I signed up for the paid version of Instafreebie back in October 2016. At the time, I had about 1,600 subscribers on my mailing list. I heard some great stories about Instafreebie and thought I would give it a try. For $20/month I connected the service to my Mailchimp account and I had a simple marketing funnel setup.
Readers would get book 1 of my Cinderella's Secret Witch Diaries series for free for signing up to my list and then they would also receive my automated emails over the next 7 weeks. I had a great tool for building my relationship with readers and for selling them my products. I thought this would be a great fit.
I could offer an incentive to entice readers and they would be open to buying my books. I worked on setting the automation up, networked with like-minded authors to share promotions and re-branded the covers of my novels to better align with my audience. I was set and ready to put my plan in action.
Unfortunately, I did not see a high conversion rate of sales. I received many great reviews of my first book, but I wasn't seeing a high conversion rate.
And I wondered why.
Did my books suck? Was it something I said? Did I come off too strong?
I decided to run a reader survey and received lots of information. I also started to notice a trend in Instafreebie promotions. In the last three to four months, I began receiving promotions from fellow authors with hundreds of books being given away for free. Being busy with my full-time job and writing my next book, I filed the promotions away, thinking that was overkill.
Then the feedback came in from my survey. Readers shared with me that they really wanted to read my books but they had hundreds of free books to get to. One woman wrote me that she had asked her husband to help her get more memory for her ebook reader because she had 1,000 free books and would do her best to put my book to the top of the electronic pile.
At the present time, I have more than 5,700 subscribers on my list. From October 2016, I've gained 4,100 subscribers. I've paid $20/month and that translates to about $.03 per subscriber. The good news is that the fee is extremely inexpensive compared to other marketing methods. For example, I've tried Facebook ads and spent $.62 per new subscriber.
Both the subscribers that I gained through Facebook and Instafreebie did not translate into a large number of sales. However, I have a solid open rate from the Instafreebie subscribers. In fact, that's the highest open rate and stars among all my lists.
The challenge that we authors are having these days are finding new and effective marketing techniques. I remain firm that I wish to continue building my relationship with my subscribers. I share with them stories from my life, information about my next books, other authors' freebies--everything I can think of to bring value to them.
But what I'm not able to do is compete with hundreds of free books. Earlier today I received an email from a reader who asked me if I intended to put my Cinderella's Secret Witch Diaries series on sale for $.99. At the moment, I only have 3 books in the series and book 1 is free on Instafreebie. My reader wanted me to take all three books, package them up and sell from for under a dollar. I thought about all the time I had put into my writing and that didn't sit well with me. If I did what the reader wanted, I would make $.33 on Amazon for every book sold.
Yes, that's great for the reader, but there are covers to pay for, Instafreebie and Mailchimp monthly fees, etc. I cannot cut the cost down to so low a price because I do not have book 4 in the series completed yet (I'm halfway through the first draft).
If I give all my work away for free or nearly free, there is essentially no perceived value in my work. I know the average price that respondents of my survey would like. My books are priced that. But in a world in which there are literally hundreds of free books out there, I need to come up with a more effective marketing strategy. Maybe if I had book 4 ready I could consider this, but not now.
In a related area, I've been hearing from fellow authors who are running Bookbub ads. They're spending their budget on the ads, but they're not making their money back in sales.
I had always thought that writing the books would be the hardest part of being an author, but I was wrong.
The marketing of one's books is complicated because the industry continues to change so quickly and competition is intense.
I'm interested in experimenting with Amazon's ads and I expect that after I finish my upcoming round of newsletter swaps that I'll be cancelling Instafreebie. I'm not seeing the return on investment that I need to stay afloat, but that leads me to the age old question for authors: How do readers discover books?
What might be the best answer these days is interaction with like-minded readers on niche Facebook groups. Without doing the hard sell, building relationships with those readers in those groups might require much more work to comment and engage with readers, but I would at least have the opportunity to meet new potential readers.
So my question to you is: What marketing is and isn't working for you?
Let's pool our resources and learn from each other. Leave a comment and let me know. I'll take the responses and include in a future post.
Ron Vitale is a fantasy, science fiction and nonfiction author. He's written the Cinderella's Secret Witch Diaries series, the Witch's Coven series, book one in the Jovian Gate Chronicles, and the Werewhale Saga. His first nonfiction book, How to Be a Successful Author While Working Full-Time: The Secret to Work/Life Balance is also now available. When not writing, Ron loves spending time with his kids even when they beat him in the fun card game Kittens in a Blender.