A Justice Unending email ad.

You can use someone else’s mailing list to send book deals directly to someone’s inbox! But does it work?

So, let’s be honest. I don’t know anything about marketing a book.

This is decidedly Not a Very Good Thing, because I happen to have a book published by a small press. But–and this is the part where I admit my very embarrassing life lessons to the internet, where it will be engraved in stone and never forgotten, ever–I didn’t really know what to expect. I threw poor Justice Unending to the winds, figuring I’d figure out what was working as I went, based on whether I was selling books or not.

Consequently, I’ve been learning as I go. If I sell anything, I did something right. If I didn’t, then I did something wrong. This is an advertising trial by fire, and I’ve done a lot of not selling books as I’ve figured myself out.

So here are my lessons. I had (and have!) no idea what I’m doing. But if I can figure it out, you can figure it out. Let’s do this thing!

This week, I’m going to talk about my experience with mailing lists.

What are they?

There are a lot of book-related mailing lists. People sign up to get ads for books they want to read. You, the author, pay for the right to send an ad to the thousands of people on these lists.

These are usually discount lists, so they only promote books that are on sale, under a certain price, or free. People don’t sign up for these just so they can be advertised to, after all–they want a deal!

What did I use?

I bought ads in two services:

*Note, GenreCrave seems to do its genre-based mailing list work through BookRebel now. I know nothing about this because that was not the case when I used them back in November 2016.

What did I get?

I got:

  • A brief, one-paragraph pitch
  • A picture of the cover
  • A link to a sales page (normally the Amazon page)
  • One promotion to the mailing list
  • (GenreCrave only) Posting on the website under the genre-specific list

For GenreCrave, I chose the very small (and very cheap) Steampunk & Dystopian list. For Bargain Booksey, I chose the much larger Fantasy & Paranormal list.

How easy was it?

These are super easy.

  • Do a little research. There are a lot of these out there. You want one that reaches a lot of people for a reasonable price.
  • Then just choose a day and pay them.
  • You’ll probably need to write a summary and send them links and a cover image.

That’s it. No learning required. No work needed on your end. Just throw money at a list and they will mail it out for you.

How well did they work?

This is mildly complicated:

  • They were good for getting purchases on a single, specific date.
  • They were not good for getting a lot of purchases.
  • They were not good for getting ongoing purchases.

So, here’s what I noticed: on the days my ads ran, I did get a few purchases. However, I got very few purchases. While you can’t tell where your Amazon purchases came from and I actually don’t have 100% of my sales data for the Bargain Booksey sales period yet, I’m going to guess that both of these got me only between 1-3 sales.

In terms of sales, that’s not great. Neither of these recouped their costs.

However, that’s not necessarily bad, because those sales all happened on a 1-2 day period. And that might have a rather specific use.

So what do I think?

One or two sales isn’t very good. And while there are always variables (did I write terrible promo text? Did I choose a bad day?), I can’t imagine that a one-day, one-time email will ever result in ongoing sales.

But I do think mailings lists have a use. Just a very specific one.

Your Amazon sales rank–and thus your position in Amazon bestseller lists–is a very fluid number. Selling just one copy can rocket up your sales rank. That rank will go down  every day you don’t sell a copy, and it’ll shoot up every time you sell another one.

So you don’t need to sell a large volume of books for your Amazon sales rank to go up. You could hit the top of some genre bestseller lists with a relatively small number of sales–they just have to happen close together.

And mailing lists are good for this.

So, based on what I saw:

  • It’s not a very good technique if it’s all you do. A mailing list, by itself, will not result in enough sales to mean anything.
  • But it is helpful as part of a marketing campaign that focuses on a specific date.
  • And it could be helpful if you want to get a high rank on an Amazon bestseller list.

So a good one, chosen on a specific date, might be a great choice for, say, your launch date! Or your relaunch date! Or a sale when you’re doing a lot of other ads!

