Friday, November 30, 2012

Freebie Marketing--Thoughts from the Edge

I'm fresh from a new marketing/promotion experience courtesy of publisher David C. Cook who offered my novel, Talking to the Dead, as a free ebook download for two days this November. (If you missed the freebie, it's on sale until Dec 17th for only $2.99 across nearly all ebook platforms). I was happy about the opportunity to reach new readers and I dug in with both hands to help spread the word. Many of you, faithful readers/friends dug in with me for which I'm grateful and awed.

Here are some bits of experience, thoughts, limitations, and demons I rode out over the two day freebie giveaway:

--at one point, after I realized the promo was a "success" in all possible measurable ways, I wrestled with the notion that all it takes to be #1 is to offer full length novels for free. I stared down this monster by reasoning the purpose of the promo was not sales, but exposure. New people being introduced to my work means traction under the new work when it releases (whenever that might be).

--my astonishment at the realization that, after years of "putting myself out there" online, at writer's conferences, and on this blog, I actually can move books--and, simultaneously realizing that it's not me AT ALL moving these books, but it's YOU, my friends, readers, fans, and all around amazing people. All I did was create a couple of picture files and asked friends to share.

--on the Novel Matters Facebook page, I was reading comments on the post promoting the free download and I noticed two women who were obviously talking to each other, but in a language I didn't know. I clicked over to one of their pages and discovered they were from Romania. I copy and pasted one of the comments into Google Translate and translated from Romanian to English. Turns out the two women were discussing my novel, and one of woman said she didn't have Kindle so she couldn't get the book. I typed out a response to them (in English) about how they could still get the book for free and included all the relevant links. I then had Google translate my comment into Romanian, and I posted it in the comments section. I was feeling all kinds of international that day, let me tell ya.

--the thrill of working in partnership with a team of industry professionals who are excited about your work is unparalleled. The marketing team at David C. Cook is an enthusiastic bunch. They love books, they love readers. They know how to connect the two in ways I can't begin to imagine. Disappointed writers will often lament that publishers don't know how to connect with readers and can't promote fiction. That publishers leave everything up to the author. Not true. It's the writer who must find the best ways to partner with the publisher to promote. They are a large system, you are a single, deeply creative soul. Use both to your full advantage.

--back to "sure, I'm #1 in the whole Kindle store because the book is free". Yeah, that one again. I beat it with a shut up stick.

--I was pretty much glued to social media for two days. Yes, I obsessively watched the measurable numbers (which means Amazon, really. None of the other sites bother with sales info on their sites), but that wasn't what took all my time and attention. I made sure that I "liked" and/or commented on everyone's posts or comments that mentioned my work online. Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Review Sites, all of them kept me hyper busy. I also did a whole lot of "thank you-ing" throughout the two days. Being Canadian, I'm polite by nature, but I absolutely wanted to connect and thank people who took time out of their busy days to share my news. I felt genuinely honoured by that.

--So, if I'm online all day solid, how on earth am I getting any writing done? Not. Just not. But, it's reasonable to spend two days with a limited time promotion. This has helped me understand the real needs of promo. I don't have to work at it all day, every day, but I do need to dedicate blocks of time for promotion and marketing--around relevant events.

--I have the most loving and devoted group of friends imaginable. I dearly wish I could talk numbers just to let you know how amazing you are, how far you can reach, but I can't (mostly because they aren't all in yet. It takes between 60-90 days after the promotion ends to collect all the numbers--but really, folks, we swept the Amazon Kindle Store. The whole flippin' Kindle Store. That's gotta tell you something, right?). Let me just say even the very, very early numbers floored me. When Cook emailed me (and they were tickled too!) I just stared at the numbers. When I was able to speak again the only things that came out were whispers of "Thank you." and occasionally, "Me?"

--marketing and promotion is an oil and water mix of hope, elation, dejection, yardsticks, and shut up sticks.

Thank you so much for your help, word of mouth, and general good looking-ness.

