Launch Marketing: The Plan
Today’s blog post is for our author friends. Every new book launch we like to lay out our marketing plan by venue/ day, so you can see what worked, and what didn’t.
This time around we’ve gone for a short two week pre-order. Pre-orders are a double edged sword at Amazon because they let you get your product page up early, but they dilute your sales velocity on launch day because sales are credited at the point of pre-order rather than on release day.
Take a look at these hypothetical examples:
- Book 1 has 1000 sales on day 1. These are spread out at 33/ day for the month before release. Book is therefore ranks for 33 sales a day hitting ~2000 in store. Ish.
- Book 2 has 500 sales. But all of them hit on release day. Book 2 surges out of the gate to hit ~300 in store.
Book 1 is selling best out of these two books, but Book 2 has fewer sales but ranks better. The term ‘bestseller’ is complete misnomer. The lists are not (necessarily) the books which have sold best in total, but which are selling best RIGHT NOW. In that way it should really be a ‘velocity list’ or a ‘fastest seller recently’ list but those names aren’t so catchy.
The time frame for each of the lists varies:
- On Amazon the bestseller lists update hourly.
- The USA today bestseller list runs on a weekly basis from Monday to Sunday.
- The New York Times bestseller list is also weekly but runs Sunday to Saturday.
All this means that it’s not just how many sales you get that matters, but when you get them. If you score faster sales then you could hit a bigger list (either on Amazon going from e.g. Fiction/ Mystery and Thrillers/ Police Procedurals to Mystery and Thrillers, or Mystery and Thrillers to the overall Top 100 Fiction) or the ‘lettered lists’ of the New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal (which, by the way, may also have non-sales based criteria such that the lists can be curated, that sales must come from multiple sources, and that sales can be USA-only).
Why does this matter? Lists mean visibility (and credibility in the eyes of some). By having no pre-order you can concentrate your rank boost on one day.
At this point I should mention that some other retailers (Apple, B&N and the like) credit pre-orders twice – one at point of sale and then again on release – so the rules change by retailer.
We’re not aiming for a big list. The Patient Killer will be Amazon-exclusive which precludes hitting the lettered lists, and we don’t expect to drop straight into the top 100 on release day (though if you prove us wrong, I’ll go buy a hat and then try to eat it). That’s ‘several thousand sales a day’ territory.
The lists we’re likely to be able to hit are the genre/ subcategory lists. These are the lists The Patient Killer is eligible for:
- Mystery/ Police Procedurals 
- Thrillers / Crime 
- Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Characters/British Detective
- Mystery, Thriller & Suspense/Crime Fiction/Heist 
- Mystery, Thriller & Suspense/Crime Fiction/Murder 
- Mystery, Thriller & Suspense/Crime Fiction/Serial Killers 
- Mystery, Thriller & Suspense/Crime Fiction/Vigilante Justice 
- Mystery, Thriller & Suspense/Crime Fiction/Organized Crime 
- Crime, Thriller & Mystery / Crime Fiction / British & Irish / English 
Between those nine subcategories we could be visible in a lot of places. I’ve added the sales rank required to hit the top 100 in brackets above* (so to nab the #100 slot in Crime in the UK, you’d need to rank at 954 in the kindle store out of 4,598,026*).
That’s a fairly big ask, but we’ve made it that high and beyond before. Cleaver Square has ranked in the 4xx range, as has Ten Guilty Men. Dead on Demand made it to #168 in store (albeit in 2012 when there was less competition).
Each of these categories also has two other types of lists: the Hot New Release list, and the Movers and Shakers list. The former of these lists the highest-ranked books released in the last month, and the latter lists books which have made the biggest gains. I hope we can hit the HNR list for Mystery, Thriller and Suspense again.
So how are we doing it?
Firstly we’re running a big ARC campaign. For the last month we’ve been offering ARCs on facebook, twitter and this website. We closed signups on the 20th when we uploaded to KDP, and those review copies have been mailed out. So far, so good.
Secondly we’re playing with prices. We can make a profit despite pricing very very cheaply. We don’t have big London offices, permanent staff, or other fixed overhead costs. A permanent price of 99p or £1.99 just doesn’t work for any commercial publisher, but the latter can deliver enough revenue for an author to live on. We’re running four overlapping promotions:
- Dead on Demand is free.
- Cleaver Square will be free for 5 days from the 7th May to the 11th of May inclusive.
- Ten Guilty Men will be 99p/ 99c on Countdown from May 10th to May 16th
- The Patient Killer will launch at the early bird special price of 99p/99c (35% royalty rate) for the two weeks of the pre-order period plus the first week (ending on May 11th).
This is designed to reward returning readers with low prices, and encourage new readers to give us a try without any risk to them. It’s a combination of marketing and remarketing.
