t invent words just to stand out. It needs to be relevant to your brand (and the message in the email if you use it in your subject lines)

. . . .

Humor isn’t for everyone.

Creating an effective humorous campaign takes time and consideration, but hopefully, this article has helped inspire you, and helped you figure out whether using humor in your emails is a good fit for your business.

If you decide to use any of the above types of humor, make sure you keep you don’t lose track of your goal.

Making people laugh should never be the goal of your campaign. It’s only there to support it.

Link to the rest at Sleeknote

Email Marketing Basics

3 December 2018

From Bootstrapping Ecommerce:

Investing in email marketing makes perfect sense. It has a significant and growing audience — there are 3.7 billion users, and it’s expected to reach more than 4.2 billion by 2022. It also delivers a high return on investment – for every $1 you spend, you can earn $44, and better click-through rates. To achieve the same results, you don’t have to necessarily need to try every email marketing strategy you read on the internet. We’re not saying they are wrong or ineffective, but sometimes marketing challenges like high bounce rates and low click-through rates can be easily resolved by applying email marketing fundamentals. Let’s take a closer look at how going back to the email marketing basics can overcome marketing challenges:

Email Marketing Fundamentals #1: Send a Test Email Before Sending a Campaign

You just sent the latest product promo to your subscribers, only to find out you’ve linked the wrong product — or worse — it’s a dead link. What can you do? Since the campaign is already sent, there’s nothing left to do but ensure the next emails are free from errors.

The best way to prevent email mishaps is by previewing your email and sending a test email. You don’t need a special tool to do this. Majority of email marketing campaign services have a preview option and test email features integrated into their system. You need to use them to your advantage. We understand it’s a tedious and mundane task, but somebody needs to do it — you don’t want to miss out on a sale opportunity.

All you need to do is send yourself the email — that simple! Sending a test email allows you to check and ensure everything is how it should look and working as you intended it to be. You should verify if:

  • The subject line and preview text coincides with the email’s message
  • It is free from typos and grammatical errors
  • Images are loading and alt text has been added
  • Desktop and mobile are formatted and optimized
  • Links are correct and working
  • HTML and plain-text versions display properly

. . . .

Email Marketing Fundamentals #3: Create Thought-Provoking & Actionable CTAs

A good call-to-action (CTA) is more than a bold and bright button or a witty text — it directs email recipients to complete an action. It is important to remember that other elements like design and copy can influence a subscriber’s decision. Remember that your CTA acts as the transition between the various stages in the marketing funnel. They help your customer make a purchase, or click the subscribe button. Whatever you want the customer to do, you need to put it in a well-thought-out CTA button.

Think of it this way; an email is like a book. You have the recipient as the protagonist, subject line as the title, design, and content as the first chapters, and CTA as the climax. If the storyline is well-thought-out, compelling and cohesive, it can influence the protagonist to finish the story, in this case, click the CTA. Here are some ways you can optimize your CTAs:

  • Use contrasting colors to make the CTA stand-out
  • Ensure the size of the CTA is mobile-friendly
  • Keep the text simple yet catchy
  • Keep the CTA above the fold, so recipients don’t need to scroll all the way down

Link to the rest at Bootstrapping Ecommerce

Our book launch was botched and it’s been crazy at work trying to fix it

18 November 2018

From Medium:

I’m trying to remember when it was last this crazy at work. Before we spent a month fighting poor planning and terrible execution on the publication of our new book It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work. Was it when we got DDoS’ed over two days and were fighting to keep Basecamp on the internet? Was it when we touched the third rail and spoke about customer data in public? Or do we have to go all the way back to the early days when Basecamp went down whenever I, as the only technical person at the time, would get on an airplane?

Whenever it was, it’s been so long that I had almost forgotten the cocktail of feelings that go with it. That mix of frustration, exhaustion, exasperation, and, perhaps for a fleeting moment, even disbelief. Why is this happening! How could we be this stupid?

But now it’s back. Oh it’s back. Publishing It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Workhas been the most frustrated, exhausting, exasperated, and even unbelievable process. For the dumbest reasons too.

It started with the design. When we signed on with our new publisher, the shared intent was to publish a new book in the same format as REWORK and REMOTE. So we designed a powerful new cover to the same dimensions, and felt really proud about how clean and clear we managed to make it. We were so invested in the impact of the cover that we didn’t even put our names on it!

But when we saw the final book, our hearts sank. This wasn’t right. The book wasn’t the same format. It was taller, so the dimensions were off. And the translation of our design was a complete hack job. It wasn’t even centered on the page!

Yeah, nobody else is likely to notice. Nobody else knows what it was supposed to look like. But we did. We noticed. And when you pour your heart into a book like this, which we’ve been thinking about in some form or another for almost a decade, it hurts.

Okay. Mistakes happen. We were partly to blame. We could have triple checked. We fell for the illusion of agreement, because we weren’t looking at the final thing. Whatever. The second printing would get it right. Bygones.

Forgiving what happened next proved to be much harder.

Harper Business bought the rights to publish It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work with a mid six-figure offer. They outbid another publisher who were in the final running for the rights by a fair margin. Awesome, we thought. This means they’re really invested in blowing this out! This is going to be great.

It was not great.

Despite paying top dollar for the book, Harper Business decided to only print 14,000 copies in the first run. That 14,000 was based on the first orders from retailers. Barnes & Noble wanted 4,000 copies. Amazon wanted 3,300. The rest went largely to independents and wholesalers, and a few for overseas. Once everyone had gotten what they had ordered, Harper Business had no books left. The whole first run was spoken for.