What about you? Would you want to give your work away? Have you? Is it a good idea? We love to hear from you.


Susie Finkbeiner said...

Bonnie, it was so much fun watching your experience with this.

I'm working on a collection of short stories that will (hopefully) release as a freebie a month or so after Paint Chips releases. We'll see if it helps boost sales.

Bonnie Grove said...

I hope I didn't turn into a crazy MeMe monster. My thought was, it's only two days--just go for it.

Looking forward to your releases, Susie! You go girl!!

You were a HUGE part of getting the word out. I'm so grateful to you.

Jennifer Major said...

I have to say, Mizz Grove, TTTD was probably the best book I read in 2012. And 2011.
So there. ANd I told all my friends about it. Writers AND civilians!!

You earned the numbers.

Bonnie Grove said...

Jennifer, you were a MAD WOMAN promotion TTTD. I'm so grateful! It was one of those moments when I sat back and went: Wow.

And thank you for your kind words. Stuff like that keeps writers writing for weeks.

Margaret Terry said...

Bonnie, I watched with great interest your two day promo and am thrilled it worked for you! I've bought 2 copies of your book and still downloaded the freebie - wanted to have in my kindle library too. As to your question about "giving away our work", I gave it away BEFORE Dear Deb was published. The letters went viral to 7 countries via email and I will never know how many read them other than the hundreds of strangers who cared enough to write to tell me they were reading them every day. Either way, I think giving our work away gives it legs, whether it gets us a publishing contract or continued exposure for existing work...I'm thrilled for you!

Bonnie Grove said...

Love that you stopped in with that perspective, Margaret, thank you!

For those of you who don't know Margaret Terry, she's a Canadian writer (she and I met at a conference a few years ago) who has just released her first book DEAR DEB (Thomas Nelson), which is a unique memoir-esque book of 55 letters she sent to her friend Deb who was dying of cancer. I've read it (and endorsed it), and recommend it to you all.

Back to topic: I suppose most writers can look at their online presence as "giving writing away" to some degree--and I can think of many newly contracted authors who began by selling their work on Amazon for the price of a stick of gum--and millions of people read their stuff. Talk about traction.

It's a new world out there!

Megan Sayer said...

Bonnie I'm so thrilled that the promotion went so well. I love hearing this story, LOVE hearing that such an exceptional book is #1. Awesome!!!

In answer to your question - this is something that interests me greatly. I would dearly love, at times, to release my last book as a freebie and just give it away to everyone. I've given it to a handful of friends and a couple of people I didn't know, and I love that! The thing that stops me is the knowledge that real marketing traction happens in conjunction with a wider network, and the support of a publishing house, and I'd be better off waiting. So I do. And I am. But sometimes I wonder.

Bonnie Grove said...

Thanks so much, Megan. It was fun.

I hear what you're saying, in terms of waiting for all the right elements to align. I think, in the end, it really depends on the writer's gut instinct to decide which way to go and when--and those decisions are founded in the goals the writer has set for herself.

I wonder sometimes, too, if there are other more flexible things I could be/should be doing to "get out there". I've been mulling over a few things recently, but I've not made any firm decisions.

#SageXpert said...

You've turned into a "marketing guru" Welcome! What a great exposition of the powers of Indie Marketing via amazon. It's tucked carefully into my InBox for reference.

Bonnie Grove said...

Sage: Amazon really is something else. Powerful to say the least.

Thanks so much!

Cherry Odelberg said...

Giving my work away is like giving the shirt off my back - but, I am responding to people who already know this :) I am inspired, educated, by your experience, Bonnie, and I thank you heartily for sharing it with me (us).

Most importantly, I see how you were able to market your book in a sharing, friendship way. My fear in pushing to market is that I will come across just that way; pushy, being friends only to sell my book. Or, begging and whining for money.

The theme, the issues in your book, "Talking to the dead," need to be heard. For that alone I am glad of the success of your market campaign.