There are over half a million copies of Dead on Demand floating around, and we’d love to get some of those readers to come back to the rest of the series.
For this ‘deep discount’ approach to work we need volume. A 99p eBook sale in the UK nets the author/publisher just 28p after VAT (but before personal tax/ sunk costs). An Amazon.com sale is worth 35c (23p). Given that we’ve spent a year on this and have significant production costs (editing, typesetting, art, launch marketing, share of the overhead for office supplies, web hosting, licensing etc) we need to sell quite a few to justify the book from a business perspective.
Our compromise is simple: we’ll give you the chance to grab it for 99p, but we’ll go up to a less-insane £1.99 one week after launch.
Third, we’re going for a short pre-order period.
By using a pre-order we:
- Get the store links early.
- Start to populate the also-bought lists
- Give Amazon time to link TPK to the rest of the series
- Can set up adverts going to the store pages ready to go live on release day (rather than scheduling them on release day to go live days or weeks later)
- Have somewhere to direct reviewers of ARC copies so that we hit the ground running on that front
Our focus isn’t on turning readers into a cash cow. I think at this point we could have plumped for £2.99 or £3.99 without much resistance. We’re keeping prices low to give us a better long-term reader base. It’s about lifetime value, and being fair. Better books at lower prices means more readers, more readers means more long-term success. Doing right by readers is the most secure way to turn writing into a career in the long run.
At some point we will put the price up a bit. We absorbed the 20% VAT hike that came in last year, and our prices have been going down for the last four years rather than up. Inflation says that can’t last forever so we may be forced to go for £2.99 when we get to book 5 or 6 just to keep pace.
All of this needs to be advertised. If readers don’t know about the new book, or don’t know about the special offers, then they can’t take advantage of them.
Our advertising will focus on three areas:
- Direct to reader marketing: this is our mailing list, our facebook group, our twitter followers, our website / blog readers, and our goodreads fans. This group is fairly large, but (with the exception of the mailing list) no one post/ advert will be seen by all of them. We don’t want to spam them so it’s going to a conservative information-led ad strategy (i.e. “I have a new book out” not “buy my book, buy my book, buy my book”).
We’ll also be using back matter in the earlier books to promote the later books, following up on our ARC campaign to try and hit the ground running with reviews on the page on release day, and sharing with our Amazon followers. This part of the strategy is about touching base with our existing readership.
For the most part this is free. We will pay to boost our launch day facebook post (~$20) because we’re only reaching about 5% of our likes on any given day, and that’s not making much impact.
- Promotional sites: There are some tried and trusted advertising partners we’ve used many times to great effect like:
- FreeBooksy / BargainBooksy
- PixelOfInk (alas, closed to submissions right now)
If you’re looking for places to advertise we think these all deliver value-for-money results which are consistent. They’ve got lots of readers, they continue to build their lists (which helps mitigate list fatigue) and their fees are proportionate to the results they deliver. We use these guys as often as we can because they work (every 6 months seems to be a good timeframe for us as it minimises list fatigue).
We also try to book with smaller / newer sites. There are small sites which deliver a good return, but don’t have quite the same volume. We’ve had consistently good returns from e.g. Flurries of Words here in the UK typically netting a dozen or more sales back on a then-$5 now $10 advert. These are still no-brainers, but we find that it’s a good idea to space out the adverts with the smaller venues more carefully because they have less list churn (which means you can end up advertising to the same readers repeatedly – and nobody wants to be told about the same book for the 10th time). One ad per book per year will almost always perform without issue, while anything more than that risks a diminishing return (for us anyway, your mileage may vary).
Then there are the many sites we haven’t used (or have only used once so can’t give much of an opinion on when it comes to consistency/ frequency). The bigger players here are guys like
- HungryAuthor (who are booked up for the next few months) / GenreCave (from the same people)
- Riffle Books
- BookBuck (also booked up and not accepting submissions right now)
We won’t be booking all of these – simply because of the total cost – but I’ve heard only good things about them, and all our results so far as promising with those that we’ve personally tried.
To cap it all off there are some very very new sites still in beta like
All of this group are free right now (but presumably not for long) so any return is well worth it, and we’ll be pushing our freebies towards them. New sites are always exciting and often outperform the established players on a per-subscriber basis while everything is shiny and new.
Then we’ve got a bunch of free sites. Time permitting we’ll submit to anywhere that will list us for nothing.
So now you know which sites we *could* have booked, you probably want to know which we did book, which book we’re advertising at each, and when.