This is where I kick myself. You think when you’re dealing with a major publisher like Harper that you’re safe to leave the details of the printing and the publishing in their hands. This isn’t some upstart publisher. They’ve been around forever. They publish so many books. They’re the professionals, right?

But if we had dared to question that premise — that they’re the professionals, they know what they’re doing — we’d have remembered that we printed 34,000 copies of REWORK. Our first book! The one that went on to sell more than half a million copies around the world. So why were we printing so few books this time around? We’d soon try to in vain to answer that question.

. . . .

But this book got off to a roaring start. We flew up the Amazon best seller list, making it to #24 one of the first days. Then we sold out their entire stock in less than 5 days. What joy! What celebration!

If only. Amazon selling out their stock right away was a disaster. Not because of the copies sold, but because Harper seemed to be taken completely by surprise. They had no books ready to restock, because they printed so few in the first place. The first reprint wasn’t even set to go, because they dillydallied fixing the busted cover design. And worse, the remaining 11,000 books that had gone to Barnes & Nobles and wholesalers and independents could barely be accounted for. We couldn’t get straight answers on who had the books, or whether any of them could be sent to Amazon, since that was clearly where people wanted to buy the book.

The bookscan numbers for the first week hammered this point home. While Amazon had sold 3,300 books, Barnes & Noble — who had ordered even more than Amazon for their first order! — had sold a pathetic 240 copies. And at least 10% of those sales were either us or friends or family excited to see the book in a physical bookstore.

Here’s what worse: Harper knew this would happen. They had told us that Amazon on some titles were 70–90% of sales! In our case, Amazon was over 90% of hardcover books sold the first week, despite the fact that we had gone out of our way to guide sales to B&N during the pre-order phase.

So let’s do the math here: You print 14,000 books for the first printing. You know that Amazon is going to be up to 90% of sales. Wouldn’t you then reserve a good 10,000+ books for Amazon? Harper’s excuse? Amazon’s buyer just said they wanted 3,300 copies, so that’s all we gave them, and we held nothing back for a restock…

And that’s even accepting the premise that 14,000 copies is a good number of books to print for a title you’ve paid mid six figures to acquire. It costs less than $2 to print a book. So Harper spent less than $30,000 to print books, because their planning department didn’t want to risk sitting with $10,000 worth of unsold inventory if the book should bomb.

That’s what the team at Harper literally told us.

. . . .

All of this would just have been a funny anecdote about how dysfunctional large bureaucracies can be, if it wasn’t for what happened next. Taken aback that the book was selling(?!), Harper then had to scramble to get the second printing together. That took a month. Today is the first day that Amazon actually have books in stock ready for delivery tomorrow. They sold out on October 6th.

In that month, all our sales momentum for the hardcover book died out. We had all this publicity lined up. An incredible review by The Economist. Wonderful write-ups in WSJ and The Times UK. Podcast appearances coming out the wazoo. All the built-up excitement for a book that’s hitting right in an industry-wide discussion about toxic work environments and the cost of burning people out. It’s hard to have timed all this better, or, I suppose worse.

Because what good is having a wonderful launch campaign, if you have no books to sell? After Amazon sold out, our book page would scare away potential readers away with a 2–4 week delivery time notice. One time it even said it might be 2 months before the book was back in stock!

. . . .

So why did it take Harper Business a month to get our newly released book back in stock? Because of Trump. Because of tariffs. Because of paper shortages. Because there were a lot of other big books being published at the same time. Because of consolidation in the book printing business. I kid you not, these were all excuses pitched by Harper as to why there were no books.

. . . .

But no one else at our scale had their launch quite this spectacularly botched by the publisher not doing the due diligence to account for these challenges. Out of all the other new releases that broke into the top 50 on Amazon, we were the only title out of stock for a long time.

We’d get these long serenades about how they too were really frustrated. How these things just happen! How it was going to get fixed any day now, but they just weren’t exactly sure when. How mad they were and what loud noises they were making when talking to the departments in charge.

Every possible excuse except for “the dog ate my homework”. Which, really, would have been a more compelling excuse than “tariffs”. Because that’s really what it comes down to. We botched our launch because someone didn’t do the homework. They didn’t print an appropriate amount of books to the scale of the book, they had no solid plans for a second printing when the first one ran out, and they had no capacity for anticipating that all the factors that had been in play for months (like paper shortages or tariffs or, ffs, Trump) would impact the process.

They were unprepared for and proved incapable of doing the one job you absolutely must do as a book publisher: Print. The. Books.

. . . .

Anyway. It’s been crazy at work. Needlessly so. Painfully so. Frustratingly so. But, like all moments of crazy, it also held a buffet of lessons for us to take. Like, never work with Harper Business on another book again… kidding… sorta… maybe… 😂

No really. We went for the publisher who bid the highest, and we assumed this meant they had real skin in the game. We went with a major publisher, so we assumed they all knew what they were doing, and we didn’t have to double check every publishing decision. We made a deal with a single acquiring editor without meeting the rest of the team, because that played to our bias that someone entrusted to write a mid six-figure check on their own would have the authority to call the shots that mattered, but we still ended up haggling over $10,000 in costs to print books.

Link to the rest at Medium and thanks to Morgan for the tip.

PG will note that the book has 43 reviews on Amazon with an average of 4.6 stars.

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