But if you’re brand new at marketing and really want to get your book out in front of eyeballs, or you’re starting from scratch–like I was!–I wouldn’t suggest doing these and nothing else.

I didn’t make my money back on either of these ads. I didn’t even come close! And they didn’t seem to give me any ongoing benefit–I didn’t gain followers, see traffic on my websites, gain book reviews, or see an increase in shelved books on Goodreads. I saw literally 1-3 sales around the date I placed my ads, and then nothing.

So if you’re trying to use your marketing dollars carefully, I probably wouldn’t start with these–or at least use them without a specific goal in mind.

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Got a science fiction/fantasy novel that’s more or less ready to pitch? Hodderscape, the SFF branch of the publisher Hodder & Stoughton, is accepting unagented submissions between August 3 and 16:

Open Submissions: The Guidelines! | Hodderscape

They even mention in the comments that it doesn’t have to be finished. (Although goodness gracious, that sounds like a terrifying and intimidating idea.) They don’t even require a query, just some basic information, a 2-page synopsis and the first 3 chapters (or 15,000 words, whichever you prefer).

And, better yet, it appears to pass the Absolute Write test of “Hey, is this a good opportunity?”

I’ve been a huge fan of Writer Beware for years and years. So here’s their 2014 year in review!

Writer Beware®: The Blog: 2014 in Review: The Best of Writer Beware

I’ll have a more substantial post for next week!

Guys. I am so excited for Pitch Wars. So. Excited. I can barely stand it!

Photo that reads 'Pitch Wars 2014! Submissions August 18, Agent Round November 4-5. www.brenda-drake.com, @brendadrake/#PitchWars.

Hotlinked from the Pitch Wars blog.

Pitch Wars is one of those legendary events. I’ve never participated before, but I’ve watched people get super-duper excited about it. And now it’s here again, and at the very best of times!

Pitch Wars is an event for authors with 100% completed, ready-to-pitch manuscripts. On August 18 (just a week from now!), you send your query and first chapter to your top 4 mentors. If you get chosen, they’ll spend the next two months editing your query and manuscript in preparation for the November agent round. The agents then review the newly-edited queries and manuscripts. You can read more about it on the Pitch Wars blog.

So now–right now!–people who want to participate have to make sure their query letter and first chapter are ready to go. They also have to review the list of mentors and find the four best suited to their work.

There are resources galore. All the mentors seem to be on Twitter, where they’re answering everyone’s questions. There are video interviews with the mentors, too! (Check out the MG and the first and second YA/NA ones!)

And the timing is so perfect.

My YA fantasy, Justice Unending has had a complicated life. It was written, polished, and pitched. That didn’t pan out. After a great deal of reflection, I did some major restructuring, changed 1/4 of the story and one character, and went on a beta crusade. After being encouraged by a lot of praise and some relatively minor recommendations, I used AW’s mighty Share Your Work board to craft a much better query letter. And now, after all that work, I finished my last copyedits… last week.

My original plan was to pitch it next month. Obviously, Pitch Wars is moving the timeline up a little.

And I am totally ready for this. Here’s hoping for the best!

Oh man, this is both fascinating and terrifying. I read the whole darn thing:

IamA riches-to-rags thriller author whose first two novels got $500,000 in contracts in 2009 and sold so poorly all my publishers dropped me. Since then, I’ve written four e-books in my garage that have sold a combined 263 copies on Kindle. AMA! : IAmA.

I love the Writer Beware blog. This is obvious. But because I love them, I’m going to link their “Best of 2012” blog post, because it’s full of nothing but interesting articles about publishing and the publishing world. Enjoy!

Writer Beware ® Blogs!: 2012: Year in Review.

Oh, how I love Writer Beware. I try not to be a silly person about publishing–I know that there’s a good chance I’ll never be published by a “proper” publisher at all–but I still like reading this sort of stuff. It’s good be educated about the sort of stuff that’s out there.

Writer Beware ® Blogs!: Guest Blog Post: Mustering the Courage to Turn Down a Publishing Contract.