Again the strategy here is to push the earlier books. We want readers coming back to our paid titles because they actually want them rather than because there’s a lot of buzz. The vast majority of our ads are booked with that in mind, so we’re pushing Dead on Demand and Cleaver Square extensively, Ten Guilty Men a little bit and booking no adverts whatsoever for The Patient Killer. Our new release will have to stand or fall on its own merits.
April 27th –
Mailing List Notification (The Patient Killer)
Ask David (Dead on Demand)
AddictedtoEbooks (Dead on Demand)
April 30th –
Freebooksy (Dead on Demand)
May 1st –
bestebooksfree.com (Dead on Demand)
May 2nd –
GoodKindles (Dead on Demand)
May 3rd –
DigitalBookSpot (Dead on Demand)
BookScream (Dead on Demand)
May 4th –
ReadCheaply (Dead on Demand)
eBooksForFreeInc (Dead on Demand)
GenrePulse (Dead on Demand)
RobinReads (Dead on Demand)
ManyBooks.net (Dead on Demand)
NB – KU borrows for TPK will begin to kick in from May 4th.
May 5th –
FKBooksandTips (Dead on Demand)
May 6th –
ereaderobsession.com (Dead on Demand) (pending)
freebooks.com (Dead on Demand)
DigitalBookSpot (The Patient Killer)
May 7th –
BookBasset (Cleaver Square)
OHFB (Cleaver Square)
BookSends (Cleaver Square)
eReader IQ (Cleaver Square)
BookRaid (Cleaver Square)
DailyFreebooks.co.uk (Cleaver Square)
KUForum Ad (Cleaver Square) Day 1
Ask David (Dead on Demand)
DigitalBookToday.com (Cleaver Square)
BettyBookFreak (Dead on Demand)
frugal-freebies.com (Dead on Demand, Cleaver Square)
bestebooksfree.com (Cleaver Square)
BookloversHeaven (Cleaver Square)
MyBookCave (Cleaver Square)
Booktastik (Cleaver Square)
BookAngel (Dead on Demand, Cleaver Square)
Reading Deals (Cleaver Square)
NB – Amazon Followers feature usually offers authors the chance to notify their Amazon followers about new releases 72 hours after release, so we may get an invitation to do this on May 7th. If we do that feature means emails will go out in small batches over the next few days letting people know The Patient Killer is out.
May 8th –
Freebooksy (Cleaver Square)
KND FBH (Cleaver Square)
AwesomeGang (Cleaver Square)
KUForum Ad (Cleaver Square) Day 2
eBookHounds Pick of the Day (Cleaver Square)
eBookLister.net (Cleaver Square, Day 1)
eBookSoda (Cleaver Square)
May 9th –
KUForum Ad (Cleaver Square) Day 3
FKBooksandTips (Cleaver Square)
DigitalBookSpot (Cleaver Square)
eBookLister.net (Cleaver Square, Day 2)
Flurries of Words (Cleaver Square)
BookBub (Cleaver Square)
Choosy Bookworm (Cleaver Square)
RobinReads (Cleaver Square)
KUForum Ad (Cleaver Square) Day 4
eBookLister.net (Cleaver Square, Day 3)
May 11th –
GenreCave (Cleaver Square)
KUForum Ad (Cleaver Square) Day 5
eBookLister.net (Cleaver Square, Day 4)
Riffle Select (Cleaver Square)
May 12th –
KUForum Ad (Cleaver Square) Day 6
DigitalBookSpot (Ten Guilty Men)
May 13th –
KUForum Ad (Cleaver Square) Day 7
May 13/ 14th (TBC) – Thriller author 99c cross-promo, Cleaver Square
May 16th –
BargainBooksy (Ten Guilty Men)
May 22nd –
Fussy Librarian (Cleaver Square)
June 1st –
Fussy Librarian (Dead on Demand)
September 4th –
Fussy Librarian (Dead on Demand)
Pending reply/ scheduling:
- BookHippo (requested for books 2-4)
- ENT [TGM, 10-16th requested]
- eBookSaurus (CS 7-11 May)
- eBooksHabit (CS 7-11 May)
- Freebooks (CS 7-11 May)
- eBook Arrow (CS 7-11 May)
- The ereader café (CS, DoD, 7-11 May)
- ItsWriteNow (CS, DoD, 7-11 May)
- Freeebookclub (CS, 7-11 May)
- eReader Utopia (CS, 7-11 May)
- iloveebooks (CS, DoD, 7-11 May)
- armadilloebooks (CS, 7-11 May)
- eBook Mountain (CS, 7-11 May)
- free99books (CS, May 7 – 11)
We still have some adverts pending scheduling/ acceptance, so check back a week or so after this goes live to see the updated schedule.
If you’ve got anything to add that we haven’t considered, would like to guest post here during launch (or host us) then leave a comment or get in touch using our contact form.